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Why The New Songwriter Of The Year GRAMMY Category Matters For The Music Industry And Creator Community

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Why The New Songwriter Of The Year GRAMMY Category Matters For The Music Industry And Creator Community

The newly announced GRAMMY Award category for Songwriter Of The Year marks a watershed moment for songwriters in all genres. Here’s why this new GRAMMY category matters for the 2023 GRAMMYs and how to qualify for Songwriter Of The Year.

GRAMMYs/Jun 9, 2022 - 07:56 pm

Updated on Thursday, July 14: The air date for the 2023 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 65th GRAMMY Awards, has been announced. The 2023 GRAMMYs will air live Sunday, Feb. 5, from the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on demand on Paramount+. Nominations for the 2023 GRAMMYs will be announced on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

The 2021 GRAMMYs and 2022 GRAMMYs looked vastly different from past years due to the realities of a pandemic. But the 2023 GRAMMYs will be unique for purely positive reasons.

Today, the Recording Academy announced a brand-new GRAMMY Award category: Songwriter Of The Year, Non-Classical. (This was among many other new category additions, including Best Alternative Music Performance, Best Americana Performance and Best Score Soundtrack For Video Games And Other Interactive Media, as well as other process amendments and updates to the GRAMMY Awards process.)

The 2023 GRAMMY nominations are officially here. See the complete list of nominees across all 91 GRAMMY categories.

"We're so excited to honor these diverse communities of music creators through the newly established awards and amendments, and to continue cultivating an environment that inspires change, progress and collaboration," Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. expressed in a statement. "The Academy's top priority is to effectively represent the music people that we serve, and each year, that entails listening to our members and ensuring our rules and guidelines reflect our ever-evolving industry."

Watch Now: Introducing The Songwriters & Composers Wing

Mason's comments speak to the greater winds of change surrounding these developments. But what of the GRAMMY for Songwriter Of The Year specifically?

To help music lovers and the wider music community understand the significance of this momentous development, GRAMMY.com spoke to leaders at the Songwriters & Composers Wing, who worked with Recording Academy executives to develop and launch the Songwriter Of The Year GRAMMY category.

In this informative interview with S&C Wing Managing Director Susan Stewart and Chair Evan Bogart, learn more about the thinking behind the creation of the GRAMMY for Songwriter Of The Year — and how to qualify for this magnificent honor.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

What was the impetus for the institution of the GRAMMY for Songwriter Of The Year? Why was now the perfect time to launch this new category?

Susan Stewart, Managing Director, Songwriters & Composers Wing: With the launch of the Songwriters & Composers Wing, we wanted to show our dedication to true craft writers. It was the perfect time with the launch of the Wing to initiate this. It has a longer history, but it really did help having the Wing to stand behind it.

Evan Bogart, Chair of the Songwriters & Composers Wing: As somebody who's a songwriter first — I joined the [Recording Academy’s] Los Angeles Chapter Board in 2010 or 2011 — there weren't many songwriters, if any, on the Board at that point. There wasn't a lot of representation for songwriters in that regard. I wanted to find a way for songwriters to have a seat at the table and be honored for their contributions to music — and not only their contributions to creating songs, but to the entire musical landscape.

Over the course of the last decade-plus, the role of the songwriter has increased so much in the process of A&R, production, recording, mentorship, and artist development. It became so apparent that we needed a Wing to represent the more than 3,500 songwriters within the Recording Academy membership and the interests specific to songwriting, education, mentorship, advocacy, awards, and recognition.

Via that, we were able to make this dream of having an award that honors the compendium of an artist's yearly output and the impact it has each year on the musical landscape in the way the GRAMMYs have been honoring producers since 1975. I think the time to do that is now, and we have the support from the Wing, Academy and community.

People in the songwriting world have been calling for this award for more than a decade — the last decade that I've been listening. Maybe more than that! We just came to the right moment in time to put the weight of the new Wing behind it and create it.

By which metrics will Academy voting members judge the merits of various songwriters for the award on an annual basis?

Bogart: We're looking for which songwriters have demonstrated, first and foremost, that they're considered a songwriter first by the music community. We want to recognize the professional, hardworking songwriters who do this for a living — who wake up every day and think about how they're going to write songs for other people, and craft songs not only for themselves, but for other artists as well.

