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The Truth Behind This Year's Maddening Grammy Nominations

We asked The Recording Academy to explain a few things.

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Every year after the Grammy nominations are announced, it begins. The complaints. The angry tweets. The chorus of the confused and disgusted grows louder. Why wasn't [fill in blank] nominated for [fill in blank]!? [Fill in blank] was robbed!!

Getty Images Frederick M. Brown

This year was no different, and so BuzzFeed News got in touch with Bill Freimuth, Senior Vice President of Awards at The Recording Academy, to ask him the questions everyone is asking about this year's Grammy noms. He cleared up some misconceptions -- about this year's awards and the Grammys in general (they aren't apart of a grand Illuminati conspiracy, apparently) -- and ultimately we're much calmer after having had the conversation with an insider.

So let this serve as your primer before watching the 57 Annual Grammy Awards, which airs this Sunday at 8 p.m. EST/PST on CBS.

Hope it helps.

Why is Iggy Azalea’s song “Fancy” nominated in Pop Duo/Group but her album is nominated in Rap?

Christopher Polk

It is indeed possible for an album track to fit into another genre, Freimuth tells BuzzFeed News. "An extreme example would be if a country artist recorded an undeniable dance song, produced by Zedd, for example, and that song was included on the country artist's full album. That song would be eligible in Dance regardless of the rest of the album being Country. With 'Fancy,' the Pop and Rap committees concluded that sonically, it was produced in a way to sound Pop. While music is constantly evolving, currently, with Dance and Rap, there is a blurred line – open for discussions like the committees have – as to what leans more Pop."

Why isn’t Ariana Grande up for Best New Artist?

Larry Marano

"Our Best New Artist category probably has the most complicated set of rules of any of our categories," Freimuth tells BuzzFeed News.

He explains it thus: Essentially, a "new artist" is defined for the Grammy process as any performing artist or established performing group who releases, during the eligibility year, the recording that first establishes the public identity of that artist or established group as a performer. A Grammy nomination in a performance category in a prior year disqualifies an artist from competing in this category, unless the nomination came from a single or a guest spot on another artist's recording, and the artist hadn't yet released a full album. In the case of Grande, it's the "recording that first establishes the public identity" rule that essentially answers why she's not in the Best New Artist category. "Her debut album, Yours Truly, was released in August 2013, where it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, clearly establishing her notoriety as a recording artist," Freimuth says. "While she was eligible for the 56th GRAMMYs, Grande pulled no nominations, including Best New Artist where she was indeed submitted. This year, for the 57th GRAMMYs, she is a two-time nominee (Best Pop Album, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance).

Why isn't Taylor Swift's album, "1989," nominated?

Getty Images for Moet & Chandon Astrid Stawiarz

Swift, a 7-time Grammy winner, is up for three awards this year for her song "Shake It Off." While that song was released August 18, 2014 before the September 30, 2014 eligibility cut-off for the 57th GRAMMYs, Freimuth explains, her full album dropped October 27, 2014, making it and its subsequent singles eligible for the 58th Grammys. This is similar to Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," being nominated for the 55th Grammys, while her full album, Red, received nominations for the 56th Grammys.

In short, it's going to be 1989 well into 2016.

Aside from Album Of The Year, why are Beyonce’s recordings only nominated in R&B categories?

Getty Images for MTV Jason Merritt

The Album Of The Year is not a genre specific category, Freimuth tells BuzzFeed News. Over the last few years, Grammys for Album Of The Year have been awarded to artists in Rock, Dance and Country. "In terms of Beyonce's recordings this year being screened into the R&B genre, the Screening Committees from both the Pop and R&B genres agreed where her music should be submitted prior to nomination ballots being issued. All involved knew that her music would be submitted in the R&B genre," Freimuth says. "The committees listen to the full recordings. They have discussions and vote on where certain recordings will be submitted. Just because Beyonce has reached a high-level of success and has had Pop hits previously, it doesn't mean that her music will necessarily always live in the Pop genre."

Speaking of Bey, with Blue Ivy being featured on the track "Blue" on her mom's self-titled album, will she receive a Grammy should it win Album Of The Year?

Getty Images Michael Buckner

Nope. Blue Ivy was credited as "Additional Vocals." That is not an eligible credit for a nomination. Plus, "she did not have significant contribution to the track as an actual performer to qualify for the Grammys' collaboration guideline," Freimuth says.

Why aren't Pharrell Williams' "Happy" and John Legend's "All Of Me" nominated for Record Of The Year or Song Of The Year? And why are the live versions of them nominated in Best Pop Vocal Performance?

Those two songs were obviously huge hit singles in 2014. However, they were featured on albums that were released during the eligibility period for last year's Grammys and were submitted by their record labels in individual song/single categories previously. If a single is submitted one year, it cannot be submitted again. Their labels did however submit their live versions which were released during eligibility period (Oct. 1, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2014) and are therefore eligible for the 57th Grammys where they each garnered nominations in Best Pop Vocal Performance for Legend and Williams. "It's as simple as understanding that the Grammys do not go by the yearly calendar, but their own eligibility calendar, which has essentially remained the same for 45 years," Freimuth tells BuzzFeed News.

Can anyone be a Grammy voter?

Getty Images Kevork Djansezian

Recording Academy Voting Members are professionals with creative or technical credits on at least six commercially released tracks (or their equivalent). These may include vocalists, conductors, songwriters, composers, engineers, producers, instrumentalists, arrangers, art directors, album notes writers, narrators, and music video artists and technicians. "The Grammy is a peer-voted award," says Freimuth. "And if you meet the criteria, you should join The Recording Academy and vote. If you don't vote, you don't have a voice."

Are there secret voting committees?

AFP / Getty Images ALEX OGLE

"No," says Freimuth. "There is a difference between being a Grammy voter and being a member of a Screening Committee."

Freimuth's breakdown: The Screening Committee decides into which genres recordings will be placed. The committees are comprised of reputable, respected members of the music community. This includes, for example, musicians, producers, music industry executives, music supervisors, and music journalists, among others. They are vetted and invited by the Academy to sit on various genre-specific Committees of which they are experts in their field. In Screening Committee meetings, they are listening solely to the music -- vocal performance, the songwriting, lyrics, the body of work…. The committees are asked to not take things like popularity, chart position or sales into account. It's not the committee's responsibility or right to judge for quality or artistic merit—that's up to voters. From the committee's view, everything has a home and it's their job to find that home. Certain genre fields also have Nominations Review Committees. These groups of Voting Members, who come from all of The Recording Academy's Chapters and are ratified by their National Board of Trustees, listen to the top voter selections (15-30 of them, depending on the category) from the first-round ballot and narrow the selections to the final nominations. "While we maintain the confidentiality of the members themselves, the existence of the committees is no secret," Freimuth tells BuzzFeed News.

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