Review: ‘The Beach Boys,’ starring Brian Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine, Bruce Johnston and David Marks

May 26, 2024

by Carla Hay

A 1964 photo of the Beach Boys in “The Beach Boys.” Pictured from left to right: Dennis Wilson, Al Jardine, Carl Wilson, Brian Wilson and Mike Love. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images/Disney+)

“The Beach Boys”

Directed by Frank Marshall and Thom Zimny

Culture Representation: The documentary film “The Beach Boys” features a predominantly white group of people (with two black people) from the music industry discussing the career and legacy of the Beach Boys, the California-based pop/rock band that rose to prominence in the 1960s.

Culture Clash: The Beach Boys had various conflicts inside and outside the band on the band’s musical direction, touring, business decisions, mental health, substance addiction and power struggles.

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of Beach Boys fans, “The Beach Boys” will appeal primarily to people who like watching celebrity biographies that have a lot of great archival footage but follow a familiar formula.

A 1966 photo from “The Beach Boys” of Beach Boys chief songwriter/producer Brian Wilson recording the album “Pet Sounds” in Los Angeles. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images/Disney+)

Ardent fans of the band will learn nothing new from “The Beach Boys” documentary, which plays it safe but is a very good introduction for viewers who don’t know much about the Beach Boys. The movie’s ending scene indicates a better story could’ve been told. That’s because at the end of the movie, there’s a very short scene of a band reunion with five surviving Beach Boys members (past and present) gathering to talk on the beach at Paradise Cove in Malibu, California, where the Beach Boys did the photo shoot for their 1962 debut album “Surfin’ Safari.”

“The Beach Boys” documentary purposely doesn’t show what was said during this reunion and only shows some of the men smiling and embracing each other before they sit down at a table on the beach. It’s an example of how the documentary is certainly competent when it comes to giving a history of the Beach Boys, but the documentary would have been more impactful if it had anything new that was truly exclusive and compelling. Showing this type of heavily edited reunion clip at the very end of the movie just seems like a tease that will give viewers the impression that the documentary left out some of the best parts of the Beach Boys’ story.

Directed by Frank Marshall and Thom Zimny, “The Beach Boys” is one of several biographical movies or TV series about the Beach Boys. This documentary can be considered a quasi-update of director Alan Boyd’s 1998 documentary film “Endless Harmony: The Beach Boys Story,” which did not have the participation of the surviving band members. Some other Beach Boys on-screen biographies are the 1990 TV-movie drama “Summer Dreams: The Story of the Beach Boys” and the 2000 drama mini-series “The Beach Boys: An American Family.”

Curiously, “The Beach Boys” 2024 documentary has very little details about the band members’ lives after the early 1980s. For example, the band’s 1988 massive comeback hit “Kokomo” is not discussed and only played during the movie’s end credits. However, because “The Beach Boys” documentary has the benefit of the participation of the band members who were alive at the time this documentary was filmed, it makes this documentary slightly better than most movies about the Beach Boys.

“The Beach Boys” documentary dutifully covers the origins of the band, which was formed in Hawthorne, California, in 1961. The original and best-known lineup of the band consisted of brothers Brian Wilson (the eldest brother), who was the band’s chief songwriter and multi-instrumentalist; Dennis Wilson (the middle brother), who was the band’s drummer; Carl Wilson (the youngest brother), who was the band’s lead guitarist; Mike Love, the Wilson brothers’ first cousin and lead singer of the band; and rhythm guitarist Al Jardine, a longtime family friend.

The Wilson brothers’ parents—Murry Wilson and Audree Wilson—encouraged and supported the band. Murry became the first manager of the Beach Boys. By all accounts, Murry was tough, bullying and abusive. (Murry’s physical and emotional abuse of his sons is briefly mentioned in archival interview footage with Carl and Dennis.) However, people who talk about Murry in the documentary also agree that the Beach Boys probably wouldn’t have achieved the level of success that they had if not for Murry. Eventually, a major problem for the band was Murry’s constant interference in how he wanted the band’s music to sound.

The Beach Boys had an image of being a carefree California pop/rock band with distinctive harmonies. The Beach Boys experienced almost immediate success with their first single “Surfin’,” which became a hit on a Los Angeles radio station, which led to bigger opportunities for the band. Many of the Beach Boys’ biggest hits were about surfing (“Surfin’,” “Surfer Girl,” “Surfin’ USA”) or about the California lifestyle. The band’s earliest musical influences included the Four Freshmen and surf music artists such as Dick Dale.

Even though the Beach Boys were initially rejected by every major record company, they eventually signed with Capitol Records, with Nick Venet as the band’s A&R (artists and repertoire) executive from Capitol. Venet started off producing the early Beach Boys records until Brian Wilson took over as the chief producer during the height of the group’s success. Murry acted like he wanted to be a producer for the band too, and that led to inevitable major conflicts.

Each member of the band had a certain role that was part of the Beach Boys image. Brian Wilson was the “musical genius” who didn’t like to tour. Love was the extroverted lead singer who was band’s jokester with a huge ego. Dennis Wilson (the only member of the Beach Boys who was an enthusiastic surfer) was the rebellious heartthrob. Carl Wilson was the “shy and quiet one.” Jardine was the “regular guy” who was often the peacemaker.

“The Beach Boys” documentary has the expected archival footage and use of the band’s original songs. Most of the band’s biggest hits from the 1960s are included, such as the aforementioned “Surf” songs, “Help Me, Rhonda,” “California Girls,” “I Get Around,” “Good Vibrations,” “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” and “Sloop John B.” The documentary’s best archival footage (audio and video) is of the recording sessions, particularly when it shows how these recordings took shape.

During the heyday of the Beach Boys’ 1960s commercial success, they were heavily influenced by the music created by music producer Phil Spector (who was famous for his Wall of Sound) and the Beatles. The Beatles’ 1965 “Rubber Soul” album influenced the Beach Boys’ 1966 album “Pet Sounds,” which in turn influenced the Beatles’ 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” The rivalries and the influences that the Beach Boys and the Beatles had on each other are detailed in the documentary, but there is no new information revealed.

The documentary and band members give a lot of credit to the Wrecking Crew, the influential group of studio musicians who played on a lot of iconic music of the 1960s and 1970s. Don Randi of the Wrecking Crew is interviewed for this documentary, which also has archival interview clips from Wrecking Crew members Carol Kaye and Glen Campbell, who was briefly a member of the Beach Boys. Other collaborators, such as lyricist Van Dyke Parks (who worked on the Beach Boys’ previously unreleased “Smile” album from the late 1960s), are seen in archival clips.

The Beach Boys had various lineup changes over the years. Brian Wilson and Jardine quit and rejoined the band multiple times for various reasons. One of the people who is interviewed in the documentary is David Marks, a neighbor friend of the Wilson brothers, who replaced Jardine in the band for a few years after Jardine quit the band for the first time in 1961.

There have been several reasons cited for why Jardine quit the Beach Boys for the first time, with the reasons ranging from creative differences to apathy to wanting to finish his college education. In the “Beach Boys” documentary Jardine says he quit the band in the early 1960s because he wanted to finish his college education. Jardine rejoined the band in 1963, replacing Marks, who quit after getting into a big dispute with Murry Wilson.

In 1965, guitarist Bruce Johnston joined the Beach Boys as a replacement for Campbell, who went on to have a successful career as a solo artist. Johnston takes some issue with the perception that “genius” Brian Wilson was the musical force behind the Beach Boys. In the documentary, Johnston says, “Brian was lucky to have our voices to sing his dreams.” Out of all of the surviving Beach Boys members who participated in this documentary, Brian is the one who has the least to say in new interview footage. Most of the documentary’s comments from Brian are from archival interviews from other sources.

South African musicians Blondie Chaplin (who is interviewed in the documentary) and Ricky Fataar joined the Beach Boys in the band’s more experimental early 1970s era. Chaplin doesn’t say much in the documentary except that the Beach Boys’ music had a harder-edged sound when he was in the band, and the band situation “wasn’t that great” during this period of time. The documentary mentions the Beach Boys’ declining popularity in the early 1970s got a significant boost with the release of the 1974 greatest hits compilation “Endless Summer,” which was a big hit and made the Beach Boys a touring powerhouse that could sell out arenas again but also cemented their fate as a nostalgia act.

“The Beach Boys” is not a documentary where people should expect to hear much about the Beach Boys’ personal lives. The only current or former spouse of a Beach Boy who is interviewed in the documentary is Marilyn Wilson-Rutherford, who was Brian Wilson’s first wife and who was the president of Brother Records, the Beach Boys’ record label. The children of Beach Boys members are not interviewed.

Wilson-Rutherford tells the same stories she’s told in many interviews and books about the ups and downs that she witnessed or experienced as a member of the Beach Boys’ inner circle. Brian Wilson’s health problems (mental and physical), including substance addiction and depression, are also rehashed in the documentary, as they have been in many other biographies. This documentary provides no new insight on these issues. The only people who will be surprised by the information in this documentary are people who don’t know much about the Beach Boys.

One of the biggest flaws in the documentary is how it sidelines the deaths of Dennis Wilson and Carl Wilson. Dennis drowned while intoxicated in Marina del Rey, in 1983, when he was 39. Carl died of lung cancer in 1998, when he was 51. The deaths of Dennis and Carl are not even mentioned in “The Beach Boys” documentary until the very end, when a caption is briefly flashed on screen with their names and the years of their births and deaths.

In other words, don’t expect anyone in this documentary to comment on how these deaths affected them. For a movie about a “family band” (a term Love uses more than once), it’s a glaring omission not to discuss the deaths of two of the family members in the band. The documentary also never mentions that at the time that Dennis died, he was homeless and had nearly been fired from the band because of his alcoholism. The other band members ordered Dennis to go to rehab, but he left rehab after a few days and then died. None of that information is in the documentary.

“The Beach Boys” documentary features interviews with some well-known music artists—Lindsey Buckingham, Janelle Monáe, Ryan Tedder and Don Was—but their comments really just amount to fan gushing and offer nothing new to say. Josh Kun, a former music critic and currently University of Southern California’s vice provost of the arts, gives the obligatory academic/historian perspective. One person who is noticeably absent from the documentary is John Stamos, who was a close friend (and occasional touring musician) of the Beach Boys, beginning in the 1980s.

As for Beach Boys scandals, there’s a brief mention of Dennis Wilson introducing an aspiring musician named Charles Manson to the Beach Boys’ inner circle in the late 1960s. (The documentary doesn’t mention that Dennis let Manson and some of Manson’s cult members live at a house rented by Dennis, who moved out and eventually got the Manson people evicted by no longer paying the rent.) Lead singer Love says in the documentary that he only met Manson once, and that was enough for him not to get further involved. Still, Manson wrote a Beach Boys song called “Never Learn Not to Love,” which was the B-side of the Beach Boys’ 1969 remake single of “Bluebirds Over the Mountain.”

Music producer Terry Melcher, whom Johnston describes as Johnston’s best friend at the time, declined to work with Manson, which led to a terrible aftermath that doesn’t need to be described in this review. The Beach Boys’ brief but notorious association with Manson is obviously described as a mistake in judgment, with the band members having no idea what Manson and his cult would end up doing. It’s quickly mentioned that Dennis Wilson felt tremendously guilty over introducing Manson into the Beach Boys’ world.

“The Beach Boys” documentary has an even shorter mention of all the lawsuits and legal disputes that Love has had with the Beach Boys in the 1980s and beyond. The documentary does not mention the controversy over Brian Wilson’s therapist Eugene Landy, who had an on-again/off-again, guru-like relationship with Brian from 1975 to the early 1990s, resulting in several lawsuits that involved the Beach Boys. (Landy died in 2006.) Beach Boys singer Love will only say in the documentary what is already public knowledge about his own Beach Boys legal conflicts: Love has been fighting for a share of royalties for Love’s uncredited songwriting of Beach Boys songs.

The Beach Boys lead singer bitterly comments in the documentary that Murry Wilson’s 1969 decision to sell the Beach Boys’ publishing (without consulting any of the band members first) has damaged the family’s legacy. Love, who says that he and Brian Wilson don’t talk very much these days, gets teary-eyed and chokes up when he remarks that if he would say something to Brian, it would be “I love you. And nothing anybody can do can change that.”

That’s why it’s incredibly frustrating that this documentary doesn’t show what was said in the reunion of Love, Brian Wilson, Jardine, Johnston and Marks seen at the end of the movie. There could almost be an entire documentary about that conversation. “The Beach Boys” gets the job done on an acceptable level when retelling well-known facts and putting them in a nostalgic package. Ultimately, it has the glossy sheen of a celebrity biography where all the key people participated but still didn’t tell the whole story.

Disney+ premiered “The Beach Boys” on May 24, 2024, with a sneak preview at select U.S. IMAX cinemas on May 21, 2024.

Review: ‘Back to Black’ (2024), starring Marisa Abela, Jack O’Connell, Eddie Marsan and Lesley Manville

May 13, 2024

by Carla Hay

Marisa Abela in “Back to Black” (Photo courtesy of Focus Features)

“Back to Black” (2024)

Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson

Culture Representation: Taking place in the 2000s, mostly in England, the Amy Winehouse biopic drama “Back to Black” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with some black people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: British singer Amy Winehouse becomes a Grammy-winning international superstar with her 2006 second album “Back to Black,” but her life is plagued by insecurities, drug addiction and a toxic relationship with Blake Fielder-Civil, who would become her husband in a doomed marriage.

Culture Audience: “Back to Black” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Amy Winehouse, but the movie is mostly a superficial and glossed-over portrayal of her life.

Marisa Abela and Jack O’Connell in “Back to Black” (Photo by Dean Rogers/Focus Features)

The best things about the Amy Winehouse biopic “Back to Black” are Winehouse’s original songs, and the cast members put in very good efforts in their performances. But this disappointing drama does almost everything else wrong. It’s a movie that is so intent on glossing over harsh realities of Winehouse’s life, the results are very phony-looking recreations where the overall narrative of the movie can’t be trusted.

Directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and written by Matt Greenhalgh, “Back to Black” takes place in the 2000s, the decade when London-based Winehouse rose to fame as a gritty and sassy singer heavily influenced by American R&B and 1960s pop music. She also wrote very confessional songs about her life. Winehouse, who struggled with various addictions, died of alcohol poisoning in 2011, after having a period of sobriety. She was 27.

Marisa Abela has the role of Winehouse in “Back to Black” and does her own singing in the movie. Winehouse had a unique contralto that would be difficult for anyone to duplicate. Abela’s Winehouse impersonation is passable, but Abela’s singing is noticeably inferior to Winehouse’s real voice talent. (For the purposes of this review, the real Amy Winehouse is referred to as Winehouse, while the character of Amy Winehouse in “Back to Black” is referred to as Amy.)

“Back to Black” is a “checklist” celebrity biopic (with a lot of corny dialogue) that follows the usual formula of a celebrity who rises to fame and fortune and then comes crashing down because of various issues, usually having to do with addiction, money, egos, love life problems, or a combination of all of them. Movies like this usually end with some type of “redemption” or “triumph” arc. And if the celebrity is dead, the death and aftermath of the death are usually tacked on as an epilogue.

The “Back to Black” movie follows Amy’s transformation from a guitar-playing pop singer (whose 2003 debut album “Frank” was a big hit in the United Kingdom, but flopped everywhere else except Europe, Australia and Brazil) to ditching her guitar as part of her stage act (at the urging of her management) to become a sultrier R&B-influenced singer known for her 1960s-styled beehive hairstyle. The movie makes it look like Amy’s beloved grandmother Cynthia (played by Lesley Manville), the mother of Amy’s father, was largely responsible for Amy’s image makeover into a 1960s-inspired “bad girl” diva after Amy showed an interest in 1960s music.

Amy is encouraged and enabled by her taxi driver father Mitch (played by Eddie Marsan), who plays an increasingly influential role in her career. Amy meets Blake Fielder-Civil (played by Jack O’Connell) at a pub, and they have a volatile on-again, off-again relationship that leads to them eloping in 2007. Blake doesn’t seem to have a steady job (he describes himself as a video assistant when he first meets Amy), but he is a full-time drug addict, with Amy also indulging in the same addictions, including alcohol, cocaine and heroin. The movie’s depictions of Amy’s self-admitted eating disorders, self-harm and rehab stints are mostly superficial and fleeting.

The well-documented physical abuse in Amy and Blake’s relationship is only hinted at in the “Back to Black” movie, in a scene where Amy is seen running away in the street with bruises and cuts on her face and body. Amy is shown with some friends in the beginning of her career, but those friends eventually fade away in the movie and are replaced by Blake and people who work for Amy. Mark Ronson—one of the main producers of her breakthrough 2006 second (and last) studio album “Back to Black”—is mentioned but never seen in the movie. The same goes for Simon Fuller, the owner of 19 Management, the company that is most famous for managing the Spice Girls and Amy Winehouse.

The “Back to Black” movie sidelines Amy’s songwriting talent, her work in recording studios and her concert tours, in order to make the majority of the story about the dysfunctional relationship between Amy and Blake. The movie makes it look like Amy was much more in love with Blake than he was with her. And that is probably true. In real life, “Back to Black” was written during a period of time when Winehouse and Fielder-Civil had broken up, before they got married. Their marriage lasted only two years.

The movie only shows the stories behind only a few of her songs. The inspiration for “Rehab,” her biggest hit, is in a scene where Amy’s manager Nick Shymansky (played by Sam Buchanan) and other people in her entourage have an intervention to urge her to go to rehab, but Amy says “no,” and Mitch backs her up and says she’s just fine. In real life, Shymansky has given interviews saying that Mitch originally agreed to convince Amy to go to rehab during this intervention, but Mitch went back on his word and ended up by siding with Amy. By all accounts, Amy Winehouse in real life was not “just fine” when she recorded the “Back to Black” album but she was actually deep in the throes of addiction, which the movie constantly glosses over by downplaying how serious her addictions were.