This isn't intended to just award an artist or producer with another award. This is focused on honoring the professional songwriters who hit the studio every day and try to craft the next song for somebody.

But that doesn't mean that artists and producers can't win this award. It just means that we're going to have certain thresholds within the award that need to be met in order to prove within your discography that you set out to be a professional songwriter as well.

Stewart: People may have questions about how they enter. What they have to do to enter in the OEP [Online Entry Process] is to have a minimum of five songs in which they're listed as a non-performing, non-producing songwriter or co-writer.

Bogart: On top of that, you can submit up to nine songs each year on behalf of yourself to show what you accomplished that year. You can put forth eight songs; you can put forth seven; you can put as many songs as you want — up to nine — in there. But five songs must demonstrate that you were not an artist nor a producer when you wrote them. For five songs, you have to be a non-performing, non-producing songwriter.

On top of that, you can put up to four more songs [on which] you were a producer and artist as well. Again, that is to make sure we are honoring people that the songwriting community views as songwriters first and foremost. You can be an artist, as long as you're [respectively] a songwriter and artist, not an artist and songwriter.

Stewart: We want people to understand that there are people behind these songs, who create a piece of art from nothing. We want to make sure they're recognized. It's an amazing profession.

The GRAMMY remains the highest honor in music — bar none. Through that lens, why does the GRAMMY for Songwriter Of The Year matter to the music industry and larger music community?

Bogart: The Songwriter Of The Year GRAMMY would be the greatest honor a songwriter could achieve in any year. To be honored by your peers for not just one song that you wrote, or an album that you worked on, but for the meaningful contribution and breadth of diversity of your songwriting across all genres in one given year would be the highest achievement that any songwriter could achieve — period.

Stewart: We're honoring their comprehensive body of songs released during the eligibility year. It just sheds such a light on the talent of those individual writers. It's a lot to be proud of for these esteemed creators.

New Categories For The 2023 GRAMMYs Announced: Songwriter Of The Year, Best Video Game Soundtrack, Best Song For Social Change & More Changes

 The 2023 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 65th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.

The eligibility period for the 65th GRAMMY Awards is Friday, Oct. 1, 2021 – Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. All eligible awards entries must be released within this timeframe.

The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy’s Voting Membership.

A Look At 2022 Nominees For Best Música Urbana Album At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

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A Look At 2022 Nominees For Best Música Urbana Album At The 2023 GRAMMY Awards

The 2022 Best Música Urbana Album Nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs come from some of the biggest names in Latin music, each of whom have fused a unique sensibility and a variety of influences into their records.

GRAMMYs/Nov 16, 2022 - 02:38 pm

Perhaps because in its current incarnation música urbana tackles such a wide array of influences — from the expected bounce of reggaetón to ominous trap moods, frantic dembow and a cool dash of Latin pop — the genre has become a hub for freshness and creativity.

All five 2022 nominees for Best Música Urbana Album at the 65th GRAMMY Awards are international stars, but none of them allowed fame to lead into stagnation. On the contrary, their albums are defined by cutting edge innovation and challenging new sounds. Read on to learn more about offerings from Bad Bunny, Daddy Yankee, Farruko, Maluma and Rauw Alejandro.

View the complete list of nominees for the 2023 GRAMMY Awards here.

Rauw Alejandro — TRAP CAKE, VOL. 2

Released in 2019, the first volume of Trap Cake served as a laboratory where the Puerto Rican singer experimented with unusual textures. Vol. 2 marches on the same avant-garde principles, serving as a provocative bridge between Rauw’s genre-defining smash Vice Versa and his restless third album Saturno.

The production is slick and airy on this sumptuous mini-album seeped in a hazy cloud of melancholy nostalgia. The music box-like opening strains of "MUSEO" hint at the precious ambient sonics at hand, whereas the distorted electric guitar and aggressive downbeat of "GRACIAS POR TODO" opens up an intriguing window to the quirks of Rauw as potential rock’n’roller. Co-produced by Jamaican helmer Rvssian, the darkly hued "Caprichoso" features contributions by the singer’s romantic partner — the one and only Rosalía.

