Grammy snubs and surprises: New artists reign supreme, K-pop falls short

With the shift toward more young talent, this year's awards push aside some superstars and established acts, sparking outrage from fans.

This year's awards push aside established names and superstars as the focus shifts to new talent

Lizzo, seen performing in Los Angeles in October, received eight nominations for the 62nd Grammy Awards, the most of any artist this year. (Emma McIntyre/Getty Images)

The 62nd Grammy Awards nominations opened with a pronouncement — and what could be seen as a warning.

"What happens this year on the Grammys stage will be unexpected and unapologetically authentic," Recording Academy president and CEO Deborah Dugan declared Wednesday morning.

"I hope this year's awards will inspire you, will challenge you, and maybe change the way you think and the way you feel."

In many ways, the nominations did challenge convention. Though the top four categories — album of the year, song of the year, record of the year and best new artist — were similar to last year in that they are populated by women as well as hip-hop and R&B artists, this time around there was an increased focus on new talent.

The best new artist category, for instance, has been expanded from five to eight nominees.

And the leading three contenders —  Lizzo, Lil Nas X and Billie Eilish — are nominated not just in that category but also for album of the year and record of the year. 

Lizzo was the major surprise of Wednesday's announcement, dominating the list with a whopping eight nominations. On Twitter, the pop and R&B singer responded with a simple all-caps message of gratitude.

Billie Eilish, who matched Lil Nas X with six nods, also set a new record: At 17, she is the youngest artist in history to be nominated for all four top categories in the same year.

Lil Nas X was passed over for song of the year consideration, and his ubiquitous track Old Town Road did not get any nods in country-specific categories. 

The record-setting tune and viral sensation was controversially removed from Billboard's country charts earlier this year, despite Lil Nas X specifically categorizing it a country track. 

Canadian Jessie Reyez was also among the up-and-coming young artists honoured, receiving a best urban contemporary album nomination for her Being Human in Public. It's the Toronto singer-songwriter's first ever Grammy nomination, despite the huge success of her 2016 song Figures.

Reyez posted a tearful reaction video to Instagram a few hours later, as family members recorded her discovering the news.

Other big successes were the five nominations for Gabriella Wilson, known professionally as H.E.R. This is a repeat performance for the 22-year-old singer, who was also up for five awards at the last Grammys, making her the only artist to receive five nominations in both of those years. 

Established, big-name artists sidelined

Canadian hip-hop star Drake was also recognized, but perhaps not in the way fans might expect.

The rapper, who has been famously critical of the awards, had two album releases in 2019, but his pair of nominations came from performances on other artists' songs. He's among the collaborators on Chris Brown's No Guidance and Rick Ross's Gold Roses, nominated for best R&B song and best rap song, respectively.

Drake previously garnered seven nominations for the 2019 Grammys and eight nods in 2017. He did not submit his album More Life for the 2018 awards.

This composite image shows, from left, Bruce Springsteen, Beyoncé, Shawn Mendes and Taylor Swift. This year's Grammy picks snubbed or sidelined a host of established stars in favour of a widening field of newcomers. (The Associated Press)

Overall, the academy's picks have pushed aside established and historically high-earning acts in favour of a widening field of newcomers — a decision many music fans aren't happy with.

An eye-opening snub was Bruce Springsteen, who received no nominations even though he released two eligible albums. Meanwhile, chart-topping Canadian Shawn Mendes, whose Señorita was favoured for a record of the year nomination, only received a nomination for pop duo or group performance.

And then there's Taylor Swift.

She received nominations for song of the year, best pop solo performance and best pop vocal album, but was not acknowledged for record of the year or best album. 

The 10-time Grammy winner's popularity with the academy has waned recently. Though Swift became the first female artist ever to win album of the year in consecutive years (2015 and 2016), she garnered only one nomination last year.

She had been expected to make a stronger showing this year.

Beyoncé was also shut out of the major field categories. Her nominations on Wednesday came mostly for The Lion King: The Gift, her soundtrack for the live-action remake of The Lion King. That project earned a nomination for best pop vocal album, while her track Spirit is up for best pop solo performance and best song written for visual media.

She was also nominated for best musical film for her Homecoming documentary. 

Perhaps the most notable snub of the morning, though, was the exclusion of K-pop stars BTS.

The group, which is riding a swell of popularity, received no nominations, despite Dugan's assurance that this year's awards will "embrace music makers from all genres."

The group's fans — who refer to themselves as the BTS ARMY — were outspoken online about their disappointment.

Many were quick to point out that the seven-member band is hugely popular in North America, outsold Beyoncé's Homecoming by a wide margin, and saw their 2019 album Map of the Soul: Persona debut at number one on the Billboard 200 chart — the band's third album to do so in less than 12 months.

The 62nd annual Grammy Awards will take place at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 26, with the ceremony broadcast live on CBS and streamed live at grammy.com. 


Jackson Weaver is a senior writer for CBC Entertainment News. You can reach him at jackson.weaver@cbc.ca, or follow him on Twitter at @jacksonwweaver


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