The Grammy Nominations Are Out and I’m Upset

The Recording Academy has really outdone itself this year on being corrupt and out of touch



Flo Milli and The Weeknd were two of the artists snubbed in this year’s Grammy nominations.


On Tuesday, Nov. 24, the Recording Academy announced the nominations for the 2021 Grammy Awards. Every single year, the nominations seem to get worse and worse as the Academy continues to fail to fully reflect popular or high-quality songs. The rules of eligibility for a nomination seem to change on a whim so that the Academy can insert whomever it wants in whatever category they want. The ceremony will be on Jan. 1, 2021.  

Unlike the film industry, which was hit very hard by the pandemic, the music industry has not been affected nearly as much. Many artists seemed to actually flourish with their additional free time to write and record music. Taylor Swift found the time to make “Folklore,” and Spillage Village were unexpectedly able to come together to record “Spilligion.” 

Record of the Year

First up is the Record of the Year category. Nominees include “Black Parade” by Beyoncé, “Colors” by Black Pumas, “Rockstar” by DaBaby, “Say So” by Doja Cat, “Everything I Wanted” by Billie Eilish, “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa, “Circles” by Post Malone and “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion.

This category is usually dominated by whatever was commercially popular, so I am less upset with this category than others. I would like to see Doja Cat win for “Say So,” one of my favorite singles of 2019. The song is funky, infectious and easy to dance to.

Something that rubs me the wrong way in this category is the inclusion of “Colors” by Black Pumas. My criticism of the nomination has nothing to do with the quality of the song but rather with the fact that it was released in April of 2019. The Grammy eligibility period is between Sept. 1, 2019, and Aug. 31, 2020. The album the record is on did come out in 2020, but I feel that it’s wrong to pick a song technically outside of the eligible period when so many incredible records inside the eligibility period were left out, primarily the Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights.” 

Album of the Year

The nominees in the Album of the Year Category are “Chilombo” by Jhené Aiko, “Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition)” by Black Pumas, “Everyday Life” by Coldplay, “Djesse Vol. 3” by Jacob Collier, “Women in Music Pt. III” by HAIM, “Future Nostalgia” by Dua Lipa, “Hollywood’s Bleeding” by Post Malone and “Folklore” by Taylor Swift.

Of all these albums, I think that “Djesse Vol. 3” by Jacob Collier should win. His album was creative and imaginative and Collier has more musical talent in his pinky finger than most of the other nominees. (This is not meant to be an insult to the other nominees, but rather a testament to the incredibly gifted, multi-instrument musician that Collier is.)

The Weeknd was ignored not only in this category but also frankly in the entire competition.

I’m far more outraged by what was not included in this category than what is. While there are half a dozen albums I would personally like to see in this category, the obvious snubs to me are Fiona Apple’s “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” and The Weeknd’s “After Hours.” Fiona Apple’s album was loved by fans and critics alike; the album was the first perfect 10 that Pitchfork has given out since Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” in 2010. Many picked “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” to win the category, so I, like them, was shocked that it wasn’t even included.

The Weeknd was ignored not only in this category but also frankly in the entire competition. His album “After Hours” was well-received by critics and loved by fans. The lead single “Blinding Lights” set a new record for consecutive weeks at the top of the Billboard Radio Songs Chart. The Weeknd should probably have the most nominations of any artist, and, instead, was left with none.

After the announcement, The Weeknd took to both Twitter and Instagram, saying, “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.” Though it is not confirmed, reports suggest that The Weeknd was given an ultimatum between performing at the Super Bowl and performing at the Grammys, and though the Academy ultimately agreed to him doing both, that decision might have cost him Grammy nominations. 

Best New Artist

The last category in the General Field I will touch on is the award for Best New Artist. The nominees are Ingrid Andress, Phoebe Bridgers, Chika, Noah Cyrus, D Smoke, Doja Cat, KAYTRANADA and Megan Thee Stallion

I have always been bothered by this category because the only eligibility requirement for this category is that the nominee has never received a nomination before. This causes the Academy to nominate artists who’ve been releasing music for years, like most of these nominees, when they could use the category to shed light on really brilliant young artists. 

Of all the nominees, I’d like to see D Smoke win because his discography is actually young, but the award will almost certainly go to someone like Doja Cat or Megan Thee Stallion. Though Megan Thee Stallion has a lot of music from before this year, I would not be too upset if she took this prize because of the stellar year she’s had. 

If I could add any nominee to the list, I would suggest Flo Milli. Her debut album “Ho, why is you here?” was one of the best trap albums of the year, and at only 20 years old with almost all of her music coming out in 2020, she would have been the perfect candidate for the award.

Best Dance Recording 

One of the most competitive categories this year is the Best Dance Recording category. The nominees are “On My Mind” by Diplo and SIDEPIECE, “My High” by Disclosure, “The Difference” by Flume, “Both of Us” by Jayda G, and “10%” by KAYTRANADA.

All the nominees are incredibly strong, and I would not be upset with any of them winning. They’re all explosive and innovative songs from electronic artists who continue to evolve with every project. 

