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Grammy Nominations: Sizing Up the Producer of the Year Race

The genre-agnostic race represents what's resonating sonically with listeners.

If one Grammy category tries to define the sound of the year in music, it may be the Producer of the Year (non-Classical) race, which in the last three years has recognized Swedish hitmaker Max Martin (2015), Jeff Bhasker, whose credits in 2016 included Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” and Greg Kurstin, who in 2017 took home gold for his work on Adele’s “25.”

Contenders for 2018’s Producer of the Year include Kurstin again (for Foo Fighters’ “Concrete And Gold,” Beck’s “Dear Life,” along with tracks by Zayn, Halsey, Kendrick Lamar and Liam Gallagher); Calvin Harris (for “Don’t Quit” featuring DJ Khaled, Travis Scott and Jeremih, and Harris’ own “Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1” album); Blake Mills with his second nomination in the category (his credits include such indie darlings as Jim James, Perfume Genius and Laura Marling); No I.D. for his work with Jay-Z, Logic and Vic Mensa; and production team The Stereotypes, whose hitmaker credentials include Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like.”

At a glance, it looks like a genre-agnostic representation of what’s resonating sonically with casual listeners, but dig deeper into the committee-voted offerings and you see just how wide of a scope music offers today.

Credit is due in part to the rise of streaming, where playlists know no format boundaries, but also the nature of collaborations, which make up a majority of the qualifying recordings, be it Zayn with Sia or Halsey with Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui or Lil Yachty with Stefflon Don — perhaps multiplying the stresses and expectations of producing a superstar artist by two or more yields superior results.

Or in the case of Mills, buckling down and immersing himself in a single project at a time may do the trick, but will five nominated artists bring him the Grammy Alabama Shakes’ “Sound and Color” couldn’t, well, produce?

So who stands to rise above in the category? As is the Grammy way, it’s a toss up.

No I.D. has a solid chance considering how hip-hop heavy the 2018 noms skew, not to mention that Jay-Z is the most recognized artist in the race thus far, with nine nods. Kurstin is of course a perennial in the category, though he just won last year and, other than Kendrick Lamar, the releases he’s nominated for feel lesser in terms of impact than Adele’s monster album “25.”

Calvin Harris, who’s been making stellar records for himself and others since the early 2000s, deserves some long overdue recognition. And while “Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1” got somewhat lost in the summer release drop, on the heels of hit song “Feels,” it stands today as one of the strongest efforts of the year.

The foursome that makes up The Stereotypes may be the dark horse in the race. Recognized recently as one of Variety‘s top Hitmakers of the year for work on Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like,” the group comprised of Ray Charles McCullough, Jon Yip, Jeremy Reeves and Ray Romulus has a full slate of varied releases including tracks by Iggy Azalea, Kyle and Fifth Harmony.

The Producer of the Year prize is not awarded during the primetime broadcast but rather in the pre-tel which takes place on the afternoon of Jan. 28.

See the full list of nominees and their submitted production work below.

Calvin Harris
• Don’t Quit (DJ Khaled & Calvin Harris Featuring Travis Scott & Jeremih)
• Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (Calvin Harris Featuring Various Artists)

Greg Kurstin
• Dear Life (Beck)
• Dusk Till Dawn (ZAYN Featuring Sia)
• LOVE. (Kendrick Lamar Featuring Zacari)
• Strangers (Halsey Featuring Lauren Jauregui)
• Wall Of Glass (Liam Gallagher)

Blake Mills
• Darkness And Light (John Legend)
• Eternally Even (Jim James)
• God Only Knows (John Legend & Cynthia Erivo Featuring yMusic)
• Memories Are Now (Jesca Hoop)
• No Shape (Perfume Genius)
• Semper Femina (Laura Marling)

No I.D.
• America (Logic Featuring Black Thought, Chuck D & Big Lenbo & No ID)
• The Autobiography (Vic Mensa)
• 4:44 (JAY-Z)

The Stereotypes
• Before I Do (Sevyn Streeter)
• Better (Lil Yachty Featuring Stefflon Don)
• Deliver (Fifth Harmony)
• Finesse (Bruno Mars)
• Mo Bounce (Iggy Azalea)
• Sunshine (Kyle Featuring Miguel)
• That’s What I Like (Bruno Mars)

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