October 21, 2021

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Grammy Nomination Review Committees Ending: Burning Questions

We can probably expect fewer shockeroos — both in terms of omitting records that met all the usual criteria and still weren’t nominated and including records that had barely registered.

This past year, The Weeknd’s failure to receive a single nomination made the most headlines, but nearly as surprising was Harry Styles’ failure to land a nomination in any of the Big Three categories: album, record and song of the year.

For most of Grammy history, The Weeknd and Styles would have been automatic Grammy nominees in the top categories — not just because they had huge commercial success, but also because they made great records that represented a meaningful advance in their careers. They did everything right, and still didn’t get nominated (in the top categories, in Styles’ case).

Meanwhile, two of the album of the year nominees barely made a blip on the Billboard 200. Black Pumas’ Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition) peaked at No. 200 by the time of the nominations (it got as high as No. 86 after the awards). Jacob Collier’s Djesse Vol. 3 didn’t chart at all.

The committee seemed to see its mission, at least in part, as championing new and worthy artists. That’s not unreasonable. Everyone who had the slightest interest in popular music had heard The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” countless times. You can picture some committee members saying: “Why not give that slot instead to a quality act that could really use the boost?”

The counter-argument is that isn’t the Grammys’ primary role — to break an artist or play “tastemaker.” When you have multiple agendas, your central purpose can get muddled.

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