The “Back to Black” movie dishonestly makes it look like paparazzi had more to do with Amy’s downfall during the height of her fame, instead of all the enablers (including her father Mitch) who pushed her to go on tour when she didn’t want to tour and she should have been getting necessary and proper medical care for her health issues. Amy’s mother Janis (played by Juliet Cowan), who separated from Mitch when Amy was 9, is depicted in the movie as mostly a passive bystander. Amy’s older brother Alex (played by Izaak Cainer), who was four years older that she was, is barely in the movie.

The movie dutifully recreates one of the high points in Amy’s career: the 2008 Grammy Awards, when Amy performed “Rehab” from London and then won the Grammy for Record of the Year for “Rehab,” with her parents in the audience cheering her on. She won a total of five Grammys at the ceremony, including Song of the Year (also for “Rehab”), Best Pop Vocal Album (for “Back to Black”) and Best New Artist. She became the first British female artist to win all of these Grammy Awards in the same ceremony.

Taylor-Johnson and Greenhalgh previously worked together on the John Lennon biopic “Nowhere Boy” (about Lennon’s troubled teenage years), a drama released in 2010. Greenhalgh also wrote the screenplay for the 2007 biopic “Control,” a drama about Ian Curtis, lead singer of the British rock band Joy Division. Just like the “Back to Black” movie, “Nowhere Boy” and “Control” also had good performances in a movie with a very flawed screenplay. Although “Back to Black” certainly does an admirable job with costume design, production design and hairstyling, viewers are better off watching the Oscar-winning 2015 documentary “Amy” for a more insightful and more accurate story of Winehouse’s life.

Focus Features will release “Back to Black” in U.S. cinemas on May 17, 2024, with a sneak preview in U.S. cinemas on May 15, 2024. The movie was released in the United Kingdom and other countries in April 2024.

Review: ‘Unsung Hero’ (2024), starring Daisy Betts, Joel Smallbone, Kirrilee Berger, Jonathan Jackson, Lucas Black, Candace Cameron Bure and Terry O’Quinn

April 25, 2024

by Carla Hay

A scene from “Unsung Hero.” Pictured in back row, from left to right: Paul Luke Bonenfant, Daisy Betts, Kirrilee Berger and Joel Smallbone. Pictured in front row, from left to right: Tenz McCall, JJ Pantano, Angus Caldwell and Diesel La Torraca. (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Unsung Hero” (2024)

Directed by Richard L. Ramsey and Joel Smallbone

Culture Representation: Taking place from 1991 to 1993, in the United States and briefly in Australia, the dramatic film “Unsung Hero” (based on true events) features a predominantly white cast of characters (with a few black people and Asian people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: Financially broke music promoter/manager David Smallbone, his pregnant wife Helen Smallbone, and their children relocate from Australia to the U.S. city of Nashville, and go through various hardships as they try to launch the music career of daughter Rebecca. 

Culture Audience: “Unsung Hero” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Rebecca St. James, for KING & COUNTRY, and faith-based, family-oriented movies about persistence and hope during hard times.

Kirrilee Berger in “Unsung Hero” (Photo courtesy of Lionsgate)

“Unsung Hero” takes place in the early 1990s, but this reliably inspirational biopic about the Smallbone showbiz dynasty has timeless themes about the power of family love and loyalty. It’s a faith-based drama that isn’t preachy about religion. The movie’s competent filmmaking and credible performances make “Unsung Hero” appealing to viewers who are inclined to watch these types of movies. What makes “Unsung Hero” stand out from other similar biopics about male-dominated families is its clear focus on telling the story from the perspective of the family matriarch, who is the namesake of the movie.

Written and directed by Richard L. Ramsey and Joel Smallbone, “Unsung Hero” takes place in mostly chronological order, from 1991 to 1993. The Smallbone family is originally from Australia. Joel Smallbone and his younger brother Luke Smallbone are the members of for KING & COUNTRY, a Grammy-winning contemporary Christian duo. Their older sister is Grammy-winning contemporary Christian singer Rebecca St. James, also known as Rebecca Jean. Their siblings are also in the entertainment business. Their father David Smallbone was a concert promoter and is a longtime manager in the music business.

“Unsung Hero” begins in September 1991, with a scene of the Smallbone family being detained at a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol station at Los Angeles International Airport, where the family needs to get on flight from Los Angeles to Nashville. (St. James has a cameo as a flight attendant in “Unsung Hero.”) David Smallbone (played by Joel Smallbone) and his wife Helen Smallbone (played by Daisy Betts) have attracted a lot of attention from customs officials because the Smallbones are a large family. Also part of this travel entourage are the children of David and Helen: 14-year-old daughter Rebecca (played by Kirrilee Berger); 13-year-old son Daniel Smallbone (played by Paul Luke Bonenfant); son Ben (played by Tenz McCall), who’s about 10 or 11; 7-year-old son Joel (played by Diesel La Torraca); 5-year-old son Luke (played by JJ Pantano); and son Joshua, nicknamed Josh (played by Angus Caldwell), who’s about 3 or 4 years old.

The Smallbones have traveled from their former hometown of Sydney to start a new life in the United States. During this airport scene, the movie briefly flashes back to the less-than-ideal circumstances under which David and Helen decided to leave their family and friends behind in Australia for an uncertain future in America. For years, David was a successful Sydney-based concert promoter with a specialty in Christian music. A flashback scene shows David holding Joel on stage as David introduces a concert by the Christian heavy metal band Stryper.

However, in 1991, David’s fortunes took a steep downturn when Australia was hit with a recession. David promoted singer Amy Grant’s Australian tour that year and expected to make a lot of money from it. A scene in the movie shows Amy Grant (played by Rachel Hendrix) performing a concert on this Australian tour, and the auditorium is only about half full with audience members. David lost about $500,000 on the tour, which wiped out his family’s finances. In addition, the tour tarnished David’s reputation in the Australian music business, so he had trouble finding work in Australia.

David wants to continue to work in the music industry. And so, he decides the best thing to do is start over in the United States, specifically in Nashville, even though David and Helen don’t have any family or friends in Nashville. Helen, who is pregnant with their seventh child, reluctantly agrees and says they should give it a try for two years. And if things don’t work out after those two years, Helen thinks they should consider going back to Australia. David, Helen and their children just have a six-month visa at the beginning of their relocation to America.

The family members of David and Helen don’t want David, Helen and the kids to leave Australia. These relatives have varying degrees of acceptance about this relocation to America. David’s father James (played by Terry O’Quinn) is the most optimistic, while Helen’s mother Jean Francis (played by Roslyn Gentle) thinks this relocation is an unwise decision and keeps urging Helen and her Smallbone family to come back to Australia. “Unsung Hero” has a lot of the expected ups and downs of family struggles during this two-year period.

“Unsung Hero” also has an accurate depiction some of the crushing disappointments that can happen in an instant in the music business, even with a promising deal in place. David’s plan in Nashville was to start a record label with a well-known American artist, whose contract with another record company was ending. However, that plan falls through when the artist accepts the record company’s offer to renew the contract.

With no job prospects lined up, David struggles to find work. The Smallbone family members get some help from a friendly married couple they meet in church: compassionate Jed Albright (played by Lucas Black) and perky Kay Albright (played by Candace Cameron Bure), who generously give their van to the Smallbone family and offer to pay a few of the Smallbone family’s bills. Hillary Scott, the lead singer of Lady A (formerly known as Lady Antebellum), has a small role in “Unsung Hero” as Luanne Meece, the song leader of the church.

David and the older kids earn money by going around the neighborhood and doing low-paying jobs, such as mowing lawns. Eventually, the Smallbones operate a small home-based business doing house care services for other people, including interior cleaning. However, it’s not enough to get the Smallbone out of their financial pit. Although they are never homeless, the Smallbones often go hungry because they don’t have enough money for proper meals. David and Helen also decide to homeschool their children.

David, Helen and some of the kids end up getting a house care job at the mansion of Christian rock star Eddie DeGarmo (played by Jonathan Jackson), an artist who was rejected by David for an Australian tour when Eddie was part of the duo DeGarmo & Key. At the time, David thought he was too successful of a concert promoter to do a DeGarmo & Key tour, and he set his sights on an Amy Grant tour, which turned out to be a disaster. David is somewhat humiliated (and humbled) when he finds himself cleaning Eddie’s toilets as part of David’s current job.

Rebecca shows she has above-average musical talent as a singer and songwriter, so there are attempts to get her a record deal, but those attempts come with their share of rejections. “Unsung Hero” has some very good performances, particularly from Joel Smallbone and Betts, who skillfully anchor the movie as parents David and Helen. The immigrant family members persist against seemingly insurmountable obstacles, even when they have moments of self-doubt and naysayers telling them to give up. The cast members do their own singing, including a cover version of Rebecca St. James’ “You Make Everything Beautiful.”

No one in the family is depicted as “perfect” or too good to be true. The movie realistically shows some of the family arguments that can happen during this tension-filled time. David’s pride also gets in the way of some of his decisions that cause some alienation. In addition, Helen (the more patient parent) has moments where she struggles to hold on to her dignity and her temper in situations where many people would lose both. The movie is a worthy depiction of how Helen was the family’s source of strength in many ways.

Some of the dialogue in “Unsung Hero” can get a bit corny, but they are delivered with a lot of sincerity. In an early scene in the movie, David says when he tells Helen why they should start over and Nashville so he can continue to work in the Christian music industry: “I can’t sing, and I can’t play, but I can connect people to something higher and greater from the here and now. This is it. This is my last chance.”

Viewers should also keep in mind that the end result of the two-year period depicted in “Unsung Hero” is not typical of what most people experience when they want to be successful in the music industry. For most people, it takes much longer than two years to achieve what the Smallbones achieved in the two-year period shown in the movie, with the Smallbones having the added challenge of being recent immigrants to the United States.

There are several scenes where Helen and the children talk about praying, but the movie can still be relatable to viewers who are not religious because the story has an overall message of hope. “Unsung Hero” pulls at heartstrings in all the right places but doesn’t feel manipulative. This real-life story is made all the more meaningful in its message that hard work, talent, luck and the right connections can lead to success, but that success is better with the support of a loving family.

Lionsgate will release “Unsung Hero” in U.S. cinemas on April 26, 2024. A sneak preview of the movie was shown in select U.S. cinemas on April 24, 2024.

Review: ‘This Is a Film About the Black Keys,’ starring Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney

March 12, 2024

by Carla Hay

Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney in “This Is a Film About the Black Keys” (Photo by Jim Herrington)

“This Is a Film About the Black Keys”

Directed by Jeff Dupre

Culture Representation: The documentary film “This Is a Film About the Black Keys” features a predominantly white group of people (with a few African Americans) who are all connected in some way to the American rock duo the Black Keys and who discuss the band.

Culture Clash: The Black Keys members Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney, who have very different personalities from each other, go through their ups and downs in their careers and their personal lives.

Culture Audience: In addition to appealing to the obvious target audience of Black Keys fans “This Is a Film About the Black Keys” will appeal primarily to people who like watching documentaries that are similar to “Behind the Music.”

“This Is a Film About the Black Keys” is a competent but not outstanding documentary that comes across as a “Behind the Music” type of promotional showcase. It has candid interviews and great archival footage, but the film has some obvious omissions in the Black Keys’ story. The documentary raises some questions that never get answered. However, the behind-the-scenes footage makes the documentary worth watching, even if you know that the filmmakers could have made more courageous choices in how this story was told.

Directed by Jeff Dupre, “This Is a Film About the Black Keys” had its world premiere at the 2024 SXSW Film and TV Festival, about a month before the release of the Black Keys’ 12th studio album “Ohio Players.” The calculated timing of both the movie’s premiere and the album’s release has “Behind the Music” influences written all over it, since most artists who’ve agreed to do a “Behind the Music” episode do it to promote a new album. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it usually means that the artists won’t allow the most unflattering aspects of their lives to be explored in depth in whatever documentary they’re doing to coincide with the release of a new album.

“This is a Film About the Black Keys” follows the “Behind the Music” rock band biography narrative formula, almost beat by beat: A band comes from humble beginnings, slowly builds up a fan base from releasing albums and touring, has breakthrough mainstream success, and then gets caught up in the pitfalls of fame—usually having to do with huge egos, money and substance abuse. “This is a Film About the Black Keys” checks all of those boxes.

The Black Keys have a few characteristics that set them apart from most rock artists: They are a duo when most rock artists are either solo artists or are part of band with at least three members. The Black Keys members—lead singer/guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Pat Carney—also don’t have a typical rock band origin story of a bunch of people forming a band because they were already friends or because they went through a lengthy search to find the right people to be in the band.

Instead, Auerbach (born in 1979) and Carney (born in 1980) say that they were more like friendly acquaintances than close friends when they started making music together. Carney and Auerbach both grew up on the same street and went to the same high school in their hometown of Akron, Ohio. The documentary dutifully covers biographical information that can be found on the Internet about the Black Keys. Carney and Auerbach are interviewed, as well as some of their family members, business associates and music industry fans.

When Auerbach and Carney were students at Firestone High School in Akron, Auerbach was a popular athlete but his real passion was music, having learned to play guitar from the age of 7. Carney says of his self-described nerdy teenage years: “I couldn’t get a girl to talk to me, so I got into rock and roll.” The “opposites attract” theme is repeated throughout the movie: Carney says he’s the extrovert who prefers to handle the duo’s business affairs and do interviews, while Auerbach is the introvert who prefers to do most of the duo’s songwriting and musical arranging.

Something that Auerbach and Carney have in common is that they both have several musicians in their families. Auerbach’s mother Mary Little says that most of her siblings are musicians. Auerbach’s cousin Robert Quine is a well-known avant-garde rock musician. Early on in their relationship, Auerbach and Carney also bonded over their admiration of musician R.L. Burnside.

As teenagers, Auerbach and Carney would occasionally play music together, but they were in different social circles in high school. Carney and Auerbach both attended the University of Akron but would eventually drop out to become full-time musicians. Auerbach says that he would skip classes in college so he could spend time in his room to play guitar. Carney describes his college years as still being at a freshman after three years of college.

Auerbach and Carney ended up forming a musical partnership in 2001. It happened after Carney had been hired to be a recording engineer for Auerbach’s band. The other musicians in the band didn’t show up, so Auerbach and Carney began jamming together and decided they could make music together as a duo. Auerbach says, “Right away, Pat and I bonded over our love of recording.” He says that they both still prefer recording over touring.

After some debate over what to call their musical act, they chose the Black Keys. The name was inspired by a friend named Alfred McMoore, who would sometimes call people the “black keys” of a piano if he was upset with them. Auerbach says in the documentary about the duo’s decision to become full-time musicians without having a record deal or a steady income: “There was no back-up plan. We had to make it work.”

By their own admission, the Black Keys have communication problems with each other. Auerbach and Carney say that they have always had difficulty talking about their problems. They say that they usually deal with their personal issues with each other by trying to ignore them. However, it causes resentment over time, which has led to periods of Auerbach and Carney being estranged from each other.

Nowhere is this communication problem more evident in the documentary than in a sequence showing Carney at a soundcheck for a Black Keys arena show while Auerbach is busy shopping for clothes. Carney is furious that his bandmate isn’t there for the soundcheck and rants about how unprofessional Auerbach is for not telling Carney and other people where Auerbach is during this soundcheck.

Meanwhile, Auerbach (accompanied by a few members of his entourage) is shown trying on high-priced clothing at a store and being treated like rock star. When the time comes for the Black Keys to do the concert, Auerbach and Carney are standing next to each backstage but don’t talk about Auerbach’s soundcheck absence that was upsetting to Carney. For this concert, Auerbach is wearing the jacket that he bought at the store.

The Black Keys’ slow and steady rise to Grammy-winning, arena-rock success is a familiar tale of “alternative rock” artists who want a lot of praise, recognition and money for what they do, but they don’t want to be perceived as “sell-outs” or fake. They also want to be able to experiment musically without alienating their core fan base. John Peets, a former manager of the Black Keys, says of the Black Keys’ musical outlook: “They are a fiercely independent band.”

The Black Keys were independent in the beginning of their career, having signed with a series of independent labels and producing their own albums. The band began getting positive reviews from their first album—2002’s “The Big Come Up”—and toured relentlessly for their albums. Carney did a lot of the duo’s bus driving and tour managing in the early days of the Black Keys. He’s the raconteur who is more likely than Auerbach to tell stories in the documentary about their experiences with dingy motels, low-paying gigs, and travel mishaps on the road.

In the early years of the Black Keys, their personal lives of the Black Keys also had parallels to their professional lives. Auerbach and Carney both got married to their first wives around the same time: Carney married his high-school sweetheart Denise Grollmus in 2007. Auerbach married Stephanie Gonis in 2008. Both marriages ended in very messy and public divorces—Carney and Grollmus split in 2009, while Auerbach and Gonis broke up in 2013, with their divorce becoming final in 2014. In the documentary, the divorces are described in vague terms that essentially amount to saying “irreconcilable differences” or “growing apart.”

The details of these divorces are left out of the documentary, but there is a little bit of acknowledgement in the movie about how these divorces affected the Black Keys’ work: By Carney’s own admission, he began drinking alcohol a lot more during his divorce from Grollmus, thereby making the recording of the Black Keys’ 2010 album “Brothers” much more difficult. It’s also mentioned that Auerbach’s divorce from Gonis had a big influence on the emotionally raw and wounded lyrics of the Black Keys’ 2014 album “Turn Blue,” the album that nearly broke up the Black Keys because it was made during a low point in the relationship between Carney and Auerbach. In retrospect, Carney says that during this tumultuous time, the Black Keys probably should have gone on vacation instead of doing an album and tour.

