Last year, presumed frontrunner the Weeknd was shockingly shut out of the Grammy Awards — and the ensuing outrage led, at least in part, to sweeping reform of the Recording Academy’s clandestine, controversial voting system. So, as the nominations for the 64th annual Grammys were announced Tuesday morning, Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. proudly announced that the awards’ anonymous nominations review committee had been eliminated, and that this year’s nominees had been decided solely by the Academy’s voting membership for the first time in three decades. Additionally, Mason revealed that the number of nominees in the “Big Four” categories — Album, Record, and Song of the Year, and Best New Artist — which had been expanded from five nominees to eight back in 2019, would now comprise 10 nominees each, to be even more inclusive.
As a result, this year’s crop of noms are not nearly as shocking, with most of the widely predicted favorites getting their fair share of recognition. But there were still a few head-scratchers and jaw-droppers among the awards’ whopping 83 categories. Below are the biggest snubs and surprises:
SURPRISE: Jon Batiste leads with 11 nominations
While the Late Show with Stephen Colbert bandleader is certainly respected in the industry — he’s a three-time Grammy nominee, and he won an Oscar this year for his work on the original score for Soul — no one expected him to be to be this year’s Grammy darling, with two Big Four nods (Album of the Year for We Are, and Record of the Year for “Freedom”). It remains to be seen if he can prevail in those newly crowded categories alongside big pop names like Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Silk Sonic, and Lil Nas X, but with his multiple nominations across the Jazz, R&B, American Roots, and Classical categories, it’s unlikely he’ll go home totally empty-handed at the January 2022 ceremony.
SNUB: Morgan Wallen is too dangerous for the Grammys
The controversial country star’s Dangerous: The Double Album was one of the biggest releases of this year, debuting at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and going double-platinum. But the year was also plagued by scandal, when Wallen was caught on camera using a racial slur back in February. While the subsequent fallout didn’t seem to hurt is record sales, it certainly hurt his Grammy chances, especially in a year so focused on inclusivity. Wallen didn’t earn a single nod, not even in the Country categories.
SURPRISE: But four other artists get un-canceled
“Cancel culture” may have supposedly doomed Morgan Wallen, but the Recording Academy didn’t cancel four other embattled celebrities — Louis CK, Dave Chappelle, Marilyn Manson, and producer Dr. Luke — who respectively, polarizingly received nominations in the Best Comedy Album, Best Spoken Word Album, and Album/Song of the Year categories. Manson was recognized for his supporting role on Kanye West’s Album of the Year-nominated Donda, and Luke for his work with multiple nominee Doja Cat.
SURPRISE: Mamma mia! ABBA finally get some respect
The fact that ABBA, one of the biggest and most beloved pop groups of all time, had never even been nominated at the Grammys is undoubtedly one of the awards’ all-time most egregious snubs. But now, the group’s first single in 40 years — “I Still Have Faith In You,” from the Swedes’ comeback album Voyage — is up for Record of the Year, alongside the likes of Justin Bieber and Brandi Carlile. It’s unlikely that they’ll be the winner that takes it all, but at least they’re finally getting their due.
SNUB: BTS don’t get buttered up
The K-pop sensations were the top winners at last weekend’s American Music Awards, but their summer smash “Butter,” which broke a global record for biggest song debut in Spotify history, only received one nom, for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. K-pop superstars BLACKPINK and Monsta X were also entirely overlooked, despite industry pundits predicting that either might be up for Best New Artist.
SURPRISE: Arooj Aftab is the new Esperanza
Among this year’s 10 Best New Artist nominees are some expected contenders — 2020 Best New Artist winner Billie Eilish’s brother/collaborator Finneas, rapper Saweetie, country star Jimmie Allen, and frontrunner Olivia Rodrigo — along with a few indie outliers like Glass Animals, Arlo Parks, and Japanese Breakfast. But Saudi Arabia/Pakistan-raised, Brooklyn-based experimental classical artist Aftab is definitely most leftfield artist on the list. Maybe she could be this year’s Esperanza Spalding and pull off an upset (as Spalding did when she beat out Drake, Justin Bieber, Florence & the Machine, and Mumford & Sons in the Best New Artist category a decade ago).
