In most ways, this year's Grammy nominations were to bound to boring and, in a way, inevitably satisfying. The question wasn't if Adele's blockbuster return 25 and Beyoncé's game-changing cultural touchstone Lemonade would be nominated, but how many times each. (The answer: five for Adele and nine for Queen B.) All, then, is right with the world, assuming you're not Kanye West.
West is up for eight awards, but was shut out of the general field completely, along with David Bowie and Radiohead. Celebrating instead: Rihanna (eight nods, including Record of the Year), Twenty One Pilots (five nods, including Record of the Year), Drake (eight nods, including Album of the Year), and, yes, even Justin Bieber (four nods, including Album of the Year).
Check out the full list of nominees here. (Don't cry for Lady Gaga. She's not eligible until next year, along with Metallica, The Weeknd, and Bruno Mars.)
In a year that the Grammys seems to be sending the message that it can keep up with the young whippersnappers (even if the old fuddy-duddies, for once, seemed this year to be more deserving), there still is much to gripe about. So let us embark on our favorite annual tradition: the Grammys rant!
SNUB: David Bowie
Glaringly absent from the three major categories—Album of the Year, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year—is David Bowie, whose Blackstar and its lead single "Lazarus" were considered obvious inclusions. They wouldn't have been sympathy nominees, either, with Bowie earning some of the year's best reviews for what would end up being his swan song effort.
More, the Grammys should have been feeling the pressure to right an egregious wrong: Aside from a 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award, Bowie has only won one other Grammy, for the music video for 1985's "Jazzin' for Blue Jean." That means that Bowie has never won for an individual album or song. With four nominations in the rock categories, he'll have a chance to posthumously do that this year. But the general field blackout for Blackstar is a shock...
SURPRISE: Justin Bieber
…especially when you look at who took his place. Yep, Justin Bieber is a first-time Album of the Year nominee with his Purpose scoring the major nod over the likes of David Bowie. That direct comparison might smart for music fans, but the well-reviewed Purpose's inclusion isn't a total eyebrow-raiser for those who followed the industry's quiet embrace of the top-to-bottom solid pop record. Plus, it came neatly packaged with a media-ready narrative about its petulant provocateur's supposed growing up, musically and otherwise, culminating in four total nominations for Bieber this year, including Song of the Year for "Love Yourself."
SNUB: Kanye West
Hey, it's not a bad day for Kanye. The Life of Pablo scored eight nominations total. But the frequent Grammy critic can't be pleased that one of the year's biggest music events failed to score any nods in the major fields, including Album of the Year. 2016: the year that Justin Bieber was more musically respected than Kanye West.
SURPRISE: The youth vote
Major category inclusions for the likes of Chainsmokers, Twenty One Pilots, Chance the Rapper, and Mike Posner—not to mention first-time nods for the likes of Demi Lovato and Solange, and a huge showing for, of all people, Justin Bieber—the Grammys seems to be this year more than ever fighting its reputation for rubber-stamping votes for aging favorites instead of embracing rising young talent. That's a good thing, in theory…even if it means we now live in a world where The Chainsmokers are Grammy nominees.
SNUB: ANTI by Rihanna
Rihanna's earned one Album of the Year nomination thus far in her career, for 2012's Loud. Her rapturously reviewed Anti marked her transition away from the radio-hit stylings of that release towards a more auteur sound and vision, a maturation that left fans in rapture. Rihanna did score a whopping eight nominations, but the elusive AOTY nod would have been sweet validation.
SURPRISE: Beyoncé, the Rocker
The sheer volume of nominations for Beyoncé's Lemonade is well-deserved, including this first for the singer: a nod for Best Rock Performance alongside the likes of Alabama Shakes, David Bowie, Twenty One Pilots, and, yes, Disturbed for "Don't Hurt Yourself" featuring Jack White. (Finally, the Beyonce-Disturbed showdown we've all been waiting for.) Oh, and by the way, how ambitious in scope was Lemonade? It scored nominations in pop, rock, rap, and R&B categories.
Despite the band's status as perennial Grammy favorites—with three past Album of the Year nominations, they're up there with U2 and the Foo Fighters in that strata—and releasing one of the best-reviewed efforts of the year, A Moon Shaped Pool was missing from this year's AOTY lineup.
It's a good day for the Knowles family, with Beyoncé's sister Solange scoring her first Grammy nod. She'll compete for Best R&B Performance for her track "Cranes in the Sky," a much-deserved mention for the younger Knowles sister, whose career is on the elevator up.