Gonis is the only wife or ex-wife interviewed in the documentary. Her comments that are in the movie mostly describe when her relationship with Auerbach was going well. However, she says their divorce happened because she and Auerbach drifted apart because of all the time he spent away from home. Gonis jokes about their “shotgun wedding” and says that although Auerbach is a loving father, she felt like a single mother raising their daughter Sadie Little Auerbach, who was born in 2008 and is seen briefly in archival footage.

The documentary does not mention any of the sordid information that was widely reported about the divorce filings, such as Gonis’ allegations that Auerbach abused her, or Auerbach’s allegations that Gonis attempted suicide twice in one day. Auerbach was married to Jen Goodall from 2015 to 2019. He is not forthcoming about what really happened in the failures of his two marriages. It isn’t too surprising that Auerbach is unwilling to talk about his personal problems in a biographical documentary that is largely about his life, since he is frequently described in the documentary as being secretive and mysterious, even by people who’ve known him for a very long time.

A turning point for the Black Keys came in 2007, when they collaborated with a pop music producer for the first time: Danger Mouse, whose real name is Brian Joseph Burton. At the time, it seemed to be an unlikely collaboration: Danger Mouse was a Grammy-winning hitmaker best known for the Gnarls Barkley’s 2006 R&B/pop smash “Crazy.” However, Carney says he fell in love with the song, which he describes as “cinematic.” The result of the first collaboration between the Black Keys and Danger Mouse was the Black Keys’ 2008 album “Attack & Release.”

The Black Keys went on to get an even larger audience with their 2010 mainstream breakthrough album “Brothers,” which featured the hit “Tighten Up.” It was the first album the Black Keys released after the duo relocated to Nashville and after collaborating again with Danger Mouse. The Black Keys won three Grammys because of “Brothers” and won another three Grammys for their 2011 album “El Camino,” which featured the hit “Lonely Boy.”

Although Carney comes across as the more socially confident than Auerbach, Carney admits that behind the scenes, he’s had longtime insecurities about his place in the Black Keys, because Auerbach has often treated him as a backup musician instead of as an equal. One of the biggest rifts that they had was in the mid-2010s, when Auerbach recorded his first solo album without telling Carney, who thinks that this secrecy was a betrayal to Carney. Auerbach says in the documentary that the reason for the secrecy was that Carney was “impossible to be around” at that time. Perhaps one of the more honest moments in the documentary is Carney expressing his fear that he is replaceable in the Black Keys.

The Black Keys’ personal problems within themselves, with each other and in their marriages get uneven exploration in the documentary. Carney’s drinking problem that severely affected the recording of “Brothers” is mentioned but somewhat glossed over. No one comes right out and says that Carney is an alcoholic, but that’s something the documentary filmmakers should have asked Carney. The documentary also doesn’t mention if Carney every got professional help for his drinking problem.

Carney’s marital problems are also described in generic terms or not mentioned at all. He admits that his divorce from first ex-wife Grollmus was bitter, but he barely mentions his second ex-wife Emily Ward, whom he was married to from 2012 to 2016. Carney’s third wife is Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Michelle Branch, whom he married in 2019. Their scandalous separation in 2022 and subsequent reunion—Branch publicly accused him of infidelity, filed for divorce, and then decided to call off the divorce—are not mentioned at all. In the documentary, Carney is briefly shown spending time with his and Branch’s son Rhys James (born in 2018), who appears in some Black Keys rehearsal footage.

A documentary does not need to go the tabloid route and air a lot of dirty laundry. But when a celebrity documentary is made about a celebrity’s life, and several people in the documentary say the celebrity’s personal problems directly affected the celebrity’s work, it behooves the documentary filmmakers to get more details and introspection from the people who caused the problems or were directly affected by the problems. It’s especially noticeable that the documentary doesn’t seem to care to mention if Carney got professional help for what many people describe in the documentary as his alcohol addiction.

In a director’s statement in the movie’s production note, Dupre says about the making of this documentary: “I was going to need Pat and Dan to tell me everything. What they told me first was that they weren’t always very good at communicating with each other. Would they open up to me? I soon realized I wouldn’t need to lean on them quite as much as I thought I would because their music would speak volumes if we let it.”

Dupre further commented in the statement: “Want to know who they were and what they were feeling at every step of the way? Listen to their songs. That became the operating principle in the editing room: as much as possible, let their music tell the story and drive the narrative. … Pat and Dan did open up and come through in their interviews … in spades. But their incredible music expresses who they are and what they’ve been through beyond talk and beyond words.”

That’s all well and good, but “This Is a Film About the Black Keys” is not a concert documentary or a documentary about the making of an album. It’s supposed to be a biographical documentary that looks at all aspects of their lives, but the movie comes across as playing it a little too safe, as if the filmmakers wanted the approval of the Black Keys’ publicity team too. The documentary has very good concert scenes, but gives very little insight into the inspirations or recordings of specific Black Keys songs.

The people interviewed in the documentary do not include any critics of the Black Keys. Oher interviewees include Dan Auerbach’s father Chuck Auerbach; Patrick Carney’s brother Michael Carney; Fat Possum Records executives Matthew Johnson and Bruce Watson; Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Beck; and journalist Peter Relic, who gave the Black Keys’ their first review in Rolling Stone magazine.

The Black Keys’ notorious feud (which has since been settled) with Jack White (formerly of the rock duo the White Stripes) is not mentioned at all in the documentary. The closest thing that the documentary will mention to any music feuds that the Black Keys had was when Carney got some social media hate from Justin Bieber fans in 2013, when a reporter asked Carney to comment on Bieber not getting any Grammy nominations that year, and Carney made a flippant comment that Bieber should be happy with being rich. This short-lived and petty trolling from angry Bieber fans is quickly laughed off in the documentary for what is. But if you believe everything in this documentary, the Black Keys never had any uncomfortable rivalries with other musicians, when the reality is that they did.

People can enjoy the Black Keys’ music in any number of ways, including this documentary. As entertaining it might be to look at the impressive array of archival Black Keys footage that the documentary has compiled, the movie’s overall story of the Black Keys looks very much like a sympathetically slanted portrait of how the Black Keys want to see themselves and not a complete story of who they really are. Based on the final results, the documentary filmmakers seemed all too willing to go along and leave perhaps the hardest parts of the Black Keys’ story left untold.

2024 Grammy Awards: Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, SZA among the big winners

February 4, 2024

by Carla Hay

Taylor Swift at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, California on February 4, 2024 (Photo by Sonja Flemming/CBS)

Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, Billie Eilish, SZA were among the big winners at the 66th annual Grammy Awards, which were presented at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles on February 4, 2024. Trevor Noah hosted the Grammy Awards for the fourth consecutive year. CBS had the live U.S. telecast of the ceremony, which was livestreamed on Paramount+ With Showtime. Several of the Grammy categories were presented in a pre-telecast ceremony that was livestreamed on Grammy.com.

Swift’s “Midnights” won Album of the Year and Best Pop Vocal Album. She now holds the records as the person who has won Album of the Year the most times (four.) at the Grammy Awards. There was no artist at the show who dominated by winning more than three awards. Miley Cyrus won Record of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance for “Flowers.” Billie Eilish and her brother/songwriting partner Finneas O’Connell won Song of the Year and Best Song Written for Visual Media for “What Was I Made For?” from the “Barbie” soundtrack.

SZA (whose real name is Solána Rowe) had the most nominations (nine) going into the ceremony. She won three Grammys at the show: Best Progressive R&B Album, for “SOS”; Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, for her “Ghost in the Machine” collaboration with Phoebe Bridgers; and Best R&B Song, for “Snooze.” SZA performed “Snooze” and “Kill Bill” at the show. Victoria Monét, who had seven nominations going into the ceremony, also won three Grammys: Best R&B Album (for “Jaguar II”), Best New Artist, and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical (for “Jaguar II”).

Jay-Z received the Dr. Dre Global Impact Award, which was first given in 2023 to Dr. Dre. The Recording Academy’s Black Music Collective gives this noncompetitive prize to influential people in black music. During his acceptance speech, Jay-Z (whose real name is Shawn Carter) was joined on stage by his and wife Beyoncé’s eldest child, 12-year-old daughter Blue Ivy Carter, while Beyoncé watched at their table.

In his memorable speech, Jay-Z talked about being one of the hip-hop artists who boycotted the Grammys for overlooking hip-hop, such as the Grammys not putting the rap categories on television (which happened again this year) or not nominating certain rap artists in the years that they had successful albums. Jay-Z also gave some criticism for Beyoncé not winning a Grammy for Album of the Year, even though she holds the record for being the person who’s won the most Grammys (32), which was a record that she attained in 2023.

Jay-Z added when commenting about who gets awarded (or not) at the Grammys: “ “I’m saying, we want you to get it right. At least close to getting it right. Obviously, it’s subjective. It’s music, and it’s opinion-based … Some of you will go home tonight and will feel like you’ve been robbed. Some of you may get robbed. Some of you don’t belong in the category.” After hearing a mixture of booing and laughter at that last remark, he said, “When I get nervous, I tell the truth.”

He concluded his speech by saying, “Outside of that, we’ve got to keep showing up. Forget the Grammys for a second—just in life … you’ve got to keep showing up … until they give you all those accolades you feel you deserve, until they call you chairman, until they call you genius, until they call you the greatest of all time.”

Artists who performed at the show included Dua Lipa, Cyrus and Olivia Rodrigo. U2 performed remotely from the Sphere in Paradise, Nevada. On-stage collaborations included Luke Combs with Tracy Chapman; Travis Scott with Playboi Carti; and Burna Boy with 21 Savage and Brandy.

Joni Mitchell performed at the Grammys for the first time. She sang “Both Sides Now” and was joined on stage for the performance by Brandi Carlile, SistaStrings, Blake Mills, Lucius, Allison Russell and Jacob Collier.

Stevie Wonder, Annie Lennox, Jon Batiste and Fantasia Barrino did separate performances for the “In Memoriam” segment that paid tribute to notable people in the music industry who died since the previous Grammy ceremony. Billy Joel performed “Turn the Lights Back On,” his first new song in 30 years, and closed out the show with his 1980 hit “You May Be Right.”

Celine Dion made a surprise appearance to present the award for Album of the Year. Other presenters at the show were Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep, Mark Ronson, Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, Lionel Richie, U2, Lizzo, Christina Aguilera, Maluma, Samara Joy, Brandi Carlile and Kacey Musgraves.

Here is the complete list of nominees and winners for the 2024 Grammy Awards:

*=winner

General Field

1. Record Of The Year

Award to the Artist and to the Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s) and/or Mixer(s) and mastering engineer(s), if other than the artist.

Worship
Jon Batiste
Jon Batiste, Jon Bellion, Pete Nappi & Tenroc, producers; Serban Ghenea & Pete Nappi, engineers/mixers; Chris Gehringer, mastering engineer

Not Strong Enough
boygenius
boygenius & Catherine Marks, producers; Owen Lantz, Catherine Marks, Mike Mogis, Bobby Mota, Kaushlesh “Garry” Purohit & Sarah Tudzin, engineers/mixers; Pat Sullivan, mastering engineer

Flowers*
Miley Cyrus
Kid Harpoon & Tyler Johnson, producers; Michael Pollack, Brian Rajaratnam & Mark “Spike” Stent, engineers/mixers; Joe LaPorta, mastering engineer

What Was I Made For? [From The Motion Picture “Barbie”]
Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish & FINNEAS, producers; Billie Eilish, Rob Kinelski & FINNEAS, engineers/mixers; Chris Gehringer, mastering engineer

On My Mama
Victoria Monét
Deputy, Dernst Emile II & Jeff Gitelman, producers; Patrizio Pigliapoco & Todd Robinson, engineers/mixers; Colin Leonard, mastering engineer

Vampire
Olivia Rodrigo
Dan Nigro, producer; Serban Ghenea, Michael Harris, Chris Kasych, Daniel Nigro & Dan Viafore, engineers/mixers; Randy Merrill, mastering engineer

Anti-Hero
Taylor Swift
Jack Antonoff & Taylor Swift, producers; Jack Antonoff, Serban Ghenea, Laura Sisk & Lorenzo Wolff, engineers/mixers; Randy Merrill, mastering engineer

Kill Bill
SZA
Rob Bisel & Carter Lang, producers; Rob Bisel, engineer/mixer; Dale Becker, mastering engineer

2. Album Of The Year

Award to Artist(s) and to Featured Artist(s), Songwriter(s) of new material, Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s), Mixer(s) and Mastering Engineer(s) credited with 20% or more playing time of the album.

World Music Radio
Jon Batiste
Jon Batiste, Jon Bellion, Nick Cooper, Pete Nappi & Tenroc, producers; Jon Batiste, Pete Nappi, Kaleb Rollins, Laura Sisk & Marc Whitmore, engineers/mixers; Jon Batiste, Jon Bellion, Jason Cornet & Pete Nappi, songwriters; Chris Gehringer, mastering engineer

the record
boygenius
boygenius & Catherine Marks, producers; Owen Lantz, Will Maclellan, Catherine Marks, Mike Mogis, Bobby Mota, Kaushlesh “Garry” Purohit & Sarah Tudzin, engineers/mixers; Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers & Lucy Dacus, songwriters; Pat Sullivan, mastering engineer

Endless Summer Vacation
Miley Cyrus
Kid Harpoon, Tyler Johnson & Mike Will Made-It, producers; Pièce Eatah, Craig Frank, Paul David Hager, Stacy Jones, Brian Rajaratnam & Mark “Spike” Stent, engineers/mixers; Miley Cyrus, Gregory Aldae Hein, Thomas Hull, Tyler Johnson, Michael Len Williams II & Michael Pollack, songwriters; Joe LaPorta, mastering engineer

Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd
Lana Del Rey
Jack Antonoff, Zach Dawes, Lana Del Rey & Drew Erickson, producers; Jack Antonoff, Michael Harris, Dean Reid & Laura Sisk, engineers/mixers; Jack Antonoff, Lana Del Rey & Mike Hermosa, songwriters; Ruairi O’Flaherty, mastering engineer

The Age Of Pleasure
Janelle Monáe
Sensei Bueno, Nate “Rocket” Wonder & Nana Kwabena, producers; Mick Guzauski, Nate “Rocket” Wonder, Jayda Love, Janelle Monáe & Yáng Tan, engineers/mixers; Jarrett Goodly, Nathaniel Irvin III, Janelle Monáe Robinson & Nana Kwabena Tuffuor, songwriters; Dave Kutch, mastering engineer

GUTS
Olivia Rodrigo
Daniel Nigro, producer; Serban Ghenea, Sterling Laws, Mitch McCarthy, Daniel Nigro, Dave Schiffman, Mark “Spike” Stent, Sam Stewart & Dan Viafore, engineers/mixers; Daniel Nigro & Olivia Rodrigo, songwriters; Randy Merrill, mastering engineer

Midnights*
Taylor Swift
Jack Antonoff & Taylor Swift, producers; Jack Antonoff, Zem Audu, Serban Ghenea, David Hart, Mikey Freedom Hart, Sean Hutchinson, Ken Lewis, Michael Riddleberger, Laura Sisk & Evan Smith, engineers/mixers; Jack Antonoff & Taylor Swift, songwriters; Randy Merrill, mastering engineer

SOS
SZA
Rob Bisel, ThankGod4Cody & Carter Lang, producers; Rob Bisel, engineer/mixer; Rob Bisel, Cody Fayne, Carter Lang & Solána Rowe, songwriters; Dale Becker, mastering engineer

3. Song Of The Year

A Songwriter(s) Award. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.

A&W
Jack Antonoff, Lana Del Rey & Sam Dew, songwriters (Lana Del Rey)

Anti-Hero
Jack Antonoff & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)

Butterfly
Jon Batiste & Dan Wilson, songwriters (Jon Batiste)

Dance The Night (From Barbie The Album)
Caroline Ailin, Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Dua Lipa)

Flowers
Miley Cyrus, Gregory Aldae Hein & Michael Pollack, songwriters (Miley Cyrus)

Kill Bill
Rob Bisel, Carter Lang & Solána Rowe, songwriters (SZA)

Vampire
Daniel Nigro & Olivia Rodrigo, songwriters (Olivia Rodrigo)

What Was I Made For? [From The Motion Picture “Barbie”]*
Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell, songwriters (Billie Eilish)

4. Best New Artist

This category recognizes an artist whose eligibility-year release(s) achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and notably impacted the musical landscape.

Gracie Abrams
Fred again..
Ice Spice
Jelly Roll
Coco Jones
Noah Kahan
Victoria Monét*
The War And Treaty

5. Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical

A Producer’s Award. (Artists names appear in parentheses.)

