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Second Take: Are 2019’s Grammy nominations wrongful snubs or fair judgments?

Taylor Swift’s album “reputation” was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album at The Grammys. Her sixth studio album was the fastest album to hit number one on iTunes after its release, and her stadium tour that grossed $345 million.
(Kristie-Valerie Hoang/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Eli Countryman

February 7, 2019 11:03 pm

The 61st Annual Grammy Awards show features many controversial nominations. Daily Bruin staffers predicted who would take home some of the main awards (see graphics) and columnist Eli Countryman discussed the rumored snubs.

Some Grammy Award categories increased from the traditional five nominees to eight, yet many deserving artists still didn’t make the cut.

In their places sat the names of others nominated for too many awards.

The Recording Academy always receives some amount of criticism for excluding certain artists, but this year’s nominations for the Sunday show in particular begs reevaluation. The expanded number of nominees in General Field categories – Best New Artist, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Album Of The Year – makes it shocking that artists like Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Carrie Underwood, whose recent projects have garnered much attention, did not earn a single nod. Instead, artists such as Brandi Carlile – who? earned perhaps more than they deserved, with Carlile bagging the most out of any female artist this year.

(Jennifer Lin/Daily Bruin)

Another compelling case is that of H.E.R., who’s nominated for five Grammys. Though officially released in October 2017, “H.E.R.” compiles songs from two EPs, with only six new tracks featured in the LP. But The Grammys’ loose rules on cutoff dates led to qualification despite a portion being released in 2016, including “Focus,” which picked up a nomination.

With such strange selection choices by the Academy, it only felt right to take a closer look at whether the supposedly snubbed artists this year deserved more nominations than they received.

Taylor Swift: Snubbed

Current Nominations: Best Pop Vocal Album

Taylor Swift has four albums that have each sold over a million copies in their first tracking week – no other artist in history has ever had more than two.

Swift’s sixth studio album, “reputation,” broke multiple other records during the tracking period for the 61st annual Grammys as well, including becoming the fastest album to hit No. 1 on iTunes after its release. “Reputation” went on to become the top album of 2018, according to Billboard’s year-end charts. With such behemoth sales unparalleled by any other modern artist and a tour that grossed $345 million, to say the album had a cultural impact would be an understatement.

(Jennifer Lin/Daily Bruin)

Yet it only managed to secure a nod in the category of “Best Pop Vocal Album,” and many fans were left to wonder how Swift did not occupy one of the eight spaces in the Album Of The Year category. She didn’t even receive a single nomination for “Delicate,” a song that picked up radio airplay since its March release in 2018 and is still charting at No. 2 on Billboard’s adult contemporary songs chart.

When artists like Kacey Musgraves – who seems to be following in Swift’s experimental country footsteps – receive nominations for Album Of The Year, it comes as a shock that Swift went unrecognized.

Swift and her fans should not shake this one off.

Travis Scott: Not snubbed

Current Nominations: Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song, Best Rap Album

“ASTROWORLD” had over 500,000 equivalent album sales in its opening week, thanks in part to merchandise sales.

Travis Scott’s LP made almost 270,000 in pure sales in its first week – more sales than many other albums this past year, with a copy of the digital album being packaged with every hoodie and shirt sold – and there was a new, limited-edition style each day for nine days. “ASTROWORLD” received three nominations, though none were in the main four categories, and some believe he was snubbed by the Academy.

(Jennifer Lin/Daily Bruin)

Scott’s merchandising strategy aided high sales, though his song “SICKO MODE” did most of the legwork in terms of streaming. The song secured two of his three slots within the rap categories this year.

To argue that Scott’s album deserved more recognition feels almost absurd. Many more songs and and albums this year did much better commercially, and even within the hip-hop genre, competitors like Cardi B and Drake proved more relevant, with more hits from their respective releases.

Three nominations seems fair for the third-most relevant rap album of the year.

The Carters: Snubbed

Current Nominations: Best R&B Performance, Best Urban Contemporary Album, Best Music Video

Everything was not love for Beyoncé and Jay-Z when nominees were announced.

The duo secured three nominations for its album “EVERYTHING IS LOVE,” which could hardly be considered a snub for most artists. However, they were only nominated for Best Music Video for their lead single, “Apeshit,” and in two R&B-specific categories. The power couple made no appearances in any of the General Field categories. This makes for quite the snub considering the two artists involved in the duo and that Beyoncé alone has collected 63 other Grammy nominations in the span of her career.

(Jennifer Lin/Daily Bruin)

“Apeshit” made a splash when the accompanying music video was released with footage shot in the Louvre Museum. Moreover, the On the Run II Tour grossed over $250 million, making the album – and the corresponding performances – more relevant than the Grammys acknowledged them to be.

It’s worth noting that Jay-Z took a shot at the Grammys in a line of “Apeshit,” using expletives to reference last year’s outcome. Though he was included in eight categories – the most nominated artist that year – he went home empty-handed. With Jay-Z’s dig present in the lead single, it’s a wonder the duo got any nominations at all – members of the Academy are humans, after all.

Ariana Grande: Not snubbed

Current Nominations: Best Pop Solo Performance, Best Pop Vocal Album

“Sweetener” did not have a single Billboard No. 1 song, but Ariana Grande’s first single after the album, “thank u, next,” reached the coveted spot.

Her 2018 album had numerous radio-friendly songs, but it also had quite a few underwhelming tracks, including “blazed” and “the light is coming.” This year, she received two Grammy nominations, both in the pop category. Fans have argued that she was snubbed by the Academy, but while she may have deserved at least one more nomination for “Sweetener,” the album has already been overshadowed by Grande’s newer works, “thank u, next” and “7 rings.”

Grande’s two nominations do not equate to a Grammys snub. This is not to say “Sweetener” is bad – on the contrary, it had some impact well-deserving of the recognition she did receive. But when albums like “reputation,” which is also in the pop category, receive fewer nominations following a larger impact, it’s difficult to see Grande’s nods as lacking.

Next year, “thank u, next” and its accompanying album will likely receive a multitude of nominations, but her recent rise to superstardom is less connected to “Sweetener” than to her upcoming album.

The Grammys may have gotten so much wrong, but they got this one right.


(Jennifer Lin/Daily Bruin)


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Eli Countryman
Countryman is the 2018-2019 Music | Arts editor. He was previously an A&E reporter. He is a second-year communication student.
Countryman is the 2018-2019 Music | Arts editor. He was previously an A&E reporter. He is a second-year communication student.
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