Who imagined they’d wake up to a Grammy morning in 2019 where Tanya Tucker has more nominations than Taylor Swift? Where Bruce Springsteen’s most acclaimed album since “The Rising” gets zero nominations, but a far less publicized release by Bon Iver is up for both album and record of the year? Where the Jonas Brothers, Maren Morris and Tyer, the Creator are all limited to one minor nomination each, but H.E.R. has racked up five, for the second year in a row?
The Grammy nominations have once again proven worthy of all the gasps of surprised elation or distress we can give them. Some of the things that made you go hmmm:
SNUB: Taylor Swift gets just three nods
Swift, a two-time album of the year winner (as recently as “1989”), fell from grace with the Grammys with her last album, “Reputation,” which only got one minor nomination. That she got three this year for “Lover” could be seen as an uptick from that, but it’s not much of one for a project that was expected to compete in all the top categories. She got a song of the year nod for the title track, but was shut out of album and record of the year, somewhat inexplicably on a project even those who were left a little cold by “Reputation” seemed to love. It’s mindboggling to wonder what it’ll take for Swift and the Grammys to ever, ever get back together in a major way.
SURPRISE: Bon Iver is big-time in two out of three top categories
The group’s “I,I” peaked at No. 26 on the album chart and hasn’t been any kind of major force in the critical year-end rankings so far. Yet you’d think they were the band of the moment from their Grammy showing in the top categories. “I,I” is up for album of the year, to the shock of every prognosticator, none of whom had it on their radar. That same shock goes for “Hey, Ma” contending for record of the year. (The album is also up for best alternative music album, and there’s an additional nod, not going to the band itself, for best recording package.) Somebody up there on a Grammy committee really likes them.
SNUB: Maren Morris almost gets shut out of the country categories, let alone the top ones
According to virtually every forecaster, the country star was a shoo-in for an album of the year nod for her sophomore album, “Girl” — which just won that at the CMA Awards last week — and possibly record and song of the year for the title song, which was a rare No. 1 for a woman in the country format. The Grammys didn’t much care about whether Morris was killing it against the odds in her genre, though. Stunningly, she got just one mention, for her duet with Brandi Carlile, “Common,” as best country duo/group performance.
SURPRISE: Tanya Tucker faces a new Grammy dawn with four nominations
Obviously, hooking up with Carlile (see Morris, above) is a fast track to success with Grammy committees. Tucker was expected to be a contender in the country categories with her Carlile-coproduced and –cowritten album, “While I’m Livin’,” and she was, with three nominations in the genre categories. But the shock was in the song “Bring Me My Flowers” getting a nomination in the all-genre song of the year category (with credit shared between Tucker, Carlile and Brandi’s band members Tim and Phil Hanseroth). In the over-40 category, where Grammy nominations are increasingly rare, Tucker is the belle of this year’s ball.
SNUB: Bruce Springsteen’s “Western Stars” meets an empty sky
Springsteen hasn’t been as well reviewed since 2002’s “The Rising,” and he even had a movie version of the album in theaters recently. But Jimmy Webb-esque departure from form or not, the Grammy committees didn’t want to know about it. He last won a Grammy in 2010.
SURPRISE: The Grammy nominations are H.E.R.’s to lose… again
Last year, H.E.R. was one of the big Grammy shocks with five nods. There was no reason to expect a rerun of that this year, because that’s the kind of multi-nom coronation that the Grammys usually only hand out to a young artist once — plus, her follow-up album this year, “I Used to Know Her,” peaked at No. 86. But from the way she picked up five for the second year in a row, including a rare trifecta in the top album, record and song categories, you’d think she was one of the blockbuster artists of our time. If the Grammys have their way, she’ll become one yet.
SNUB: Rock bands you’ve heard of
The Black Keys and Raconteurs may have both had their latest albums top the sales chart upon release — and the former act is selling out arenas — but neither got a single nod. And Springsteen, as previously noted, or other veteran rockers like Sheryl Crow? Forget about it. Tool and the 1975 did at least sneak in there with one nomination each. Vampire Weekend was the only rock act of any renown the Grammys had any real love for, getting a nomination for album of the year as well as showing up in the alternative category. The Keys’ Auerbach also got a nod for producer of the year for his work on a multitude of projects and shared in some of his client Yola’s nominations as producer/co-writer. But the Grammys’ interest in big-name, non-niche rock clearly continues to wane.