Jack Antonoff*

      • Being Funny In A Foreign Language (The 1975) (A)

      • Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd (Lana Del Rey) (A)

      • Midnights (Taylor Swift) (A)

Dernst “D’Mile” Emile II

      • JAGUAR II (Victoria Monét) (A)

Hit-Boy

      • Bus Stop (Don Toliver Featuring Brent Faiyaz) (T)

      • Just Face It (Dreamville With Blxst) (T)

      • Kings Disease III (Nas) (A)

      • Magic 3 (Nas) (A)

      • Magic 2 (Nas) (A)

      • Slipping Into Darkness (Hit-Boy & The Alchemist) (S)

      • Surf Or Drown Vol. 1 (Hit-Boy) (A)

      • Surf Or Drown Vol. 2 (Hit-Boy) (A)

      • Victims & Villains (Musiq Soulchild & Hit-Boy) (A)

• Metro Boomin

      • Am I Dreaming (Metro Boomin Featuring Roisee & A$AP Rocky) (S)

      • Calling (Metro Boomin Featuring NAV, A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie & Swae Lee) (S)

      • Creepin’ (Metro Boomin Featuring 21 Savage & The Weeknd) (S)

      • More M’s (Drake & 21 Savage) (S)

      • Oh U Went (Young Thug Featuring Drake) (S)

      • Superhero (Heroes & Villains) (Metro Boomin, Future & Chris Brown) (S)

      • Til Further Notice (Travis Scott Featuring James Blake & 21 Savage) (S)

      • Trance (Metro Boomin Featuring Travis Scott & Young Thug) (S)

      • War Bout It (Lil Durk Featuring 21 Savage) (S)

• Daniel Nigro

      • Casual (Chappell Roan) (S)

      • Divide (Dermot Kennedy) (S)

      • Guts (Olivia Rodrigo) (A)

      • Hot To Go! (Chappell Roan) (S)

      • Kaleidoscope (Chappell Roan) (S)

      • Red Wine Supernova (Chappell Roan) (S)

      • Welcome To My Island (Caroline Polachek) (S)

6. Songwriter of the Year, Non-Classical

A Songwriter’s Award. (Artists names appear in parentheses.)

Edgar Barrera

      • Cuestion De Tiempo (Don Omar) (T)

      • Falsa Alarma (En Vivo) (Grupo Firme) (T)

      • Gucci Los Paños (Karol G) (T)

      • La Despedida (Christian Nodal) (T)

      • Mi Ex Tenía Razón (Karol G) (T)

      • Que Vuelvas (Various Artists) (T)

      • Un Cumbión Dolido (Christian Nodal) (T)

      • un x100to (Grupo Frontera & Bad Bunny) (T)

      • Yo Pr1mero (Rels B) (S)

Jessie Jo Dillon

      • Buried (Brandy Clark) (T)

      • Girl In The Mirror (Megan Moroney) (T)

      • Halfway To Hell (Jelly Roll) (T)

      • I Just Killed A Man (Catie Offerman) (S)

      • Memory Lane (Old Dominion) (S)

      • Neon Cowgirl (Dan + Shay) (T)

      • screen (HARDY) (T)

      • The Town In Your Heart (Lori McKenna) (T)

      • Up Above The Clouds (Cecilia’s Song) (Brandy Clark) (T)

Shane McAnally

      • Come Back To Me (Brandy Clark) (S)

      • Good With Me (Walker Hayes) (S)

      • He’s Never Gunna Change (Lauren Daigle) (S)

      • I Should Have Married You (Old Dominion) (S)

      • Independently Owned (Alex Newell & Original Broadway Cast of Shucked) (S)

      • Never Grow Up (Niall Horan) (S)

      • Start Nowhere (Sam Hunt) (S)

      • Walmart (Sam Hunt) (S)

      • We Don’t Fight Anymore (Carly Pearce & Chris Stapleton) (S)

Theron Thomas*

      • All My Life (Lil Durk Featuring J. Cole) (S)

      • Been Thinking (Tyla) (S)

      • Cheatback (Chlöe & Future) (T)

      • How We Roll (Ciara & Chris Brown) (S)

      • Make Up Your Mind (Cordae) (S)

      • Pretty Girls Walk (Big Boss Vette) (S)

      • Seven (Jung Kook & Latto) (S)

      • Told Ya (Chlöe & Missy Elliot) (T)

      • You And I (Sekou) (T)

Justin Tranter

      • Gemini Moon (Reneé Rapp) (T)

      • Honey! (Are U Coming?) (Måneskin) (S)

      • I Want More (Marisa Davila & Cast Of Grease: Rise Of The Pink Ladies) (S)

      • Jersey (Baby Tate) (S)

      • A Little Bit Happy (TALK) (S)

      • Pretty Girls (Reneé Rapp) (S)

      • River (Miley Cyrus) (S)

Field 1: Pop & Dance/Electronic Music

7. Best Pop Solo Performance

For new vocal or instrumental pop recordings. Singles or Tracks only.

Flowers*
Miley Cyrus

Paint The Town Red
Doja Cat

What Was I Made For? [From The Motion Picture “Barbie”]
Billie Eilish

Vampire
Olivia Rodrigo

Anti-Hero
Taylor Swift

8. Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

For new vocal or instrumental duo/group or collaborative pop recordings. Singles or Tracks only.

Thousand Miles
Miley Cyrus Featuring Brandi Carlile

Candy Necklace
Lana Del Rey Featuring Jon Batiste

Never Felt So Alone
Labrinth Featuring Billie Eilish

Karma
Taylor Swift Featuring Ice Spice

Ghost In The Machine*
SZA Featuring Phoebe Bridgers

9. Best Pop Vocal Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new pop vocal recordings.

Chemistry
Kelly Clarkson

Endless Summer Vacation
Miley Cyrus

GUTS
Olivia Rodrigo

– (Subtract)
Ed Sheeran

Midnights*
Taylor Swift

10. Best Dance/Electronic Recording

For solo, duo, group or collaborative performances. Vocal or Instrumental. Singles or tracks only.

Blackbox Life Recorder 21F
Aphex Twin
Richard D James, producer; Richard D James, mixer

Loading
James Blake
James Blake & Dom Maker, producers; James Blake, mixer

Higher Than Ever Before
Disclosure
Cirkut, Guy Lawrence & Howard Lawrence, producers; Guy Lawrence, mixer

Strong
Romy & Fred again..
Fred again.., Stuart Price & Romy, producers; Fred again.. & Stuart Price, mixers

Rumble*
Skrillex, Fred again.. & Flowdan
Fred again.. & Skrillex, producers; Skrillex, mixer

11. Best Pop Dance Recording

For solo, duo, group or collaborative performances. Vocal or Instrumental. Singles or tracks only.

Baby Don’t Hurt Me
David Guetta, Anne-Marie & Coi Leray
Johnny Goldstein, Toby Green, David Guetta & Mike Hawkins, producers; Serban    Ghenea, mixer

Miracle
Calvin Harris Featuring Ellie Goulding
Burns & Calvin Harris, producers; Calvin Harris, mixer

Padam Padam*
Kylie Minogue
Lostboy, producer; Guy Massey, mixer

One In A Million
Bebe Rexha & David Guetta
Burns & David Guetta, producers; Serban Ghenea, mixer

Rush
Troye Sivan
Styalz Fuego, Novodor & Zhone, producers; Alex Ghenea, mixer

12. Best Dance/Electronic Music Album

For vocal or instrumental albums. Albums only.

Playing Robots Into Heaven
James Blake

For That Beautiful Feeling
The Chemical Brothers

Actual Life 3 (January 1 – September 9 2022)*
Fred again..

Kx5
Kx5

Quest For Fire
Skrillex

Field 2: Rock, Metal & Alternative Music

13. Best Rock Performance

For new vocal or instrumental solo, duo/group or collaborative rock recordings.

Sculptures Of Anything Goes
Arctic Monkeys

More Than A Love Song
Black Pumas

Not Strong Enough*
Boygenius

Rescued
Foo Fighters

Lux Æterna
Metallica

14. Best Metal Performance

For new vocal or instrumental solo, duo/group or collaborative metal recordings.

Bad Man
Disturbed

Phantom Of The Opera
Ghost

72 Seasons*
Metallica

Hive Mind
Slipknot

Jaded
Spiritbox

15. Best Rock Song

A Songwriter(s) Award. Includes Rock, Hard Rock and Metal songs. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.

Angry
Mick Jagger, Keith Richards & Andrew Watt, songwriters (The Rolling Stones)

Ballad Of A Homeschooled Girl
Daniel Nigro & Olivia Rodrigo, songwriters (Olivia Rodrigo)

Emotion Sickness
Dean Fertita, Joshua Homme, Michael Shuman, Jon Theodore & Troy Van Leeuwen, songwriters (Queens Of The Stone Age)

Not Strong Enough*
Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers & Lucy Dacus, songwriters (boygenius)

Rescued
Dave Grohl, Rami Jaffee, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett & Pat Smear, songwriters (Foo Fighters)

16. Best Rock Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new rock, hard rock or metal recordings.

But Here We Are
Foo Fighters

Starcatcher
Greta Van Fleet

72 Seasons
Metallica

This Is Why*
Paramore

In Times New Roman…
Queens Of The Stone Age

17. Best Alternative Music Performance

For new vocal or instrumental solo, duo/group or collaborative Alternative music recordings.

Belinda Says
Alvvays

Body Paint
Arctic Monkeys

Cool About It
boygenius

A&W
Lana Del Rey

This Is Why*
Paramore

18. Best Alternative Music Album

Vocal or Instrumental.

The Car
Arctic Monkeys

The Record*
boygenius

Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd
Lana Del Rey

Cracker Island
Gorillaz

I Inside The Old Year Dying
PJ Harvey

Field 3: R&B, Rap & Spoken Word Poetry

19. Best R&B Performance

For new vocal or instrumental R&B recordings.

Summer Too Hot
Chris Brown

Back To Love
Robert Glasper Featuring SiR & Alex Isley

ICU*
Coco Jones

How Does It Make You Feel
Victoria Monét

Kill Bill
SZA

20. Best Traditional R&B Performance

For new vocal or instrumental traditional R&B recordings.

Simple
Babyface Featuring Coco Jones

Lucky
Kenyon Dixon

Hollywood
Victoria Monét Featuring Earth, Wind & Fire & Hazel Monét

Good Morning*
PJ Morton Featuring Susan Carol

Love Language
SZA

21. Best R&B Song

A Songwriter(s) Award. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.

Angel
Halle Bailey, Theron Feemster & Coleridge Tillman, songwriters (Halle)

Back To Love
Darryl Andrew Farris, Robert Glasper & Alexandra Isley, songwriters (Robert Glasper Featuring SiR & Alex Isley)

ICU
Darhyl Camper Jr., Courtney Jones, Raymond Komba & Roy Keisha Rockette, songwriters (Coco Jones)

On My Mama
Dernst Emile II, Jeff Gitelman, Victoria Monét, Kyla Moscovich, Jamil Pierre & Charles Williams, songwriters (Victoria Monét)

Snooze*
Kenny B. Edmonds, Blair Ferguson, Khris Riddick-Tynes, Solána Rowe & Leon Thomas, songwriters (SZA)

22. Best Progressive R&B Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of newly recorded progressive vocal tracks derivative of R&B.

Since I Have A Lover
6LACK

The Love Album: Off The Grid
Diddy

Nova
Terrace Martin And James Fauntleroy

The Age Of Pleasure
Janelle Monáe

SOS*
SZA

23. Best R&B Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new R&B recordings.

Girls Night Out
Babyface

What I Didn’t Tell You (Deluxe)
Coco Jones

Special Occasion
Emily King

JAGUAR II*
Victoria Monét

CLEAR 2: SOFT LIFE EP
Summer Walker

24. Best Rap Performance

For a Rap performance. Singles or Tracks only.

The Hillbillies
Baby Keem Featuring Kendrick Lamar

Love Letter
Black Thought

Rich Flex
Drake & 21 Savage

SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS*
Killer Mike Featuring André 3000, Future And Eryn Allen Kane

Players
Coi Leray

25. Best Melodic Rap Performance

For a solo or collaborative performance containing both elements of R&B melodies and Rap.

Sittin’ On Top Of The World
Burna Boy Featuring 21 Savage

Attention
Doja Cat

Spin Bout U
Drake & 21 Savage

All My Life*
Lil Durk Featuring J. Cole

Low
SZA

26. Best Rap Song

A Songwriter(s) Award. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.

Attention
Rogét Chahayed, Amala Zandile Dlamini & Ari Starace, songwriters (Doja Cat)

Barbie World [From Barbie The Album]
Isis Naija Gaston, Ephrem Louis Lopez Jr. & Onika Maraj, songwriters (Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice Featuring Aqua)

Just Wanna Rock
Mohamad Camara, Symere Woods & Javier Mercado, songwriters (Lil Uzi Vert)

Rich Flex
Brytavious Chambers, Isaac “Zac” De Boni, Aubrey Graham, J. Gwin, Anderson Hernandez, Michael “Finatik” Mule & Shéyaa Bin Abraham-Joseph, songwriters (Drake & 21 Savage)

SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS*
Andre Benjamin, Paul Beauregard, James Blake, Michael Render, Tim Moore & Dion Wilson, songwriters (Killer Mike Featuring André 3000, Future And Eryn Allen Kane)

27. Best Rap Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new rap recordings.

Her Loss
Drake & 21 Savage

MICHAEL*
Killer Mike

HEROES & VILLIANS
Metro Boomin

King’s Disease III
Nas

UTOPIA
Travis Scott

28. Best Spoken Word Poetry Album

For albums containing greater than 50% playing time of new spoken word poetry recordings.

A-You’re Not Wrong B-They’re Not Either: The Fukc-It Pill Revisited
Queen Sheba

For Your Consideration’24 -The Album
Prentice Powell and Shawn William

Grocery Shopping With My Mother
Kevin Powell

The Light Inside*
J. Ivy

When The Poems Do What They Do
Aja Monet

Field 4: Jazz, Traditional Pop, Contemporary Instrumental & Musical Theater

29. Best Jazz Performance

For new vocal or instrumental solo, duo/group or collaborative jazz recordings.

Movement 18′ (Heroes)
Jon Batiste

Basquiat
Lakecia Benjamin

Vulnerable (Live)
Adam Blackstone Featuring The Baylor Project & Russell Ferranté

But Not For Me
Fred Hersch & Esperanza Spalding

Tight*
Samara Joy

30. Best Jazz Vocal Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal jazz recordings.

For Ella 2
Patti Austin Featuring Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band

Alive At The Village Vanguard
Fred Hersch & Esperanza Spalding

Lean In
Gretchen Parlato & Lionel Loueke

Mélusine
Cécile McLorin Salvant

How Love Begins*
Nicole Zuraitis

31. Best Jazz Instrumental Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new instrumental jazz recordings.

The Source
Kenny Barron

Phoenix
Lakecia Benjamin

Legacy: The Instrumental Jawn*
Adam Blackstone

The Winds Of Change*
Billy Childs

Dream Box
Pat Metheny

32. Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new ensemble jazz recordings.

The Chick Corea Symphony Tribute – Ritmo
ADDA Simfònica, Josep Vicent, Emilio Solla

Dynamic Maximum Tension
Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society

Basie Swings The Blues*
The Count Basie Orchestra Directed By Scotty Barnhart

Olympians
Vince Mendoza & Metropole Orkest

The Charles Mingus Centennial Sessions
Mingus Big Band

33. Best Latin Jazz Album

For vocal or instrumental albums containing greater than 75% playing time of newly recorded material. The intent of this category is to recognize recordings that represent the blending of jazz with Latin, Iberian-American, Brazilian, and Argentinian tango music.

Quietude
Eliane Elias

My Heart Speaks
Ivan Lins With The Tblisi Symphony Orchestra

Vox Humana
Bobby Sanabria Multiverse Big Band

Cometa
Luciana Souza & Trio Corrente

El Arte Del Bolero Vol. 2*
Miguel Zenón & Luis Perdomo

34. Best Alternative Jazz Album

For vocal or instrumental albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new Alternative jazz recordings.

Love In Exile
Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer, Shahzad Ismaily

Quality Over Opinion
Louis Cole

SuperBlue: The Iridescent Spree
Kurt Elling, Charlie Hunter, SuperBlue

Live At The Piano
Cory Henry

The Omnichord Real Book*
Meshell Ndegeocello

35. Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new traditional pop recordings.

To Steve With Love: Liz Callaway Celebrates Sondheim
Liz Callaway

Pieces Of Treasure
Rickie Lee Jones

Bewitched*
Laufey

Holidays Around The World
Pentatonix

Only The Strong Survive
Bruce Springsteen

Sondheim Unplugged (The NYC Sessions), Vol. 3
(Various Artists)

36. Best Contemporary Instrumental Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new contemporary instrumental recordings.

As We Speak*
Béla Fleck, Zakir Hussain, Edgar Meyer, Featuring Rakesh Chaurasia

On Becoming
House Of Waters

Jazz Hands
Bob James

The Layers
Julian Lage

All One
Ben Wendel

37. Best Musical Theater Album

For albums containing greater than 51% playing time of new recordings. Award to the principal vocalist(s), and the album producer(s) of 50% or more playing time of the album. The lyricist(s) and composer(s) of 50 % or more of a score of a new recording are eligible for an Award if any previous recording of said score has not been nominated in this category.

Kimberly Akimbo
John Clancy, David Stone & Jeanine Tesori, producers; Jeanine Tesori, composer; David Lindsay-Abaire, lyricist (Original Broadway Cast)

Parade
Micaela Diamond, Alex Joseph Grayson, Jake Pedersen & Ben Platt, principal vocalists; Jason Robert Brown & Jeffrey Lesser, producers; Jason Robert Brown, composer & lyricist (2023 Broadway Cast)

Shucked
Brandy Clark, Jason Howland, Shane McAnally & Billy Jay Stein, producers; Brandy Clark & Shane McAnally, composers/lyricists (Original Broadway Cast)

Some Like It Hot*
Christian Borle, J. Harrison Ghee, Adrianna Hicks & NaTasha Yvette Williams, principal vocalists; Mary-Mitchell Campbell, Bryan Carter, Scott M. Riesett, Charlie Rosen & Marc Shaiman, producers; Scott Wittman, lyricist; Marc Shaiman, composer & lyricist (Original Broadway Cast)

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
Annaleigh Ashford & Josh Groban, principal vocalists; Thomas Kail & Alex Lacamoire, producers (Stephen Sondheim, composer & lyricist) (2023 Broadway Cast)

Field 5: Country & American Roots Music

38. Best Country Solo Performance

For new vocal or instrumental solo country recordings.

