Every year, the nominations for the Grammy Awards are met with varying degrees of surprise, exhilaration, outrage and boredom — and with dozens of categories, they can be a roller-coaster ride between all of the above. But this year’s nominations contained a few more surprises than in years past — here are seven of the biggest ones:
*The big look for Jay-Z’s “4:44”
Looking over our predictions and those of others, most seemed to treat Jay’s 13th studio album as an outlier contender — even though his albums always sell well and he’s a formidable force on tour and in culture, it’s hard to imagine anyone saying of 2017, “This is Jay-Z’s year!” But there’s no question that not only is “4:44” the veteran MC’s best and freshest album in years, it also found him achieving another first: It might be the first-ever album from the perspective of a nearly 48-year-old family man who also happens to be a world-famous rapper.
*Childish Gambino’s five nods
As Glassnote label chief Daniel Glass told Variety earlier this month, Childish Gambino’s “Awaken My Love” album came with a laundry list of challenges: It’s an album made by a very in-demand actor who was working on an award-winning TV series (“Atlanta”) and a multimillion-dollar film (“Star Wars”) in the months leading up to and following his album’s release — add to that, Childish Gambino is known as a rapper, and this album features no rapping. Yet the label dug in its heels and worked the album hard, and it paid off with not just a left-field radio hit with “Redbone,” but also an impressive five Grammy nods — the biggest look for an indie since Arcade Fire’s “Suburbs,” which won album of the year in 2011.
*Harry Styles shut out
Many prognosticators expected a big look for the One Direction heartthrob, and his debut solo album’s deft fusion of vintage and contemporary sounds — it was helmed by 2016 Grammy Producer of the Year Jeff Bhasker — won over critics and seemed like catnip to Grammy voters of a certain age. He’s also doing great numbers on his current tour and the album has spawned hits with the title track and “Two Ghosts” — but surprisingly, the album received no Grammy nods.
*Ed Sheeran gets just two nominations
Many of those same prognosticators predicted that the 2018 Grammys would be a two-man race between Kendrick Lamar and Ed Sheeran — and while Lamar scored some seven noms, Sheeran got a relatively paltry two, both in the pop category. Ours is not to reason why, but it does seem like a low turnout for the biggest album from one of pop’s biggest artists.
*Big look for Lorde’s “Melodrama” / No producer of the year nod for Jack Antonoff
Critics raved over the New Zealand thrush’s sophomore effort, co-written and produced by Antonoff, yet it failed to yield a hit and did not sell in earth-shattering quantities (something that a Grammy Album of the Year nomination usually ameliorates). Unusually for an Album of the Year candidate, it has garnered no other nominations — not even in the Alternative categories. And while Antonoff has been the hardest-working man in show business over the past 18 or so months — he released his own Bleachers album, coproduced entire albums for Lorde and St. Vincent, as well as multiple tracks for Taylor Swift and Pink — he’s only getting nods for Lorde’s album and for the soundtrack song with Zayn and Swift. However, that may have more to do with several of his efforts being released after the deadline.
*No nods for Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” songs
Last time around, Swift managed to straddle the eligibility deadline by releasing advance music from her forthcoming album (thus qualifying for the 2018 awards) while releasing the album after the 2018 deadline, thus potentially winning big in two consecutive years. While that can still happen with her nods for “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” her duet with Zayn Malik from “50 Shades Darker,” and “Better Man,” the song she wrote for Little Big Town, the two songs she released from her latest album, “Reputation,” are not in the running.
*Best Spoken-Word Album Nomination for Bernie Sanders
Any Grammy voters still seething that Bernie didn’t get the Democratic nomination — and we know you’re out there, we still see your Tweets, a year later — here’s your consolation prize …
Here’s the full list of 2018 Grammy nominations.