Bad Bunny — Un Verano Sin Ti

How do you celebrate the confirmation of your status as a young global pop star? In the case of Bad Bunny, he released the ultimate summer album — an imaginary mixtape, meant to be booming in the background as the poolside party rages on.

The Puerto Rican phenomenon focuses on his usual preoccupations — erotic foreplay, desire as transcendent lifeforce, the stinging aftertaste of romantic separation — but the beats and layers of atmospherics are more abstract and psychedelic than on previous releases. Even though Un Verano Sin Ti boasts stellar collaborations with the likes of Tainy, Rauw Alejandro and Chencho Corleone, the album finds some of its most compelling passages in the stylistic detours of "Ojitos Lindos" — with Colombia’s Bomba Estéreo — and the alternative tropi-rock of "Otro Atardecer," with the Marias.

Daddy Yankee — LEGENDADDY

2022 was the year when the "Gasolina" pioneer shocked the Latin music establishment by announcing his retirement at age 46. Fortunately, Daddy Yankee’s farewell came in the shape of a sprawling party record. LEGENDADDY feels like a passionate, and occasionally wistful, love letter to the limitless variety that has always defined Afro-Caribbean music.

Yankee’s rapid-fire delivery and reggaetón riddims are ever-present, of course, but the menu also includes some wacky dembow ("BOMBÓN," with Lil Jon and Dominican hitmaker El Alfa), and the truly wondrous fusion of salsa, reggaetón and spidery bachata lines on the kinetic "RUMBATÓN." On "AGUA," Yankee is joined by Rauw Alejandro and guitar god Nile Rodgers for a jam infused with post-disco zest. Yankee’s electrifying live performances will be missed, but this emotional swan song delivers an fitting epic finale to a remarkable career.

Farruko — La 167

A seasoned veteran of the urbano landscape, Farruko has always been progressive in his mission to expand stylistic boundaries. The title of his seventh studio album is a reference to the singer/songwriter’s childhood memories: the 167 highway in the Bayamón area of Puerto Rico where he grew up.

At the same time, the album also reflects Farruko’s extensive travels across Latin America. "Pepas," the collection’s bonafide hit, is an anthemic electro-guaracha that stays close to the genre’s roots in Colombia. "Baja Cali" mixes Latin rap with the young generation of corridos that defines the present of música mexicana, and the breezy "W.F.M." (featuring Jamaican vocalist Mavado) delves into sweet dancehall vibes. On "Jíbaro," Farruko cherishes his boricua origins alongside bolero revivalist Pedro Capó. A man of the world, he sounds the happiest when he returns home.

Maluma — The Love & Sex Tape

In 2021, Maluma surprised fans by releasing #7DJ (7 Días En Jamaica), a refreshing EP of reggae infused tracks. A silky mini-album made up of eight new songs, The Love & Sex Tape finds the Medellín native delving back into the sensuous reggaetón narratives that made him famous.

A duet with fellow Colombian Feid, "Mojando Asientos" is appropriately frisky, and the self-explanatory "Nos Comemos Vivos" gains in intensity thanks to the streetwise attitude of the ubiquitous Chencho Corleone. Maluma surrenders to hedonism with abandon, reaching the natural conclusion that life is, indeed, quite beautiful ("La Vida Es Bella.") A classy ending, "Happy Birthday" incorporates the soulful groove of Afrobeats, hinting that Maluma’s brilliant creative detours will surface again in subsequent works.

2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List

Air Date For 2023 GRAMMYs Announced: Taking Place On Feb. 5 In Los Angeles; GRAMMY Nominations To Be Announced Nov. 15, 2022
GRAMMY Award

Photo: Jathan Campbell

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Air Date For 2023 GRAMMYs Announced: Taking Place On Feb. 5 In Los Angeles; GRAMMY Nominations To Be Announced Nov. 15, 2022

The Recording Academy has released its key dates and deadlines ahead of the 2023 GRAMMYs, which air live on Sunday, Feb. 5, from Los Angeles. Nominations for the 2023 GRAMMYs will be announced on Tuesday, Nov. 15.

GRAMMYs/Jul 14, 2022 - 02:00 pm

The Recording Academy has released its key dates and deadlines ahead of the 2023 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 65th GRAMMY Awards. This year's GRAMMY nominees will be announced on Tuesday, Nov. 15, with the 2023 GRAMMYs airing live Sunday, Feb. 5, from the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. The 2023 GRAMMYs will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on demand on Paramount+.

