Chance the Rapper is helping change the rules of the music business and the industry professionals who dish out the Grammy awards are finally paying attention.
In his first year of eligibility for the Grammys, the Chicago artist reaped a windfall -- he was nominated Tuesday for seven awards. Beyonce’s nine nominations led the way, which makes her the most nominated female artist in Grammy history.
The Recording Academy, made up of 13,000 music professionals, also handed out eight nominations apiece to Drake, Kanye West and Rihanna. But among the nominees in 84 categories, Chance was perhaps the only one who could qualify as historic.
Though the rapper has been one of the most acclaimed artists of the last several years, his music had been ineligible for Grammy nomination until this year due to the academy’s outdated rules. Chance has never sold a single piece of recorded music – all his albums, mix tapes and tracks have been free releases, widely available as digital streams or downloads. His most recent album, “Coloring Book,” became the first streaming-only album to chart on the Billboard 200.
Recordings that were not commercially sold were previously banned from Grammy consideration, but the academy relaxed its eligibility standards in June. A petition drive that urged the academy to revise its eligibility rules in the wake of the release of "Coloring Book" collected 40,000 signatures, but the academy said the rule change was already two years in the making. On Tuesday, “Coloring Book” was nominated for best rap album, a category that pits Chance against the artist he credits with most directly inspiring his career: Kanye West, who was born in Atlanta but grew up in Chicago.
Chance also was nominated for best new artist, a curious decision by the academy because he’s hardly a newcomer. His first mix tape came out a decade ago, and his 2013 album “Acid Rap” established him as a national act. The other best new artist nominees include Kelsea Ballerini, the Chainsmokers, Maren Morris and Anderson .Paak.
The major categories were dominated by mainstream artists primarily from the worlds of pop and hip-hop. Among the surprises were the wider appreciation shown for Justin Bieber, previously barely acknowledged by the academy, and progressive country artist Sturgill Simpson. Beyonce and Adele were the only artists nominated in all three of the top categories: album, song and record of the year.
Album of the year nominees include Bieber (“Purpose”), Simpson (“A Sailor’s Guide to Earth”), Beyonce (“Lemonade”), Adele (“25) and Drake (“Views”). Record of the year nominees are Adele (“Hello”), Beyonce (“Formation”), Lukas Graham (“7 Years”), Rihanna (“Work”) and Twenty One Pilots (“Stressed Out”). Song of the year nods go to Beyonce’s “Formation,” Adele’s “Hello,” Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” Mike Posner’s “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” and Lukas Graham’s “7 Years.”
In a mild upset, Coldplay received only one nomination, in a music video category. The band had one of the year's top-selling albums ("A Head Full of Dreams") and performed at the Super Bowl.
Among the nominees with Chicago connections were BJ the Chicago Kid, who received three nominations; Lalah Hathaway, Numero Group label founders Ken Shipley and Rob Sevier, and Robbie Fulks each received two; and Lurrie Bell, Kaskade, OK Go and Disturbed notched one apiece.
For the full list of Grammy nominees, visit here.
Only recordings released between Oct. 1, 2015, and Sept. 30, 2016, were eligible. The 59th annual Grammy Awards will be nationally televised Feb. 12.