The 60th Grammy Awards might well be its most diverse.
Early Tuesday the Recording Academy announced the first round of nominees following changes to its nomination process. After much-celebrated works by Black musicians were snubbed in recent years, the academy implemented a digitized voting system in June and added review committees for rap, new age and contemporary instrumental nominees -- two decisions that the academy hoped would result in a level playing field.
The impact was apparent this year. Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino, and former GRAMMY winners Bruno Mars and Jay-Z, are all in contention for Album of the Year, but not one white artist. (Ed Sheeran's Divide, one of the year's best sellers, was expected to be in the running.)
The Bay Area, in all its eclectic musical breadth, has also earned a considerable amount of love at the Grammy nominations this year. Here’s a list of six Bay Area artists nominated for the gilded gramophone.
Best R&B Performance — “Distraction”
Oakland’s very own Kehlani follows her sterling record with the Recording Academy with a nod for “Distraction,” a track off her 2017 release SweetSexySavage. It is her second Grammy nomination in her short but illustrious career: her mixtape You Should Be Here was nominated in 2016 for Best Urban Contemporary Album.
“Distraction,” a number produced by Pop & Oak, distills the promise of her album title into a three-minute confection. It is in contention with Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like,” SZA’s “The Weekend,” Ledisi's "High" and Daniel Caesar’s “Get You.”
Best Rock Song — “Atlas, Rise!”
Best Rock Album — Hardwired…To Self-Destruct
Hardwired…to Self-Destruct, Metallica’s tenth album, was recorded entirely in the band's San Rafael headquarters and released in November 2016. It heralds a return-to-form for the band, who have already won nine Grammys.
Its nominated single, "Atlas, Rise!" is in competition for Best Rock Song with songs by acts as varied as rap-rock songwriter K. Flay, fellow metal stalwarts Avenged Sevenfold and perennial Grammy favorites Foo Fighters.
The nomination follows Metallica's headlining performance at Band Together Bay Area, a North Bay fire benefit held in early November at AT&T Park.
Best New Age Album — Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai Vol. 5
Japanese new age composer Kitaro’s Sacred Journey of Ku-Kai series was conceived following the 9/11 attacks. It is a statement on global connectivity and peace amid a period of unrest.
He’s been putting out volumes from this series since 2003, all of which have earned Grammy nods. And Kitaro, who now resides in Sebastopol, couldn’t have dropped this fifth volume at a better time. As his North Bay community comes to grips with environmental disaster, his work, which is laden with tranquil natural soundscapes, is a necessary reminder of Earth’s majesty in spite of its cruelties.
Following the North Bay wildfires, Kitaro performed a duo of shows in Healsburg's Raven Performing Arts Theater shows on Nov. 19 — one recalling the immersive glory of space, and the other assuaging Sonoma County residents afflicted by the fires.
Best Children’s Album — Rise Shine #Woke
Alphabet Rockers’ latest release, Rise Shine #Woke, is the rare release that doesn’t treat its audience with kid gloves. Tommy Shepherd, Jr. and Kaitlin McGaw, the children’s hip-hop outfit’s two lead performers, have produced a work that stands for multiculturalism and social justice amid a political time where these goals seem to be held in low regard. (We covered the release of this album back in February.)
The Grateful Dead
Best Music Film — Long Strange Trip
Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package — May 1977: Get Shown the Light
The Grateful Dead's two Grammy nods this year are for works that serve as great introductions to their world. Get Shown the Light — a boxset of remastered audio from their revered performance at Cornell University's Barton Hall and other performances from that era — is a polished display of the Dead at its most approachable. The nearly four-hour documentary Long Strange Trip, true to its word, is a sprawling, oftentimes messy document of the band at its peak.
Best Contemporary Instrumental Album — Mount Royal (with Chris Eldridge)
Santa Rosa local Julian Lage is nothing if not prodigious. By the age of 13, Lage was performing on the Grammys stage. By 22, his debut solo album was nominated for a Grammy.
At 29, well, he’s crafting lovely guitar music with the likes of Wilco’s Nels Cline and Punch Brothers’ Chris Eldridge. His second full-length with Eldridge, Mount Royal was nominated for a Grammy, both their second nod by the Recording Academy. Not too shabby for someone who’s just about to celebrate his 30th birthday in less than a month.
Honorable mention: Florida blues rock duo Tedeschi Trucks Band, while they’re not based in the Bay Area, received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Blues Album for a live album recorded right in Oakland’s Fox Theatre.