With August ending, it’s officially that melancholic time of year where summer slowly comes to a close, but isn’t quite over. As undoubtedly excited as we all are to jump back into a semester of homework assignments and exams, this time of year does come with an unfortunate downside. At the end of every August, the landslide of album releases that characterizes the warmer months slowly begins to dry up.
Each summer, the ever-distant Grammy Nomination announcement date suddenly feels much closer, and record labels push their best artists to drop music. It’s something about this mad-dash to produce the hit of the summer that seems to bring out the best— and worst—in music. So, to commemorate another summer of exciting song releases, let’s take a look at the most memorable albums from the dog days of 2022. And of course, we’ll see how each one fared at the ever-present goal of receiving that illusive nod from the Recording Academy.
Honestly Nevermind by Drake
Honestly… there’s a lot to be said about this album, and not much of it positive. On one hand, there are several good tracks, which is more than can be said of Certified Lover Boy. On the other, Drake's lyrics have an air of humble self-awareness, depriving his music of its usual boisterous appeal. Drake also experiments with mellow house-style beats that can’t be found anywhere else in his discography. With the new direction in songwriting and genre, this could have been a decisive album that reoriented the sound and style of Drake’s music. Instead, Honestly Nevermind just feels like it fell short of expectations; fans find themselves with an odd collection of electronic and dance-inspired songs that aren’t much better than anything else in that genre.
Despite all of this, Drake receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance could have been conceivable. That was until Drake rejected nominations for CLB last year. Taking the past as any indication of how the Academy treats artists who turn down nominations, Drake shouldn’t be holding his breath during award season.
Surrender by Maggie Rogers
Graduating from Harvard, headlining Coachella, releasing a highly anticipated sophomore album—what hasn’t Maggie Rogers done this year? For starters, she doesn’t seem to have disappointed many fans with that album, Surrender. Artists often struggle to find a unique sound in their sophomore projects, and many were worried that Surrender would fall into this same tired trap. Rogers blows those concerns away as she pivots away from the acoustic-pop influences that dominated her debut LP, instead combining elements of alternative rock with her classic songwriting style. The result is a collection of songs more lyrically deep than anything else in her discography, even though some of them lack that distinct pop sound that dominated her past records.
Despite the incredible popularity of her first LP (Heard it in a Past Life), the album itself received no acclaim from the Recording Academy. Rogers walked away from the 2019 Grammys with nothing but a nomination for Best New Artist. 2022, however, could be her year to put some points on the board. Cynics might point out that because the album lacks a clear, catchy, front-running song, Rogers will struggle within the individual song or performance categories. But despite potential competition within the genre (Mitski, Big Thief, and Beach House among others), it seems hard to imagine Surrender missing out on a Best Alternative Album nomination. After all, if there ever was a year for Maggie to win a Grammy, this is the one.
Gemini Rights by Steve Lacy
Despite boasting a very successful career, Lacy’s appeal was more niche than anything—until earlier this year. One of the singles of Gemini Rights, “Bad Habit”, went viral on TikTok. Using the past two years as proof of TikTok’s cultural power, Steve Lacy's popularity seemed ready to balloon. This song had the potential to push Lacy across the barrier between “artist with cult following” and “mainstream star.” Yet as the rest of Gemini Rights released in the summer, it lacked the pop-infused beats that made “Bad Habit” so popular. The album instead leans heavily on Lacy’s unique alternative sound. The result is an excellent album, just one that didn’t quite catch on in the same way that his most popular songs have.
Nominations for this album will no doubt be interesting. The Academy has traditionally shied away from artists who find their mainstream appeal via TikTok. To the academy, billions of streams mean nothing without technical skill in production, songwriting, and performance. But Steve Lacy is different insofar as he possesses massive talent in all the above. His debut project received a Grammy nomination for that very reason. And while Lacy generated massive commercial appeal with “Bad Habit,” he did so without compromising a single drop of his talent. That’s why it seems almost inevitable that he’ll receive the nod—either for Gemini Rights, “Bad Habit,” or both.
Special by Lizzo
Speaking of viral TikTok songs, everyone seems to have heard the lead single off Lizzo’s newest album, though her latest releases are more than a weak viral hit. Lizzo shaped Special to tap into exactly what propelled her to stardom. That is to say, cathartic and infectious positivity. Every song on the album—viral hit or not—has the same over-the-top type beat and lyrics. But while almost every moment of the album could be clipped into a dance TikTok, this actually works against Lizzo. Her “100% all the time” style of production blurs the back half of the record into a fast-paced series of songs that are enjoyable, if not distinct or particularly interesting. Nevertheless, Special is popular for a reason, and going viral was no mistake.
If critical response to Lizzo’s debut album was any indication, the Academy absolutely loves her. Combined with her crazy commercial popularity, this makes a recipe for success. Special seems to have almost everything going in its favor. Whether it will be for her performance on “About Damn Time” or the album as a whole, keep an eye out for Lizzo’s name when nominations are announced in November.
Renaissance by Beyoncé
Famous for keeping a low public profile, Beyoncé instead uses her music to interact with and interpret society and culture. Renaissance is no exception, acting as an outlet for all Beyoncé has to say about the current state of our post-pandemic society. Beyoncé isn’t the only one speaking in this record, though, as an incredible number of samples were included on the record, resulting in over 170 credits for the songwriting alone. These samples clearly work, as Beyoncé uses them to create an electronic and dance-infused album as catchy as it is poignant.
Even having never listened to this album, anyone in their right mind could tell you Beyoncé will no doubt receive a generous serving of Grammy nominations. When you’re the most nominated female artist ever, awards almost are a self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course, the album is more than deserving of every accolade it will receive. But for Queen Bey, awards come just a little bit easier than normal.
With that, our chronological journey through the most noteworthy songs from the summer of 2022 comes to an end. Which banger of an album did this article sleep on? Which dud got overhyped? Let us know in the comments (they’re open below, even if no one ever uses them).