The dust is now settling on the 2018 Grammy Award nominations, and we’re just now able to see who stands out as the biggest of the winners, the biggest surprises, and the biggest snubs. Looking at the field as a whole, it must be noted that after a year where women dominated the storylines — specifically Adele and Beyonce — this year is unexpectedly light on women in the major categories, with only Lorde and Julia Michaels getting single noms across the Album, Record, and Song Of The Year categories.
It’s also a banner year for pop, R&B, and hip-hop, with all of the big four nominees coming from these genres. Rock and country, usually formidable genres at the Grammys, were shut out of the big awards. It’s also a notably young field, with Jay-Z becoming the elder statesman of the major awards.
There is a ton to be happy about: Tyler, The Creator is up for a deserved nomination for Rap Album. Lil Uzi Vert and Khalid both find themselves in the Best New Artist category. Lorde’s magnificent Melodrama made it into the Album Of The Year field. And artists like Aimee Mann, LCD Soundsystem, Gorillaz, Sylvan Esso, Odesza, Daniel Caesar, Migos, Queens Of The Stone Age, and Laura Marling all have chances to take home awards. Otherwise, let’s take a look at the biggest storylines to emerge today.
Winner: Kendrick Lamar
King Kendrick has a complicated history with the Grammys. In 2014, he was controversially shutout, losing to Macklemore in a move that got a lot of people riled up, including Macklemore himself. The next two years saw many wins for Kendrick, but nothing in the biggest of categories, including what many saw as a wrongful loss to Taylor Swift for Album Of The Year in 2016. This year, Kendrick has seven noms, including Album and Record Of The Year, making it possible that this is finally the year that music’s brightest star wins big like he deserves. Looking at his competition, it seems more probable now than ever.
Snub: Taylor Swift
Sure, Swift gathered two nominations this year, both for her songwriting of Little Big Town’s “Better Man” for Country Song and “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” from the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack for Song For Visual Media. And while Reputation was not eligible this year, her first single, “Look What You Made Me Do,” was. The song failed to garner any nods, which might not bode well for Swift’s full-length when it is eligible next year.
While it’s no secret that SZA has made some of the best music of this year, it was hard to predict how she’d perform at the Grammys, particularly since she has yet to garner a massive pop single that the award show tends to lean on. So when SZA had her name called more than any other woman this year, a whopping 5 times including for the coveted Best New Artist, it felt like a victory for a particularly deserving artist. It’s great when they get one this right.
Winner: Childish Gambino
Donald Glover’s awards show success streak continues. After nabbing Emmys and Golden Globes for his work on Atlanta, the multi-talented star is ready for some Grammys. He’s up for five awards for 2018, including Record Of The Year and Album Of The Year. There might not be another example of someone conquering television and music simultaneously in the way that Glover is, and with his Solo: A Star Wars Story appearance coming next year, film might be next.
Jay-Z leads all nominees with eight nominations this year after his return to form, 4:44. And while winning Grammys is nothing new to Jay, he’s never won in one of the big four categories. He’s been taking home trophies since 1999, and 2018 could be a key year in his career if he takes home Record, Song, or Album Of The Year. Or, maybe even all of them.
Surprise: Post-Humous Nominations
The last couple years have been brutal for the number of beloved musicians that have died, but this year’s Grammys offers a few chances to honor some of them. Chris Cornell will be competing in the Rock Recording category against Leonard Cohen, while Cohen is also up for an American Roots Performance award. Cornell has won a couple times in the past, but Cohen only has honorary awards and a statue as part of River: The Joni Letters. It would be nice to see him get a Grammy for his own work.
Yeah, we know he didn’t submit for More Life, but it still feels weird to not have any songs from that release represented.
Winners: The National and Father John Misty
The Alternative Music Album award is often an oasis for albums that don’t really fit anywhere else, where artists like Radiohead, St. Vincent, and David Bowie have recently been awarded. This year both The National and Father John Misty made it into the category for their excellent albums, while also garnering noms for their album packaging. The possibility remains that they could lose to good albums from LCD Soundsystem and Gorillaz or a not great album from Arcade Fire, but these are two examples of artists who deserve more attention getting a helpful bump.
Surprise: Imagine Dragons and Portugal. The Man aren’t rock bands
Don’t tell alternative rock radio, where songs from Imagine Dragons and Portugal. The Man have dominated airplay, but both guitar-wielding bands have been thrown into the pop music categories. It makes a little sense, since the songs have crossed-over in a major way. But it still feels a little strange to remove the biggest rock songs of the year from their own genre.
Snub: Ed Sheeran
Considering Ed Sheeran’s Grammy history — eleven previous nominations and two wins, including a Song Of The Year award in 2016 — the English pop star seemed like a lock for a big 2018 showing. His “Shape Of You” was one of the biggest tunes of the year — he even performed the then-new song at last year’s ceremony — and his album ÷ secured his place as one of pop music’s biggest success stories. But Sheeran failed to get nominated in any of the big four categories, resulting in what has to be seen as a disappointing showing.
While many hoped to see Kesha awarded for her colossal achievement in the face of adversity, it still felt like a big blow against the people that tried to keep her down when she received a pair of nominations today. Her album, Rainbow, will compete for Pop Vocal Album, while her single “Praying” is up for Pop Solo Performance. For a singer whose message this year has been to not let the bastards get you down, these nominations complete her path of rising above her abuse.
Surprise: The Non-Musician Nominees
The Grammy awards are always fun for the unpredictably weird things that get nominated. Bernie Sanders, Carrie Fisher and Neil deGrasse Tyson will compete in the Spoken Word category, while Dave Chappelle, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman, and Kevin Hart are all up in the Comedy Album slot. And apparently, Family Guy‘s Seth MacFarlane makes traditional pop albums, and is up for his record In Full Swing.
Snub: Jason Isbell
We could just say that country music was snubbed as a whole, as it failed to reach any of the big four categories. But this hurts most for Jason Isbell, who still got a pair of nominations in Americana categories, but didn’t manage to cross over as many expected. It was thought that he could be this year’s Sturgill Simpson, but instead Isbell continues to be relegated as a genre artist. That is the Grammys loss.
Winner: Julia Michaels
While we’re wondering where Ed and Taylor are in the Song and Record Of The Year categories, rising star Julia Michaels made her claim for a piece of the pop pie. Not only did she get a Best New Artist nomination, but she her song “Issues” was selected for the Song Of The Year field. The Grammys aren’t always the kindest to rising artists, but Michaels continues to separate herself from her peers.
Winner and Snub: Cardi B
Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” is one of the most impactful songs of the year, so it’s easy to look at her being shut out of the big four categories as a bit of a snub. It would have particularly fit in Record Of The Year, a place where huge pop hits tend to shine. But Cardi is still up for two big awards in the rap categories, Rap Song and Rap Performance, which is a big deal for someone as new to the game as she is. So yeah, while it would have made sense for Cardi to be competing with the heavyweights, her pair of Grammy nominations are still a huge achievement.