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While the Grammy Awards have often been criticized for being out of touch, there’s plenty to celebrate about the 2019 nominations.
The late rapper Mac Miller secured a posthumous nod for best rap album, while the outrageously gifted Kendrick Lamar led the pack with the most nominations. Janelle Monáe’s groundbreaking “Dirty Computer” is up for album of the year. Female nominees dominated many of the major categories, including best new artist.
But as many fans know, for every success from a major award show, there is usually a source of rage or confusion.
Here are INSIDER’s picks for the 14 biggest snubs, in no particular order.
Mitski’s singular nomination for best recording package is just plain rude.
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Best recording package is an award that honors the visual look of an album, not its sonic achievements.
It is also the only category that recognized “Be the Cowboy,” the fifth album from Japanese-American indie rock musician Mitski, and easily her most masterful to date – despite landing within the top five in every major roundup of this year’s best albums.
Ariana Grande’s “Sweetener” didn’t get much love.
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“This feels like the most ‘me’ an album has ever felt. It just feels super close to home,” Grande recently revealed. “A lot of people were like, ‘How does it feel stepping out of your comfort zone?’ And I’m like, ‘Nah, I don’t feel like I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone. I feel like I found it.'”
But while “Sweetener” did secure a nomination for best pop vocal album, it was shut out of most major categories, including album of the year.
Grande’s hit single “God Is a Woman” was thankfully recognized for best pop solo performance, but the most glittering, nuanced, and impeccably crafted tracks on the album (most notably “No Tears Left to Cry,” “Get Well Soon,” and “R.E.M.”) were completely ignored.
Travis Scott was one of the most successful artists this year, but his No. 1 album “Astroworld” was nearly ignored.
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Travis Scott has never been a Grammys darling, but “Astroworld” demonstrated a growth in skill and musical maturity that many thought would change his fate; after all, he somehow managed to get Drake, John Mayer, and Stevie Wonder on the same album.
“A real driver on this album too was when we got snubbed for the Grammys in 2016,” Scott’s A&R told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “We were like, man, are they not respecting us? That’s when it was like, ‘No, y’all got it f—ed up.’ We went back and wanted to make an album that was undeniable.”
And yet: Scott secured a nomination for best rap album, but was still denied entry to the coveted album of the year category.
The seventh album from Beach House, one of indie rock’s most consistently impressive bands, was completely shut out.
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While divisive and questionably successful efforts – like Arctic Monkeys’ “Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino” and Beck’s “Colors” – were nominated for best alternative music album, Beach House’s gorgeous seventh album received no such love. They were also shut out of rock-specific categories, which have long bent the rules for established bands with indie leanings.
This is all putting aside the fact that “7” really should have been nominated for album of the year.
“Beach House remain masters of the indefinable and their seventh album is their heaviest and most immersive-sounding of their career,” Pitchfork wrote at the time of its release. Rolling Stone called it “full of wonder,” while Spin called it the band’s “shortest, most accomplished, and confident record.”
Teyana Taylor’s knack for R&B magic was ignored altogether.
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Teyana Taylor’s “K.T.S.E.” (“Keep That Same Energy”), produced by Kanye West, may have gotten lost in the midst of G.O.O.D. Music’s five-albums-in-five-weeks cascade – despite promotion from the label’s first lady, Kim Kardashian West herself – but the label’s most promising prodigy did secure critical recognition.
Both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork recognized Taylor as “a retro R&B torchbearer,” in the words of the former. “K.T.S.E.” both paid tribute to traditional R&B artistry while still bringing a fresh new attitude.
But Taylor did not receive any nominations – not even in the multiple categories focused exclusively on that genre.
Kanye West’s production talent was recognized, but his outstanding work with Kid Cudi was disregarded.
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Given this example of clemency, it’s surprising that West’s collaborative album with Kid Cudi, “Kids See Ghosts,” didn’t get any love. At the very least, the transcendent track “Reborn” deserved a chance to fight for best rap/sung collaboration – if not record of the year.
Dev Hynes released his fourth and best album as Blood Orange, but saw no recognition.
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The ambient body of work tackled deep, introspective topics – especially depression in the black community – using a stunning combination of progressive R&B production, selective jazz piano, and downtempo guitar-driven rock. Hynes received zero nominations for the 2019 Grammys.
Lil Wayne finally released the much-anticipated “Tha Carter V” just before the eligibility cutoff — to no avail.
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2019 will mark 20 years since Lil Wayne released his debut album – and for nearly two decades, he has managed to maintain a reputation as one of the most celebrated, disparate rappers of all time.