The 2023 GRAMMY nominations are officially here. See the complete list of nominees across all 91 GRAMMY categories.

A list of dates for the 2023 GRAMMYs process and additional details are below:

Friday, Oct. 1, 2021 – Friday, Sept. 30, 2022
Product Eligibility Period 

Monday, July 18, 2022 – Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2022
Online Entry Period

Thursday, Oct. 13, 2022 – Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022
First Round Voting

Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022
Nominees Announced for the 2023 GRAMMYs

Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022 – Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2023   
Final Round Voting

Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023
2023 GRAMMYs

Details regarding specific GRAMMY Week events will be announced in the coming months. Learn more about the upcoming awards season. Access the complete 2022 Rules and Guidelines for the 65th GRAMMY Awards.

New Categories For The 2023 GRAMMYs Announced: Songwriter Of The Year, Best Video Game Soundtrack, Best Song For Social Change & More Changes

 The 2023 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 65th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.

The eligibility period for the 65th GRAMMY Awards is Friday, Oct. 1, 2021 – Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. All eligible awards entries must be released within this timeframe.

The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy’s Voting Membership.

Listen: All Of The American Roots Music 2023 GRAMMY Nominees In One Playlist
2023 GRAMMYs

Graphic: The Recording Academy

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Listen: All Of The American Roots Music 2023 GRAMMY Nominees In One Playlist

Celebrate Americana's best and brightest ahead of Music's Big Night on Feb. 5, 2023 with this bountiful playlist of every American Roots Music nominee at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

GRAMMYs/Nov 21, 2022 - 10:53 pm

With the 2023 GRAMMY nominations list comes a cross-section of the most luminous, moving and artistically profound musical works of the year — and a major portion of them come from the Americana community.

For an example of how this sphere contributed to the musical fabric of the year, look no further than the tracks nominated for a GRAMMY for Best Americana Performance — a brand new GRAMMY category being introduced in 2023

Eric Alexandrakis' "Silver Moon (A Tribute to Michael Nesmith)" is a sumptuous tribute to the undersung talents of the late Monkee. Asleep at the Wheel's pretentiousness-lampooning "There You Go Again" — featuring Lyle Lovett — is loping, rickety fun. Blind Boys of Alabama's "The Message," featuring classical-meets-hip-hop duo Black Violin, is a reminder that God remains in control.

Rounding out the list are "You And Me on The Block," by acclaimed singer/songwriter Brandi Carlile and indie-pop band Lucius, which seems to ripple in the breeze like a wheatfield; and blues-rock great Bonnie Raitt's "Made Up Mind," which deftly traces the dissolution of a relationship.

Beyond that, there are eight American Roots Music categories at the 2023 GRAMMYs: Best American Roots Performance, Best American Roots Song, Best Americana Album, Best Bluegrass Album, Best Traditional Blues Album, Best Contemporary Blues Album, Best Folk Album, and Best Regional Roots Music Album.

Plus, "You And Me on The Block" has been nominated for a GRAMMY for Record Of The Year, Carlile's In These Silent Days is represented in the Album Of The Year category, Raitt's Just Like That is up for a GRAMMY for Song of The Year, and Molly Tuttle is nominated for a GRAMMY for Best New Artist — and that's just the General Field. 

Hear all those artists and more in this expansive playlist documenting the American Roots Music GRAMMY nominees at the 2023 GRAMMYs.

Check it out on Pandora, Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music — and we'll see you at Music's Biggest Night on Sunday, Feb. 5!

2023 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Complete Nominees List

2023 GRAMMYs: How The New Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award Inspires Positive Global Impact & Celebrates Message-Driven Music and How To Qualify
2023 GRAMMYs: Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award

Graphic: The Recording Academy

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2023 GRAMMYs: How The New Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award Inspires Positive Global Impact & Celebrates Message-Driven Music and How To Qualify

In an in-depth roundtable discussion featuring some of the highest-ranking Recording Academy leaders, learn why the new Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award is a momentous development for the music industry at large.

