It just got a lot harder for Lady Gaga or Kanye West to walk away with a boatload of Grammy Awards. The Recording Academy announced today it will shrink the number of categories from 109 to 78 for next year's ceremony and will eliminate separate awards for male and female artists.

Academy President and CEO Neil Portnow said at a press conference that the restructuring is necessary to ensure that winning a Grammy "remains a rare and distinct honor."

The surprise removal of gender-specific categories means that in the pop, country and R&B fields, male and female artists will now compete for a single Best Solo Performance award for that genre.

The category merges should result in stiffer competition for each award. Had the new rules been in effect at the 2011 ceremony, we might have seen a Best Pop Solo Performance category with Gaga, Beyonce, Michael Jackson, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber. Talk about star power!

Likewise, the award for Best Pop Group Performance will merge with Best Pop Collaboration, meaning that one-off duets like 'Airplanes' by B.o.B and Hayley Williams and 'California Gurls' by Perry and Snoop Dogg will now compete with songs by established acts like Maroon 5, the Black Eyed Peas and the 'Glee' Cast.

The biggest awards -- Best New Artist and Record, Song and Album of the Year -- will remain unchanged. The Grammy website has a chart that breaks down the new category lineup.