In Your Love
Tyler Childers

Buried
Brandy Clark

Fast Car
Luke Combs

The Last Thing On My Mind
Dolly Parton

White Horse*
Chris Stapleton

39. Best Country Duo/Group Performance

For new vocal or instrumental duo/group or collaborative country recordings.

High Note
Dierks Bentley Featuring Billy Strings

Nobody’s Nobody
Brothers Osborne

I Remember Everything*
Zach Bryan Featuring Kacey Musgraves

Kissing Your Picture (Is So Cold)
Vince Gill & Paul Franklin

Save Me
Jelly Roll With Lainey Wilson

We Don’t Fight Anymore
Carly Pearce Featuring Chris Stapleton

40. Best Country Song

A Songwriter(s) Award. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.

Buried
Brandy Clark & Jessie Jo Dillon, songwriters (Brandy Clark)

I Remember Everything
Zach Bryan & Kacey Musgraves, songwriters (Zach Bryan Featuring Kacey Musgraves)

In Your Love
Tyler Childers & Geno Seale, songwriters (Tyler Childers)

Last Night
John Byron, Ashley Gorley, Jacob Kasher Hindlin & Ryan Vojtesak, songwriters (Morgan Wallen)

White Horse*
Chris Stapleton & Dan Wilson, songwriters (Chris Stapleton)

41. Best Country Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new country recordings.

Rolling Up The Welcome Mat
Kelsea Ballerini

Brothers Osborne
Brothers Osborne

Zach Bryan
Zach Bryan

Rustin’ In The Rain
Tyler Childers

Bell Bottom Country*
Lainey Wilson

42. Best American Roots Performance

For new vocal or instrumental American Roots recordings.  This is for performances in the style of any of the subgenres encompassed in the American Roots Music field including bluegrass, blues, folk or regional roots. Award to the artist(s).

Butterfly
Jon Batiste

Heaven Help Us All
The Blind Boys Of Alabama

Inventing The Wheel
Madison Cunningham

You Louisiana Man
Rhiannon Giddens

Eve Was Black*
Allison Russell

43. Best Americana Performance

For new vocal or instrumental Americana performance. Award to the artist(s).

Friendship
The Blind Boys Of Alabama

Help Me Make It Through The Night
Tyler Childers

Dear Insecurity*
Brandy Clark Featuring Brandi Carlile

King Of Oklahoma
Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit

The Returner
Allison Russell

44. Best American Roots Song

A Songwriter(s) Award. Includes Americana, bluegrass, traditional blues, contemporary blues, folk or regional roots songs. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.

Blank Page
Michael Trotter Jr. & Tanya Trotter, songwriters (The War And Treaty)

California Sober
Aaron Allen, William Apostol & Jon Weisberger, songwriters (Billy Strings Featuring Willie Nelson)

Cast Iron Skillet*
Jason Isbell, songwriter (Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit)

Dear Insecurity
Brandy Clark & Michael Pollack, songwriters (Brandy Clark Featuring Brandi Carlile)

The Returner
Drew Lindsay, JT Nero & Allison Russell, songwriters (Allison Russell)

45. Best Americana Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental Americana recordings.

Brandy Clark
Brandy Clark

The Chicago Sessions
Rodney Crowell

You’re The One
Rhiannon Giddens

Weathervanes*
Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit

The Returner
Allison Russell

46. Best Bluegrass Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental bluegrass recordings.

Radio John: Songs of John Hartford
Sam Bush

Lovin’ Of The Game
Michael Cleveland

Mighty Poplar
Mighty Poplar

Bluegrass
Willie Nelson

Me/And/Dad
Billy Strings

City Of Gold*
Molly Tuttle & Golden Highway

47. Best Traditional Blues Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental traditional blues recordings.

Ridin’
Eric Bibb

The Soul Side Of Sipp
Mr. Sipp

Life Don’t Miss Nobody
Tracy Nelson

Teardrops For Magic Slim Live At Rosa’s Lounge
John Primer

All My Love For You*
Bobby Rush

48. Best Contemporary Blues Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental contemporary blues recordings.

Death Wish Blues
Samantha Fish And Jesse Dayton

Healing Time
Ruthie Foster

Live In London
Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

Blood Harmony*
Larkin Poe

LaVette!
Bettye LaVette

49. Best Folk Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental folk recordings.

Traveling Wildfire
Dom Flemons

I Only See The Moon
The Milk Carton Kids

Joni Mitchell At Newport [Live]*
Joni Mitchell

Celebrants
Nickel Creek

Jubilee
Old Crow Medicine Show

Seven Psalms
Paul Simon

Folkocracy
Rufus Wainwright

50. Best Regional Roots Music Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental regional roots music recordings.

New Beginnings* (tie)
Buckwheat Zydeco Jr. & The Legendary Ils Sont Partis Band

Live At The 2023 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival
Dwayne Dopsie & The Zydeco Hellraisers

Live: Orpheum Theater Nola
Lost Bayou Ramblers & Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra

Made In New Orleans
New Breed Brass Band

Too Much To Hold
New Orleans Nightcrawlers

Live At The Maple Leaf* (tie)
The Rumble Featuring Chief Joseph Boudreaux Jr.

Field 6: Gospel & Contemporary Christian Music

51. Best Gospel Performance/Song

This award is given to the artist(s) and songwriter(s) (for new compositions) for the best traditional Christian, roots gospel or contemporary gospel single or track.

God Is Good
Stanley Brown Featuring Hezekiah Walker, Kierra Sheard & Karen Clark Sheard; Stanley Brown, Karen V Clark Sheard, Kaylah Jiavanni Harvey, Rodney Jerkins, Elyse Victoria Johnson, J Drew Sheard II, Kierra Valencia Sheard & Hezekiah Walker, songwriters

Feel Alright (Blessed)
Erica Campbell; Erica Campbell, Warryn Campbell, William Weatherspoon, Juan Winans & Marvin L. Winans, songwriters

Lord Do It For Me (Live)
Zacardi Cortez; Marcus Calyen, Zacardi Cortez & Kerry Douglas, songwriters

God Is
Melvin Crispell III

All Things*
Kirk Franklin; Kirk Franklin, songwriter

52. Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song

This award is given to the artist(s) and songwriter(s) (for new compositions) for the best contemporary Christian music single or track, (including pop, rap/hip-hop, Latin, or rock.)

Believe
Blessing Offor; Hank Bentley & Blessing Offor, songwriters

Firm Foundation (He Won’t) [Live]
Cody Carnes

Thank God I Do
Lauren Daigle; Lauren Daigle & Jason Ingram, songwriters

Love Me Like I Am
for KING & COUNTRY Featuring Jordin Sparks

Your Power*
Lecrae & Tasha Cobbs Leonard

God Problems
Maverick City Music, Chandler Moore & Naomi Raine; Daniel Bashta, Chris Davenport, Ryan Ellis & Naomi Raine, songwriters

53. Best Gospel Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of newly recorded, vocal, traditional or contemporary/R&B gospel music recordings.

I Love You
Erica Campbell

Hymns (Live)
Tasha Cobbs Leonard

The Maverick Way
Maverick City Music

My Truth
Jonathan McReynolds

All Things New: Live In Orlando*
Tye Tribbett

54. Best Contemporary Christian Music Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of newly recorded, vocal, contemporary Christian music, including pop, rap/hip hop, Latin, or rock recordings.

My Tribe
Blessing Offor

Emanuel
Da’ T.R.U.T.H.

Lauren Daigle
Lauren Daigle

Church Clothes 4*
Lecrae

I Believe
Phil Wickham

55. Best Roots Gospel Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of newly recorded, vocal, traditional/roots gospel music, including country, Southern gospel, bluegrass, and Americana recordings.

Tribute To The King
The Blackwood Brothers Quartet

Echoes Of The South*
Blind Boys Of Alabama

Songs That Pulled Me Through The Tough Times
Becky Isaacs Bowman

Meet Me At The Cross
Brian Free & Assurance

Shine: The Darker The Night The Brighter The Light
Gaither Vocal Band

Field 7: Latin, Global, Reggae & New Age, Ambient, or Chant

56. Best Latin Pop Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new Latin pop recordings.

La Cuarta Hoja
Pablo Alborán

Beautiful Humans, Vol. 1
AleMor

A Ciegas
Paula Arenas

La Neta
Pedro Capó

Don Juan
Maluma

X Mí (Vol. 1)*
Gaby Moreno

57. Best Música Urbana Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new Música Urbana recordings.

SATURNO
Rauw Alejandro

MAÑANA SERÁ BONITO*
Karol G

DATA
Tainy

58. Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new Latin rock or alternative recordings.

MARTÍNEZ
Cabra

Leche De Tigre
Diamante Eléctrico

Vida Cotidiana* (tie)
Juanes

De Todas Las Flores* (tie)
Natalia Lafourcade

EADDA9223
Fito Paez

59. Best Música Mexicana Album (Including Tejano)

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new regional Mexican (banda, norteño, corridos, gruperos, mariachi, ranchera and Tejano) recordings.

Bordado A Mano
Ana Bárbara

La Sánchez
Lila Downs

Motherflower
Flor De Toloache

Amor Como En Las Películas De Antes
Lupita Infante

GÉNESIS*
Peso Pluma

60. Best Tropical Latin Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new tropical Latin recordings.

Siembra: 45º Aniversario (En Vivo en el Coliseo de Puerto Rico, 14 de Mayo 2022)*
Rubén Blades Con Roberto Delgado & Orquesta

Voy A Ti
Luis Figueroa

Niche Sinfónico
Grupo Niche Y Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de Colombia

VIDA
Omara Portuondo

MIMY & TONY
Tony Succar, Mimy Succar

Escalona Nunca Se Había Grabado Así
Carlos Vives

61. Best Global Music Performance

For new vocal or instrumental Global music recordings.

Shadow Forces
Arooj Aftab, Vijay Iyer & Shahzad Ismaily

Alone
Burna Boy

FEEL
Davido

Milagro Y Disastre
Silvana Estrada

Abundance In Millets
Falu & Gaurav Shah (Featuring PM Narendra Modi)

Pashto*
Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer & Zakir Hussain Featuring Rakesh Chaurasia

Todo Colores
Ibrahim Maalouf Featuring Cimafunk & Tank And The Bangas

62. Best African Music Performance

Amapiano
ASAKE & Olamide

City Boys
Burna Boy

UNAVAILABLE
Davido Featuring Musa Keys

Rush
Ayra Starr

Water*
Tyla

63. Best Global Music Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental Global Music recordings.

Epifanías
Susana Baca

History
Bokanté

I Told Them…
Burna Boy

Timeless
Davido

This Moment*
Shakti

64. Best Reggae Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new reggae recordings.

Born For Greatness
Buju Banton

Simma
Beenie Man

Cali Roots Riddim 2023
Collie Buddz

No Destroyer
Burning Spear

Colors Of Royal*
Julian Marley & Antaeus

65. Best New Age, Ambient, or Chant Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new vocal or instrumental new age recordings.

Aquamarine
Kirsten Agresta-Copely

Moments Of Beauty
Omar Akram

Some Kind Of Peace (Piano Reworks)
Ólafur Arnalds

Ocean Dreaming Ocean
David Darling & Hans Christian

So She Howls*
Carla Patullo Featuring Tonality And The Scorchio Quartet

Field 8: Children’s, Comedy, Audio Books, Visual Media & Music Video/Film

66. Best Children’s Music Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new musical or spoken word recordings that are created and intended specifically for children.

Ahhhhh!
Andrew & Polly

Ancestars
Pierce Freelon & Nnenna Freelon

Hip Hope For Kids!
DJ Willy Wow!

Taste The Sky
Uncle Jumbo

We Grow Together Preschool Songs*
123 Andrés

67. Best Comedy Album

For albums containing greater than 75% playing time of new recordings.

I Wish You Would
Trevor Noah

I’m An Entertainer
Wanda Sykes

Selective Outrage
Chris Rock

Someone You Love
Sarah Silverman

What’s In A Name?*
Dave Chappelle

68. Best Audio Book, Narration, and Storytelling Recording

Big Tree
Meryl Streep

Boldly Go: Reflections On A Life Of Awe And Wonder
William Shatner

The Creative Act: A Way Of Being
Rick Rubin

It’s Ok To Be Angry About Capitalism
Senator Bernie Sanders

The Light We Carry: Overcoming In Uncertain Times*
Michelle Obama

69. Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media

Award to the principal artist(s) and/or ‘in studio’ producer(s) of a majority of the tracks on the album.  In the absence of both, award to the one or two individuals proactively responsible for the concept and musical direction of the album and for the selection of artists, songs and producers, as applicable. Award also goes to appropriately credited music supervisor(s).

AURORA
(Daisy Jones & The Six)

Barbie The Album*
(Various Artists)

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music From And Inspired By
(Various Artists)

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3: Awesome Mix, Vol. 3
(Various Artists)

Weird: The Al Yankovic Story
Weird Al Yankovic

70. Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media (Includes Film And Television)

Award to Composer(s) for an original score created specifically for, or as a companion to, a current legitimate motion picture, television show or series, or other visual media.

Barbie
Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, composers

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever*
Ludwig Göransson, composer

The Fabelmans
John Williams, composer

Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny
John Williams, composer

Oppenheimer
Ludwig Göransson, composer

71.  Best Score Soundtrack for Video Games and Other Interactive Media

Award to Composer(s) for an original score created specifically for, or as a companion to, video games and other interactive media.

Call Of Duty®: Modern Warfare II
Sarah Schachner, composer

God Of War Ragnarök
Bear McCreary, composer

Hogwarts Legacy
Peter Murray, J Scott Rakozy & Chuck E. Myers “Sea”, composers

Star Wars Jedi: Survivor*
Stephen Barton & Gordy Haab, composers

Stray Gods: The Roleplaying Musical
Jess Serro, Tripod & Austin Wintory, composers

72. Best Song Written For Visual Media

A Songwriter(s) award. For a song (melody & lyrics) written specifically for a motion picture, television, video games or other visual media, and released for the first time during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.)

Barbie World [From “Barbie The Album”]
Naija Gaston, Ephrem Louis Lopez Jr. & Onika Maraj, songwriters (Nicki Minaj & Ice Spice Featuring Aqua)

Dance The Night [From “Barbie The Album”]
Caroline Ailin, Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Dua Lipa)

I’m Just Ken [From “Barbie The Album”]
Mark Ronson & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Ryan Gosling)

Lift Me Up [From “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – Music From And Inspired By”]
Ryan Coogler, Ludwig Göransson, Robyn Fenty & Temilade Openiyi, songwriters (Rihanna)

What Was I Made For? [From “Barbie The Album”]*
Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell, songwriters (Billie Eilish)

73. Best Music Video

Award to the artist, video director, and video producer.

I’m Only Sleeping*
(The Beatles)
Em Cooper, video director; Jonathan Clyde, Sophie Hilton, Sue Loughlin & Laura Thomas, video producers

In Your Love
Tyler Childers
Bryan Schlam, video director; Kacie Barton, Silas House, Nicholas Robespierre, Ian Thornton & Whitney Wolanin, video producers

What Was I Made For
Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish, video director; Michelle An, Chelsea Dodson & David Moore, video producers

Count Me Out
Kendrick Lamar
Dave Free & Kendrick Lamar, video directors; Jason Baum & Jamie Rabineau, video producers

Rush
Troye Sivan
Gordon Von Steiner, video director; Kelly McGee, video producer

74. Best Music Film

For concert/performance films or music documentaries. Award to the artist, video director, and video producer.

