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2023 Grammy nominations include diverse crop of Black Catholics

Next year's Grammy Awards have the potential to make history for at least one Catholic-raised African American, and various others are also up for recognition.

88-time Grammy nominee Beyoncé carrying her haul during the 2015 ceremony in Los Angeles. (Getty Images)

Nominations for the 2023 Grammy Awards were announced on Tuesday by the Recording Academy, ahead of the annual music awards ceremony to be held next February. The nods feature a litany of familiar faces, including a number of current and former Black Catholics.

In the general fields, pop-R&B stalwart (and Catholic-baptized) Beyoncé was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year (“Break My Soul”), as well as Album of the Year (“Renaissance”)—tying her husband Jay-Z for the most Grammy nominations in a career for a musician. She was nominated in nine categories this year, leading all artists and bringing her total to 88.

“Break My Soul” and “Renaissance” were also nominated in Best Dance/Electronic categories—a first for the 41-year-old songstress—and “Virgo’s Groove” received a nod for Best R&B Performance, a category she has won twice before. “Plastic off the Sofa” is up for Best Traditional R&B Performance, while “Cuff It” received a nomination for Best R&B Song. “Be Alive,” Beyoncé’s cut for the soundtrack of the Will Smith blockbuster “King Richard”, is up for Best Song Written for Visual Media.

Tobe Nwigwe, a Nigerian-American rapper who like Beyoncé was raised Catholic in Houston, was nominated for Best New Artist following breakthrough success during the pandemic on social media—a common theme among many younger artists in this year’s Grammy crop. Unlike most of his fellow nominees in the newcomer category, however, Nwigwe did not receive a nod in any other category.

Catholic connections abounded in the Best Regional Roots Music Album nominations, including Louisiana artists Sean Ardoin and Nathan Williams from Kreole Rock and Soul (“Full Circle”) and Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas (“Lucky Man”), respectively. Kevin Hamilton of the Gullah revival ensemble Ranky Tanky (“Live At The 2022 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival”) has also noted that he was raised in the faith.

Internationally known poet Amanda Gorman was nominated in a brand-new category, Best Spoken Word Poetry Album, with the audiobook version of her 2021 New York Times Bestseller “Call Us What We Carry: Poems.” She first rocketed to fame earlier that year upon her faith-filled poetry reading at the inauguration of President Joe Biden—shortly after which it was revealed she attended a Catholic church in Los Angeles.

Sean Paul, the well-known Jamaican crossover artist, received his second nomination in a row for Best Reggae Album with his well-received “Scorcha” release from earlier this year. Many might be surprised to learn he is also a baptized Catholic.

Lil Wayne was nominated for the first time in six years, for Song of the Year as a featured artist on “God Did,” the title track for Muslim artist DJ Khaled’s largely God-centered album released in August. Wayne, a veteran rapper from New Orleans who has long been identified as a practicing Catholic, lamented his snub from the nominee field last year. His inclusion for 2023 was a triple feature, with the Khaled track receiving nods in the Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance categories as well.

Wayne’s co-religionist from the Crescent City was also included among this year’s nominees, with the notably devout Aaron Neville receiving a nomination for Best American Roots Performance for his “Stompin’ Ground” collaboration with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band. The song, a remix of a track Neville released in 2016, was recorded as part of the documentary “Take Me To The River: New Orleans,” which celebrated the influence of the Big Easy on music and national culture. It is Neville’s first nomination since 2003, and the first for the Dirty Dozen.

And lest one think it was purely an American affair, the Catholic-raised Beninese singer-activist Angelique Kidjo received her 13th and 14th career Grammy nominations as well. She is up for Best Global Music Album with “Queen of Sheba”, a collaboration with jazz trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf, and Best Song Written for Visual Media with “Keep Rising” from the soundtrack of “The Woman King.”

The 65th Annual Grammy Awards are scheduled to take place with a live ceremony in Los Angeles on February 5, 2023.

Nate Tinner-Williams is co-founder and editor of Black Catholic Messenger, a seminarian with the Josephites, and a ThM student with the Institute for Black Catholic Studies at Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

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