That said, my personal favorite would have to be “My High” by Disclosure with features from Slowthai and Aminé. The chorus is infectious, and it’s the kind of song that makes you add a little swagger to your step. Also, the features give it a diversity that the other songs lack. I really wish that J Rick’s “Me & You” was nominated, but I suspect the British producer is not yet big enough for Grammy attention. 

Best Rock Performance

People were excited to point out that all of the nominations are women for the first time ever, but none of the nominations are rock songs!

The nominees for Best Rock Song are “Shameika” by Fiona Apple, “Not” by Big Thief, “Kyoto” by Phoebe Bridgers, “The Steps” by HAIM, “Stay High” by Brittany Howard and “Daylight” by Grace Potter. 

People were excited to point out that all of the nominations are women for the first time ever, but none of the nominations are rock songs! Phoebe Bridgers’ “Punisher” is my favorite album of the year, but it is definitely not a rock album. Phoebe Bridgers, Fiona Apple and Brittany Howard’s albums are all nominated in the alternative category. If they wanted to put an actual rock song in this category, Yves Tumor’s “Kerosine!” should have gotten a nomination.

I think this is just a reflection of the fact that rock, at least how we know it, is dying. This became painfully obvious to me when the top three rock songs of the decade were by Imagine Dragons. I think we need to step back and question what the genre of rock really is. If every rock performance nominee is going to be from an alternative album, should there even be a category for Best Alternative Album?

Best Rap Album

The nominees for Best Rap Album this year are “Black Habits” by D Smoke, “Alfredo” by Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist, “A Written Testimony” by Jay Electronica, “King’s Disease” by Nas, and “The Allegory” by Royce Da 5’9”.

I think that this year’s nominees are some of the weakest in years; however, when I look at rap as a whole this year, few projects really stand out to me compared to the past. I would personally replace “King’s Disease” and “The Allegory” with “Eternal Atake (Deluxe) – LUV vs. The World 2” by Lil Uzi Vert and “Insomnia” by Skepta, Young Adz and Chip. Three rappers from three generations of British hip-hop came together to create the best trap album of the year. I don’t think anyone but Sketpa could pioneer an album like this. 

Since I didn’t get to pick the nominations, I am torn between “Alfredo” and “A Written Testimony.” While “Alfredo” has some good tracks, the entire album is weak compared to Freddie Gibbs’ past efforts. “A Written Testimony” has the opposite problem; there is a lot of good rapping but not many good songs in my opinion.

Best Music Video 

It’s the kind of video you watch and wonder: First, how the hell did they come up with this idea? And second, how the hell did they actually film this?

I am a huge fan of music videos and think they’re incredibly underutilized by most artists. Unfortunately, nine out of 10 music videos are meaningless, thrown-together productions that the labels use to get more money out of songs. However, a good music video can enhance a song instead of diluting it.

The nominees this year are “Brown Skin Girl” by Beyoncé, directed by Beyoncé and Jenn Nkiru; “Life Is Good” by Future feat. Drake, directed by Julien Christian Lutz (better known as Director X); “Lockdown” by Anderson .Paak, directed by Dave Meyers; “Adore You” by Harry Styles, directed by Dave Meyers; and “Goliath” by Woodkid, directed by Yoann Lemoine.

I think the music videos for “Life Is Good” and “Adore You” are significantly worse than the other nominees. The “Life Is Good” music video mostly sees Drake and Future working normal jobs like being a trashman or a fast-food server, which feels out of touch. While I am usually a huge admirer of Dave Meyers’ work, the color grading in “Adore You” had me turning up my brightness the entire time just to realize that wasn’t the problem. 

I really would have liked to have seen the music videos for “You’re Too Precious” by James Blake, directed by Orfeo Tagiuri, and “Ready to Eat” by SahBabii, directed by Bobby Lee Palmer and Jabari Flemings, receive nominations. “You’re Too Precious” would have added a brilliant, animated entry to the list among live-action videos, and I think that “Ready to Eat” is a great example of less-is-more with a simple yet well-done video.

I think the award will end up going to “Brown Skin Girl,” because it’s Beyoncé. I won’t be upset because the video is gorgeous and well-edited, and it features WizKid, whom I adore. However, if it were up to me, “Goliath” would take home the award. Though I am not at all familiar with the work of Woodkid or Yoann Lemoine, this video is incredible. It’s the kind of video you watch and wonder: First, how the hell did they come up with this idea? And second, how the hell did they actually film this? 

Final Thoughts

If commercial and critical success is not enough to even get an artist nominated for a Grammy, that begs the question, what does it actually take?

While I have never seen the Grammy wins or nominations as properly reflective of a piece of music’s quality, I think the Recording Academy has shown a dramatic decline in overall soundness of judgment year after year. While snubs are inevitable, the fact that The Weeknd received absolutely zero nominations should be alarming to fans of the Grammys.

If commercial and critical success is not enough to even get an artist nominated for a Grammy, that begs the question, what does it actually take? The Academy voting body is made up of music creators, including artists, engineers, producers and songwriters. With multiple music creators, including Sir Elton John, calling out the Academy, it makes you wonder why the Academy’s music creators feel so different.  

Here’s my best piece of advice for anyone (like me) still trying to cling to this stupid awards show: Watch the Grammys for the performances, not the awards.