It’s a perennial question that dominates the discourse every year when the Recording Academy votes to recognize musical excellence. In a world where success can be measured with streaming figures, tour tickets sold, social media followers — and, yes, Billboard chart placements — what significance do those classic golden trophies still have?

For these 18 past winners, all nominated again in 2024, plenty, from keeping the music community vibrant to facilitating future hits to simply boosting morale.

Jon Batiste

Past wins: Album of the year (We Are), best score soundtrack for visual media (Soul), best music video (“Freedom”), best American roots song (“Cry”), best American roots performance (“Cry”) (all in 2022).

Nominated this year: Album of the year (World Music Radio), record of the year (“Worship”), song of the year (“Butterfly”), best pop duo/group performance (“Candy Necklace”), best jazz performance (“Movement 18’ (Heroes)”), best American roots performance (“Butterfly”).

Jon Batiste

Douglas Mason/Getty Images

Why does democracy matter? Why does recognition matter? Why does acknowledgment matter? Why does the idea that someone who exists in a narrow corridor of humanity, creating music and songs and videos and performances — why does the acknowledgment of that matter, in a democratic process through peer recognition and achievement? If we throw all that out — if that doesn’t matter — there are greater questions of what matters and doesn’t that we need to address.

It’s important for us as a community to acknowledge each other and our achievements, even if we don’t all agree on what they are or what the metrics of that should be. Ultimately, I encourage communities of artists who disagree. It’s important. There’s room for us to have debate about what deserves recognition and [how that’s measured]. But at the end of the day, we need a democracy, and we need to back the achievements of folks. That’s a ritual that goes back millennia, and that’s part of how we continue to build and understand what’s important and signify to future generations what we deem important. —AS TOLD TO REBECCA MILZOFF

Dan Wilson

Past wins: Song of the year (“Not Ready To Make Nice,” 2007), album of the year (21, 2012).

Nominated this year: Song of the year (“Butterfly”), best country song (“White Horse”).

Dan Wilson

Dan Wilson

Shervin Lainez

The Grammys are a great way to put the music-making community front and center. They are a good reminder of how a great pop song can create a shared experience for people of widely diverging backgrounds and beliefs. The show’s performances are often pretty inspiring and powerful. I also like the fact that the final voting is done by the musicians and artists themselves.

My first Grammy win, for “Not Ready To Make Nice” by The Chicks, did make a big difference, mostly in ways that I appreciate. That win was a vindication of a kind for the band — in the aftermath of all The Chicks’ political troubles, the Recording Academy voters sent them a strong message of support. That felt really good. Secondly, that record was loved by the songwriters and artists. I think that made artists, in particular, more comfortable with the idea of working with me. I think Adele, for example, would’ve been far less likely to do the “Someone Like You” sessions with me if I hadn’t worked with The Chicks and helped them make that body of work. Adele loved that album, and I think it gave her confidence that she and I could do something great together.

I’ve been at this music thing for a long time, and to be nominated in four different decades is a very rare honor. I think whether or not I’m a good songwriter has been determined by now, and the Grammys don’t affect that. Mostly, what these nominations signal to me is that I’m a very fortunate person. I’m very grateful for that. —AS TOLD TO LYNDSEY HAVENS

Mark Ronson

Past wins: Producer of the year, non-classical (2008), best pop vocal album (Back to Black, 2008), record of the year (“Rehab,” 2008), best pop duo/group performance (“Uptown Funk!,” 2016), record of the year (“Uptown Funk!,” 2016), best dance recording (“Electricity,” 2019), best song written for visual media (“Shallow,” 2019).

Nominated this year: Song of the year (“Dance the Night [From Barbie: The Album]”), best compilation soundtrack for visual media (Barbie: The Album), best song written for visual media (“I’m Just Ken [From Barbie: The Album]”), best song written for visual media (“Dance the Night [From Barbie: The Album]”), best score soundtrack for visual media (Barbie).