GRAMMYs/Oct 14, 2022 - 01:00 am

The GRAMMYs' newly announced award for Best Song For Social Change differs significantly from the other GRAMMY Award categories announced earlier this year and debuting at the upcoming 2023 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 65th GRAMMY Awards.

Rather than a traditional GRAMMY Award, the Best Song For Social Change award is a Special Merit Award. This means the award will be determined by a Blue Ribbon Committee and ratified by the Recording Academy Board of Trustees.

Proposed by our Recording Academy members, the new Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award now represents one of the highest honors a socially conscious song can receive. It also recognizes the songwriters creating message-driven music that responds to and addresses the social issues of our time head-on while inspiring positive global impact.

The 2023 GRAMMY nominations are officially here. See the complete list of nominees across all 91 GRAMMY categories.

To qualify or qualifications for the Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award, which recognizes a song that has had profound social influence and impact, a submitted song should contain lyrical content that: addresses a timely social issue; explores a subject impacting a community of people in need; and promotes awareness, raises consciousness, and builds empathy.

Songwriters can submit songs that meet the eligibility criteria and qualifications here now through Friday, Oct. 14.

Indeed, the honoree of this inaugural Special Merit Award will both reflect the tumultuous times in which we currently live and celebrate the potential for a brighter, fairer and more equitable tomorrow.

In an in-depth round-table discussion with Recording Academy executives and leaders — including Academy CEO Harvey Mason jr. — as well as music luminaries, GRAMMY.com celebrates the new Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award and explores all the reasons why its arrival is right on time. Learn how the award came to be and why the Recording Academy's work to honor socially conscious songs is only beginning.

Quotes from these interviews have been edited for clarity and brevity.

Read More: Where, What Channel & How To Watch The Full 2023 GRAMMYs

What was the impetus to launch the Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award?

Harvey Mason jr. (CEO, the Recording Academy): As with all of our awards categories, most of our changes come from actual people who submit proposals; we felt like the proposal for this award made a lot of sense. The people in the Awards and Nominations [A&N] committee agreed with it and felt like it was an important change.

We felt it was a great opportunity to highlight music and songs that are trying to bring about change, awareness and social consciousness. I think it really shows what the Academy does, which is to shine a light on music, music people, and excellence in music. This particular award shines a light on something that's been really important throughout music history: music that's created to drive change, awareness or recognition.

Susan Stewart (Managing Director, the Recording Academy's Songwriters & Composers Wing): Songs matter. They always have. Songs help us make sense of our lives and the world, and provide an outlet for our emotions. The true social change songs — the ones that resonate so deeply as to galvanize a movement or intentional change in society — are very difficult to write. These types of songs require capturing the truth of the masses. The elected leaders that brought this proposal forward wanted to celebrate these exceptional songwriters and to encourage more of these incredible songs.

Wayna (Quiet Power Productions, GRAMMY nominee): Our Washington, D.C. Chapter tapped Maimouna Yousseff and me to lead a newly formed Social Impact Committee. Our first program was a songwriting workshop over Zoom, where we paired music veterans with GRAMMY U students and wrote original songs about social issues.

I think there comes a time in every creator's career when you have to reconnect with your "why" — whether you are trying to weather a global pandemic or the usual ups and downs of this industry. For all of us on that zoom, songs about social change were a huge part of our "why." So, we wanted to create a platform where that craft could be celebrated and preserved.

Photo Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy

Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy | Photo Emma McIntyre by Getty Images©

Maimouna Youssef a.k.a. Mumu Fresh (Former Governor, the Recording Academy's Washington, D.C. Chapter): The impetus behind launching the Best Song for Social Change Special Merit Award was to honor courageous artists who utilize their artistic genius to tell the stories of marginalized voices; bring awareness to systemic injustice and social, economic, political, and gender disparities; and to inspire radical empathy among their listeners. These artists often put their careers and even lives on the line for the greater good, and we salute them for their efforts. We also wrote the proposal for this award with young, aspiring artists in mind who often desire to speak truth to power, but fear the economic backlash that may come along with doing so. We want all artists to feel safe and celebrated, especially when their art aims to add value to humanity.

