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The Grammys May Not Be Hip, But For These Nominees, The Awards Still Matter

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The Grammys May Not Be Hip, But For These Nominees, The Awards Still Matter

Music News

The Grammys May Not Be Hip, But For These Nominees, The Awards Still Matter

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The Grammy Awards are tomorrow night. Kanye West, Drake and Justin Bieber have all said they're skipping the show, even though they're all nominees. Justin Bieber called the show irrelevant. Frank Ocean didn't even submit his acclaimed album, "Blond," for consideration. Maybe they should nominate BJ Leiderman, who writes our theme music. He wouldn't be so particular. NPR's Mandalit del Barco tries to figure out who still cares about the Grammys.

MANDALIT DEL BARCO, BYLINE: Newcomer Kelsea Ballerini says she's excited to be up for best new artist, along with Chance The Rapper, The Chainsmokers, Anderson .Paak and another country star, Maren Morris.

KELSEA BALLERINI: Just the fact that me and Maren are both in that category I think is really cool, and I definitely know that Nashville feels like it's a big win regardless of who actually gets the award.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "PETER PAN")

BALLERINI: (Singing) The smile, the charm, the words, the spark, everything, you had it. I guess I had a naive heart 'cause boy I let you have it.

DEL BARCO: Ballerini co-wrote this chart-topping song, and she'll be performing during the Grammys' telecast tomorrow.

BALLERINI: My peers tipped their hat to me, and that made me feel really, really validated as a new artist. I don't know. It makes me feel like a cool kid.

DEL BARCO: Ballerini is elated that from now on she'll be known as Grammy nominee or maybe a winner. She and others hope it leads to more records, more money, more gigs, more fans.

JEAN-MICHEL JARRE: It's also very important for the people working with you.

DEL BARCO: Jean-Michel Jarre is a French composer, performer and record producer.

JARRE: Artists are surrounded by managers, by labels and people working, giving a lot of energy and time and hope and love into what you do.

(SOUNDBITE OF JEAN-MICHEL JARRE AND JOHN CARPENTER'S "A QUESTION OF BLOOD")

DEL BARCO: Jarre has composed film scores and helped pioneer electronic music in the 1970s, but he's never won a Grammy. This year, he's up for best dance/electronic album.

JARRE: Electronic music is born in Europe and then invaded the world. So it shows that when the Grammys are recognizing somebody in the electronic music field, it's actually not only for the U.S. market but for really the international audience, so it is important.

(SOUNDBITE OF GABY MORENO SONG, "SE APAGO")

DEL BARCO: Winning a Latin Grammy four years ago made Gaby Moreno a star throughout Latin America, especially in her native Guatemala. This year, Moreno's fifth album, "Illusion," is nominated for best Latin pop album at the mainstream Grammys.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SE APAGO")

GABY MORENO: (Singing in Spanish).

The Grammys means the general market to me, and so - I don't know - for me, it's a bigger deal because you're there with the really big names in the music industry. And it opens doors for a lot more opportunities. And for myself, personally, it just motivates me.

DEL BARCO: Moreno's album was produced by Gabriel Roth, who was also a bandleader, bass player, songwriter and producer for Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. They were nominated for a Grammy in 2014, and Roth says winning would have meant a great deal for the late singer.

GABRIEL ROTH: I think for Sharon it was tied into a bigger goal of hers, which was basically to kind of reclaim soul music, reclaim R&B.

DEL BARCO: Roth himself has won two Grammy Awards for producing Amy Winehouse and Booker T. But he says he's really down on the Grammys.

ROTH: It's a baloney award, man. Everybody in the industry votes for the record they worked on or the record their friend worked on or the record that they got an email that their friend said that you got to vote for this record. It's like a high school popularity contest.

DEL BARCO: But jazz pianist and bandleader John Beasley says the Grammys mean more than just the televised awards. The organization's foundation takes music to schools and helps struggling musicians. Beasley leads a 15-piece big band called MONK'estra.

(SOUNDBITE OF MONK'ESTRA'S "'ROUND MIDNIGHT")

DEL BARCO: Its tribute album to Thelonius Monk is nominated in one of the jazz categories.

JOHN BEASLEY: This year is Thelonius Monk's centennial. So what we're hoping is it creates even more awareness for Monk's music. Some of it was composed 80 years ago, you know, and it sounds as fresh and has a life of its own.

DEL BARCO: Beasley is also competing in one of the arrangement categories with 22-year-old Jacob Collier, who's up for two Grammys.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FLINSTONES")

JACOB COLLIER: (Singing) Flinstones, meet the Flinstones, they're a modern Stone Age family.

DEL BARCO: As in version of the "Flintstones" theme, Collier sings all the vocals and plays the instruments himself. The one-man band started out as a YouTube sensation.

COLLIER: I hope that the Grammys will instill a sense of faith in people who want to do things their own way and are wondering whether that's, you know, a kind of valid way of doing things.

DEL BARCO: Collier is also rooting for his friend Chance The Rapper whose album "Coloring Book" was issued online only as a music stream, and that would make his win Grammy history. Mandalit del Barco, NPR News.

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