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In a press release introducing the new category, the CEO of the Recording Academy, Harvey Mason, said, “The Recording Academy is proud to announce these latest Category changes to our Awards process. These changes reflect our commitment to actively listen and respond to the feedback from our music community, accurately represent a diverse range of relevant musical genres, and stay aligned with the ever-evolving musical landscape. By introducing these three new categories, we are able to acknowledge and appreciate a broader array of artists”
Until recently, the global music scene largely overlooked Africa. However, in response to the worldwide controversy surrounding predominantly white nominations, the music industry has undergone a significant shift. The establishment of the Best African Music Performance category acknowledges the cultural impact made by African artists, not only in the United States but also on a global scale. This recognition is long overdue and aims to shed light on a burgeoning musical genre that has profoundly influenced and enriched contemporary music.
The rapid growth of Afrobeat is remarkable. In 2022, Burna Boy’s album Love, Damini debuted at an unprecedented No. 14 on the Billboard 200, and Ckay’s Love Nwantiti became the most shazamed song. In May of the same year, Rema and Selena Gomez’s collaboration, Calm Down, achieved a historic milestone by topping both the U.S. Afrobeats Songs and Pop Airplay charts, reaching No. 3 on the Hot 100. Notably, Davido and Lojay secured their inaugural entry on the Billboard Hot 100.
The impact of Afrobeat is also evident in global music festivals and concerts, where Afrobeat artists now take centre stage. African music has transcended borders, reaching far and wide across the world, bringing us to a pivotal moment in the industry’s history.
This explosion of success extends beyond individual artists to encompass new signings, joint ventures, and licencing deals involving African artists and labels with U.S.-based companies and distributors. This wave has ushered in a fresh generation of stars.
The question now is who among all the nominees has made the most impact globally and is most likely to take home the award. This is an analytical publication that analyses the chance of each nominee.
Rush by Ayra Starr (8%)
Sabi Girl, also known as Ayra Starr, earned a Grammy nomination for her acclaimed track Rush, featured on her debut studio album 19 & Dangerous. Ayra Starr has become a global sensation not only for her extraordinary fashion sense but also for her ability to rise above haters. Remarkably, she stands as one of the youngest nominees in Grammy history.
Since her introduction as the latest signee to Mavin Records in the early days of 2021, Ayra Starr’s trajectory toward stardom has appeared assured. By the close of her inaugural year as an artist, she had established herself as a powerful pop star.
Despite her relatively short tenure in the music industry as a newcomer, it seems unlikely that Rush will clinch the Best African Performance award. Even with an impressive 300 million views on YouTube, Rush has not garnered the global impact it might have anticipated. The song achieved international chart success, went viral with a popular dance challenge on TikTok, secured a spot on former US President Barack Obama’s annual playlist for 2022, and presently boasts over 319 million streams on Spotify.
Amapiano by Asake and Olamide (18%)
Renowned producer Olamide, alongside Mr. Money, also known as Asake, has earned their inaugural nominations at the 66th Grammy Awards. Amapiano, featured as the third single from Asake’s second album, Work of Art, has currently amassed an impressive 50 million streams on Spotify. This track serves as a lively party anthem, seamlessly blending the Amapiano sound with Nigerian pop.
Asake and Olamide’s venture into the Amapiano genre positions them as strong contenders for the esteemed Best African Music Performance award. Amapiano, a genre originating from South Africa, marks a significant global shift in African music. Emerging as a subgenre in the mid-2010s, the Amapiano sound has become a transformative force in the international music scene.
Water by Tyla (22%)
Tyla stands as one of the youngest contenders at the upcoming 66th Grammy Awards. Despite having relatively lower odds of winning the Best African Music Performance award, her hit track Water has evolved into a worldwide sensation. The initial surge in popularity occurred on TikTok, where the song gained viral status through a captivating dance challenge, reminiscent of the success seen with Ckay’s Love Nwantiti.
Tyla made history by becoming the youngest South African artist to reach No. 67 on the Billboard Hot 100, turning Water into a global hit, especially in countries like New Zealand. Impressively, the song has climbed to No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, maintaining its ascent for 17 consecutive weeks. Tyla’s innovative Barcardi dance introduced a fresh perspective, sparking a widespread trend on social media.
With an impressive 374 million streams on Spotify, Water has solidified Tyla’s presence in the music scene. Her performances on various shows have further showcased her talent and contributed to the song’s continued success.
City Boys by Burna Boy (25%)
Burna Boy, acclaimed by the Grammys as the biggest superstar in Afrobeats, continues to solidify his impressive Grammy track record with nominations in four categories at the upcoming 66th Grammy Awards. These include Best African Music Performance, Best Melodic Rap Performance, Best Global Music Album, and Best Global Music Performance. His nominated track, City Boys, has amassed a remarkable 102 million streams on Spotify.
Renowned for placing Afrobeats on the global stage, Burna Boy stands as one of the pioneers of this generation of Africans receiving Grammy nominations. While previous nominations were often closely contested with Angelique Kidjo, this year presents a unique scenario, with Burna Boy emerging as a formidable contender for the coveted Best African Music Performance Award, particularly with the fan-favourite City Boys.
Burna Boy’s significance in the Afrobeats genre goes beyond catchy tunes, as his songs carry substantial and meaningful lyrics. His discography unfolds a profound narrative. In a 2021 interview with CNN, Burna Boy emphasized, “I’m not a musician who is just giving you vibes or giving you nice beats and talking whatever, just so you can dance. Every one of my songs is basically part of my soul”.
Evidencing his global impact, Burna Boy made history as the first Afrobeats artist to headline a stadium show in the UK with I Told Them…becoming the No. 1 album in the UK. Additionally, he achieved the milestone of being the first African artist to perform at the UEFA Champions League Final show. City Boys further asserted its dominance by topping the UK Afrobeats Singles Chart in September.
Davido’s relentless dedication and hard work have brought him to this pivotal moment, making him a strong contender for the Best African Music Performance award at the 66th Grammy Awards. This represents a long-awaited achievement for the superstar, with every decision and effort contributing to this significant juncture. As one of the trailblazers in collaborating with international artists like Chris Brown, Meek Mill, Mafikuizolo, and others, Davido has played a pioneering role in uniting diverse musical cultures.
Regarded as an icon of unity in the music world, Davido serves as a bridge between cultures, a catalyst for creativity, and a formidable force on the global stage. His music has not only transcended borders, winning numerous awards but has also brought joy to millions. The standout track Unavailable from his highly-streamed album Timeless has amassed an impressive 112 million streams on Spotify alone and secured the No. 2 position on Billboard’s World Album chart.
Davido’s album Timeless made significant records, breaking the record for the largest debut week on Apple Music Nigeria and setting a new milestone as the most-streamed African album in a single day on Apple Music. The 17-track project also achieved the distinction of becoming the first African album to reach the top of the US iTunes chart.
Even if he doesn’t secure the Best African Music Performance category, Davido still holds a fair chance in the Best Global Album and Best Global Music Performance categories. His impact on the international music scene is undeniable, making him a noteworthy presence across various Grammy categories.