I have been doing social justice work my entire life, both through my music and philanthropic efforts. In my work activating young artists, I am often saddened by the reluctance they express in speaking their truth through their music due to their fear of poverty, financial backlash, or the lack of support they may face if they speak to social issues. My hope is that the very existence of this award gives every artist the inspiration, courage, support, and safe space they need to be true to themselves and their right to have a voice for positive social change. Artists who have had the courage and creative talent to write great songs that pushed our culture forward in a positive direction are heroes and deserve to be celebrated.

Music is a reflection of our present-day hardships and gives a voice to those who often go unheard. It is a unifier and builds community, belonging, hope, and justice. Music is the perfect ally to social change as it engages and encourages people to take action — and without action, there would be no change.

— Ryan Butler (Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, the Recording Academy)

The Best Song for Social Change Special Merit Award will be determined by a Blue Ribbon committee ratified by the Recording Academy Board of Trustees. Can you explain this a little bit for the layperson?

Ruby Marchand (Chief Awards & Industry Officer, the Recording Academy): The Special Merit Award has been around for a long time and has always been curated by what we call a Blue Ribbon Committee. The committee is populated by qualified voting members who work closely with the Recording Academy's 12 Chapters, and are suggested by the 12 Chapters to come together and make these unique, celebrated choices each year for the Lifetime Achievement Award or Trustees Award.

The committee itself goes through a very thoughtful process where there is a lot of listening, research and engagement. The committee is so diverse that people are able to contribute a unique context from a unique point of view and build a consensus that can be very powerful. The process is thoughtfully put together; it is never rushed. The legacy of what a Special Merit Award, like a Lifetime Achievement Award or a Trustees Award, signifies is unique. The Special Merit Award is separate and distinct from a GRAMMY Award. It's never to be confused with a GRAMMY category. It's a whole other process of acknowledging remarkable creators and leaders who've accomplished a lot.

In the case of Best Song For Social Change, this is the first time that a Special Merit Award is being created for a new honor that celebrates the songwriter or songwriters responsible for a song that can essentially change the world. That's really what we're talking about here. When we talk about social change, we're talking about a song that has the presence, the influence, the power to unify people — to provide that higher level of engagement and awareness.

Read More: Why The New Songwriter Of The Year GRAMMY Category Matters For The Music Industry And Creator Community

Photo of Maimouna Youssef a.k.a. Mumu Fresh

Maimouna Youssef a.k.a. Mumu Fresh | Photo: Visyoual Media Photography

The newly announced Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award comes during a time when significant social change is happening across the country and around the world. How is this award reflective of our times, when these themes are front and center?

PJ Morton (Recording Academy Trustee, four-time GRAMMY winner): Art has always reflected life. And I believe it's the artist's job to document the things that we go through and give voice to the voiceless.

Wayna: For many of us, these themes are always front and center, and songs about social change are how we've sustained ourselves when these issues aren't in the public eye. That's why supporting this proposal was a no-brainer for so many Recording Academy leaders and members. It's core to who we are and the stories we need to tell. What I hope is that these songs will be the soundtrack to all of us growing awareness and that they might bridge the gaps of understanding and empathy. If anything can, it's a great song.

Mason jr.: I think it's perfectly timed, and it's actually very apropos to what's happening in our society today. Throughout history, we've always seen music play an important role in bringing awareness to a problem or an issue or something that needs to be addressed. I think right now, especially in the last few years, we've seen a heightened awareness around social change and some of the inequities that are taking place, and you're hearing a lot of that through music.

I think it's a great time to be honoring this [award], and it's a great time to be encouraging more people to use music as a tool. It's a great time for music people to be able to have their voices heard. This is the power of music. This is why music is so important. This is why the Recording Academy is so important because we can make a difference with the things we say and the things that we create.

Youssef: This [award] directly reflects the current times and also salutes all times in history prior. There has never been a time when music didn't reflect or even influence the current state of its community.

Many times, social justice trends become popular for a moment and then people lose interest or momentum and go back to their regular distractions. We, the writers of this proposal, believe that songs that inspire and even demand that humans be the best versions of themselves are not just a passing trend, but should be the norm if we hope to see lasting change in our communities.

Music is not just a soundtrack, but a driving force that can stir our emotions and lift us up to glory or send us crashing down holding our tears in our hands. Now that's power! Music is a soul salve for the wounded, the discouraged and the disenfranchised. So yes, it is time that this powerful style of songwriting for social change, which is both a unique skill set and a courageous undertaking, be recognized, elevated, and celebrated in its own award for its historic feats.

