The Grammys have been fighting the war against obsolescence over the past couple of years. While streaming and social media have allowed artists to interact directly with fans, conventional gatekeepers ‘ interest has diminished, leading the biggest music stars— from Beyoncé to Rihanna to Taylor Swift to Ed Sheeran — to miss the ceremony of last year altogether.
The nominations for 62nd Annual Grammy Awards revealed on Wednesday morning, seem like an immediate bid for relevance: three of the most nominated artists — Lizzo, Billie Eilish, and Lil Nas X — all happen to be streaming industry pioneers and leaders. The three nominated for Record of the Year, the Year’s Album and Best New Singer, driving stars like Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga to the sidelines.
But while the endorsements demonstrated that voters pay some attention to up-and-comers, they also represented some more head-scratching decisions. Here are the significant snubs and shocks of Grammy’s nominees for 2020.
Surprise: Lizzo leads the nominations
Lizzo leads Grammys with the most nominations this year with a whopping eight nominations across multiple genres, a testament to her cross-category appeal. It’s firmly on the nose that Lizzo, an experienced (and fun-loving) flutist who’s also a crossover singer/rapper, will resist being locked in by everyone, much less the Academy. In addition to capturing nominations in the four main categories (Album of Year, Song of the Year, Record of Year. Best New Artist), she also nominated Best Pop Solo Performance, Best R&B Performance. Best Traditional R&B Performance, Best Urban Contemporary Album. It’s just fitting: Cuz I Love You, an album packed with anthems of self-love and ebullient bops, has been widely embraced by multi-hyphenates of the millennium.
Snub: Taylor Swift is mostly shut out
The lack of recognition for her album Reputation by Taylor Swift in 2018 was perhaps unsurprising: after an intense period of media scrutiny, Swift embraced a darker sound — and visual identity — that might have alienated some fans. But the album this year, Lover, was a much more instantly enticing song, packed with romantic ballads, pop-friendly melodies, and even a Dixie Chicks appearance; it seemed like a shoo-in to an older Grammy voting base. Nope. The 35-time singer-songwriter received only three Lover nominations — and only one of them was in a major category (the title track up for Song of Year). It seems that people have forgotten their “I” lead single!”There was, more interestingly, her video for” You Need to Calm Down “was left out of the Best Music Video category because of her powerful LGBTQ stance and endorsements by Ellen DeGeneres, Laverne Cox, and Queer Eye’s Fab Five. (R. Chow, Andrew)
Surprise: Lil Nas X receives recognition more than “Old Town Road.”
How should the Grammys handle one-hit wonders? For years, the question has dogged the awards show: they have often found themselves chasing a momentary fad while slipping away a more promising artist. We awarded Best New Artist in 1979 to A Taste of Honey of “Boogie Oogie Oogie” fame over Elvis Costello and the Cars; we serve Paula Cole (“Where Have All The Cowboys Gone?”) over Fiona Apple and Erykah Badu in 1998.
This question was undoubtedly on voters ‘ minds when they determined how to treat Lil Nas X, who, thanks to “Old Town Way,” the viral meme-turned-longest-running number one song of all time, was arguably the music tale of the year. “Old Town Road” showed how much music creation and dissemination had changed thanks to new forces such as TikTok; the song was a litmus test of how voters feel about these shifts in the industry.
Yet Lil Nas X is no longer a one-hit-wonder: his follow-up single, Panini, “racked up more than 200 million views on YouTube and rose on the Billboard Hot 100 to # 5. Voters accepted this. They rewarded Lil Nas with six awards across the table, including year recording and year music video (for “Old Town Road”) and best rap / sung performance (for “Panini”).
“Panini’s popularity,” combined with the unquestionably charming presence of Lil Nas on social media, leads to the belief that he has legitimate staying power and that he deserves his Best New Artist nomination. Seven is 18 minutes long and packed with soft melodies and half-baked production; many other promising projects have been delayed, including Rosalía’s El Mal Querer.
Surprise: The Tanya Tucker revival
The Grammys love a good story of salvation, and this year they put the spotlight back on Tanya Tucker, the country’s 61-year-old fugitive sensation first nominated in 1973 and last nominated in 1994. Over the years, Tucker has witnessed many personal battles, many of which address While I’m Livin, grizzled, and heartfelt album created with the help of another favorite Grammy, Brandi Carlyle. One of the highlights of the collection—”Bring My Flowers Now, “picked up three nominations, including Song of the Year. Here’s the hope she’ll get to bring the song to the show itself — a heartbreaking meditation on mortality and regret. (Chow)