Mark Ronson

Mark Ronson

Justin Shin/Getty Images

The first Grammys [I attended] in 2008 was so incredible… I was actually with my mother — like a good Jewish boy on Grammy night. And then [in] 2013 we were nominated for “Locked Out of Heaven,” and we lost to some French robots who very much deserved it. Then a few years later, being back with Bruno [Mars] for “Uptown Funk!,” that was another fantastic year. There’s Kendrick [Lamar] in front of you and George Clinton and all these people that you love and respect so much, and you love their work and everybody’s there together… [The Grammys] are these wonderful nights, whether you win or lose, where you’re there with the people that you came up with.

A win on Grammy night is always incredibly rewarding. It’s the top honor in the field that we all work so hard in. I’ve already gotten so much further than I ever thought I would and much more than I ever could have really dreamed of… I used to probably be a little more competitive about it. Now it really is, without sounding cliché, just nice to be recognized. A win would certainly be the icing on the cake — but I’m just happy to be at the party. —AS TOLD TO L.H.

Lauren Daigle

Past wins: Best contemporary Christian music album (Look Up Child), best ­contemporary Christian music performance/song (“You Say”) (both in 2019).

Nominated this year: Best contemporary Christian music album (Lauren ­Daigle), best contemporary Christian music performance/song (“Thank God I Do”).

Lauren Daigle

Lauren Daigle

Jeremy Cowart

Time has passed since I got my [first] Grammys, but the rooms that I am now able to sit in, with some of the most incredible writers, producers and performers on the planet, is truly the greatest gift of all. I’m very grateful for the types of doors that have opened for me.

When I was told about the nominations this time, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of joy. Other incredible artists and peers in the business reaching into my world and saying my music matters is something that humbles me. Another win would be like adding oil to the lantern… It would give me a chance to honor all of the amazing people who made this record with me [and] would hopefully give them a chance to have their dreams take flight, too. —AS TOLD TO L.H.

Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter

Past wins: Best rap performance by a duo or group (“You Got Me,” 2000), best musical theater album (Hamilton, 2016).

Nominated this year: Best rap performance (“Love Letter”).

Tarik

Tarik “Black Thought” Trotter

Joshua Kissi

I remember when we [The Roots] won our first Grammy. We were sitting in the audience. I was kicking it with Lenny Kravitz and Zoë [Kravitz]. Zoë was like 11 or 12, and I remember sitting there being like, “Yo, that’s so dope that he brought his daughter. When my daughter is old enough, I’m going to bring her to the Grammys.”

I remember being lost in that moment. There was no doubt in my mind that we were just nominated and weren’t going to win. We were up against the titans, and it was everybody with all of the joints that year. So for us to win, it just felt surreal. I felt like we arrived. It was definitely a validation within that moment. That was really for Philly. Once you’re stamped, once you have that credential, it’s a different certification. It definitely holds weight. It makes a huge difference. When you’re recognized by any academy, it’s a huge stamp as far as branding, businesswise, achievementwise and in every regard.

What the Grammy means to people, fans and artists is ever-evolving. The earlier Grammys [win] was more monumental because it was my first and did represent that arrival. Winning a Grammy in recent years, it’s a different sort of validation. It speaks to the decades of hard work that I’ve put in. It’s a different certification and gives you a certain boost of confidence to continue in your creative journey. —AS TOLD TO CARL LAMARRE

Carlos Vives

Past wins: Best traditional tropical Latin album (Déjame Entrar, 2002), best tropical Latin album (Más + Corazón Profundo, 2015).

Nominated this year: Best tropical Latin album (Escalona Nunca Se Había Grabado Así).

Carlos Vives

Carlos Vives

Del Vecchio

I never dreamed that something like this could happen to me in the Latin world, much less did I think that I could ever be honored by the American Recording Academy. Winning my first Grammy is unforgettable because it left me with that taste of hope that I’ve connected with others. When the academy values the work of a Latino who sings in Spanish, it is a special and important sign for me.

Winning a Grammy still matters today. It’s a dream, actually. It has become an aspiration of a musician who wants to make an impact in the industry. A musician aspires to a Grammy, and for the academy to look at that musician and say, “This is original, this is authentic, this deserves a Grammy” — that’s everything. It matters today because when the academy nominates a body of work, [like it did] this year [with] Escalona Nunca Se Había Grabado Así, it validates the local musicians who identify with vallenato. There’s a strong message there to all young musicians who want to make a living from music. —AS TOLD TO GRISELDA FLORES

Lecrae

Past wins: Best gospel album (Gravity, 2013), best contemporary Christian music performance/song (“Messengers,” 2015).

