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GRAMMY CHEW: WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT BRUNO

It’s time for us to seriously talk about Bruno.

Disney’s Encanto was and is a massive album; it lodged on the charts and hardly budged for months and months. Its intricate, soulful, infinitely clever songs are a testament to the brilliance of Lin-Manuel Miranda, whose genius has not yet been properly acknowledged by our community.

Miranda’s Hamilton, as you probably recall, was a massive, culture-shifting phenomenon. It redefined musical theater and brought an entirely new, young audience into that world.

It won 11 Tonys, including Best Musical, as well as multiple major Drama Desk and New York Drama Critics’ Circle trophies and took the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. A former president (one whose opinion still has value) called it “a favorite in the Obama household.”

Not least, the show’s songs offered a trailblazing fusion of hip-hop, pop and traditional Broadway songwriting, achieved with magisterial wit and feeling by Miranda. With that work alone, he joined the ranks of his generation’s top writers.

But he was screwed by the Grammy Awards.

We’ve been outspoken in our criticism of the present Grammys, but at least the current regime saw the list of nominees last year and expanded it to include a few more worthy titles. The Academy of 2016 didn’t even bother to review the matter, and it was really one of the most ridiculous fuckups in its modern history. How could a work this substantive, daring and inspired be passed over for all major categories, especially Album?

The Grammys did see fit to bestow the Best Musical Theater Album on Hamilton. But by failing to honor Miranda in the major categories, the Academy utterly fell down on the job. Fortunately, they have a chance to remedy that oversight thanks to Encanto

The animated smash’s soundtrack was a massive commercial and critical success, and its songs dominated the DSP charts for weeks on end, particularly the playfully sinister “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” (not to mention “Surface Pressure” and “The Family Madrigal”). Were it not for the crazy rules, Miranda would seem a natural to be nominated for the new Songwriter category as well.

Just as Hamilton brought a fresh, political take on hip-hop to Broadway, Encanto brought the sounds and grooves of Colombian music to a massive global audience. It should be seriously considered for all major categories, including Album, Record and Song (“Bruno” should be a strong contender for the latter two).

Encanto is too big a cultural and marketplace phenomenon to simply be called a “make-good” for the missed opportunity of Hamilton. But it does provide the Academy a chance to properly acknowledge one of the greatest creators of our era. 

And if it is a “make-good,” it’s a pretty impressive one.

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