Moonage Daydream*
(David Bowie)
Brett Morgen, video director; Brett Morgen, video producer

How I’m Feeling Now
Lewis Capaldi
Joe Pearlman, video director; Sam Bridger, Isabel Davis & Alice Rhodes, video producers

Live From Paris, The Big Steppers Tour
Kendrick Lamar
Mike Carson, Dave Free & Mark Ritchie, video directors; Cornell Brown, Debra Davis, Jared Heinke & Jamie Rabineau, video producers

I Am Everything
(Little Richard)
Lisa Cortés, video director; Caryn Capotosto, Lisa Cortés, Robert Friedman & Liz Yale Marsh, video producers

Dear Mama
(Tupac Shakur)
Allen Hughes, video director; Joshua Garcia, Loren Gomez, James Jenkins & Stef Smith, video producers

Field 9: Package, Notes & Historical

75. Best Recording Package

The Art Of Forgetting
Caroline Rose, art director (Caroline Rose)

Cadenza 21′
Hsing-Hui Cheng, art director (Ensemble Cadenza 21′)

Electrophonic Chronic
Perry Shall, art director (The Arcs)

Gravity Falls
Iam8bit, art director (Brad Breeck)

Migration
Yu Wei, art director (Leaf Yeh)

Stumpwork*
Luke Brooks & James Theseus Buck, art directors (Dry Cleaning)

76. Best Boxed Or Special Limited Edition Package

The Collected Works Of Neutral Milk Hotel
Jeff Mangum, Daniel Murphy & Mark Ohe, art directors (Neutral Milk Hotel)

For The Birds: The Birdsong Project*
Jeri Heiden & John Heiden, art directors (Various Artists)

Gieo
Duy Dao, art director (Ngot)

Inside: Deluxe Box Set
Bo Burnham & Daniel Calderwood, art directors (Bo Burnham)

Words & Music, May 1965 – Deluxe Edition
Masaki Koike, art director (Lou Reed)

77. Best Album Notes

Evenings At The Village Gate: John Coltrane With Eric Dolphy (Live)
Ashley Kahn, album notes writer (John Coltrane & Eric Dolphy)

I Can Almost See Houston: The Complete Howdy Glenn
Scott B. Bomar, album notes writer (Howdy Glenn)

Mogadishu’s Finest: The Al Uruba Sessions
Vik Sohonie, album notes writer (Iftin Band)

Playing For The Man At The Door: Field Recordings From The Collection Of Mack McCormick, 1958–1971
Jeff Place & John Troutman, album notes writers (Various Artists)

Written In Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos*
Robert Gordon & Deanie Parker, album notes writers (Various Artists)

78. Best Historical Album

Fragments – Time Out Of Mind Sessions (1996-1997): The Bootleg Series, Vol. 17
Steve Berkowitz & Jeff Rosen, compilation producers; Steve Addabbo, Greg Calbi, Steve Fallone, Chris Shaw & Mark Wilder, mastering engineers (Bob Dylan)

The Moaninest Moan Of Them All: The Jazz Saxophone of Loren McMurray, 1920-1922 Colin Hancock, Meagan Hennessey & Richard Martin, compilation producers; Richard Martin, mastering engineer; Richard Martin, restoration engineer (Various Artists)

Playing For The Man At The Door: Field Recordings From The Collection Of Mack McCormick, 1958–1971
Jeff Place & John Troutman, compilation producers; Randy LeRoy & Charlie Pilzer, mastering engineers; Mike Petillo & Charlie Pilzer, restoration engineers (Various Artists)

Words & Music, May 1965 – Deluxe Edition
Laurie Anderson, Don Fleming, Jason Stern, Matt Sulllivan & Hal Willner, compilation producers; John Baldwin, mastering engineer; John Baldwin, restoration engineer (Lou Reed)

Written In Their Soul: The Stax Songwriter Demos*
Robert Gordon, Deanie Parker, Cheryl Pawelski, Michele Smith & Mason Williams, compilation producers; Michael Graves, mastering engineer; Michael Graves, restoration engineer (Various Artists)

Field 10: Production, Engineering, Composition & Arrangement

79. Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical

An Engineer’s Award. (Artists names appear in parentheses.)

Desire, I Want To Turn Into You
Macks Faulkron, Daniel Harle, Caroline Polachek & Geoff Swan, engineers; Mike Bozzi & Chris Gehringer, mastering engineers (Caroline Polachek)

History
Nic Hard, engineer; Dave McNair, mastering engineer (Bokanté)

JAGUAR II*
John Kercy, Kyle Mann, Victoria Monét, Patrizio “Teezio” Pigliapoco, Neal H Pogue & Todd Robinson, engineers; Colin Leonard, mastering engineer (Victoria Monét)

Multitudes
Michael Harris, Robbie Lackritz, Joseph Lorge & Blake Mills, engineers (Feist)

The Record
Owen Lantz, Will Maclellan, Catherine Marks, Mike Mogis, Bobby Mota, Kaushlesh “Garry” Purohit & Sarah Tudzin, engineers; Pat Sullivan, mastering engineer (boygenius)

80. Best Engineered Album, Classical

An Engineer’s Award. (Artist names appear in parentheses.)

The Blue Hour
Patrick Dillett, Mitchell Graham, Jesse Lewis, Kyle Pyke, Andrew Scheps & John Weston, engineers; Helge Sten, mastering engineer (Shara Nova & A Far Cry)

Contemporary American Composers*
David Frost & Charlie Post, engineers; Silas Brown, mastering engineer (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra)

Fandango
Alexander Lipay & Dmitriy Lipay, engineers; Alexander Lipay & Dmitriy Lipay, mastering engineers (Gustavo Dudamel, Anne Akiko Meyers, Gustavo Castillo & Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Sanlikol: A Gentleman Of Istanbul – Symphony For Strings, Percussion, Piano, Oud, Ney & Tenor
Christopher Moretti & John Weston, engineers; Shauna Barravecchio & Jesse Lewis, mastering engineers (Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, George Lernis & A Far Cry)

Tchaikovsky: Symphony No. 5 & Schulhoff: Five Pieces
Mark Donahue, engineer; Mark Donahue, mastering engineer (Manfred Honeck & Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra)

Field 10: Production, Engineering, Composition & Arrangement

81. Producer Of The Year, Classical

A Producer’s Award. (Artist names appear in parentheses.)

David Frost
The American Project (Yuja Wang, Teddy Abrams, Louisville Orchestra) (A)
Arc II – Ravel, Brahms, Shostakovich (Orion Weiss) (A)
Blanchard: Champion (Yannick Nézet-Séguin, Latonia Moore, Ryan Speedo Green, Eric Owens, Stephanie Blythe, Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra) (A)
Contemporary American Composers (Riccardo Muti & Chicago Symphony Orchestra) (A)
The Guitar Player (Mattias Schulstad) (A)
Mysterium (Anne Akiko Meyers, Grant Gershon & Los Angeles Master Chorale) (A)
Verdi: Rigoletto (Daniele Rustioni, Piotr Beczala, Quinn Kelsey, Rosa Feola, Varduhi Abrahamyan, Andrea Mastroni, The Metropolitan Opera Chorus & Orchestra) (A)

Morten Lindberg
An Old Hall Ladymass (Catalina Vicens & Trio Mediæval) (A)
Thoresen: Lyden Av Arktis – La Terra Meravigliosa (Christian Kluxen & Arktisk Filharmoni) (A)
The Trondheim Concertos (Sigurd Imsen & Baroque Ensemble Of The Trondheim Symphony Orchestra) (A)
Yggdrasil (Tove Ramlo-Ystad & Cantus) (A)

Dmitriy Lipay
Adès: Dante (Gustavo Dudamel & Los Angeles Philharmonic) (A) Fandango (Gustavo Dudamel, Anne Akiko Meyers & Los Angeles Philharmonic) (A)
Price: Symphony No. 4; Dawson: Negro Folk Symphony (Yannick Nézet-Séguin & Philadelphia Orchestra) (A)
Rachmaninoff: The Piano Concertos & Paganini Rhapsody (Yuja Wang, Gustavo Dudamel & Los Angeles Philharmonic) (A)
Walker: Lyric For Strings; Folksongs For Orchestra; Lilacs For Voice & Orchestra; Dawson: Negro Folk Symphony (Asher Fisch & Seattle Symphony) (A)

Elaine Martone*
Ascenso (Santiago Cañón-Valencia) (A)
Berg: Three Pieces From Lyric Suite; Strauss: Suite From Der Rosenkavalier (Franz Welser-Möst & The Cleveland Orchestra) (A)
Between Breaths (Third Coast Percussion) (A)
Difficult Grace (Seth Parker Woods) (A)
Man Up / Man Down (Constellation Men’s Ensemble) (A)
Prokofiev: Symphony No. 5 (Franz Welser-Möst & The Cleveland Orchestra) (A)
Rachmaninoff & Gershwin: Transcriptions By Earl Wild (John Wilson) (A)
Sirventés – Music From The Iranian Female Composers Association (Brian Thornton, Katherine Bormann, Alicia Koelz, Eleisha Nelson, Amahl Arulanadam & Nathan Petipas) (A)
Walker: Antifonys; Lilacs; Sinfonias Nos. 4 & 5 (Franz Welser-Möst & The Cleveland Orchestra) (A)

Brian Pidgeon
Fuchs: Orchestral Works, Vol. 1 (John Wilson & Sinfonia Of London) (A)
Music For Strings (John Wilson & Sinfonia Of London) (A)
Nielsen: Violin Concerto; Symphony No. 4 (James Ehnes, Edward Gardner & Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra) (A)
Pierre Sancan – A Musical Tribute (Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, Yan Pascal Tortelier & BBC Philharmonic) (A)
Poulenc: Orchestral Works (Bramwell Tovey & BBC Concert Orchestra) (A)
Rachmaninoff: Symphony No. 3; Voclaise; The Isle Of The Dead (John Wilson & Sinfonia Of London) (A)
Schubert: Symphonies, Vol. 3 (Edward Gardner & City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra) (A)
Shostakovich: Symphonies Nos. 12 & 15 (John Storgårds & BBC Philharmonic) (A)
Tchaikovsky: Orchestral Works (Alpesh Chauhan & BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra) (A)

82. Best Remixed Recording

(A Remixer’s Award. (Artists names appear in parentheses for identification.) Singles or Tracks only.)

Alien Love Call
BADBADNOTGOOD, remixers (Turnstile & BADBADNOTGOOD Featuring Blood Orange)

New Gold (Dom Dolla Remix)
Dom Dolla, remixer (Gorillaz Featuring Tame Impala & Bootie Brown)

Reviver (Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs Remix)
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, remixer (Lane 8)

Wagging Tongue (Wet Leg Remix)*
Wet Leg, remixers (Depeche Mode)

Workin’ Hard (Terry Hunter Remix)
Terry Hunter, remixer (Mariah Carey)

83. Best Immersive Audio Album

For vocal or instrumental albums in any genre.  Must be commercially released for physical sale or on an eligible streaming or download service and must provide a new immersive mix of four or more channels.  Award to the immersive mix engineer, immersive producer (if any) and immersive mastering engineer (if any).

Act 3 (Immersive Edition)
Ryan Ulyate, immersive mix engineer; Michael Romanowski, immersive mastering engineer; Ryan Ulyate, immersive producer (Ryan Ulyate)

Blue Clear Sky
Chuck Ainlay, immersive mix engineer; Michael Romanowski, immersive mastering engineer; Chuck Ainlay, immersive producer (George Strait)

The Diary Of Alicia Keys*
George Massenburg & Eric Schilling, immersive mix engineers; Michael Romanowski, immersive mastering engineer; Alicia Keys & Ann Mincieli, immersive producers (Alicia Keys)

God Of War Ragnarök (Original Soundtrack)
Eric Schilling, immersive mix engineer; Michael Romanowski, immersive mastering engineer; Kellogg Boynton, Peter Scaturro & Herbert Waltl, immersive producers (Bear McCreary)

Silence Between Songs
Aaron Short, immersive mastering engineer (Madison Beer)

84. Best Instrumental Composition

A Composer’s Award for an original composition (not an adaptation) first released during the Eligibility Year. Singles or Tracks only.

Amerikkan Skin
Lakecia Benjamin, composer (Lakecia Benjamin Featuring Angela Davis)

Can You Hear The Music
Ludwig Göransson, composer (Ludwig Göransson)

Cutey And The Dragon
Gordon Goodwin & Raymond Scott, composers (Quartet San Francisco Featuring Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band)

Helena’s Theme*
John Williams, composer (John Williams)

Motion
Edgar Meyer, composer (Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer & Zakir Hussain Featuring Rakesh Chaurasia)

85. Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella

An Arranger’s Award. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.

Angels We Have Heard On High
Nkosilathi Emmanuel Sibanda, arranger (Just 6)

Can You Hear The Music
Ludwig Göransson, arranger (Ludwig Göransson)

Folsom Prison Blues*
John Carter Cash, Tommy Emmanuel, Markus Illko, Janet Robin & Roberto Luis Rodriguez, arrangers (The String Revolution Featuring Tommy Emmanuel)

I Remember Mingus
Hilario Duran, arranger (Hilario Duran And His Latin Jazz Big Band Featuring Paquito D’Rivera)

Paint It Black
Esin Aydingoz, Chris Bacon & Alana Da Fonseca, arrangers (Wednesday Addams)

86. Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals

An Arranger’s Award. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.

April In Paris
Gordon Goodwin, arranger (Patti Austin Featuring Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band)

Com Que Voz (Live)
John Beasley & Maria Mendes, arrangers (Maria Mendes Featuring John Beasley & Metropole Orkest)

Fenestra
Godwin Louis, arranger (Cécile McLorin Salvant)

In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning*
Erin Bentlage, Jacob Collier, Sara Gazarek, Johnaye Kendrick & Amanda Taylor, arrangers (säje Featuring Jacob Collier)

Lush Life
Kendric McCallister, arranger (Samara Joy)

Field 11: Classical

87. Best Orchestral Performance

Award to the Conductor and to the Orchestra.

Adès: Dante*
Gustavo Dudamel, conductor (Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Bartók: Concerto For Orchestra; Four Pieces
Karina Canellakis, conductor (Netherlands Radio Philharmonic Orchestra)

Price: Symphony No. 4; Dawson: Negro Folk Symphony
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor (The Philadelphia Orchestra)

Scriabin: Symphony No. 2; The Poem Of Ecstasy
JoAnn Falletta, conductor (Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra)

Stravinsky: The Rite Of Spring
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (San Francisco Symphony)

88. Best Opera Recording

Award to the Conductor, Album Producer(s) and Principal Soloists, and to the Composer and Librettist (if applicable) of a world premiere Opera recording only.

Blanchard: Champion*
Yannick Nézet-Séguin, conductor; Ryan Speedo Green, Latonia Moore & Eric Owens; David Frost, producer (The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra; The Metropolitan Opera Chorus)

Corigliano: The Lord Of Cries
Gil Rose, conductor; Anthony Roth Costanzo, Kathryn Henry, Jarrett Ott & David Portillo; Gil Rose, producer (Boston Modern Orchestra Project & Odyssey Opera Chorus)

Little: Black Lodge
Timur; Andrew McKenna Lee & David T. Little, producers (The Dime Museum; Isaura String Quartet)

89. Best Choral Performance

Award to the Conductor, and to the Choral Director and/or Chorus Master where applicable and to the Choral Organization/Ensemble.

Carols After A Plague
Donald Nally, conductor (The Crossing)

The House Of Belonging
Craig Hella Johnson, conductor (Miró Quartet; Conspirare)

Ligeti: Lux Aeterna
Esa-Pekka Salonen, conductor (San Francisco Symphony Chorus)

Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil
Steven Fox, conductor (The Clarion Choir)

Saariaho: Reconnaissance*
Nils Schweckendiek, conductor (Uusinta Ensemble; Helsinki Chamber Choir)

90. Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance

For new recordings of works with chamber or small ensemble (twenty-four or fewer members, not including the conductor). One Award to the ensemble and one Award to the conductor, if applicable.

American Stories
Anthony McGill & Pacifica Quartet

Beethoven For Three: Symphony No. 6, ‘Pastorale’ And Op. 1, No. 3
Yo-Yo Ma, Emanuel Ax & Leonidas Kavakos

Between Breaths
Third Coast Percussion

Rough Magic*
Roomful Of Teeth

Uncovered, Vol. 3: Coleridge-Taylor Perkinson, William Grant Still & George Walker
Catalyst Quartet

Field 11: Classical

91. Best Classical Instrumental Solo

Award to the Instrumental Soloist(s) and to the Conductor when applicable.

Adams, John Luther: Darkness And Scattered Light
Robert Black

Akiho: Cylinders
Andy Akiho

The American Project*
Yuja Wang; Teddy Abrams, conductor (Louisville Orchestra)

Difficult Grace
Seth Parker Woods

Of Love
Curtis Stewart

92. Best Classical Solo Vocal Album

Award to: Vocalist(s), Collaborative Artist(s) (Ex: pianists, conductors, chamber groups) Producer(s), Recording Engineers/Mixers with greater than 50% playing time of new material.

Because
Reginald Mobley, soloist; Baptiste Trotignon, pianist

Broken Branches
Karim Sulayman, soloist; Sean Shibe, accompanist

40@40
Laura Strickling, soloist; Daniel Schlosberg, pianist

Rising
Lawrence Brownlee, soloist; Kevin J. Miller, pianist

Walking In The Dark*
Julia Bullock, soloist; Christian Reif, conductor (Philharmonia Orchestra)

93. Best Classical Compendium

Award to the Artist(s) and to the Album Producer(s) and Engineer(s) of over 50% playing time of the album, and to the Composer and Librettist (if applicable) with over 50% playing time of a world premiere recording only.

Fandango
Anne Akiko Meyers; Gustavo Dudamel, conductor; Dmitriy Lipay, producer

Julius Eastman, Vol. 3: If You’re So Smart, Why Aren’t You Rich?
Christopher Rountree, conductor; Lewis Pesacov, producer

Mazzoli: Dark With Excessive Bright
Peter Herresthal; Tim Weiss, conductor; Hans Kipfer, producer

Passion For Bach And Coltrane*
Alex Brown, Harlem Quartet, Imani Winds, Edward Perez, Neal Smith & A.B. Spellman; Silas Brown & Mark Dover, producers

Sardinia
Chick Corea; Chick Corea & Bernie Kirsh, producers

Sculptures
Andy Akiho; Andy Akiho & Sean Dixon, producers

Zodiac Suite
Aaron Diehl Trio & The Knights; Eric Jacobsen, conductor; Aaron Diehl & Eric Jacobsen, producers

94. Best Contemporary Classical Composition

A Composer’s Award. (For a contemporary classical composition composed within the last 25 years, and released for the first time during the Eligibility Year.) Award to the librettist, if applicable.

Adès: Dante
Thomas Adès, composer (Gustavo Dudamel & Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Akiho: In That Space, At That Time
Andy Akiho, composer (Andy Akiho, Ankush Kumar Bahl & Omaha Symphony)

Brittelle: Psychedelics
William Brittelle, composer (Roomful Of Teeth)

Mazzoli: Dark With Excessive Bright
Missy Mazzoli, composer (Peter Herresthal, James Gaffigan & Bergen Philharmonic)

Montgomery: Rounds*
Jessie Montgomery, composer (Awadagin Pratt, A Far Cry & Roomful Of Teeth)

Review: ‘Journey to Bethlehem,’ starring Fiona Palomo, Milo Manheim, Lecrae, Joel Smallbone and Antonio Banderas

January 4, 2024

by Carla Hay

Fiona Palomo and Milo Manheim in “Journey to Bethlehem” (Photo courtesy of Affirm Films)

“Journey to Bethlehem”

Directed by Adam Anders

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Israeli cities of Nazareth and Bethlehem, the musical “Journey to Bethlehem” (based on New Testament teachings in the Christian Bible) features a racially diverse group of characters (white, Asian, Latino and black) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A virgin named Mary, who is reluctant to marry her fiancé Joseph, is banished from her family after claiming that she is giving birth to the son of God, and the couple goes into hiding from the evil king Herod, who wants to kill the children of Bethlehem.