Nominated this year: Best contemporary Christian music album (Church Clothes 4), best contemporary Christian music performance/song (“Your Power”).

Lecrae

Lecrae

Artimio Black

Unlike winning an NBA or NFL championship or something along those lines, there’s not a direct correlation between the work you put in and the reward or award. But there is a sense of appreciation from your respected peers who validate the hard work and effort that you put into your art. So it’s really like the highest compliment you can receive for your art from your peers, whether you’re being nominated or being voted for to win. If you’re Michelangelo and have Picasso saying, “Man, that looks amazing…,” that’s a very high form of praise. And that’s what I appreciate the most. —AS TOLD TO GAIL MITCHELL

Rhiannon Giddens

Past wins: Best traditional folk album (Genuine Negro Jig, 2011), best folk album (They’re Calling Me Home, 2022).

Nominated this year: Best Americana album (You’re the One), best American roots performance (“You Louisiana Man”).

Rhiannon Giddens

Rhiannon Giddens

Ebru Yildiz

Winning is amazing because, for the rest of your career, you’re like, “I have a Grammy, and I’m grateful to have won.” I am always holding a banner for what I’m representing, so if you win, it’s like, “We get another chance to talk about [fiddler] Joe Thompson’s music.”

Awards for art are very complicated, and I know I’m not the only one that has complicated feelings about them. On one hand, how do you give awards for something that’s so subjective? [Singer-songwriter] Allison Russell, she’s always clear-minded about the idea of what the Recording Academy is: Ideally, it’s a group of your peers. The Recording Academy has been aggressive in making internal changes that mean more of the diversity that has already existed in our country for a long time is represented in the Grammys. I see all the good work that’s being done while also acknowledging that the whole system is problematic. But it’s the system we have, and people are trying to make it as fair as possible. Saying all of that, it feels good to be regarded by your peers as someone worthy of notice. They are saying, “We see what you’re doing, and we want you to keep doing it.”

It’s hard to say if [my Grammy wins and nominations directly created opportunities for me]. There hasn’t been any kind of “I saw you were nominated or won a Grammy and we’ll give you this.” That almost never happens. I think it’s more of an accumulative effect. In [the] folk and Americana categories, it’s still more back to the basics of who’s coming to see you — not the song that they heard on TikTok. —AS TOLD TO JESSICA NICHOLSON

Alex Lacamoire

Past wins: Best musical show album (In the Heights, 2009), best musical theater album (Hamilton, 2016; Dear Evan Hansen, 2018), best compilation soundtrack for visual media (The Greatest Showman, 2019).

Nominated this year: Best musical theater album (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street).

Alex Lacamoire

Alex Lacamoire

Bruce Glikas/Getty Images

I remember being conscious of the Grammys when I was working on Wicked. I played piano on the original cast album, and I remember the Grammy win and being proud, but it was a different thing when Heights was nominated and we eventually won. That show was scrappy in the best way, and here was some shine on it — like, “Oh, wow! People know about us!”

Cast albums in general are vital, particularly because that’s how a lot of people learn about musicals. When you do the math and you take a Broadway house that fits somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 people per performance, there’s only a certain degree of reach you’re going to have. When you record a cast album, suddenly everyone across the world can learn about what you’ve been up to. Most people become familiar with the album before they see the show — case in point was Hamilton. [When] the album came out, the number of people that had seen the show was in the tens of thousands — and then we suddenly make the jump to millions of streams.

The fact that the Grammys acknowledge our medium, it gives more clout to what we do. It says what we do has a place. It makes us feel like we have a home in the community of artists and musicians. What I love about the Grammys is that it’s community-based: It’s voted on by peers, it’s nominated by peers, and that group keeps growing. And working to make the voting base more diverse brings more diversity to the kind of records nominated. Being Cuban-American, working on the things I’ve worked on, that helps put light on things that may not have gotten it before.

