by Gabriella DePinho & Emily Rumsey, Senior Writer & Contributor
Music is an integral part of so many people’s lives, from those who make a living from making it themselves to those who love it to even those who only listen when they’re forced to. As the world came to a stop due to the pandemic, the touring industry came to a halt for musicians. This changed the music game completely, as ticket sales were no longer a possible indicator for how well an artist was doing in the game. Additionally, more and more people were turning to music as a way to pass the time. I mean, Taylor Swift wrote two albums in lockdown — and while she released and packaged them quickly, she has not been the only one spending the time off the road creating, so we should all be prepared for a huge boom in music in the next year or so. While the music industry looked different this past year, the Grammy Award nominees have come and gone and the award recipients will be announced in March.
For those who live and breathe music, the Grammy Awards have long been held as the award for an artist to win. The Recording Academy, which selects the nominees and then winners, often has tough choices to make as wide breadths of music are released each and every year and, while they usually do a good job of recognizing top performers and creators, every year there are musicians they either completely fail to recognize or do a great disservice to. Here are our picks of nominees worth checking out and artists who were unfairly skipped over by the Recording Academy.
“What You Need” by KAYTRANADA
Nominated for Best New Artist, as well as Best Dance Recording and Best Dance/Electronic Album, KAYTRANADA is one of the most popular DJs currently, known for the smooth and groovy vibes of his songs. He has a strong resume, boasting features from Kali Uchis, Estelle, and Masego, as well as production work for big names like Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and Gorillaz. This song particularly is great for long drives, kickbacks, and studying.
“To Be So Lonely” by Harry Styles
Only nominated for two categories, Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Solo Performance, Harry Styles is definitely a snub for this year’s Grammys as he did not make it into any of the general categories. “Fine Line” was definitely a contender for Album of the Year, and “Watermelon Sugar” had the popularity deserving Record of the Year. Either way, “To Be So Lonely” ranks high on my list off of “Fine Line”. The folk-pop style and the light sarcastic tone of the lyrics makes it great for an “it’s not me, it’s you” situation, as well as a springtime picnic or a day at the beach.
“Kyoto” by Phoebe Bridgers
Phoebe Bridgers collected nominations for her first Grammys. Nominated for Best Rock Song as well as Performance for “Kyoto”, she also was nominated in Best Alternative Music Album and Best New Artist. Phoebe Bridgers makes music for the people you’d see in a coming of age movie. “Kyoto” uses an excellent guitar line and horn section to set the mood for long drives, subway rides, or nature walks.
“Dynamite” by BTS
BTS took the world by storm and have only gone up since then. “Dynamite”, for Best Pop Group Performance, is their first and only Grammy nomination, and many see that as a disregard for everything BTS did in 2020. The song is upbeat and fun, utilizing synths and a funky guitar line to give it a disco vibe, making it great for dance parties with your roommates, singing in the shower, or a fast paced workout.
“Dior” by Pop Smoke
Pop Smoke gets his first ever Grammy nomination posthumously for the Best Rap Performance category. Many feel this is too little too late however, noting that his album “Shoot for the Stars, Aim for the Moon” did not receive any nominations despite spending two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. “Dior” and its dark, Brooklyn Drill sound makes it great for rides on the subway and feeling like a true New Yorker.
“Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd
The most notable snub of the 63rd Annual Grammy Awards is The Weeknd and his failure to receive any nominations this year. “Blinding Lights” was No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for four weeks nonconsecutively, and his album “After Hours” spent the first four weeks after its release at no. 1 as well. The song “Blinding Lights” is another song with an 80’s vibe, a popular theme in recent years. The Weeknd’s vocals and the use of synths makes it perfect for night drives.
“Savage” by Meghan Thee Stallion feat. Beyoncé
If you were anywhere on the internet in the past year, then you’ve heard this song. After this song (along with a dance challenge) went viral on TikTok, Meghan Thee Stallion’s career really took off as she rose to fame. Her debut album “Good News” came out in November of 2020 and was listed on “best albums of 2020” lists from Billboard, Pitchfork, Complex, Rolling Stone and a few others. This song is nominated for Record of the Year, Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. Additionally, Megan Thee Stallion received a nomination for Best New Artist.
“The Steps” by Haim
While Haim — the music making sister trio — is only nominated for two awards, they’re up for a pretty prestigious one: Album of the Year. It may be a somewhat snub that they managed to land that nomination but only received one other for Best Rock Performance with this track. Could they have received more recognition? I think so for sure. However, I might be biased because when their album “Women In Music Part III” came out last summer, I went out into my backyard, laid in the sun and soaked in track after track.
“3am” by Halsey
One of the biggest snubs of the year was the complete exclusion of Halsey from the nominations. Her January 2020 release “Manic” featured chart topper track “Without Me,” debuted at number two in the charts, and garnered 75.6 million on-demand streams in its first week. The numbers are there: Halsey is well liked and making good music. However, she did not get one nomination, not within her genre and not overall. I loved this album when it came out so while “Without Me” would have been the most obvious pick for this column, I picked a deeper track, a non-single, so you can hear another track that the Recording Academy decided to pass over.
“XS” – Rina Sawayama
Rina Sawayama, a British pop star, released her debut album “Sawayama” in April 2020 and that release received critical acclaim. With her large fanbase, her high-performing tracks, and her unique sound, Sawayama could have made quite the impression at the Grammys this year, however, she was completely denied recognition. This snub comes months after she was not eligible for the Mercury Prize, which is presented to British or Irish artists, because the award administering body does not consider her British. While she is not a citizen, she legally lives in Britain and has lived there since she was five.
“Can I” by Kehlani
Another artist who faced a complete snub this year was Kehlani, a 25 year-old American R&B artist. Her sophomore album “It Was Good Until It Wasn’t” came out in May 2020 and she was all over my social media feeds when it came out — whether it was through memes recreating her album cover or from fans singing her praises. It would have been an incredibly strong contender for R&B Album of the Year, but the Recording Academy decided to completely overlook it.
“Shameika” – Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple’s 2020 release “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” was highly anticipated, after nearly a decade had passed since her last release. And for fans, the wait was worth it. The album brought an incredible freshness and comfort as the world hunkered down at home. “Shameika” was nominated for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song. The album was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album, however, she was completely snubbed from Album of The Year, which she easily could have won had she been nominated. (For what it’s worth Coldplay was nominated for AOTY with “Everyday Life” which only saw one other nomination for Best Recording Package.” Make it make sense.)