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Photo of Billie Eilish. // Photo courtesy of Alberto E. Rodriguez/Recording Academy.

Most obvious snubs from the 63rd annual Grammy awards

By Sarah Chung, January 21 2021—

The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards nominations sent shockwaves through some music fans.

Some well-deserved and first-time nominations were announced for some of our favourite artists, but alas, all award shows are bound to ignore or completely snub other deserving artists. Despite the Recording Academy’s Harvey Mason Jr. statement that this year’s nominees “reflect diversity of race, gender, age, region and music genre” in the nominations, here are the top five biggest snubs for the 2021 GRAMMYs that contradict his claim.

The Weeknd — Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year

I mean, are you really surprised? Canadian singer-songwriter Abel Tesfaye had a great run this year, making his official leap from R&B to pop after releasing After Hours in March 2020. As of December 2020, Tesfaye’s hit single Blinding Lights has broken the Billboard Hot 100 record for spending 52 weeks in the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition to Blinding Lights being snubbed for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, the no. 1 album After Hours was also snubbed for Album of the Year. I don’t think I’ve ever gone one day without hearing Blinding Lights on the radio, so The Weeknd being snubbed for one quarter of the Big Four really just feels like grand larceny.

Music video for the song “Blinding Lights.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

Rina Sawayama — Best New Artist, Album of the Year

Japanese-British pop singer Rina Sawayama also had a great run this year, debuting her self-titled album SAWAYAMA and receiving critical acclaim, sitting at 89 per cent on Metacritic, which is even higher than some of the Album of the Year nominations. SAWAYAMA is one of those rare debut albums that is refreshing from its honest lyrics to well-crafted composition and shows that Sawayama herself isn’t afraid to break the boundaries between musical genres. To add onto her impressive resume is praise from Sir Elton John himself, naming SAWAYAMA as one of his favourite albums of the year. And although Sawayama isn’t a new artist by any means — being an ex-group member of hip hop group Lazy Lion before her solo singles — neither were some of the previous Best New Artist winners.

Video for the full album SAWAYAMA. // Video courtesy of YouTube.


BTS — Best Pop Vocal Album 

I believe it’s quite easy to underestimate BTS and brush them off as another bubblegum pop boy band, but one of the reasons why BTS is successful is because of how they break industry norms and advocate for kindness, diversity and self-love. These values of loving others and loving yourself are ingrained in all of their music, not to mention how three of the seven members started off as underground artists and that all seven have unique visions to share with their fans. Although BTS might’ve broken records for being the first K-pop group to be nominated for a Grammy, snagging Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for Dynamite, it’s certainly saying something that the Academy overlooked their critically acclaimed album Map of the Soul: 7 for their first fully English song. 

Video for the full album Map of the Soul: 7. // Video courtesy of YouTube.

Women in R&B — Kehlani, Summer Walker, Jessie Reyez, Victoria Monét, JoJo

2020 was the year for celebrating and recognizing female R&B artists, who arguably snatched the limelight. For starters, Beyoncé leads the pack with nine nominations total, Jhené Aiko notably snagged three nominations, and newcomers Chloe x Halle got their recognition as well. Given the fact that the Recording Academy’s motto for 2020 is to recognize artistry across gender, it’s staggering how they also managed to overlook some of the most noteworthy and memorable works from female R&B artists. Kehlani has been snubbed in the past and should’ve received some recognition for her most vulnerable work thus far, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. Another artist whose personal and artistic growth is worth noting is former teen R&B-Pop star JoJo for Good to Know. Summer Walker also had a fantastic year with Over It, receiving critical acclaim for her debut album and becoming the first female R&B artist to get the biggest streaming week ever. Other works that received widespread critical acclaim and zero nominations are Victoria Monét’s Jaguar and Jessie Reyezs’ BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US. 

Pop Smoke, Juice WRLD, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Baby and Roddy Rich

In my own opinion, I think that if the Recording Academy can base some of its nominees on commercial success or popularity, then it can also recognize some of the most successful works to come from a year defined by Black empowerment, excellence and artistry. If this year’s nominees are supposed to reflect diversity of race and genre, then how were the posthumous works produced by Pop Smoke and Juice WRLD overlooked as well as Lil Uzi Vert’s highly anticipated album Eternal Atake, Lil Baby’s My Turn and Roddy Rich’s Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial?

Honorable mentions:

And finally, here’s a quick rundown of honorable mentions that were also snubbed by the 63rd Annual Grammys. 

Fiona Apple – Album of the Year for Fetch the Bolt Cutters 

This one isn’t really a huge snub considering how Fiona Apple already has three nominations for Best Alternative Album, Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song. But her album Fetch the Bolt Cutters is the highest rated album of 2020, sitting at a 98 per cent on Metacritic, and yet isn’t nominated for Album of the Year. 

BENEE – Best New Artist, Best Pop Solo Performance for Supalonely 

Gen Z and anyone on TikTok might remember New Zealand singer BENEE’s Supalonely reaching peak popularity on social media during the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020. BENEE’s hit breakup song being synonymous with whipped coffee and lockdown existential crises doesn’t take away from her talented lyricism and sunny pop vision. 

Niall Horan – Best Pop Vocal Album for Heartbreak Weather

Maybe this is just wishful thinking from an ex-Directioner, but you can’t deny that Niall Horan’s musical artistry has matured since his pop boyband days. If Yummy and Changes by Justin Bieber can be nominated, then anything is possible. 

Music video for the song “Heartbreak Weather.” // Video courtesy of YouTube.

Joji – Best New Artist

Going back to how the Grammys recognizes artistry across genres, it’s appalling how lo-fi and R&B artist Joji has never been recognized by the Recording Academy for his previous works or his latest 2020 release, Nectar. 

Video for the full album Nectar. // Video courtesy of YouTube.

Tove Lo – Best Alternative Album for Sunshine Kitty 

Swedish pop singer Tove Lo has gotten nominations in the past and is most known for her 2014 debut electro-pop album Queen of the Clouds (Habits was my go-to maladaptive daydreaming song). Her latest release, Sunshine Kitty, is proof of growth with her bold experimentation across sounds and collaborations with new artists. 

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