SNUB/SURPRISE: Chance the Rapper
"Hey, why not me?" That was the question Chance the Rapper raised in an ad taken out in Billboard prior to the nominations announcement, celebrating a rule change that would allow streaming-only albums like his "Coloring Book" mix tape to be Grammys eligible. It paid off. In addition to competing in Best New Artist, Chance scored a handful of key rap category nods. But he didn't make it into Album of the Year where, though he was a longshot, he deserved to be, with "Coloring Book" already showing up on many end of the year Best Album lists.
SURPRISE: Sturgill Simpson
The list of Album of the Year nominees reads like a clash of industry titans–Adele, Beyoncé, Drake, Justin Bieber—until you get to the fifth nominee, A Sailor's Guide to the Earth, by 38-year-old outspoken country artist Sturgill Simpson. Simpson broke out in a big way this year, and quite politically, bucking from country's guns-and-girls thematic tradition while publicly criticizing Nashville for being out of touch. With this surprise AOTY nomination, maybe the Grammy organization is sending country music a message, too.
Sia scored the first no. 1 hit in her career as a performer with the soaring "Cheap Thrills," which should have made the earworm track a shoo-in for Record of the Year. While we appreciate a need to mix up genres in the category, we'd have swapped out Lukas Graham's "7 Years" or Twenty One Pilots's "Stressed Out" for this perfectly orchestrated pop blockbuster. Sia will compete in Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, Best Pop Vocal Album, and Best Song Written for Visual Media (for penning "Try Everything" from Zootopia), but was shut out of the big categories.
Updating her resume for Buzzfeed's next "Whatever Happened To…" nostalgia listicle, "Case of the Ex" singer Mya scored a Best R&B Album nod for her latest, albeit quiet, effort Smoove Jones. Like wo.
SNUB: Alessia Cara
The 20-year-old rising pop star was considered an obvious choice for Best New Artist consideration, with the success of her sleeper hit single "Here" and debut album Know-It-All. (Her profile broke out in such a big way this year that she was chosen to perform the single "How Far I'll Go," written by Lin-Manuel Miranda for the Moana soundtrack.) Among those taking her place in the category: surprise nominee, rapper/crooner Anderson .Paak, country singer Kelsey Ballerini, and, ugh, the Chainsmokers.
The Dolly Parton touch? A cappella supergroup Pentatonix finally breaks into the mainstream Grammy categories outside their previous instrumental/a cappella mentions in a rather surprising genre. The group will compete for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for their "Jolene" with Dolly Parton. (And they're the not the only surprising artist in the list. P!nk is there, too, for "Setting the World on Fire" with Kenny Chesney.)
SNUB: "One Dance"
"One Dance" was one of the year's biggest singles, and one of the biggest singles of Drake's career. While Views was a major player this year, scoring Album of the Year among Drake's eight nominations, its blockbuster single is missing from Record of the Year and Song of the Year (in the latter, consider it a surprise that Mike Posner's "I Took a Pill in Ibiza" took its place).
SURPRISE: Best Rock Album
Competing for Best Rock Album this year are Blink-182, Panic!…At the Disco, and Weezer. What year is it again?
SNUB: "This Is What You Came For"
Is Taylor Swift losing her Grammys midas touch? The only woman to win Album of the Year twice famously co-wrote the hit radio single "This Is What You Came For" with her ex, Calvin Harris—albeit under a pseudonym that she then retracted, putting her real name in the credits, after the couple broke up. Maybe all that drama was too much for Grammy voters to handle, explaining the banger's absence from Record of the Year, despite the involvement of Swift's fellow Grammy favorite, Rihanna.
SURPRISE/SNUB: Justin Timberlake
Sure, "Can't Stop the Feeling" was as annoying a song as there is, an obtusely produced assault of blinding pop sunshine with a sole commercial intent: to sell an animated film exploiting our nostalgia for toys we used to anally impale with pencils. That said, damn if the song wasn't catchy, and it was certainly a massive hit this summer—the kind of massive hit that would seemingly guarantee a Grammy favorite like Justin Timberlake a Record of the Year nomination, making this both a snub and a surprise.
AND THEN THERE'S...: Frank Ocean
The most glaring omission from this year's list of nominees is Frank Ocean but not, for once, because of any Grammys boneheadedness. Ocean intentionally didn't submit Blonde or Endless for consideration this year out of protest for the organization's institutional bias against artists of color and black culture, telling The New York Times that it is his "Colin Kaepernick moment."