Rico Love (Two-time GRAMMY nominee and Vice Chair of the Recording Academy Board of Trustees): I think it's important for the Recording Academy to be at the forefront of these things because we see it every day. And I think it's important for us to establish the fact that we are concerned, we want to be active, and we want to celebrate the people who shine a light on what's going on in our culture and in our world.

Body Text 2 - Best Song For Social Change Feature

Wayna (Quiet Power Productions, GRAMMY nominee) | Photo: Mekbib Tadesse

Why is it important for the Recording Academy to dedicate an entire Special Merit Award to songs reflective of social movements, social justice and equity?

Morton: I think as a leader in music, the Recording Academy sets the tone. I believe it's important for an institution as big as the Academy to show that this type of music is not only necessary, but is seen and appreciated. It's at the core of our mission and what we do.

Wayna: Music is an incredibly effective communicator. It cuts past all of our preconceived ideas and goes straight to the heart, and that's the inspiration behind any kind of change. As music creators, this is our superpower. More than whatever power we have individually, we have the potential, through music, to persuade others to use their power as well. That's how real change happens: not when one person does something big, but when a lot of people do something small.

JC Losada "MrSonic" (GRAMMY & Latin GRAMMY winner, New York Chapter Governor): Some of the biggest and most iconic songs in pop music history have either been the cause for social change or have been caused by social change. As our Recording Academy members and community ramp up efforts to amplify the message of inclusiveness, diversity and social awareness, this award couldn't come at a better time. From now on, releases of new music that have a message of social awareness will have an opportunity to be recognized by the Academy in their own award, regardless of the genre or music style.

Rico Love: We're just doing our part to make sure that we acknowledge those creatives who are passionate about this because so many are.

Common (Three-time GRAMMY-winning artist): It's important that the Trustees decided to come up with an award for music that is based around social justice and equality because it motivates the artists to actually do things that do have substance. Let's face it, as artists, we love to achieve. A GRAMMY is the highest achievement in music. To receive an award for something that has substance and to be motivated to create music that is from the heart, but also still gets recognized by the highest Academy in music, you win in so many ways.

It's a great time to be encouraging more people to use music as a tool. It's a great time for music people to be able to have their voices heard. This is the power of music. This is why music is so important. That's why the Recording Academy is so important, because we can make a difference with the things we say and the things that we create.

— Harvey Mason jr. (CEO, the Recording Academy)

Music has soundtracked the fights for freedom, equity and social change throughout the decades. How does music directly influence and impact social change?

Morton: Music has always been a unifier; it's the universal language. Sometimes a song can put collective thoughts into a three-minute song. Then there's something everybody can sing together in unity. That's the power of music.

Ryan Butler (Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, the Recording Academy): Music and social change go hand in hand, and music has directly influenced and impacted social change. Music can be a form of protest, a way to grieve, and has a universal healing capacity. Music influences and gives power to the people and is an expression of feelings, whether that's love, hate, anger, pleasure, sadness, or happiness. Music is a reflection of our present-day hardships and gives a voice to those who often go unheard. It is a unifier and builds community, belonging, hope, and justice. Music is the perfect ally to social change as it engages and encourages people to take action, — and without action, there would be no change.

Rico Love: Some of the biggest artists in the world have devoted their life to philanthropy. Historically, there have been songs that have supported such causes. Think about Bob Dylan. Think about John Lennon. Think about all of these creators who have devoted their lives to change.

Throughout the years, there have been many songs that have started a conversation and forced people to see themselves. I wouldn't have known about hungry, starving children in other third-world countries had it not been for Michael Jackson's "Heal the World" when I was a kid or "We Are the World" when I was growing up. Hearing those songs, understanding that these things exist. It's important for us to shine a light on people who don't know. Music does that and has historically done that.

Common: Music has directly impacted social change. Throughout the years, just being in Decades, getting to be a part of Selma really taught me how much music had been a part of the civil rights movement. Those songs they sang while they marched were not only fuel for them, but it was speaking to the people and getting the messages across to people who may not have been aware. They started hearing what the civil rights leaders and the community who were participating were singing about and understood it from another perspective. It also just gave them motivation as they dealt with all these ills that America was delivering to Black people during those times.

