As popular songs increasingly rely on name producers, the field for producer of the year, non-classical, has gotten increasingly crowded. Will Finneas become only the third producer to win in consecutive years? (Greg Kurstin triumphed in 2017 and 2018, while Babyface took home the award three times in a row between 1996 and 1998.) Is the so-called new guard of producers going to be acknowledged? Potential contenders in this ever-unpredictable category may include some Grammy first-timers.
Born in Tel Aviv and based in Los Angeles, Omer Fedi is arguably the breakout hip-hop producer of 2021. The 21-year-old has landed three No. 1s this year with “Mood” by 24kGoldn featuring Iann Dior, Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and The Kid Laroi and Justin Bieber’s “Stay.” The latter two songs are possible contenders in marquee categories, as are Lil Nas X’s album and Machine Gun Kelly’s “Tickets For My Downfall,” both of which Fedi co-produced.
Needing no introduction, the 24-year-old has already won eight Grammy Awards including the top producer (non-classical) honor in 2020. He will, no doubt, be in contention once again thanks to his production on Billie Eilish’s chart-topping sophomore album “Happier Than Ever.” His work on Justin Bieber & Benny Blanco’s “Lonely” as well as his contributions to Kid Cudi’s “Man In The Moon III: The Chosen” (“Beautiful Trip” and “Sept. 16”) add weight to the possibility of a repeat showing.
In many ways, Aaron Dessner, a founding member of The National, was conspicuously absent from last year’s nominations considering his key role in crafting the sound of Taylor Swift’s “Folklore.” (Co-producer Jack Antonoff was nominated, however.) Things might go Dessner’s way in 2022 given that his fingerprints are all over “Evermore,” producing or co-producing all but one song. Swift’s latest is also a strong contender for album of the year, which could privde more ammo for the 45-year-old’s bid.
Puerto Rico’s Tainy has arguably shaped the sound of Latin music more than any other producer over the last couple of years with production credits on crossover hits from Bad Bunny, Anuel AA, Selena Gomez, Kali Uchis, Ozuna and Rosalía. His hot streak continued in 2021, landing a feature on Shawn Mendes’ “Summer Of Love” as well as helming Ozuna and Anuel AA’s collaborative album “XYZ.” The 32-year-old also worked on Bad Bunny’s “El Último Tour Del Mundo” and crafted Gomez’s first venture into music in Spanish, “Revelación.”
Nigro’s role in crafting Olivia Rodrigo’s sound on the superstar-making “Sour” — a practical shoo-in for an album of the year nom — may make him the leading contender in the producers race. Contributing to his bonafides: that singles “Drivers License” and “Good 4 U” were both chart-toppers, with “Deja Vu” and “Traitor” not far behind.