Those of us who work in musical theater, we always talk about how we’re a bunch of misfits, we’re laughed at. But we’re strong, we’re resilient, and we’re passionate about what we do. To be welcomed in categories alongside people who are so well known, it gives us a little pep in our step. —AS TOLD TO R.M.

Andrew Watt

Past wins: Producer of the year, non-classical (2021), best rock album (Patient Number 9, 2023).

Nominated this year: Best rock song (“Angry”).

Andrew Watt

Andrew Watt

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic

I won the producer of the year Grammy during COVID-19, and I was in my own house when I found out. I was just sitting on my couch with a couple of friends, and it was like, “Holy f–king sh-t!” I’m a behind-the-scenes guy, and I’m doing 12- to 15-hour days sometimes, and to be recognized by your peers is just a beautiful thing. It’s not why you do it, but when it happens, it makes your heart full. I don’t care who you are — people say, “I don’t give a f–k about the Grammys,” and that’s OK. But when you win one, it’s the greatest feeling ever.

I woke up this year [after nominations were announced], and it said, “Best rock song: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Andrew Watt.” Like, are you f–king kidding me? Mick and Keith were so excited and happy, too. It’s the coolest thing ever, just to be nominated. Of course you want to win, but it’s great to feel like people took notice of the stuff that you worked so hard on. You don’t make music for people to not hear it! —AS TOLD TO JASON LIPSHUTZ

PJ Morton

Past wins: Best traditional R&B performance (“How Deep Is Your Love,” 2019), best R&B song (“Say So,” 2020), best gospel album (Gospel According to PJ, 2021), album of the year (We Are, 2022).

Nominated this year: Best traditional R&B performance (“Good Morning”).

PJ Morton

PJ Morton

Richard Bord/Getty Images

Years ago, as an independent, I would’ve never been mentioned alongside the names of major artists at the Grammys. But around 2017, with my Gumbo album, the playing field started to even [out]. Now it’s amazing to see more independent artists being nominated. I see Emily King [a current best R&B album nominee] and my friend Kenyon Dixon [also a best traditional R&B performance nominee] — true independents that I’ve watched fight this fight with me. It says a lot about where we are today musically and the efforts the Grammys has made to prioritize craft over sales and radio.

A Grammy still matters because you can’t take sales or the number of hits with you. What stands as a legacy is the art that you made. I got into music for the sake of my friends and girls. (Laughs.) And I think [musicians] are still that adult version of wanting to make things that our friends think are cool. It’s different when your peers vote for you. It’s a beautiful thing; an indicator that you’re at least on the right track.

When Gumbo was nominated [for best R&B album], I was up against Bruno Mars. I had an idea that I might lose. (Laughs.) But the nomination was a gift in disguise. Just my name being mentioned next to Bruno made people [curious] to see who I was. The Grammy thing is still real as far as having an impact on how people view you — and then, in turn, on what you’re able to do as a result of that. —AS TOLD TO G.M.

Juanes

Past wins: Best Latin pop album (La Vida…Es un Ratico, 2009; MTV Unplugged Deluxe Edition, 2013), best Latin rock or alternative album (Origen, 2022).

Nominated this year: Best Latin rock or alternative album (Vida Cotidiana).

Juanes

Juanes

Andrés Sierra

When I won my first Grammy, I was in disbelief. Overwhelmed with joy and gratitude toward the academy, I found myself reminiscing about the long journey to that moment. It was an incredibly beautiful and memorable time. The Grammys not only open doors but also serve as a crucial catalyst in garnering recognition for artists within the industry and among the public. Winning a Grammy has a significant importance because it acknowledges not just an individual, but an entire team whose collaborative efforts bring to life music that resonates with and captivates the audience. It’s more than just songwriting; it involves talented engineers, musicians and many others. The recognition of the collective artistry in an album has become even more vital than in the past. —AS TOLD TO G.F.

Hit-Boy

Past wins: Best rap song (“N—s in ­Paris,” 2013), best rap performance (“Racks in the Middle,” 2020), best rap album (King’s Disease, 2021).

Nominated this year: Producer of the year, non-classical, best rap album (King’s Disease III).

