The Grammy for producer of the year (non-classical) is usually not presented on television, nor is it likely to show up in any headlines on nominations morning — although one questioning gender disparity might be called for — but of all the dozens of Grammy awards outside the “big four” general field, the category may be the most representative of the year in music. Honoring the songsmiths and sonic wizards behind some of the year’s most impressive — and often ubiquitous — sounds, here are eight deserving contenders for the 2021 prize.
Despite several years as a signature collaborator for everyone from Taylor Swift to Lorde and St. Vincent, Antonoff only received his first producer nom last year. But this time around he’s arguably assembled a stronger body of eligible work, from several songs on Swift’s “Folklore” to the Chicks’ comeback album “Gaslighter.”
Blanco had amassed an arsenal of massive singles in the years before he snagged his first producer of the year nomination in 2017, and while his work from the past 12 months may have less of the chart-topping firepower than usual, he notched triumphs with FKA Twigs’ “Mary Magdalene” and “Sad Day,” as well as Halsey’s “Ashley.”
Best known as the guitarist, songwriter and producer for melancholy indie rock mainstays the National, Dessner has done his fair share of work behind the boards, producing for the likes of Sharon Van Etten and Local Natives. But this year saw him take a surprising leap into a new level of pop notoriety via his extensive work on Taylor Swift’s “Folklore,” for which he co-wrote and/or produced 11 songs.
London on da Track
The 29-year-old Atlanta producer has steadily built a name for himself through work with Young Thug and French Montana, and this last year he crafted infectious singles for Summer Walker (“Come Thru”) A Boogie Wit da Hoodie (“Numbers”) and DaBaby (“Drop”).
Arguably the most influential West Coast hip-hop beatmaker of the past decade, Mustard amassed a number of big tracks with several younger acts over the last 12 months, most notably a pair of Top 20 singles with Roddy Ricch (“Ballin’,” “High Fashion”) and “West Coast S–t,” a highlight from Pop Smoke’s posthumous summer collection.
The one-man-band behind Tame Impala’s work in the studio, Kevin Parker is one of the few visionary mainstream rock and roll auteurs left standing, and on February’s “The Slow Rush,” he coaxed a vast array of sounds and textures out of his home studio in Australia.
One of the most reliable names in indie rock production, Rechtshaid was nominated for producer of the year back in 2014 for his work with longtime clients Vampire Weekend. He could wind up there yet again for his efforts with some other repeat collaborators, Haim, on their “Women in Music Pt. III.”
One of the past quarter century’s great R&B chameleons, Saadiq has spent equal parts of his career in the spotlight (as a solo artist and a member of Tony! Toni! Tone!) and behind the scenes (producing and writing for Solange and Mary J. Blige, among others). This year saw him do a little of both, from his own stylistically diverse, self-produced solo album “Jimmy Lee,” to composition work for the series “Lovecraft Country.”
Pictured (from left): Jack Antonoff, Mustard, Kevin Parker