Grammys cut 31 categories

The leader of Alberta powwow dance band Northern Cree is expressing disappointment at a decision by Grammy organizers to stop offering an award for best Native American album.

Alberta powwow group Northern Cree disappointed by changes

Bruno Mars poses with his male pop vocal performance Grammy in February. An overhaul of Grammy categories will see next year's male and female pop vocal contenders compete against each other. (Jae C. Hong/Associated Press)

The leader of Alberta powwow dance band Northern Cree is expressing disappointment at a decision by Grammy organizers to stop offering an award for best Native American album.

The category was one of 31 dropped in a restructuring announced Wednesday by the Recording Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Best male pop soloist and best female pop soloist are among the awards cut in the overhaul of the 109 Grammy categories.

Former candidates for best Native American album would be able to compete in the expanded roots music category.

Northern Cree has had six nominations for best native album, including one in 2011, without winning. Frontman Steve Wood says the decision sends a message the academy doesn't care about aboriginal music.

"I always thought it was good they recognized and acknowledged our music," Wood said . "I thought if I ever got up on that stage, I would tell them that (and thank them) for recognizing and acknowledging what is probably the oldest form of music in this land."

"It shows me maybe I was thinking wrong about how they were acknowledging and recognizing our music. It shows me that they don't really care. They could care less if it's in there or not."  

U.S. Recording Academy president Neil Portnow said the restructuring was necessary for the "continued competition and prestige of the highest and only peer-recognized award in music."

He said care was taken to ensures that every submission would have a home and that each field was treated with "parity."

In the pop, rock and country fields, the number of categories is being whittled down from seven to four. The eight R&B honours are being reduced to four, while the classical prizes shrink  from 11 to seven.

Some categories are being collapsed. For instance, male and female pop and country soloists will now compete in a single category. So Bruno Mars, who won best male pop soloist in February, might be competing directly with Lady Gaga, who won in the female category, in future editions.

Genres within a field have also been consolidated, so both traditional and urban R&B will be considered together. In rock, best rock solo, best rock duo or group and best rock instrumental categories have been combined as best rock performance.

Most of the awards categories will become more competitive under the restructuring.

Montreal's Marc-Andre Hamelin, who has been nominated nine times for best instrumental soloist performance (without orchestra), will in future be competing in a category that also includes classical instrumental solos with an orchestra.

The criteria to maintain an awards category also are being tightened. It is now expected that each category should have at least 40 distinct artist entries, up from 25.

If there are 25 to 39 entries, only three recordings would receive nominations that year. If there are fewer than 25 entries, the category will go on hiatus and risk of being eliminated.

The Grammys have grown from 28 award categories in 1959 to 109 in 2011.

In 2009, the academy had its first examination of the Grammys and eliminated several categories. This latest overhaul leaves 78 categories.

With files from The Associated Press