Hit-Boy

Hit-Boy

@warrengee

Winning my first Grammy with Jay-Z and Kanye [West] was something you could only dream about. Listening and studying them before I could even make music myself and [ending] up making a song that impacted all the artists on that level was like, “Damn. You got it. Just keep going.”

“N—s in Paris” was cool, but winning best rap album in 2021 was a different level. That was dope because I made the beats on Nas’ album. King’s Disease was like, “Man, I put a lot more man hours into this than ‘N—s in Paris.’ ” I took it to that next level, but [those wins] all are equally important.

I didn’t expect the producer of the year nomination this year. This year, I did two of my albums, put out a project with my dad, put Nas’ albums [out] and did a couple of one-off joints, but my main primary focus was stuff I could control. The Musiq Soulchild album came out under my imprint. Everything I was doing was everything I owned, put my heart and soul into and invested money in to make these things come to reality. Sometimes, you might be like, “Damn, I’m not on top of Rap Caviar every day; I’m not the top streamer. But I’m still making something that’s having an impact.”

Everybody that’s the top people in music, they’re the ones getting nominated. To be in that conversation alone is ill. —AS TOLD TO C.L.

Tobias Forge (Of Ghost)

Past wins: Best metal performance (“Cirice,” 2016).

Nominated this year: Best metal performance (“Phantom of the Opera”).

Tobias Forge of Ghost

Tobias Forge (of Ghost)

Jordi Vidal/WireImage

When you’re working with art, you normally do not have a whole lot of the sort of moments that you have within sports. In sports, the win is very momentary: Either you win or you lose. Whereas an artistic career is usually over the course of time. Even if you’re somewhat successful as an artist, it’s very, very rarely happening overnight. When you’re nominated for awards, that’s the closest you can get [as an artist] to that “One second ago, I didn’t have it, and now I have it.” [Winning a Grammy] is one of the few moments I’ve had throughout my professional career where I really felt [how things] could have felt very different had I not achieved what happened 10 seconds ago. The rings on the water meant a lot of things professionally in terms of quote-unquote “being taken seriously.”

Radio, promoters — if you for some reason might be looking for a new label — all of a sudden, when you’re nominated, it’s a stamp of approval that will automatically make potential collaborators, partners, what have you, give you more chances. That is not to say that you can come in and be a dick. You just automatically get a bit more of a gravitas in maneuvering within the different aspects of your career in a way that you might not have, had you not had the stamp of approval of getting a Grammy nomination — or, even better, winning it. But as with most things, what you’re getting is a bag of tools. And you can choose not to use them. Over the course of many, many decades of artists getting awards, there are many that have gotten an accolade and then just faded into nothingness. Because it’s all about momentum. You should see it as a steppingstone. It’s part of your journey, not the end of it. —AS TOLD TO ERIC RENNER BROWN

Dan Nigro

Past wins: Best pop vocal album (Sour, 2022).

Nominated this year: Producer of the year, non-classical; album of the year (Guts), record of the year (“vampire”), song of the year (“vampire”), best rock song (“ballad of a homeschooled girl”).

Dan Nigro

Dan Nigro

Shervin Lainez

When I was playing in a band, and in the beginning of my songwriting-production career, winning a Grammy seemed like such an unattainable thing. So it didn’t necessarily hold importance [to me], mainly because I never thought I would be nominated for one, let alone win one! But in 2014, my friend Ariel [Rechtshaid] was nominated for producer of the year, and I remember being so excited that someone I worked so closely with was nominated. I think it was in that moment that I realized that a Grammy was something I could actually have a shot at being nominated for.

[Winning] holds a great amount of significance mainly because it’s based on voting by my peers in the music community and not simply on stats alone, which a lot of awards nowadays are. That’s a critical element [of] these awards that others don’t have [that] helps make it feel even more special. —AS TOLD TO R.M.

Arooj Aftab

Past wins: Best global music performance (“Mohabbat,” 2022).

Nominated this year: Best global music performance (“Shadow Forces”), best alternative jazz album (Love in Exile).