And we've seen it, obviously in hip-hop culture, become part of the social change as far as speaking up to police brutality and issues that we deal with within the inner city. Music has a direct impact on social change. So it's important that the artists feel that value and duty. And as Nina Simone says, [it's] "the duty of the artist to reflect the times."

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What does the addition of the new Best Song For Social Change Special Merit Award say about the Recording Academy's recognition and support of the creativity and importance of social change and social justice in music?

Youssef: I think this new addition says that the Recording Academy is committed to the needs and concerns of its membership body. This award says that the Recording Academy is serious about equity and inclusion and understands the need for marginalized voices to have a platform to be heard through their music. The Academy continues to be a leader in championing the music community at large.

Photo of Ryan Butler, Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for the Recording Academy

Ryan Butler, Vice President of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for the Recording Academy | Photo: Aaron Doggett for Visyoual Media

How would you like to see the Recording Academy continue to champion social change through song and music in the years to come?

Youssef: I would love to see the Recording Academy continue to make and hold space for this type of music. It's important to preserve this legacy of songs for social change. We want to raise awareness that this award exists and let artists know how to submit their work for consideration.

We found that many artists have never written songs about social issues for a number of reasons, [like] the lack of support or fear of backlash. It's very difficult to balance the information of a complex concept with all the other creative nuances and stylistic decisions a writer has to make in order to actually have the song be great. Songs for social change are a unique art form that should be championed and supported for years to come both as a social movement and an artistic discipline. We would love to see more support for these types of programs in our [Chapters].

Butler: The Recording Academy will continue to champion social change through song and music. In the past two years, our DEI [Diversity, Equity & Inclusion] team has made major strides in the music community. We partnered with Color Of Change to identify key opportunities to drive and influence social change in the music industry and dedicated to building power for Black music creators and professionals. This work spanned several strategies: a membership campaign focusing on the Black music community to drive new voting members to the Academy; an industry-wide diversity and inclusion summit; partnership in advocacy and legislative efforts; as well as the first-ever inclusion rider implemented at this past 64th GRAMMY Awards show to ensure equity at every level, on and off the stage.

We also launched the Black Music Collective, an advisory group of music leaders, to identify emerging opportunities and ways to drive Black representation in the music industry. The DEI team announced a partnership with GLAAD in 2022 to further promote and advance LGBTQ+ inclusion and representation. We have also partnered with industry leaders including Amazon Music for the HBCU Love Tour and scholarship fund, #TheShowMustBePaused, and monthly sessions with Universal, Warner, and Sony Music groups. The work is ongoing and will continue, but social change through music is vital to a just, evolving world.

Wayna: Becoming a truly global organization is key to all these issues. I think the more the Recording Academy is able to empower creators from around the world — expand their access and remove the barriers preventing them from participating at the highest levels of this industry — the more those creators will advocate for their communities and serve as a template for their success.

Rico Love: I'm the Chair of the Black Music Collective. And as Chair, I've created many initiatives that are not just going to be about awards. It's not just going to be about putting on a nice suit and accepting something. No, it's about going out into the community and making a change. I think it's more than just an award, it's our job, it's our duty.

We are a non-profit organization. We are for the people. We're not here to just celebrate music creatives on one day. We are here, passionate about helping people and music creatives who need us … It's important for us to get out there and do the work as it comes to social injustice as well.

New Categories For The 2023 GRAMMYs Announced: Songwriter Of The Year, Best Video Game Soundtrack, Best Song For Social Change & More Changes

 The 2023 GRAMMYs, officially known as the 65th GRAMMY Awards, returns to Los Angeles' Crypto.com Arena on Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023, and will broadcast live on the CBS Television Network and stream live and on-demand on Paramount+ at 8-11:30 p.m. ET/5-8:30 p.m. PT.

The eligibility period for the 65th GRAMMY Awards is Friday, Oct. 1, 2021 – Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. All eligible awards entries must be released within this timeframe.

The Recording Academy and GRAMMY.com do not endorse any particular artist, submission or nominee over another. The results of the GRAMMY Awards, including winners and nominees, are solely dependent on the Recording Academy’s Voting Membership.