“Tha Carter V,” many years in the making, did not disappoint ravenous hip-hop fans. The album – scattered, strange, and often gorgeous – managed to sneak in just before the end of the eligibility period for the 2019 Grammys. But Lil Wayne came up empty-handed with zero nominations.
J. Cole’s collaborations were honored, but his excellent album came up empty-handed.
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J. Cole is now a seven-time Grammy nominee; his collaboration with 6LACK was nominated for best rap/sung performance this year, and his collaboration with Miguel was nominated for best R&B song.
But his own powerful fifth album was ignored.
On “KOD,” J. Cole offers both lucid analysis and brash indictment; it’s a poignant and extremely relevant meditation on addiction, fame, and the nature of celebrity. It showcased the rapper’s greatest strengths: his high production quality, persuasive lyricism, and clarity of purpose, in particular.
Now, to be fair, the 2019 best rap album category is absolutely stacked. Scott, Miller, Pusha T, and Nipsey Hussle all produced bold, innovative, and celebrated projects. Cardi B’s explosive “Invasion of Privacy” even secured an additional nomination for album of the year.
Some may argue that “KOD” was simply edged out by the stiff competition. But while J. Cole remains one of the most polarizing rappers, he’s also one of the most beloved – and one of the most talented. His ardent fans are likely mounting a protest of his snub in this very moment.
Neglecting to nominate Beyoncé and Jay-Z in bigger categories was a missed opportunity.
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While Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s joint album as The Carters, “Everything Is Love,” may not have put either artists’ best foot forward, it certainly deserved a nod in the higher-profile best R&B album category – especially considering their song “Summer” was nominated for best R&B performance.
But the Grammys continue to relegate unique, varied, genre-bending music by black artists to the best urban contemporary album category with unclear reasoning.
Additionally, the album’s lead single “Apes—” was a defining musical moment of 2018, but missed out on a seemingly obvious nomination for best rap/sung collaboration.
Kali Uchis should have been recognized in at least one category.
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Kali Uchis’ “forward-looking but vintage-feeling” sound – her smooth blend of reggaetón, soul, hip-hop music, and funk – may be difficult to categorize. But her critically-acclaimed debut album “Isolation” certainly deserved a nod or two, whether for her pop vocals or contemporary R&B stylings.
The album’s greatest triumph, for example – standout single “After the Storm” with Tyler, The Creator and the legendary Bootsy Collins – seemed like an natural fit for best rap/sung collaboration.
Recognizing Brockhampton’s major-label debut would have been an inspired choice.
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Brockhampton, the self-described “America’s favorite boyband,” is one of the most progressive and exciting hip-hop acts out there.
Despite suffering the loss of one of their most popular and talented members (Ameer Vann, who was kicked out due to sexual harassment allegations), the rap collective went on to create their most stellar project yet in 2018.
Comprised of many young members, Brockhampton certainly has plenty of growth ahead of them – and “Iridescence” was arguably too inconsistent or chaotic to edge out the five existing best rap album nominees.
But on “Weight,” Brockhampton’s de facto front man Kevin Abstract delivered one of the best verses of the year. The emotional and impeccably produced track would have felt right at home in the best rap song category.
The 1975’s newest album isn’t eligible, but several award-worthy singles are.
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The 1975 released their third studio album, “A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships,” in November, making it ineligible for the 2019 Grammys (nominations include recordings released between October 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018), despite it being one of the most stunning, electric albums of the year.
But the band’s extended album rollout included multiple singles that could easily qualify for best pop solo performance, best rock song or even record of the year – including “Sincerity Is Scary” and especially the anthemic, insightful “Love It If We Made It.”
The riskiest album of Taylor Swift’s career essentially received a cold pat on the back.
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Throughout her career, Taylor Swift has been the definition of a Grammys darling: She became the youngest artist ever to win album of the year with “Fearless,” and later became the first woman ever to win the award twice with “1989.”
There’s something to be said for the biggest pop star in the world refusing to rest on her laurels.
“Reputation” was intensely divisive, delighting some fans and repulsing others – but the gambit paid off. Despite its 2017 release date and minimal 2018 promotion, it was the biggest-selling album this year. Its perfunctory nomination for best pop vocal album translates as a conscious decision to shut Swift out of the major awards.
It’s even more surprising that “Delicate” – the only single from “Reputation” released in the US in 2018 and ostensibly one of the most perfect songs in Swift’s extensive catalogue – was ignored in categories like song of the year and best pop solo performance.
The 61st Annual Grammy Awards will air live from LA’s Staples Center Sunday, February 10, 2019, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on CBS.
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