7 head-scratching Grammy nomination snubs and surprises
Surprises in 2020? Get in line. Given ... everything, should we have expected anything less when it comes to the Grammy Awards? Below, some of the many stumpers in an overwhelming year.
1. No Weeknd, at all. It’s not just the notion of weekends that were dealt a mortal blow in 2020. The artist born Abel Tesfaye, whose memorable performances wrapped in bloodied bandages were some of the year’s most arresting, got a virtual beatdown by the Recording Academy on Tuesday morning. The Weeknd, who is scheduled to perform at the 2021 Super Bowl halftime show, was the odds-on favorite to earn the most nominations this year, and he didn’t get a one.
Do you know who got more Grammy nods this year than the Weeknd? Renee Zellweger, Maxi Priest, Rachel Maddow, “Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga,” the Okee Dokee Brothers and Mister Rogers, that’s who.
It is truly baffling. Since 2013, he had earned a total of 10 nominations, including major ones for “Can’t Feel My Face” and his album “Beauty Behind the Madness.” Amid the chaos and division of 2020, didn’t we agree on the Weeknd’s brilliance? Or at least that “Blinding Lights” dominated the year enough to earn a song or record nod? Apparently not. Pro tip: If you run into the Weeknd at the grocery store, do not mention Jacob Collier’s hot new record.
The 2021 Grammy nominations, in 83 categories
2. Jacob Collier may sit next to Beyoncé. He’s a young British musician whose resume is dense with bona fides but who has mostly avoided the mainstream charts. Which is to say, just because you didn’t know about his now album-of-the-year nominated “Djesse Vol. 3,” let alone that he put out two earlier volumes with that title, doesn’t mean you’ve lost your edge.
Still, data crunchers might have called this one, as the stats add up. Collier, 26, has won four Grammy awards, albeit for arranging. “Djesse Vol. 3" features guest appearances from, among others, T-Pain, Tank and the Bangas, Kimbra and Daniel Caesar. Collier has twice charted as a solo artist, both times on the jazz charts. He has played Coachella — as part of Hans Zimmer’s band. He’s credited on Coldplay’s album “Everyday Life” — as a backing vocalist. All those movements have added up. In addition to his album of the year nod, Collier’s song “All I Need,” which features Ty Dolla Sign and Mahalia, is nominated as an R&B song; and his “He Won’t Hold You,” which features Rapsody, was nominated in the arrangement, instruments and vocals category.
3. Best rock performance sets a milestone. Rock is dead, say the dad rockers and pop lovers. Shut the front door, reply Fiona Apple, Big Thief’s Adrianne Lenker, Phoebe Bridgers, Haim, Brittany Howard and Grace Potter, all of whom are nominated in the rock performance category. In a first for the race, which has been around since 2012, male rockers were shut out altogether. Feelings hurt, guys? Buck up. Music’s not a competition, snowflakes, and even if it was, you were defeated a long time ago.
4. Harry Styles overlooked in the major categories. From a trophy standpoint, this was supposed to be the year that Harry Styles pulled a Justin Timberlake and transitioned from former boy-band pop star to Serious Artist. Styles’ acclaimed “Fine Line,” after all, was dense with Grammy calories. It was inventive but not explicitly experimental. Producer Greg Kurstin was involved. Styles had earned bonus points by showcasing his versatility, doing double duty on “Saturday Night Live” as both host and musical guest. “Heck, “Fine Line” has already been included on a Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Albums of All Time” list.
How could it not receive a major nomination? Ask the academy, which ignored it in the big categories but recognized it down-ballot. “Watermelon Sugar” will face former flame Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish, among others, in the the pop vocal category. “Adore You” earned him (and video director Dave Meyers and video producer Nathan Scherrer) a nod for music video. In another Styles versus Swift runoff, “Fine Line” will face Swift’s “Folklore” and albums by Dua Lipa, Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber in the pop album category.
5. Best rap album is filled with olds. This year, young rap stars like Lil Baby, Da Baby and Lil Uzi Vert, as well as the recently departed Pop Smoke and Juice World, ran hip-hop, especially on Spotify’s crucial Rap Caviar playlist. The academy took a pass on the lot of them in the rap album category, instead celebrating classicists nearly twice their age. The nominees? Jay Electronica (44 years old), Freddie Gibbs (38) and Alchemist (43), Nas (47), Royce da 5’9” (43) and, the youngest of them at 35, D Smoke.
6. D Smoke? Like Collier’s, the resume of the Inglewood-raised artist born Anthony Farris is filled with tip-offs that his Grammy day might one day come, but D Smoke’s best new artist nomination is still a big surprise. Best known for winning the 2019 season of the Netflix rap competition show “Rhythm + Flow,” the rapper and UCLA-schooled music theory teacher comes from a family of musicians, and all of them would chuckle at the notion of him being a “new artist.” His younger brother is Sir Darryl Farris, who, as SiR, is signed to the famed South L.A. label Top Dawg (Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Schoolboy Q); his mom was a backup vocalist for artists including Anita Baker and Michael Jackson; and his uncle is the great session bassist Andrew Gauche (Prince, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer).
7. K-pop snubbed. In a year that saw legions of politicized K-pop fans infiltrate racist social media hashtags and overwhelm Trump campaign systems to hoard rally tickets, the Recording Academy might have made a crucial error in shunning BTS’ “Dynamite” in the major song categories. And not just because of the potential blowback. “Dynamite,” an ode to “shining through the city with a little funk and soul,” has been one of the year’s hottest songs, having racked up more than 625 million YouTube spins. Granted, it did receive a consolation prize in the pop duo/group performance category, but whether that’s enough to stave off billions of can’t-be-wrong BTS fans is to be determined.
The Jan. 31 ceremony will be held amid what will likely be an unabated deadly pandemic, so Grammy organizers hoping for a less knee-buckling show than last go-round may have to wait until 2022.
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