By: S. McManus
While watching Grammy’s ceremony is certainly not unfamiliar to me (and many, many other people), 2020 marked the first year I actively looked out for the nominations, predictions, and was one of the thousands listening to the nominee announcement live. Tuesday, November 24th, had fans and artists alike biting their nails as the livestream progressed through various genres and a whopping 84 categories to determine who and what was recognized as “the best” of 2019-2020’s eligibility period.
There were surprises, congratulations, but as always, many questions directed towards the most prestigious music award show around.
Beyoncé, Taylor Swift and Dua Lipa led the list of nominations, and in particular it was interesting to see the area the Grammys has dedicated to songs directly linked to the BLM movement (most notably Beyoncé’s Black Parade being nominated for record of the year). First-time nominees like Harry Styles, Megan Thee Stallion, Noah Cyrus, BTS (making a huge breakthrough for K-pop and Asian artists) and Phoebe Bridgers earned their due recognition from the award show as well.
However, we must also speak of some of the moments that had everyone scratching their heads:
It’s no surprise why the singer was considered a favorite for the nominees, (with Blinding Lights currently spending a record extending 41st week in the top 5 of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart), so to have him completely shut out from the Grammys caused an uproar from fans and even demands from the Weeknd himself for more transparency from the Grammys.
Another artist shut out from the nominees was country-star Luke Combs, who absolutely dominated sales within and outside of the genre with his album “What You See Is What You Get”.
If we’re going by the numbers and impact, the lack of nominations for WAP is also shocking, but on the flipside, various artistically innovative albums and projects were also ignored in the 2021 nominations. Some examples include Halsey’s Manic and Melanie Martinez’s album and motion picture K-12.
Other names that have frequently been brought up when talking about those that were ‘robbed’ at the Grammy nominations include Kehlani, Rina Sawayama, Selena Gomez, Lana Del Ray, Lil Baby and even snubbed post-humous albums such as Pop Smoke’s Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon, Mac Miller’s Circles, and Juice WRLD’s Legends Never Die.
Some fans have used songs sales, statistics, and charting periods to justify why certain artists should’ve been nominated, or even summoned Metacritic scores, but the truth is no one can really predict the outcome of the Grammy nominations or winners as it all boils down to the so called “taste” and elitism of the recording academy. Personally, I half-agreed with when one twitter user pointed out the importance of artists actively campaigning to have their names recognized by members of the academy. Sending out “for your consideration” packages, interviewing at the Grammy museum and performing at the Grammy showcase are all direct ways in which musical acts can strive to gain more exposure, but as we can see clearly in the case of the Weeknd, not even that is a guarantee. (there are rumors the lack of nominations was linked to his upcoming Superbowl half-time show but that’s for some other time…)
In light of these controversies, Nicki Minaj took to twitter to remind everyone of the time “the Grammys didn’t give me my best new artist award when I had 7 songs simultaneously charting on billboard & bigger first week than any female rapper in the last decade- went on to inspire a generation. They gave it to the white man Bon Iver.” Meanwhile Justin Bieber, who despite having his fair share of nominations, also went online to clarify to the Grammys that Changes was an R&B album despite scoring a nomination for best pop.
So.. how does it work?
To quote the Recording Academy, the Grammys should recognize “the best recordings, compositions, and artists of the eligibility year, running from September 1st 2019, to August 31st 2020.”
However here is a quick overview of the entire (slightly complicated) process:
Essentially the artist or record label submit their piece(s) to the Grammys for screening and voting. Screening is when the piece is checked (by 350 experts) for the genre or category it was submitted for, and it is then put up for nomination. Members of the recording academy receive first-round ballots to determine the nominations and should theoretically only vote in their genre of expertise but can vote in up to 15 categories, without counting the obligatory 4 main ones (Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best New Artist).
The recording academy is comprised of individuals in all sorts of musical professions (producers, singers, musical engineers, etc.). In the cases of some specialized categories, a committee is set up to determine the nominees before all of the nominees are announced, and the final round of voting begins!
Check out the full list of nominees below, and see you in January!