SNUB: There is no gift for Gab
Gabby Barrett is one of country music’s brightest new stars, with her smash debut single “I Hope” topping Billboard’s Country Streaming Songs and Country Airplay charts. not to mention breaking the curse against female artists at country radio when it became was first top 10 Hot Country Songs debut by a solo woman since October 2017. She was also the first American Idol contestant to score a mainstream hit since Phillip Phillips with “Home” in 2012, proving that that Idol franchise can still create stars. But even though Barrett won Best New Artist at the Academy of Country Music Awards this year, she didn’t receive a similar nomination at the Grammys.
SNUB: Kacey Musgraves gets crossed out
This country/pop songstress was the star of the 2019 Grammys, when her third studio LP Golden Hour won Album of the Year and Best Country Album. This year, her divorce album Star-Crossed was mostly passed over, except for two noms, for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song, for “Camera Roll” — this after a kerfuffle when Star-Crossed was supposedly ruled ineligible to compete in the Grammys’ Country categories for not having enough “country elements.” Musgraves’s record company president vehemently protesting that decision in an open letter to the Academy at the time, which may have hurt the singer’s chances.
SNUB: Megan Thee Stallion does not get good news
The rap superstar was last year’s Best New Artist winner, but her debut album Good News — which was released during the eligibility window of Sept. 1, 2020–Sept, 30, 2021— was almost totally overlooked. Megan had to settle for just one nomination, in the Best Rap Performance category.
SNUB: Lorde does not get the royal treatment
The New Zealand singer-songwriter’s debut single “Royals” won Song of the Year at the 2014 Grammy Awards; her sophomore LP Melodrama was up for Album of the Year at the 2018 Grammys; and her longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff just received a Producer of the Year nomination for his work on (among other projects) her third album, Solar Power. And yet, Solar Powerwas overlooked by the Academy in every other category this year.
SNUB: Lana Del Rey isn’t welcome at the Grammy club
Antonoff also produced Del Rey’s critically heralded 2021 album Chemtrails Over the Country Club, but that album also didn’t receive any other Grammy recognition — unlike its predecessor, Norman F***ing Rockwell, which earned Lana a 2020 nomination for Album of the Year.
SNUB: Miley Cyrus won’t be partying in the USA on Grammy night
The shape-shifting pop provocateur’s 2020 album Plastic Hearts received rave reviews, topped the Billboard Rock charts, and featured A-list guests like Stevie Nicks, Joan Jett, Billy Idol, and even past Grammy favorite Dua Lipa, but it didn’t receive a single nod, not even in Pop or Rock genre categories.
SNUB: The truth hurts for Lizzo
Just two ceremonies ago, Lizzo was the leading Grammy nominee in seven categories (she won three awards that night), and she even opened the 2020 telecast. But her eligible single with 2018 Best Rap Album winner Cardi B, “Rumors,” got no love this time around.
SNUB: Machine Gun Kelly experiences a downfall
Just this past Sunday, MGK won Favorite Rock Artist at the American Music Awards, a development that he boldly claimed was proof that rock ‘n’ roll is not dead. But he’s obviously not the Recording Academy’s favorite rock artist, because his breakout fifth album, Tickets to My Downfall, didn’t nab a single nomination. Instead, Grammys favorites like AC/DC, Paul McCartney, Foo Fighters, Chris Cornell, and Black Pumas dominated the Rock categories.
SNUB: Sparks won’t fly at the Grammys
The Sparks Brothers, superfan Edgar Wright’s 140-minute love letter to his favorite band, featured luminaries like Beck, Duran Duran, Björk, the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea, the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones, “Weird Al” Yankovic, Jane Wiedlin of the Go-Go’s, and even Neil Gaiman make a very solid argument that Sparks is one of the most influential acts of all time. The aforementioned Antonoff even stated in the documentary that “all pop music is… rearranged Sparks.” But apparently Grammy voters were unconvinced, as the doc failed to nab a nom for Best Music Film.
SURPRISE: The Weeknd actually gets some Grammy love
After last year’s above-mentioned debacle, a furious Abel Tesfaye announced that he would boycott the Grammys in the future. Yet he ironically picked up three nominations this year, for his collaborations with Doja Cat and Kanye West. It’s still probably safe to assume, however, that he will sit out the upcoming ceremony, which takes place Jan. 31 at Los Angeles’s Staples Center.
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