Culture Audience: “Journey to Bethlehem” will appeal primarily to fans of musicals and faith-based movies that put a contemporary spin on ancient teachings.

Antonio Banderas in “Journey to Bethlehem” (Photo courtesy of Affirm Films)

As an earnest faith-based musical, “Journey to Bethlehem” does what it’s supposed to do for its intended audience. Other people might be surprised by the charm and appeal of this pop music version of the Bible’s nativity story about Jesus Christ. “Journey to Bethlehem” has some impressive visual effects and production design, considering its relatively low production budget of a reported $6 million. There are also engaging performances from the cast members, even if some of the characters are close to being cariactures.

Directed by Adam Anders (who co-wrote the “Journey to Bethlehem” screenplay with Peter Barsocchini), “Journey to Bethlehem” begins with this voiceover narration: “Long ago, in the time of Caesar Augustus and in the land of Judah, ruled by the evil King Herod, there lived a young woman named Mary, who didn’t know yet that she was chosen by God to fulfill an ancient prophecy to bring forth a promised king sent to save the world.” That king, of course is Jesus Christ.

“Journey to Bethlehem” (which was filmed in Spain) stays faithful to the basics of the biblical story but takes a lot of liberties in the interpretations of the characters. Just like in the Bible, the three kings who knew of the prophecy see the star that signals the arrival of this divine child. In “Journey to Bethlehem,” these three kings are portrayed as a somewhat comedic trio that bickers and banters with each other. It’s not slapstick insult comedy like the Three Stooges. It’s more like the biblical version of Spinal Tap.

Balthazar (played by Geno Segers) is the king with astronomy skills. Caspar (played by Rizwan Manji) is described in the movie as the king who is “the greatest scholar in all the lands.” Melchior (played by Omid Djalili) is the king who’s a great navigator and a map expert. Caspar (who is has a super-serious personality) and Melchior (who has a goofy personality) frequently clash with each other, while easygoing and optimistic Caspar is the most likely one of the three kings to keep the peace when there are conflicts within this lively trio.

Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, Mary (played by Fiona Palomo) is dreading her upcoming arranged marriage because she would rather be a teacher than a wife at this stage in her life. Mary has been betrothed to a man whom she hasn’t met yet. Her father Joachim (played by Antonio Cantos), who is a teacher, tells Mary: “You are a girl. You will be a wife, not a teacher, as tradition demands.” Mary’s mother Ana (played by Maria Pau Pigem) agrees with her husband.

At an open-air market, Mary has a “meet cute” moment with a young adult stranger named Joseph (played by Milo Manheim) when they accidentally bump into each other. He seems to be immediately attracted to her, but she seems to be a little attracted to him too. However, Mary is preoccupied with her worries about the upcoming marriage that she does not want. She’s polite to Joseph but she dismisses his attempts to flirt with her.

Meanwhile, King Herod (played by Antonio Banderas) is fixated on conquering more lands and people. He’s concerned that his eldest son Antipater (played by Joel Smallbone) doesn’t have what it takes to be the type of heir that King Herod wants. King Herod tells Antipater: “A king doesn’t need to be loved—only obeyed and feared.” Antipater, who desperately wants his father’s approval, spends most of the story carrying out Herod’s orders.

When it comes time for Mary to meet her fiancé, the meeting takes place at the home of Mary and her family. The fiancé arrives with his parents. Mary is shocked to find out that her fiancé is Joseph, the same person she met at the market. She’s immediately turned off (and tells Joseph that in a private conversation), because she thinks he shouldn’t have been flirting with her if he knew he was going to marry someone.

Joseph tries to smooth thigs over, but Mary becomes even more resistant to the idea of marrying him. Joseph’s domineering and haughty parents Jacob (played by Antonio Gil) and Rachel (played by Alicia Borrachero) are determined to make this marriage happen, because they want Joseph to inherit what can be offered as part of Mary’s dowry. Mary’s parents also insist that the marriage take place.

Not too long after Mary and Joseph have their first meeting that does not end well, she is visited at night by the angel Gabriel (played by Lecrae), who tells Mary that she will be pregnant and give birth to the son of God while she’s still a virgin. The experience is so profound for Mary, she tells her family members about it. They think she is mentally ill and blasphemous and beg her not to tell Joseph and his family.

However, Mary tells Joseph and his family. And when it becomes obvious that she is pregnant, the wedding is called off, and Mary is exiled to Hebron to live with her middle-aged cousin Elizabeth (played by Yaël Belicha), who is also having a “miracle pregnancy.” Elizabeth and her mute husband Zachariah (played by José María Rueda) welcome Mary into their home and are very protective of her.

King Herod hears about a blasphemous young woman who claims to be pregnant with a child of God. He’s determined to find her to kill her and her unborn child, so he sends Antipater on the hunt to find her. The rest of “Journey to Bethlehem” will not be a surprise to people who already know the story from the Bible.

“Journey to Bethlehem” has very good staging of the musical numbers, which often pop and glow with creative lighting and visual effects. Banderas hams it up as the story’s chief villain in a way that almost verges on parody but has enough self-awareness to hold back and deliver a convincing performance. During King Herod’s solo performance of “Good to Be King,” the set transforms into a menacing replication of the depths of hell to put an emphasis of how evil King Herod is.

Palomo and Manheim give engaging performances as Mary and Joseph. Mary is strong-willed and independent, which is an interpretation that might or might not be to a viewer’s liking. Joseph is portrayed as a forward-thinking person who doesn’t treat women as inferior to men. The blossoming romance between Mary and Joseph is portrayed as sweet and something that doesn’t happen right away because of Mary’s reluctance.

As far the movie’s original songs, “Journey to Bethlehem” has has some that are memorable and others that are on the bland side. Ada Anders, Nikki Anders and Peer Åström wrote the music for “Journey to Bethlehem,” whose musical highlights the anthemic climax of “The Nativity Song.” Antipater’s “In My Blood” brings some psychological “daddy issues” angst to the movie, while the three kings’ song “Three Wise Guys” brings much comic relief.

“Journey to Bethlehem” sometimes comes across as a production with a touring company (not the original cast) of a Broadway show. There’s plenty of musical talent, but it’s not the best of the best. However, “Journey to Bethlehem” is entertaining enough for anyone who wants to see a religious musical that isn’t overly preachy or pretentious and can be enjoyed by people of many generations.

Affirm Films released “Journey to Bethlehem” in U.S. cinemas on November 10, 2023. The movie was released on digital and VOD on December 8, 2023. “Journey to Bethlehem” will be released on Blu-ray and DVD on January 16, 2024.

Review: ‘Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé,’ starring Beyoncé

December 9, 2023

by Carla Hay

Beyoncé in “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” (Photo courtesy of AMC Theatres Distribution)

“Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé”

Directed by Ed Burke and Beyoncé

Culture Representation: Taking place in 2023, in various locations around the world, the documentary film “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” features a racially diverse group of people who are connected in some way to Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” tour.

Culture Clash: Music superstar Beyoncé reflects on the obstacles and challenges she has faced in her life and addresses some of the criticism she has received.

Culture Audience: Besides appealing to the obvious target audience of Beyoncé fans, “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” will appeal primarily to people who want to see a fairly comprehensive documentary of what Beyoncé was like during her mega-successful Renaissance Tour in 2023.

Beyoncé in “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” (Photo courtesy of AMC Theatres Distribution)

“Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” is a candid and immersive look at a superstar who wants to be both iconic and relatable. Beyond the glamorous stage show, Beyoncé reveals various sides of herself offstage, with gratitude to her influences and fans. The movie, which was filmed during Beyoncé’s 2023 “Renaissance” world tour of stadiums, could have easily been a pure vanity project. Instead, this is a “flaws and all” documentary that includes footage of what happened when a power outage on stage cause the sound to temporarily be unavailable during a concert.

Directed by Ed Burke and Beyoncé, “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” is the type of celebrity documentary where many people seem to be very aware of the cameras being there, but nothing that’s shown off stage looks overly contrived or faked for the cameras. “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” will get inevitable comparisons to the documentary “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” which was released nearly two months earlier, in October 2023. Both documentaries were filmed during the artists’ respective blockbuster tours of 2023 and bypassed traditional movie distribution to be released in theaters by movie theater company AMC Theatres Distribution.

Whereas “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is focused almost exclusively on Swift as a performer on stage, “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” gives a much more personal view of Beyoncé in many aspects of her life. Beyoncé hasn’t done an interview in years, but she does a lot of voiceover commentary in the documentary, where she discusses her feelings about her life and her career. “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” is the closest thing that fans will get to a Beyoncé public confessional in 2023.

Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour (in support of her 2022 album “Renaissance”) was not a greatest-hits retrospective, such as Swift’s The Eras Tour. Much of the setlist on the Renaissance Tour consisted of songs from “Renaissance.” There is some nostalgia and archival footage in “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé,” but the tone of the film is very much a “here and now” portrait of Beyoncé in 2023. Just don’t expect to see anything gossipy or scandalous.

Many people who’ve never been to a Beyoncé concert wouldn’t be surprised that the documentary is filled with high-energy stage performances, dazzling costumes and stunning production design that includes video imagery inspired by Fritz Lang’s futuristic 1927 sci-fi classic “Metropolis.” (One of the Beyoncé’s more memorable stage costumes for the tour looks like a Beyoncé version of the Maschinenmensch robot in “Metropolis.”) Beyoncé struts and dances on stage, but she also has moments where she stands still (especially during power ballads) to channel the full impact of her emotion-filled delivery of a song.

Expect to see not only a lot of booty shaking in this movie but also cutting-edge artistry in the stage design and video projections. The choreography (by Fatima Robinson, who’s seen briefly in the movie) expertly showcases Beyoncé’s concert stage persona of being showbiz royalty at a dance party. Beyoncé says in the movie about the Renaissance Tour: “It took four years to create the show … This tour is a machine.” She says of the elaborate stage design: “You have people risking their lives to build this sculpture.” Beyoncé also talks about how she’s somewhat obsessed with how to use lighting in her work.

“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” kept the cameras focused almost entirely on Swift, but “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” has a generous amount of screen time given to fans in the very diverse audiences who flocked to this “Renaissance” concert tour. One of those fans is actress Tracee Ellis Ross, whose mother Diana Ross (one of Beyoncé’s acknowledged influences) is also in the movie as a guest performer. Diana Ross leads the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday” to Beyoncé, who looks ecstatic and in awe that one of her idols is singing to her.

Other guests performers in the movie include Megan Thee Stallion (who looks just as starstruck by Beyoncé as Beyoncé looked starstruck by Diana Ross) for the hit “Savage” in Houston, as well as Kendrick Lamar for the remix of “America Has a Problem” during a Los Angeles concert. Beyoncé also pays tribute to Tina Turner (who died in May 2023) by doing a cover version of “River Deep Mountain High,” one of Turner’s best-known songs.

Several times in the movie, Beyoncé talks about being at a place in her life where she feels content and happy. Early on in the documentary, she says on stage: “I feel so full. My heart is full. My soul is full.” She adds, “I am so thankful. I’m so thankful to be alive. I’m so thankful to be on stage … I’m so thankful to be able to provide a safe space for y’all … I’m thankful that we all have the ability to make lemonade out of lemons.”

And although all of this sounds like a sentimental litany of thanks, there are plenty of moments (on stage and off stage) where Beyoncé lets loose with some occasional raw language of curse words. It’s all part of the personality and public image that Beyoncé puts forth to the world: She can be sweet, and she can be sassy. She is also comfortable expressing her sexuality without letting it overwhelm the reasons why people might be interested in her. As shown many times in the documentary, Beyoncé is aware of being seen as a “superwoman” by millions of admirers, but she’s also quick to remind people she has flaws and failings, just like everyone else.

“Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” is a movie where Beyoncé gives a lot of props and praise to other people, many who are featured in the documentary. They include her parents Mathew and Tina, whom she thanks for all of the sacrifices they made for her. Beyoncé’s family life with husband Jay-Z is shown in brief snippets backstage, on private planes, and on family vacations. Beyoncé and rapper/business mogul Jay-Z (real name: Shawn Carter)—who’ve been a couple since 2000 and married since 2008—have three children together: daughter Blue Ivy, born in 2012, followed by twins born in 2017: son Sir and daughter Rumi. Sir and Rumi are seen briefly in the documentary and are not interviewed on camera.

Many of Beyoncé’s backup dancers (called The Dolls) are shown commenting in the documentary, with transgender woman Honey Balenciaga and dance captain Amari Marshall as two of the standouts. Beyoncé’s massive entourage, tour staff and film crew also get respectful acknowledgement, although there are a few tense moments when a male member of the film crew dismisses Beyoncé’s knowledge of the cameras needed for certain shots. Even with all of her accomplishments and as a co-director of her own movie, Beyoncé experiences condescending prejudice.

Beyoncé comments frankly in the documentary that people communicate differently with her because she’s a black woman: “It’s always a fight … Eventually, they realize, ‘This bitch will not give up.’ If I’m honest, it’s exhausting. I’m a human, not a machine.”

Being emotionally strong in the midst of criticism and conflict is something that Beyoncé is teaching her children, although Sir and Rumi are deliberately not featured in the documentary as much as Blue Ivy is. Beyoncé’s mentorship of Blue Ivy is a significant part of the movie. Beyoncé talks about the difficult decision to let Blue Ivy perform on stage with her, after Blue Ivy begged her. Beyoncé was reluctant at first because she thought Blue Ivy was too young and because she didn’t want Blue Ivy to get hurt by the inevitable criticism.

The original intention was for Blue Ivy to do a guest appearance at one Beyoncé concert, but it turned into guest appearances at several concerts. Blue Ivy’s entry into the world of performing for stadium-sized crowds was well-received overall, but it didn’t come without harsh backlash from some people who think she has it too easy because of nepotism from rich and famous parents. Beyoncé says that the insults that Blue Ivy received for becoming a performer motivated Blue Ivy to work even harder on practicing, until it was obvious that she had the talent worthy of being on stage with Beyoncé. “She was ready to take back her power,” Beyoncé says of Blue Ivy’s determination to prove her haters wrong.

Beyoncé acknowledges that her children are very privileged, but it seems as if she doesn’t want them to grow up spoiled and disrespectful. There’s a backstage scene in the movie where Blue Ivy is very opinionated in saying on what songs should be in Beyoncé’s set list. Beyoncé politely but firmly tells Blue Ivy that she appreciates the input but “You need to take it down a notch.”

As for Beyoncé’s fans (nicknamed the Beyhive) and what she wanted to them to experience on this tour, she says in the documentary: “There are so many bees in this hive. It’s more than a concert. It’s a state of mind. It’s a culture. It’s a fantasy come true.” Many of the fans wore silver on the tour, as a tribute to Beyoncé wearing silver on the cover of the “Renaissance” album. Beyoncé is on a silver horse statue on the album cover, and part of the tour’s concerts included her on a silver horse statue.

Even with any fantasy elements, Beyoncé repeatedly says in the documentary that she wants all of her concerts and her work environment to be places where people can be “real” and be themselves. As a testament to what type of inclusve and understanding boss that Beyoncé is, trumpet player Crystal Torres says she was somewhat nervous to let people know before the tour started that she would be very pregnant on the tour. According to Torres, Beyoncé encouraged Torres to be proud of her pregnancy while performing. The documentary has footage of Torres on stage wearing outfits that expose her pregnant belly.

A significant part of the documentary is devoted to the LGBTQ+ people who have influenced Beyoncé or made a difference in her life in some way. The queer/transgender ballroom culture (including “voguing” as a form of dance) is celebrated on stage and off stage on the tour. Ballroom pioneer Kevin JZ Prodigy gets his due respect as a icon on the tour. Beyoncé and her mother Tina also express immense gratitude to Johnny Rittenhouse Jr. (nicknamed Uncle Johnny), an openly gay close friend of the family who designed many of Beyoncé’s stage clothes early in her career. Rittenhouse died of AIDS-related complications in 1998.

There’s also footage of Beyoncé returning to her childhood hometown of Houston, which she calls a “gumbo of black cultures.” During a ride on a private plane, Beyoncé looks out a window and points to the parking lot of a shopping mall where she used to perform before she was famous. It’s a moment where she seems to be reflecting on all the hard work it took to get to where she is now, but she still remains humble and grateful.

Another “past meets the present” moment is some quick footage of Beyoncé reuniting backstage in the same room with former Destiny’s Child group mates Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett. They are shown giving each other emotional hugs. Roberson and Luckett exited Destiny’s Child in the 2000, under contentious circumstances, but that feuding has clearly been put behind them and resolved. (Destiny’s Child was formed in 1990 and disbanded in 2006.)

“Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” has some great film editing that shows Beyoncé performing a song but with quick-cutting edits of her wearing different outfits at different concerts’ performances of the same song. It’s difficult to do these types of edits, because body movements must be precisely matched, in order for the edits to look seamless. The movie’s cinematography is also done very well.

The documentary is a visual treat but it’s also admirable in showing what happens when there’s a big technical glitch during a concert. While Beyoncé was performing “Cozy,” the sound abruptly was cut off because of an unexpected power outage. Many artists would have had a temper tantrum or panicked, but Beyoncé briefly halted the concert in a composed manner and quickly went backstage to find out what could be about the audio problem, which was eventually corrected when the power came back. She handled everything like a true professional.

