In A Year Full Of Wrongs, The Grammys Got Something Right
This is the best list of nominees in years, but still not perfect.
BY Matt Miller | Nov 29, 2017 | Music
Every year, the Grammy Award nominations can be described using the same basic terms: predictable, embarrassing, oblivious, etc. There will be the usual Academy favourites and lack of diversity in the main categories. Often, they'll reward sales over talent, popularity over quality. As music's most important governing body, the Recording Academy annually does very little to protect that institution.
This morning, the Academy revealed its best list of Grammy nominations in years—which is not saying much, but still progress nonetheless. Jay-Z, Childish Gambino, and Kendrick Lamar appear in the Record of the Year and Album of the Year categories. Compare this to the previous year, which including such baffling nominations as Twenty One Pilots and Lukas Graham. With those three worthy artists appearing multiple times in major categories, the Academy is showing a rare embrace of diverse genres and quality. While they appear alongside more predictable pop choices as Bruno Mars and the ubiquitous “Despacito” from Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber, it actually seems possible that Lamar can finally take home the major award he's deserved for years.
Despite the (mostly) quality major categories, the Academy did what it does best and still find a way to screw it up. Though Julia Michaels and Alessia Cara appear in the Record of the Year category and Lorde is nominated for Album of the Year, these top categories are shockingly lacking in female artists—especially considering Beyoncé and Adele dominated the 59th Grammys last year. The Rock and Alternative categories are completely dominated by men, while the Best New Artist category might be the strongest of the year in terms of representation with Alessia Cara, Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert, Julia Michaels, and SZA all nominated. SZA also earned a Best Urban Contemporary category nomination; her brilliant debut album CTRL would be a deserving pick in that category.
SZA. Image by Getty/Scott Legato
Surprisingly absent from these main categories are Kesha and Harry Styles, both of whom seemed like obvious choices. Kesha's stunning comeback album was a narrative throughout the entire summer, while Styles's debut solo album marked one of the best pop albums of the year. Thankfully absent from these main categories are two Grammys favourites: Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith. Despite having been nominated for 11 Grammys and winning two, Ed Sheeran only appears in the Best Pop Solo Performance category for "Shape Of You." And even that seems generous, given his laughable new album (but that's never stopped the Academy before). Though he's won four of the six Grammys he's been nominated for, Sam Smith didn't get a single nod this year, getting shut out for his disappointing sophomore album The Thrill of It All.
If you noticed a distinct lack of Taylor Swift on this year's list of nominees, there's actually a reason for that. Her new album Reputation, which sold more than 1.2 million copies in its first week, did not make the cutoff date for this year's awards. (Although "Look What You Made Me Do" was out in time, it didn't earn a nod.) Because she's Taylor Swift, however, she still managed to score two nominations for her songwriting work on Little Big Town's "Better Man" as well as "I Don’t Wanna Live Forever" from the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack. The biggest, and most surprising, snub is Jack Antonoff; despite his work with Lorde, Swift, Pink, and St. Vincent, the go-to mind for pop music this year didn't get a nod for Best Producer.
Come January 28, when the 60th Grammys take place in New York, it should hopefully be a showdown between Childish Gambino, Jay-Z, and Kendrick Lamar. But don't put it past the Academy to award popularity as always and give it all to "Despacito" and Bruno Mars.