Arooj Aftab

Arooj Aftab

Ebru Yildiz

[Musicians] work hard, and we’re really sensitive people. It’s really difficult to translate the state of the world and the current human condition into this thing that is music that holds so much of people’s emotions together. The Grammys are important because they give you this giant accolade for that. It’s a really special thing to be there among all your peers, to be nominated among incredible albums, to even submit among everybody and then to perhaps win. It’s a beautiful thing.

Since I won, when somebody’s introducing me before a performance or if it’s on a prospectus or any type of thing, it now says, “Grammy Award-winning artist Arooj Aftab.” Whether it’s a performing arts center programmer or it’s a festival programmer or it’s grant organizations or just the audience as a whole, and even musician peers, it has had a very significant impact. There has been an undeniable shift since I won. What that means? I’m not sure. (Laughs.) But what I can say is that it definitely does something — something positive.

It opens you up to an audience that may not have otherwise found your record. I always watch the [Academy Award]-nominated animated shorts because I don’t really know about that [area of film] that much. There are people who like music in that way and are like, “OK, I’m going to check out all the Grammy-nominated albums in this new jazz category that I like.”

It’s thrilling; it’s the highest accolade of music. At the end of the day, it’s awesome to win a Grammy — it really just is. —AS TOLD TO E.R.B.

Michael Romanowski

Past wins: Best immersive audio album (Soundtrack of the American Soldier, 2021; Alicia, 2022), best engineered album, classical (Chanticleer Sings Christmas, 2022; Bates: Philharmonia Fantastique – The Making of the Orchestra, 2023).

Nominated this year: Best immersive audio album (multiple category nominations): God of War Ragnarök (Original Soundtrack), The Diary of Alicia Keys, Blue Clear Sky, Act 3 (Immersive Edition).

Michael Romanowski

Michael Romanowski

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The Grammys are the only peer award in music. They are voted on only by people who are currently active in the music community, and I think that’s huge. It meant the world to me to be nominated and feel like a peer in a very overwhelming industry…

I’ll be honest: [Since winning] my business hasn’t really changed, more or less. I’m busy. I’m a workaholic. I keep doing records. I love the people I’m working with, and I get to work with some amazing folks and heroes. The fact that I get to continue to do that work is all that matters to me. I didn’t change my rates, and I didn’t farm out the work to somebody else… I still believe very, very much in handcrafted-ness and doing it myself. That’s my reputation and my name, so [winning a Grammy] hasn’t changed my business in a time or dollar sense. What it has changed is my perception. The perception of me being a peer. The perception of me being an authority figure or someone that makes a difference in this world and is known. It is very powerful and moving. —AS TOLD TO KRISTIN ROBINSON

Jason Isbell

Past wins: Best Americana album (Something More Than Free, 2016; The Nashville Sound, 2018), best American roots song (“24 Frames,” 2016; “If We Were Vampires,” 2018).

Nominated this year: Best Americana album (Weathervanes), best American roots song (“Cast Iron Skillet”), best Americana performance (“King of Oklahoma”).

Jason Isbell

Jason Isbell

Erika Goldring/Getty Images

I was certainly honored and very much surprised [when I won my first Grammy]. When I was a kid, I dreamed of winning a Grammy, but as I got older, I started to see the music I made as more of a boutique style. For a while there, I truly didn’t believe it would be possible for an artist like me to have mainstream appeal. The first Grammy wins gave me some hope that there might be more space for my kind of music than I had previously thought.

There’s certainly some sense of validation that comes with winning Grammy awards, and I have no doubt it’s caused my audience to grow. Also, it gives you something to say to the person sitting next to you on a plane when they ask, “Have I ever heard any of your songs?” More importantly though, it gave me more confidence to continue down the path of independence and make the music I want to make. It’s really nice when you do it your way and it pays off.

To be honest with you, I think the Grammys do a better job of being inclusive and open-minded than the other major award shows. The playing field still isn’t level by any means, but when it comes time to make nominations and give out the trophies, I prefer the Recording Academy’s methods and decisions over those of similar organizations. —AS TOLD TO E.R.B.

This story will appear in the Dec. 16, 2023, issue of Billboard.

Eric Renner Brown
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