Well, today is the day! Earlier, this morning the nominations for the 2020 Grammy Awards were officially announced… and they weren’t entirely awful. With a surprisingly solid balance of new blood and veterans, this year’s nominees were at least partially reflective of the changing of the guard that has been happening in mainstream music. Lizzo (8), Lil Nas X (6), and Billie Eilish (6) lead this year’s nominees, while established stars like Ariana Grande (5), Beyoncé (4), and Thom Yorke (4) are also among this year’s most nominated artists. That being said, there were, of course, some major snubs and surprises that stuck out on this year’s list. Let’s get into it!
1. SNUB: Mariah Carey
This one is a head scratcher. Fifteen albums in, Mariah Carey delivered some of her best and most thoughtful work to date. She experimented with soft trap and alternative R&B sounds and still found time to deliver her signature powerhouse vocal moments. Caution is one of the best albums of the decade, and for an artist who has faced near constant disrespect from the Academy, this snub hurts. At the very least, Caution should have been included in the shortlists for Best R&B Album and Best R&B Song (“Giving Me Life”).
2. SURPRISE: The Lion King
It was definitely surprising to see three different releases related to the 2019 remake of Disney’s The Lion King on the nominations list this year. Hans Zimmer scored a Best Score Soundtrack nod for The Lion King and The Lion King: The Songs was recognized in the Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media category. Beyoncé’s Lion King-inspired afrobeats compilation album, The Lion King: The Gift scored a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album and “Spirit,” was shortlisted for Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Song Written for Visual Media. For all the bad press this remake had, five nominations for three different albums is quite impressive. The Gift is also objectively the least successful release of Beyoncé’s career, but the quality was there. It’s nice to see the Grammys still care about great music regardless of chart performance and sales.
3. SNUB: Khalid, Normani, Kehlani, Ari Lennox
Young black R&B and pop stars have been leading the game for a minute now. Kehlani, a previous Grammy nominee for her You Should Be Here mixtape, was unfairly snubbed for her While We Wait mixtape. There’s really no reason why her name was not part of the nominees for Best Urban Contemporary album or Best R&B Performance (“Nights Like This”). Likewise, Khalid’s music dominated this year. His last record, American Teen, scooped up a whopping five nominations, but this year, his Free Spirit album was recognized in just Record of the Year (“Talk”). With hits like “Better” and “Saturday Nights,” and an album that garnered acclaim and success, the lack of nominations for Khalid is very weird. I expected to see him across the R&B categories for his album and its songs. Ari Lennox’s “BMO” and Shea Butter Baby were also unfairly snubbed. Finally, Normani. Her collaboration with Sam Smith, “Dancing with a Stranger,” was one of the year’s biggest and most acclaimed hits, but it was outright ignored by the Academy. “Waves,” her collaboration with 6LACK, should have been recognized in the R&B Performance category and the music video for “Motivation” should have definitely been honored in Best Music Video. All in all, these snubs were really bizarre. All of these artists deserved better.
4. SURPRISE: H.E.R. & Lil Nas X
Last year, H.ER. scored five nominations and won two (Best R&B Album for H.E.R. and Best R&B Performance for “Best Part”). The R&B songstress is one of the most talented artists to debut this decade, so she definitely deserved those nominations. “Best Part” is already a modern classic. H.E.R., which also earned an Album of the Year nod last year, is actually a compilation of two old mixtapes. Similarly, I Used to Know H.E.R., is a reissue of two EPs. I get that the definition of an “album” is constantly changing, but it feels cheap that reissues of old mini albums can be honored in this way. Moreover, while “Hard Place” is an excellent song, nominations for Song and Record of the Year feel odd, especially when “Could’ve Been” was nominated in the R&B genre categories instead. H.E.R. is a great artist, but ten nominations in the span of two years is overkill, especially when there are so many young R&B artists (Summer Walker, Snoh Aalegra, Gallant, Ari Lennox, Teyana Taylor, etc.) that deserve similar recognition. Lil Nas X was expected to score nominations for Best New Artist and honors for “Old Town Road” (Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance) and “Panini” (Best Rap/Sung Performance). However, his nomination for Album of the year (7 – EP) is shocking. 7 is by no means a great record, and in a year of so many excellent albums this feels disingenuous. I’m all for representation, so if that was the case, Tyler, The Creator’s IGOR was right there.
5. SNUB: Female Rappers
Despite this being a watershed year for female rappers, only one woman scored a nomination (Cardi B for her featured verse on Offset’s “Clout”). Rapsody delivered one of the most layered and beautiful albums of the decade with Eve, Megan Thee Stallion owned the summer with quality hits like “Big Ole Freak” and “Cash S**t,” and the City Girls and Saweetie gave us some of the best rap performances of the year with “Act Up” and “My Type,” respectively. Let’s not forget about the interesting and challenging pieces of art from Tierra Whack, Doja Cat, Rico Nasty, and more. The fact that the Academy couldn’t find space to nominate a female rapper for her own work is despicable.
6. SNUB: Solange
Solange delivered her best album with When I Get Home. It also happens to be one of the most masterful records of the decade. It is absolutely shocking that the Academy completely ignored this album. When I Get Home should have been recognized in Album of the Year, Best R&B Album, Best Music Film, and Best R&B Song (“Almeda”). I honestly can’t even begin to try to explain how or why this record was ignored. I just know that it was a grave mistake.
7. SURPRISE: Tanya Tucker & Bon Iver
Tanya Tucker was not on the radar for many predictors, but she scooped up four nominations including Song of the Year. “Bring My Flowers Now” is a gorgeous song that definitely deserved its recognition. Kudos to the Academy on that one. On a similar note, Bon Iver’s i,i wasn’t as strong as their previous record, but it was still great because, hey, it’s Bon Iver! With four nominations, including Record and Album of the Year, this is proof that the Academy is still willing to acknowledge quality left-of-mainstream music. These were both great moments of genre diversity.
8. SNUB: Tyler, The Creator
IGOR is one of the most acclaimed albums of the year and for the Academy to completely ignore it outside of a Best Rap Album nomination sends a horrible message. Tyler pushed the boundaries of genre in a thoughtful and nuanced way. He told a story of love that was simultaneously tragic and triumphant and yet he was cast to the side. “EARFQUAKE” undoubtedly deserved a nomination for Record of the Year and the album for Album of the Year. This one is puzzling. I hope they at least book Tyler for a showstopping performance.
9. SURPRISE: Lana Del Rey
When Lana Del Rey released Norman F*****g Rockwell, her magnum opus, I knew she was a threat for the Grammys. After a decade of shaping the music landscape and delivering landmark pieces of art, Lana has finally scored her first nominations in the general field: Album of the Year and Song of the Year for the album’s title track. I highly doubt that she’ll walk home with a Grammy, but this is a big win for her and her fans.
10. SNUB: BTS, BLACKPINK, K-POP
In our Lord’s year of 2019, there is simply no justifiable way to argue against the impact of K-Pop. This year BTS broke a chart record held by The Beatles and BLACKPINK performed at Coachella and swept the People’s Choice Awards (an American awards show). The fact that K-Pop was completely ignored at this year’s Grammys is a problem. K-Pop artists are matching, and sometimes surpassing, the quality and success of Western artists. They should be recognized for that. Period.
Coming soon: Black Boy Bulletin‘s Top 75 Albums of the Decade and Grammy Winners Predictions!