The 2019 Grammy nominees were announced Friday (Dec. 7) morning, which means hot on the heels of the congratulations and breathless exclamations of what an honor it is just to be nominated comes the inevitable sniping over perceived snubs. And this year is no different, as there are several A-listers shut out of the Big 4 categories (album of the year, song of the year, record of the year and best new artist).
Taylor Swift, a long-time Grammy fave with two album of the year wins under her belt, misses the Big 4 entirely, with reputation only getting a nod for best pop vocal album. While the snub is understandable in some ways – Swift’s latest received mixed reviews – it’s still confounding given what a commercial blockbuster it was (it was Billboard’s biggest album of 2018) and Swift’s status as a Recording Academy favorite.
Also in the pop snub realm, Ariana Grande was ignored in the Big 4 categories. Again, not a total shock considering the Grammys haven’t exactly favored her in the past – before the 2019 nominees were revealed, she had 4 noms and 0 wins – but Sweetener was a critical favorite, and considering that eight albums are up for AOTY, its absence is notable. Still, she got more love than Swift: Sweetener is up for best pop vocal album and “God Is a Woman” is up for best pop solo performance, a category that Taylor’s “Delicate” easily should have made but did not.
If you want to snub two A-listers with one oversight, well, just fail to put The Carters (aka Beyonce and Jay-Z) in any of the Big 4 categories. While the couple did get three noms overall, it’s a bit of a surprise to see the acclaimed Everything Is Love get no love in record of the year or album of the year.
Perhaps less surprising, but still worth noting, is that Kanye West just received one nod – although given that it’s for production, non-classical — feting his work on his Ye and the other four albums he helmed in 2018 — it’s a prestigious one. Ye was hardly a critical favorite or commercial smash, so Big 4 love was a long shot, but you’d think he’d get some attention in the rap field categories.
While the same logic that excluded Zayn or Harry Styles from best new artist eligibility probably cost Camila Cabello a shot at that category in 2019 (the Academy considers it disingenuous to salute someone from a popular group as a ‘new artist’ when they go solo), it’s still a shock Camila only received two noms considering the commercial and critical success of her debut.
One artist whose absence from best new artist is less explicable — Ella Mai, who seemed a strong contender for the nomination. While her ubiquitous “Boo’d Up” is up for song of the year and best R&B song, she’s absent from that category when several artists seen as long shots – Greta Van Fleet, Jorja Smith, Chloe x Halle, and H.E.R. – all secured spots.
H.E.R. is certainly one artist with a lot to celebrate. While R&B nods for the 21-year-old talent were all but assured, she landed an unexpected nod in the album of the year category for her self-titled set. Another big surprise in that category is Brandi Carlile’s By the Way, I Forgive You; like H.E.R., Carlile’s presence in her genre category (Americana) was a foregone conclusion, but her album of the year nod is a surprising boost. Even more unexpected is her presence in three of the Big 4 categories, with “The Joke” getting record of the year AND song of the year nods. Certainly Carlile’s sixth set was met with acclaim, but such a strong showing in the Big 4 is bound to have some scratching their heads and reaching for their headphones to give it a spin.
Less shocking, but still a pleasant surprise, is the presence of Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer in the album of the year category. While her latest is a bold brew of funk, neo soul, hip-hop and pop that was met with resounding acclaim, you could have seen the Grammys going either way on honoring this one with a nom. Similarly, Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour getting the AOTY nod was hardly a foregone conclusion even if it is clearly one of the most deservedly acclaimed LPs of 2018, so it’s a satisfying delight to see the Grammys honor it accordingly. And while the Recording Academy clearly loves Kendrick Lamar (he’s the most nominated artist in 2019), it’s still a bit of a eyebrow-raiser to see Black Panther: The Album up for AOTY. Then again, two soundtracks — O Brother, Where Art Thou? and The Bodyguard— have won the honor in the last 25 years.
The 61 Grammy Awards air Feb. 10 on CBS, broadcast live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.