×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

No Bruce Springsteen, No Sheryl Crow, No Madonna — Have Grammys Become Ageist?

Once viewed as favoring over-the-hill musicians too much, the Grammys now seem disinclined to nominate anyone over 40 at all.

For years, the Grammys fielded all-too-familiar accusations over some of the more head-scratching choices. Critics charged them with being out of touch with modern music. Exhibit A, for album of the year: They often turned that contest into a de facto lifetime achievement award, recognizing releases by acts who were in the sunset of their artistic careers, like Steely Dan and Herbie Hancock, while continually passing over deserving younger stars like Beyoncé and Kanye West.

The Recording Academy attempted to address its seemingly terminal unhipness by inviting younger and more diverse members into the voting body. That led to more in-with-the-times recent album of the year coronations like Arcade Fire, Mumford & Sons and, last February, Kacey Musgraves. But has the younger- and hipper-skewing Grammys come at the expense of veteran acts who are old enough to remember an era when vinyl was on the way out, not back in?

Some of the glaring 2020 snubs beg the question. Bruce Springsteen, 70, released one of the most acclaimed albums of the year, “Western Stars,” which was accompanied by a well-received documentary, yet the rock ‘n’ roll icon, who is batting 0 for 2 in Album of the Year, didn’t earn a single nomination. Neither did former Grammy darling Sheryl Crow, 57, who has won nine times but hasn’t been nominated since 2009, despite the fact that “Threads” will, by her account, be her last full-length studio album. Then there’s Madonna, 61, whose “Madame X” seems, by today’s youth-powered streaming standards, a commercial disappointment — though it outsold both Crow (23,000 album units to date) and Springsteen (60,000 on week one) with 101,000 album units out the gate and 141,000 total since its release, per BuzzAngle — but at least united otherwise polarized critics in noting how daring it was for a veteran artist. Shut out in any category this year, she will extend her streak of never winning in any of the four big categories.

Age is definitely more than a number when it comes to Grammy frontburner contests: Four of the lead performers in record of the year aren’t old enough to rent a car and three others were born after the ’80s. Across the board, the nominees are short on truly seasoned talent, unless you consider Ariana Grande, Bon Iver and Lana Del Rey, all of whom came to prominence this decade, to be vets. Lady Gaga, 33, managed three nods, including song of the year for the “A Star Is Born” track “Always Remember Us This Way,” but she couldn’t swing one for the overall soundtrack. Beyoncé, 38, got four nominations in secondary categories — none for the album version of her groundbreaking “Homecoming,” which couldn’t rise above the Academy’s aversion to live sets and current obsession with newly minted   talent.

For the second straight year, every album of the year nominee is under 40. Meanwhile, Billy Ray Cyrus, 57, a guest artist on Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” is the only over-40 up for record of the year, and Tanya Tucker, 61, is the only singer of a song of the year nominee who was already a star when Billie Eilish was born. These days, it’s hard to imagine fairly recent veteran album of the year winners like Robert Plant, Herbie Hancock, Ray Charles or, yes, two-time champs U2 even scoring nominations.

Alas, all is not lost for the over-40 recording crowd. Tucker, previously a 10-time nominee, could win her first Grammy, thanks to the four nominations netted by her 2019 comeback album “While I’m Livin’.” One might get the impression that her 2020 Grammy love might have a lot to do with her hip Grammy-bait producer Brandi Carlile, but country voters generally are still fairly kind to vets. Three of them  —  Willie Nelson, 86, Blake Shelton, 43, and Tucker  —  are competing for best country performance, while Tucker and Reba McEntire, 64, are both up for best country album.

And even if you’re not a little bit country, if you’re past retirement age, you can still score Grammy affection in the minor categories. At 87 (70 years older than Billie Eilish!), the legendary conductor and composer John Williams has earned his 68th and 69th nominations, best instrumental composition for “Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge Symphonic Suite” and best arrangement, instrumental or a capella, for “Hedwig’s Theme.”

Despite his extra-vintage status, he has a pretty good shot at winning for the 24th and 25th times. He probably can thank Eilish, Lizzo and Lil Nas X for staying out of his lane on the old-timer road.

More Music

  • Sheryl Crow poses in Nashville, TennMusic

    Sheryl Crow on Threading the Music Biz Needle: 'The Fact That the Album Exists is My Reward'

    Sheryl Crow is a survivor. Not only of breast cancer, a brain tumor, debilitating depression and a toxic relationship (don’t even ask about Lance Armstrong) but also the music industry. The controversy surrounding songwriting credit — not to mention two related deaths, including her ex-boyfriend and collaborator, Kevin Gilbert — linked to her Grammy-winning debut [...]

  • (center) George MacKay as Schofield in

    From "1917" to "Jojo Rabbit," Composers of Some of the Year's Top Scores Talk Shop

    “1917,” Thomas Newman The 20-year collaboration of director Sam Mendes and composer Thomas Newman has encompassed midlife crisis (“American Beauty”), crime in the Depression (“Road to Perdition”), the Gulf War (“Jarhead”), marriage in the 1950s (“Revolutionary Road”) and two James Bond adventures (“Skyfall,” “Spectre”). Now they’ve tackled World War I, with “1917,” but Mendes’ much-talked-about [...]

  • ROAD TRIP – In Disney and

    Disney Boasts a Bevy of Hopefuls for Oscar's Original Song Race

    When the Academy announces its shortlist for song nominations on Dec. 16, you can be certain that at least one Disney song will be on it and probably more. Disney songs have been nominated 33 times in the past 30 years, winning 12 of the gold statuettes. This year, the studio has at least four [...]

  • pharrell brain child show

    'Blurred Lines' Flares Up Again - Marvin Gaye Family Claims Pharrell Perjured Himself

    Like a zombie that just won’t stay dead, the “Blurred Lines” case keeps coming back. While the 2015 verdict, in which Pharrell Williams, Robin Thicke and the song’s publisher were ordered to pay nearly $5 million to Marvin Gaye’s family for infringing upon the late singer’s 1977 hit “Got to Give It Up,” was basically [...]

  • Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    Innovative Scores Elevated the Year's Documentaries

    It’s next to impossible for a documentary score to be Oscar-nominated alongside the dozens of fictional narratives entered each year. But it did happen, just once: In 1975, composer Gerald Fried was nominated for his music for “Birds Do It, Bees Do It,” a documentary on the mating habits of animals. Fried, now 91, perhaps [...]

  • Liam Payne "LP1"

    Liam Payne's 'LP1': Album Review

    If you’re a collective One Direction optimist — in the maybe-it-really-is-a-hiatus sense — you could imagine that the current flurry of individual records (and the summer 2020 tours to follow) mean they’re all getting their solo stuff out of their systems to clear the palette for a reunion in the distant future. But from the look [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content