Can you BELIEVEEEEE Adele got snubbed at the Grammy Awards?!?!?!
A social media backlash built on understandable ignorance of the completely arbitrary and arguably nonsensical eligibility calendar for the Grammy Awards raged with indignation that the record-setting songstress who saved our souls and sent a globe into collective sobs with her latest album was not among the list of Grammy contenders when the nominations were released this morning. (Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, and The Weeknd lead the list.)
But even though Adele’s latest album has been out for three weeks and the Grammy Awards don’t air until February—when 25 will have been out for three months—a song or album must have been released by September 30, 2015 in order to contend at this year’s ceremony. That means new albums by stars like Justin Bieber, Demi Lovato, Janet Jackson, Carrie Underwood, One Direction, Coldplay, The Game, and Chris Brown also aren’t eligible.
It also explains curios like Meghan Trainor receiving a nomination for Best New Artist a full year after her breakout hit “All About That Bass” scored three Grammy nods—the rules state a performer is eligible for Best New Artist the year their first album drops, and Trainor’s hadn’t yet by fall of last year.
And Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’s “Uptown Funk,” that song you feel like you’ve been hearing at weddings for at least two years now, was released just weeks after the cutoff date for last year’s awards and therefore contends for Record of the Year this year.
But the biggest surprise with actual standing behind it—see you next year, Adele—is that, aside from the normal sporadic oddities and groans that happen whenever your favorite art is left subject to the whims of a stodgy voting body, the nominations this year aren’t so bad.
Are we rolling our eyes that “Trap Queen” is nominated for a Grammy? You bet.
But we can’t complain too much when Record of the Year boasts “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift, the greatest pop song the most omnipresent pop star has yet to produce; “Uptown Funk,” a groovy call to the dance floor that shouldn’t be judged by its overplayed status; “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd, one of the most successful and interesting radio hits of the year; “Thinking Out Loud,” the second coming of John Mayer by Ed Sheeran; and, in the biggest surprise of the list, a nod for D’Angelo and the Vanguard for the long-absent R&B star’s heralded return single, “Really Love.”
It’s a strong list that pays attention to both current tastes and mass appeal, without being slave to either, and still has the clarity to nominate a track by D’Angelo.
Album of the Year boasts a few more surprises, with Alabama Shakes’ Sound and Color and Chris Stapleton’s Traveller joining no-brainer contenders Taylor Swift (1989), Kendrick Lamar (To Pimp a Butterfly), and The Weeknd (Beauty Behind the Madness).
Might we have wished that Lana Del Rey, who was snubbed completely for her solo work, deservingly made her way into this race (or any one for that matter)? Yes. And what about Carly Rae Jepsen, who rivaled 1989’s retro pop genius with Emotion but was also snubbed completely? #JusticeForCarly.
But again, considering the baffling choices routinely made by the Grammy nominating committee, we’re going to stifle too many gripes.
Pundits who pass their time predicting things like Grammy nominations are certainly going to be surprised to see the muted love for Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s “See You Again,” which was pegged to be a Record of the Year frontrunner but will settle for just Song of the Year and two other below-the-board nods.
Irish singer-songwriter Hozier was in the same boat as Meghan Trainor: “Take Me to Church” was a Grammy nominee last year, but he was supposed to contend this year in Best New Artist, but ended up getting snubbed. Instead, joining Trainor is Sam Hunt, James Bay, YouTube-turned-pop star Tori Kelly, and, the biggest “Who?” of the day, Courtney Barnett, a Australian singer-songwriter known for her deadpan delivery.
Fans of badgalriri are going to be upset that Rihanna came up short for nods for “FourFiveSeconds,” a collaboration with Kanye West and Paul McCartney that seemed like irresistible Grammy bait, and “Bitch Better Have My Money,” perhaps less Grammy-friendly but still a hell of a lot of fun.
There are a few other big surprises. Past Grammy contenders Mumford and Sons and Fall Out Boy were ignored completely, while Grammy juggernaut Foo Fighters didn’t make it into Rock Album or Album of the Year races—a shocker considering the organization’s usual rubberstamping of anything Grohl.
And while we wouldn’t say that they necessarily deserved consideration, it’s worth noticing that Madonna and Prince were shut out for their new releases.
It’s nice to see voters rewarding “Girl Crush” by Little Big Town after the song locked lips with a little bit of controversy, with conservative country music fans mistaking it for a lesbian love song when it was really a woman singing about her ex’s new lover. (Though, if it was some girl-on-girl twang, we’d have to say, so what?) “Girl Crush” is a surprise Song of the Year contender, while the group scored three other nominations as well.
Were some of your favorite songs also snubbed? Of course they were. But with Grammy nomination day typically doubling as an annual tradition of blogosphere rage fits, it’s refreshing that this year’s list of contenders don’t totally suck.
There will still, of course, be the cool dude who scoffs today, “Who cares about the Grammys anymore?”
There’s the argument that the annual awards show has morphed solely into fuel for Twitter outrage at this point, with flippant tweets griping about how the music taste of a few shouldn’t speak for that of the masses. Or, more realistically, tweets from that guy who really likes that indie band no one else has heard of but he maintains should be nominated in every category. The guy who just hates all pop music and refuses to acknowledge the musical merits of a daring, spectacularly produced record like 1989, not when said indie performer is making real music, which Swift wouldn’t know if it hit her in the head.
You do you, guy.
The truth, though often maddening, is that the Grammy Awards have the power to mint new stars—Norah Jones, Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, all had budding success validated with more awards than they could hold in their arms, forecasting to the public that these are creative forces to be reckoned with.
Bringing it full circle, not many people in the U.S. knew who Adele was when she won Best New Artist in 2009. But when 21 came around, Adele had the Best New Artist cache to make us pay attention. (Oh, and we did.)
The Grammys get it wrong a lot. (Let’s not even bring up Milli Vanilli.) But no one has a crystal ball.
To focus the conversation on recent years, it’s true that it’s no longer possible for an awards organization to bestow accolades on every deserving entry in the applicable medium—whether it’s music, movies, or TV. There’s too much good stuff going around—and trophies may not carry the same weight in a culture with so many splintered options for consuming content. But they can create dialogue.
When Arcade Fire shocked everyone by winning Album of the Year, it sent waves through the music industry, sparking a refocus on ambitious musicality in an age when over-production and auto-tune was suffocating radio and hurting our ears.
Is what Iggy Azalea does actually rap music? What about Macklemore? The jury’s still out, and their Grammy nominations are presented as evidence to deliberate over.
The outrage over Beck’s win over Beyoncé in the Album of the Year category last year brought perhaps necessary scrutiny to the number of songwriters and producers Queen B stuffed her album with, compared to the singular creative vision of Beck—and whether either one had more merit. At the very worst, it led to renewed appreciation for Beyoncé, which is never a bad thing.
So see you in February. I’ll meet you on Twitter where we complain about how insufferably long the telecast is and bitch about Taylor Swift not winning enough awards (or maybe winning too many, depending on who you are). Until then, I’m listening to Adele.