SURPRISE: Rock bands you’ve never heard of
As always in recent years, the rock categories are filled with niche, non-household names, with Rival Sons picking up both best rock album and best rock performance nods, and additional nominations for groups like Bones UK and I Prevail. For best new artist, Black Pumas, an Austin group, shocked everyone with a nod, but they didn’t get any nominations anywhere else, including in the rock categories.
SNUB: Maggie Rogers and Lewis Capaldi fail to become Grammy darlings, yet
Big things in the top categories as well as pop divisions were predicted for both these hot newcomers. But Capaldi, who’s currently enjoying his third week at the top of the charts, got just one nod, for song of the year; he may have peaked too early. That’s not the case with Rogers, who has been around all year but didn’t get anything beyond best new artist. At least they fared better than Summer Walker, who got nothing (her album came out too late, but singles were eligible), as did Megan Thee Stallion.
SURPRISE: Yola gets four nominatons
Yola fared much better than freshman frontrunners like Capaldi and Rogers. Not only did she make it into the best new artist category, but her “Faraway Look” single and “Walk Through Fire” album picked up an additional three nominations in American roots and Americana categories (never mind that she’s British). Dan Auerbach produced her, so at least he got some nods here, even if the Black Keys themselves came up short. Look for Yola to get as big an instant boost as anybody from this set of nominations.
SNUB: Beyonce’s “Homecoming” finds little home at the Grammys
Sure, live albums are always a long shot, but this was Beyonce, so it seemed like shed at least get a few nods for the companion album to her celebrated Netflix special. The album got nothing, though; the documentary is at least contending for best music film.
SURPRISE: Beyonce’s “Lion King” album finds some fans after all
But wait, the Grammys weren’t going to snub Beyonce that thoroughly, when they had another go-to for her. There didn’t seem to be much love for the movie companion album she curated, “The Lion King: The Gift,” when it came out and almost instantly disappeared. But it turns out Grammy committee members, perhaps uniquely, liked it better than “Homecoming.” “Spirit” picked up nods for best pop solo performance and best song written for visual media, and the compliation is up for best pop vocal album.
SNUB: The Grammys are no suckers for “Sucker”
What are the Grammys made for if not to reward a ubiquitous pop smash like the Jonas Brothers’ comeback that, even all these months of overexposure later, no one seems to hate? The answer is: They were made for something else, apparently. “Sucker” and the Jonases in general were limited to one minor pop-genre nomination.
SURPRISE: Grammys decide Lil Nas X looks like at least a X-hit, not a one-hit, wonder
It was inevitable that the biggest record of the year would get in for something, but there was still a suspicion that the Grammys would be suspicious about a 20-year-old who hasn’t even released a full album yet. Yet they gave his not-quite-full album, the seven-song EP “7,” a nod in the most prestigious category, album of the year, as well as a slew of nominations for “Old Town Road” and its follow-up “Panini.”
SNUB: Tyler, the Creator… and other hip-hop that is not Lil Nas X or Post Malone
Tyler, the Creator was considered a good bet to be up for album of the year, in what was figured to be a token slot for hip-hop more serious than Lil Nas’s or Posty’s. But if there is such a slot, the Grammys left it empty, and relegated Tyler to one rap nomination.
SURPRISE: No hard feelings, Ariana Grande
It’s not that surprising, really, that Grande would rack up some nominations after the year she had, but there was a suspicion, among the public if not so much the music industry, that the Grammy committees would hold her squabble with the telecast’s producers last year against her. That didn’t happen, and maybe the only thing that wasn’t a given was how far the Recording Academy might go in proving that it’s still cool, as a group, with Ariana, by awarding her five slots. Significantly, she’s up for two of the top three categories — album (“Thank U, Next”) and record (“7 Rings”), after being denied for a nomination in either of those last year, when she had to settle for two minor nods. It was feeling like a kiss-and-make-up year even before this solid showing.
SNUB: Most of the other big names in pop, really, starting with Ed Sheeran and Halsey
The Grammys also might be considered to owe Sheeran one after what some would consider a criminal underrepresentation for “Shape of You” and “Divide.” Unfortunately, his recent duets album wasn’t really the obvious smash that called for the Grammys to make good on previous slights. He got a lone nod this year for “No.6 Collaborations Project.” Shawn Mendes also got just one, for his duet with Camila Cabello, “Señorita.” But here are some major leaguers who got zero: Halsey, Madonna, BTS, Pink, Mariah Carey, Juice WRLD, Kane Brown and Sam Smith (with Normani).