Grammy snubs: Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, the Carters and Kamasi Washington

Los Angeles Times music critics Gerrick D. Kennedy and Randy Lewis react to the 2019 Grammy nominations.


The Recording Academy may have expanded the field in the four general categories from five to eight nominees, but considering that thousands of eligible albums came out last year, snubs are not only inevitable but also guaranteed.

Take, for example, former best new artist winner Sam Smith.

The platinum singer performed “Pray” at January’s ceremony and was the king of the proceedings in 2015, when he received best new artist and his smash ballad “Stay With Me” took home honors for record and song of the year.

This year? Nothing.

Despite issuing a sophomore album, “The Thrill of It All,” within the eligibility period, neither the album nor any of its singles earned nominations. One reason: Despite generally positive reviews, the album wasn’t nearly as inescapable as his debut.


Taylor Swift certainly wasn’t lacking in critical or commercial success, but that didn’t help her earn any prestige nominations. Her “Reputation” album got just one nod, in the pop vocal album category.

Swift has tough competition, most notably from odds-on favorite Ariana Grande’s record “Sweetener.” Also competing against them: Pink, Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes.

Two other superstars, Jay-Z and Beyoncé, could very well have run the field for their record “Everything Is Love.” But this is the Grammys, and although the married couple tower over pop music like giants stomping through the Manhattan skyline, Recording Academy voters apparently didn’t see it that way this year.

In the past, both have received plenty of love in the album of the year field — Beyoncé most recently for her 2016 album “Lemonade” and Jay-Z for 2017’s “4:44” — so it’s a bit of a surprise to see them absent from the top field this year. Still, the charismatic duo got three nominations: R&B performance for “The Summer,” and urban contemporary album and music video for “Apeshit.”

Shockingly absent from any of the jazz categories is Los Angeles sax player and composer Kamasi Washington.

His album “Heaven & Earth” was one of the most acclaimed of the year, and it landed on many critics’ year-end lists. Considering the ways in which Washington’s work has reinvigorated the West Coast jazz scene, the exclusion is notable.


But maybe it’s not too surprising after all. Washington was snubbed in the 59th Grammy Awards as well, when his breakout album, “The Epic,” failed to get noticed by voters.

Also shunned? The late singer-rapper XXXtentacion, who was killed in June at age 20 during an attempted robbery. The controversial artist had built a devoted fan base and acclaim through social media and signed to a subsidiary of Capitol Music Group before his death.

He accomplished all this despite that in 2016 he was charged with multiple felonies for allegedly beating and choking his then-pregnant ex-girlfriend and was facing 30 years in prison. His label might have been willing to hold its nose while cashing the checks, but Grammy voters apparently weren’t.

For tips, records, snapshots and stories on Los Angeles music culture, follow Randall Roberts on Twitter and Instagram: @liledit. Email: