The Truth Behind the Biggest 2020 Grammy Snubs

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Taylor Swift wasn’t ignored, but is this any way to treat a Lover?

Though the 2020 Grammy Award nominations presented an inspiring array of industry veterans and newcomers—Ariana Grande! Lana Del ReyLizzo! Billie Eilish! Lil Nas X!—in the top categories, as always there just wasn’t enough space to please everybody.

Or, in some cases, do all of the deserving work justice.

For instance, though Lover is up for Best Pop Vocal Album, the title track is nominated for the prestigious Song of the Year and “You Need to Calm Down” is up for Best Pop Solo Performance, those three nominations weren’t enough for fans who swooned over what was arguably Taylor’s best work in years and represented a significant shift in style for the artist.

However, if she does win Song of the Year, Swift—who was just feted at the Sundance Film Festival for the premiere of her hotly anticipated Netflix documentary Miss Americana—will be the first solo writer to win in the category since Amy Winehouse in 2008. (All of the other nominated songs have at least two and as many as five credited writers.)

Ironically, Swifties can commiserate with the Katy Kats, who feel they haven’t had their due in years, and the streak continues with no recognition for Katy Perry‘s summer 2019 single “Never Really Over” (we’re actually partial to the similarly overlooked “Small Talk”).

For the record, to be considered for this year’s ceremony, work had to be released between Oct. 1, 2018, and Aug. 31, 2019.

But don’t even get the BTS army started, as the globally obsessed-over K-Pop band was once again nominationless, even though, as “Precious shadow” pointed out on Twitter, “Someone tell me how bts, didnt get any Grammy nominations…like map of the soul persona sold over 4 million copies, A MINI album , had the most views for their music video, [had] more impact that a majority of artists this year..”

To qualify for Album of the Year consideration, the work must have at least five original songs, which Map of the Soul: Persona does (it has seven!), but it’s considered an EP and, though it did indeed sell 3.2 million units in a month to make it the best-selling album in South Korea in 24 years, it just didn’t stack up against the likes of the 14-track Cuz I Love You (Deluxe) by Lizzo or Ariana Grande‘s 12-song Thank U, Next.

It was more surprising that their collaboration with Halsey, “Boy With Luv,” didn’t get a Best Pop Duo/Group Performance nod—but as it turned out, Halsey and her No. 1 hit “Without Me” were also thoroughly snubbed.

After BTS fans were similarly bothered last year for the across-the-board snubbing, the Recording Academy did extend an invitation to the group members to join their ranks. And the lads, who presented last year, harbor no hard feelings—they’ll be making their Grammys performance debut on Sunday with Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus and Diplo.


Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Dick Clark Productions

Coincidentally, they’ll be the first Korean group to ever perform at the Grammys—in the same year that Bong Joon-Ho‘s Parasite has become the first Korean film to be nominated for the Best International Feature Film Oscar, let alone Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. 

And despite the deserving stars of Parasite not earning any acting nominations from the Academy, last weekend the film made history by winning Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Motion Picture at the 2020 SAG Awards, the first-ever foreign-language film to take that prize.

So, it goes to show that the opening of doors and paving of ways has always been frustratingly slow-going, but the industry gatekeepers are at least attempting to open those gates wider. As BTS fans who rationalized that they’re the real arbiters of how successful the group is pointed out, any awards that are based on fan votes—they’ve got this.

Also a little confusing to fans was Tyler, the Creator‘s one nomination, Best Rap Album, for Igor—which debuted at No. 1 and was a critical darling. And, according to some, is barely a rap album, but rather falls more on the R&B side of genre and, regardless, deserved to be in running for Album of the Year.

Rapper GoldLink wasn’t having it—on Tyler’s behalf or anybody else’s—and took to Instagram immediately to give the Grammys a piece of his mind.

“Honestly, its f–k Grammys til the day I die,” wrote the Diaspora artist, who was nominated for Best Rap/Sung Performance in 2018 for “Crew.” “I am no longer participating in that wild ass slave ass political ass cheating ass game any longer. The lack of relevance you have just solidified today is unbelievable. Tyler got one f–kin nomination in a category he didn’t even participate in knowing damn well he deserved album of the year.”

GoldLink, whose real name is D’Anthony Carlos, continued: “Burna Boy deserves more, Koffee deserves more. DaBaby couldn’t ‘qualify’ for best new artist apparently because he had ‘mixtapes’ in the past. No nod to Solange for taking a risk pushing the boundaries when nobody else was brave enough to do so. There’s not even a category for internationally black artist at all. Wtf do you think these kids learn when you tell them there black art isn’t good enough? Or isn’t noticed at all? I’ve just gotten to a point after three years of being silent on this topic, that my value is much beyond what closed door establishments have been giving us. Even how our peers are voting against us. I cannot partake.”

Solange Knowles‘ critically acclaimed When I Get Home, which came out last March, was indeed missing from the nominations list, as was the artist herself entirely. The Grammys, in turn, may be light on Knowleses this year, as Beyoncéwas also given relatively short shrift, for her—Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Song Written For Visual Media for “Spirit,” off The Lion King soundtrack; Best Pop Vocal Album or The Lion King: The Gift; and Best Musical Film for Homecoming, her live concert album/documentary extravaganza that was nominated for six Emmys.

“Spirit’s” chances in the Pop Solo Performance category up against Grande’s “7 Rings,” Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts,” Billie Eilish’s Bad Guys and Swift’s anti-discrimination anthem “You Need to Calm Down” seem nil, but it’s free to soar in Song Written for Visual Media, since “Shallow” won last year.

And speaking of A Star Is Born, “Shallow” was released early enough for the 2019 Grammys, but the soundtrack from the 2018 film wasn’t eligible until this go-round, so it’s nominated for Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media and “I’ll Never Love Again” is squaring off against “Spirit,” The Ballad Of The Lonesome Cowboy” from Toy Story 4, “Girl In The Movies” from Dumplin’, and “Suspirium” from Suspiria for Best Song Written for Visual Media.

But no Album of the Year recognition, to the consternation of many still heartbroken Ally-Jackson shippers, meaning O Brother, Where Art Thou? remains the last film soundtrack to win in that category, back in 2002.

Strangely missing from both Album of the Year and Best Country Album nominations was Maren Morris‘ Girl, which was considered at least a lock for the latter. Instead, the previous winner (Best Country Solo Performance for “My Church” in 2017) has a single nomination in 2020, Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “Common,” featuring Brandi Carlile.

At least three female acts—Tanya Tucker, Reba McEntire and Pistol Annies—make the Best Country Album field a good ol’ boys-and-girls club, alongside Eric Church and Thomas Rhett.

For the second year in a row, five out of the eight nominees for Album of the Year are by women—Lizzo, Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish, H.E.R. (for the second straight year) and Lana Del Rey. Bon Iver, Lil Nas X and Vampire Weekend, back with their first album in six years, round out the category.

However, like the Best R&B Album category that doesn’t include Solange—and in fact includes only one female nominee, Ella Mai, for her self-titled debut, Best Rock Album is also devoid of ladies, minus the late Dolores O’Riordan on The Cranberries‘ last album, In the End, which was released in April. O’Riordan died in January 2018.

(As for some men who may have been deserving, however, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships by English band The 1975 was named British Album of the Year at the 2019 Brit Awards but the lads only received one Grammy nomination, Best Rock Song for “Give Yourself a Try.”)

However, this year’s Best Americana Album field—Calexico and Iron & Wine, Madison Cunningham, Keb’ Mo’, J.S. Andara and Yola—and a more diverse array of artists in the Best American Roots Song and Performance categories at least up the chances that a person of color who’s under 70 years old is going to finally win in one of those three categories for the first time.

And while we’re on the subject of very set-in-their-ways genres…

Diplo, Lil Nas X, Billy Ray Cyrus, Stagecoach, 2019 Stagecoach

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Stagecoach

Following in the footsteps of the Billboard Country chart (but not the CMA Awards), the Recording Academy didn’t see the smash-hit “Old Town Road (Remix)” by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus as a country song, either, so it relegated the tune to pop categories—but perhaps this genre mash-up will at least improve on the “Despacito” remix’s still mind-boggling 0-for-3 showing at the 2018 Grammys, after the Latin-pop fusion track by Luis Fonsi, featuring Daddy Yankee and Justin Bieber, was the undisputed song of the year (despite losing in the Song of the Year category).

“Old Town Road” also has several chances to be recognized for the wildly successful melding of cultures that it is, with nods for Record of the Year, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Music Video—three of Lil Nas X’s six nomination.

As dire as the situation might seem in any given year, there’s (almost) always a chance to do better next time.

Watch E!’s Live From the Red Carpet 2020 Grammy Awards coverage Sunday, Jan. 26 starting at 4 p.m. ET/1 p.m. PT followed by the Grammys telecast at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS. And for a recap of music’s biggest night immediately following the show, don’t miss the E! After Party special at 11:30 p.m. ET/8:30 p.m. PT, only on E!

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