Beyoncé also shows a vulnerable side when she talks about the physical injuries that affected her career. When she was a teenager, strenuous singing for hours in a recording studio caused her to have a vocal injury where she was under medical orders not to speak for several weeks. She also had knee surgery in 2023. Some of her medical treatment and recovery from the knee surgery are shown in the documentary.

Toward the end of the movie, Beyoncé talks about the many sides to herself. She says that being a wife and mother is the core of who she is. Being a determined business person is a side of her that’s been influenced by her father, who was her manager during her time with Destiny’s Child and in her early solo career. And being a performer is the confident side to her. “I’m not responsible for that person,” she says jokingly about being a performer. “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” presents all these sides to her in ways that seem to be authentic but still leaves enough mystery about Beyoncé to preserve her privacy and dignity.

AMC Theatres Distribution released “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” in U.S. cinemas on December 1, 2023.

Review: ‘A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre,’ starring Wu-Tang Clan

November 24, 2023

by Carla Hay

RZA (center) and Jon “DJ Skane” Lugo (far right) in “A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” (Photo courtesy of Wu Tang Productions Inc. and Gee-Bee Productions)

“A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre”

Directed by Gerald Barclay and RZA

Culture Representation: Taking place in 2021, the documentary film “A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” features a racially diverse group of people (mostly African American and white) who are connected in some way to hip-hip group Wu-Tang Clan’s concert with the Colorado Symphony at Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado, on August 13, 2021.

Culture Clash: Wu-Tang Clan and the Colorado Symphony defy the expectations of naysayers who think that hip-hop and classical music cannot be a good match.

Culture Audience: “A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Wu-Tang Clan and people who are interested in documentaries about unusual musical pairings.

A scene from “A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” (Photo courtesy of Wu Tang Productions Inc. and Gee-Bee Productions)

On August 13, 2021, hip-hop supergroup Wu-Tang Clan performed with the 60-piece Colororado Symphony at the iconic Red Rock Amphitheatre in Morrison, Colorado. “A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” chronicled this event on stage, backstage, and a few places elsewhere. It’s an entertaining but predictably formatted concert documentary with some film editing that’s a little rough around the edges. If anything, this movie is proof of how hip-hop and classical music can work well together. “A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” had its world premiere at the 2023 Urbanworld Film Festival.

Directed by RZA (a founding member of Wu-Tang Clan) and Gerald Barclay, “A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” shows how RZA was the driving force to pair Wu-Tang Clan with a symphony orchestra. RZA, who is also film composer, mentions at one point in the documentary that the inspiration for him to perform on stage with music that wasn’t all hip-hop started in 2016, when he performed the soundtrack to “The 36th Chamber of Shaolin” (a 1978 martial arts film), live at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. That experience led to more opportunities for RZA to show more musical versatility in a live concert setting, he says in the documentary. RZA’s love of martial arts cinema has always been a big influence on Wu-Tang Clan.

“A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” has plenty of on-stage footage, but the movie includes a great deal off-stage footage, such as exclusive interview clips with RZA and the other members of Wu-Tang Clan: Method Man, Cappadonna, Ghostface Killah, U-God, GZA, Raekwon, Masta Killa and Inspectah Deck. Young Dirty Bastard, son of former Wu-Tang Clan member Ol’ Dirty Bastard (who died of a drug overdose in 2004, at the age of 35), makes a guest appearance during the concert and almost steals the show.

Ever since Wu-Tang Clan burst out of New York City’s Staten Island to become one of the most influential forces in hip-hop—starting with Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 debut album, “Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)”—there has always been intrigue and controversy surrounding the group. All of the members have strong individual personalities (and have solo careers), which has led to periods of infighting and musical hiatuses for Wu-Tang Clan. RZA has branched out to becoming a film director and a comic book entrepreneur.

It’s been several years since the group’s had a new studio album (the most recent album is 2015’s “Once Upon a Time in Shaolin”), but Wu-Tang Clan still performs semi-regularly. This particular concert documentary shows them in good spirits and expressing overall camraderie. Raekwan comments, “I’m loving the togetherness.”

Masta Killa says of performing with the Colorado Symphony: “Having the orchestra there raises the bar. The goal was to raise it to the highest level possible. Are we there yet? I don’t know. We’ll know if this is a night to remember or a night where RZA just needs to shut the fuck up and stick to hip-hop.”

Method Man, the Wu-Tang Clan member with the most confident swagger on stage and offtsage, is shown in doing some weight lifting in a gym in the beginning of the documentary. He points to the spiderweb tattoos on his biceps, to proudly show how physically fit he is. He gives a lot of credit to RZA for being a visionary for Wu-Tang Clan and says, “We’re blessed that we’re still getting booked … A lot of our peers are dropping like flies.”

In the documentary, RZA reflects on a time when hip-hop wasn’t considered “real music” and has now evolved to be accepted into the mainstream. Case in point: Colorado Symphony resident conductor Christopher Dragon, who conducted the orchestra for this concert, says in the documentary that he grew up listening to Wu-Tang Clan and comes from a generational time period when hip-hop was fully accepted as real music. Dragon shares vivid memories of being 10 or 11 years old and listening to Wu-Tang Clan music that his older sister would play when she would drive them in a car without their parents around. Needless to say, Dragon is an enthusiastic musical partner for this concert.

Other people interviewed or featured in the documentary include Colorado Symphony artistic general manager Izabel Zambrzycki; Colorado Symphony viola player Mary Cowell; Colorado Symphony manager of ortistic Operations Dustin Knock; music producer Oliver “Power” Grant; WuMusic Group general manager Tareef Michael; DJ Mathematics; Jon “DJ Skane” Lugo; Young Dirty Bastard brand/operations manager Divine Everlasting. A diverse assortment of Wu-Tang Clan fans, who are not identifed by their names, are also interviewed at the concert. They say typical fan things, such as how the music affected their lives in positive ways and mention their favorite Wu-Tang Clan songs.

RZA comes across as the deep thinker of the group—someone who would rather show people what he can do, rather than brag about what he can do before it gets done. Although he occasionally says some cliché statements (“Music is a universal language”; “Wu-Tang is for the people”), RZA is the person in the group who makes the most effort to be inspirational in unifying not just the members of the group but also the people in the audience. Toward the end of the concert, RZA leads the audience to put their pands up to form the letter “w,” which not only stands for Wu-Tang Clan but also, as RZA says: “These w’s represent wings. You can fly above anything.”

Red Rocks Amphiteatre is unique and famous for being a venue that exists among natural rock formations that surround the venue. The beauty of the Red Rocks Amphitheatre location is well-showcased in the documentary, which has some stunning drone camera shots, as well as memorable wide-angle shots that allow viewers to soak up the atmosphere of this electrifying concert without actually being there.

The concert features many of Wu-Tang Clan’s best-known songs, including “Protect Ya Neck,” “Can It Be All So Simple,” “C.R.E.A.M.,” “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nuthing Ta F’ Wit,” “It’s Yourz,” and “Triumph.” A few solo songs are performed, such as Young Dirty Bastard doing his version of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” and Method Man doing his own solo hit “Bring Da Pain.” In other words, it’s a crowd-pleasing set list.

Will people who don’t like hip-hop enjoy this documentary? It depends on how open-minded viewers are to seeing a documentary that might have music that isn’t necessarily a genre that they listen to on a regular basis. “A Wu-Tang Experience: Live at Red Rocks Amphitheatre” does a fairly good job of balancing the on-stage footage with the off-stage footage, but a few of the editing transitions are a bit choppy. Despite these minor flaws, it’s great to see a hip-hop documentary that isn’t a negative stereotype of being about feuding or violence. Wu-Tang Clan has defied a lot of expectations in the group’s long career. This documentary stands as a worthy testament of how taking musical risks can lead to meaningful creative rewards.

Review: ‘American Symphony’ (2023), starring Jon Batiste and Suleika Jaouad

November 12, 2023

by Carla Hay

Jon Batiste in “American Symphony” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

“American Symphony” (2023)

Directed by Matthew Heineman

Culture Representation: Taking place in 2022, this documentary film of jazz/pop musician Jon Batiste features him, his wife Suleika Jaouad, and a racially diverse group of people (African American, white and a few Asians) as he prepares to do a one-night-only “American Symphony” show at New York City’s Carnegie Hall while experiencing difficulties in his personal life.

Culture Clash: At the time that Batiste was experiencing some career highs (including winning five Grammys that year), Jaouad was battling cancer, which came back after years of being in remission.

Culture Audience: “American Symphony” will appeal primarily to people who are fans of Batiste and movies about couples or family members dealing with health challenges.

Suleika Jaouad and Jon Baptiste in “American Symphony” (Photo courtesy of Netflix)

“American Symphony” is a documentary about love on many different levels in telling the story of musician Jon Batiste and his writer wife Suleika Jaouad during her cancer journey. There are no real surprises but the movie is a bittersweet celebration of life. “American Symphony” is also a musical treat for people who appreciate Batiste’s unique artistry. He also composed the score for this documentary. “American Symphony” had its world premiere at the 2023 Telluride Film Festival.

Directed by Matthew Heineman, “American Symphony” (which was filmed in 2022) features voiceover narration from Batiste and Jaouad, indicating that this is as much a documentary about her as it is about him. Batiste just happens to be more famous than his wife, but it’s clear from watching the film that they treat each other as respected equals. Batiste and Jaouad have been a couple since 2014. Their 2022 wedding ceremony is shown in “American Symphony.”

In 2011, Jaouad was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and chronicled her cancer journey in The New York Times column/vlog “Life, Interrupted,” which won an Emmy Award. Batiste is an Oscar-winning composer (for Disney/Pixar’s “Soul”) and was the bad leader/music director for “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” from 2015 to 2022. In 2022, he was nominated for 11 Grammys and won five Grammys, including Album of the Year for “We Are.” That same year, he also did a one-night-only show “American Symphony” concert at Carnegie Hall, with the show featuring his original music that reworks classical and jazz.

The documentary shows that at the same time Batiste is experiencing these career highs, Jaouad’s cancer has returned. The day that Batiste found out that he was nominated for 11 Grammys was the same day that Jaouad had to begin chemotherapy. Later, she had to get a bone marrow transplant. “American Symphony” shows how Batiste and Jaouad experience emotional lows that are raw and intense. However, the documentary is a testament to inner strength and the power of a loving support system.

“American Symphony” is also Batiste’s personal reflection of what music has meant to him in his life and how he had to stay true to himself, when other people were telling him to change so he could “fit in” better at the places where he wanted to be. Born in 1986 and raised in the New Orleans area, Batista goes back to his alma mater of Juilliard, which he describes as very “European classical,” not a “black Southern thing.”

The bond that this loving couple has is joyful to behold. Batiste says of Jaouad: “I learn from her all the time to look into the darkness and despair and to face it—but you can’t let it consume you.” Jaouad comments that what she admires Batiste’s ability to deal with life’s extremes: “I actually don’t know how to hold such extremes.”

“American Symphony” juxtaposes dreamy-like scenes of Batiste relaxing in nature (there are multiple shots of him in ocean water) with the stark and harsh realities of hospital visits with Jaouad. Batiste’s “American Symphony” concert is a rousing and emotionally moving conclusion that expresses many of the emotions that he poured into writing this symphony. People who watch this memorable documentary will appreciate its message that life is a symphony whose music and lyrics are still being written.

Netflix will release “American Symphony” in select U.S. cinemas on November 24, 2023. Netflix will premiere the movie on November 29, 2023.

Review: ‘Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project,’ starring Nikki Giovanni

November 11, 2023

by Carla Hay

Nikki Giovanni in “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” (Photo courtesy of HBO)

“Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project”

Directed by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson

Culture Representation: This biographical documentary film of activist/poet Nikki Giovanni features her first-person perspective, as well as commentary from African Americans and white people who are connected to her in some way.

Culture Clash: Giovanni, an outspoken critic of white supremacist racism, discusses overcoming an abusive background, family conflicts and resistance to her activism.

Culture Audience: “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching documentaries about unusual political activists.

Nikki Giovanni in “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” (Photo courtesy of HBO)

“Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” is a journey into a unique life and perspective that might not be for everyone, but it stands firm in its authenticity. This documentary about poet/activist Nikki Giovanni is bold and somewhat unconventional, just like Giovanni. The movie evokes outer space travel as an apt metaphor for how ideas and influences can transcend boundaries.

Directed by Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson, “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” had its world premiere at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival, where it won the U.S. Grand Jury Prize: Documentary. The movie is told almost entirely from the perspective of Giovanni, with narration of some of her poems by actress Taraji P. Henson. The movie has the expected mix of archival footage and interviews conducted exclusively for the documnetary. However, “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” has added elements of atmospheric scenes of outer space, since Giovanni talks a lot about space travel and Mars.

The movie opens with a quote from Giovanni, “The trip to Mars can only be understood through black Americans.” If that sentence intrigues you, then this documentary might be your type of movie. Giovanni says in the documentary’s opening remark: “I don’t remember a lot of things, but a lot of things I don’t remember, I don’t choose to remember. I remember what’s important, and I make up the rest. That’s what storytelling is all about.”

In voiceover narration, Henson can be heard saying a line from Giovanni’s writing: “I think I’ll run away with the ants and live on Mars.” In another voiceover, Giovanni says: “I’m a big fan of black women, because in our blood is space travel, because we come from a known through an unknown. And that’s all that space travel is. If anybody can find what’s out there in the darkness, it’s black women.”

During a public Q&A with journalist/writer Touré, to promote her 2017 non-fiction book “A Good Cry: What We Learn From Tears and Laughter,” Giovanni comments on the enslaved black female slaves who were kidnapped in Africa and forced to live an enslaved life in the United States, where they were often raped by their white enslavers: “Being forced to have sex with aliens, whatever they put in us, we held it, and then we birthed it, and then we named it, and then we loved it. Why wouldn’t we do that on Mars?”

Giovanni was born Yolande Cornelia Giovanni on June 7, 1943 in Knoxville, Tennessee, but spent much of her childhood living in Ohio. Sometime in her childhood, she was given the nickname Nikki. Her parents Yolande Cornelia Sr. and Jones “Gus” Giovanni (who were sweethearts at Knoxville College) worked in public schools. Nikki graduated from Fisk University in Nashville in 1967. She has been a professor of writing and literature at Virginia Tech since 1987.

Nikki first came to national prominence as part of the Black Power movement that rose in the late 1960s. The documentary includes many archival clips of her appearances on TV shows, including “Soul!,” where she was a frequent guest. “Going to Mars” has has footage of several of Nikki’s speaking appearances, including at the 2016 Afropunk festival.

She also gets candid about her parents’ volatile marriage and says that her father often beat up her mother. Nikki says in a voiceover: “It was a stormy relationship at various points, but we know that deprivation gives us stormy relationships.” Later, she is shown saying during a WHYY radio interview about how she felt about her abusive father at the time she lived with him: “It was clear I was going to have to kill him, or else I’d have to move.”

Nikki’s complicated emotions about race and gender includes admitting to her prejudices. In a “Soul!” interview she did in 1971 with writer/poet James Baldwin, when she was at the height of her Black Power fame, she confessed that her biases were affecting her personal life: “I don’t like white people, and I’m afraid of black men. What do you do? That’s a cycle. And that’s unfortunate, because I need love.”

Nikki found love with her wife Virginia Fowler, who recruited Nikki to work at Virginia Tech. The two women are both cancer survivors: Nikki battled lung cancer in the 1990s. Fowler is recovering from lung cancer and breast cancer. Fowler talks a little bit about her cancer journey, but Nikki doesn’t really discuss her own cancer experiences in the documentary.

Nikki’s selective memory is also shown when someone named Tom calls her to ask Nikki to discuss her time at an unnamed magazine, but she declines to be interviewed. Nikki says it’s because she had a seizure and “doesn’t remember much.” She also chooses not to go into details about the relationship that resulted in the birth of her only child Thomas Govanni, who was born in 1969, and she raised him as a single mother.

Nikki doesn’t talk about the turbulent relationship that she’s had with Thomas, but Fowler comments that Nikki and Thomas were estranged for a number of years and have since reconciled. Thomas and his daughter Kai Giovanni appear briefly in the documentary, which shows Kai going to Nikki’s house for the first time.

Perhaps the biggest drawback of this documentary is that the most candid comments from Nikki are not things she said in exclusive interviews for the documentary but things she talked about in archival clips. Much credit should be given to the documentary’s research and editing teams for including a lot of this rarely seen footage. The documentary’s editing artfully weaves outer-space footage with the rest of the footage so that viewers feel like they are taken on a cosmic journey through Nikki’s life.

Most of the documentary’s original footage of Nikki consists of her at her home (such as a scene of her doing some gardening), hanging out with friends such as performer Novella Nelson, or making public speaking appearances. The most vulnerable that Nikki gets in the documentary is toward the end, when she copes with the grief over the death of her beloved aunt Agnes, who passed away at age 94. The documentary shows Nikki getting the news of the death and later speaking at Agnes’ funeral. Nikki comments during a moment that she is now the oldest living person in her family.

Nikki’s outlook on life can be summed up in two of her speaking appearances that are featured in the documentary. In a Q&A at the Apollo Theater with educator/actress Johnetta Cole, Nikki says: “I honestly think the most important word for me is ‘duty.’ … Our people have a great history, and it’s our duty to tell that story.” At another speaking appearance at a library in front of children, Nikki (who has written several children’s books) says: “I’m very fortunate that I just don’t care what people think about me.”

HBO released “Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project” in select U.S. cinemas on November 3, 2023. HBO and Max will premiere the movie on January 8, 2024.

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