There are a lot of emotions involved when it comes to the Grammys. A win can mean that this is the best day of somebody’s life, but let’s not forget Newton’s Third Law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For every Grammy win, there are losses, which must be a crushing experience, especially if the non-victorious parties had legitimate hopes of emerging on top.
All in all, this year’s Grammys had a lot of winners, some losers, and a handful of folks who perhaps thought they would be losers but ended up as winners despite their expectations (and those of others). With that in mind, check out this year’s biggest Grammy winners, losers, and upsets below.
Upset: Kacey Musgraves’ Album Of The Year win
This isn’t to say that Musgraves didn’t deserve to win the biggest award of the night. Golden Hour was the finest representation country music had on a mainstream level last year, and was one of 2018’s best albums regardless of genre. Considering that superstars like Post Malone, Drake, and everybody on the Black Panther soundtrack was also nominated, though, it would be fair if you didn’t expect Musgraves to pull this one out over the household names she was up against. Between her AOTY win, her other victories, and her big performances during the broadcast, she owned the night, re-affirmed that she belongs on the biggest stages possible, and let the world know that she is a superlative artist.
Winner: Lady Gaga
This year’s awards oh so clearly meant a lot to Lady Gaga. She was getting emotional on Twitter before the broadcast, and after “Shallow” won the Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, she took the stage, clearly fighting back tears, and made an emotional speech about hurt and bravery that could only have come from a place of sincerity. Beyond that, she gave a show-stopping performance of “Shallow,” during which she sang both vocal parts. It was stunning. Gaga has bared her soul in her creative endeavors over the past few years, so this recognition has to feel cathartic for her.
Loser: The lack of Ariana Grande
As of this post, Grande has over 53 million monthly listeners on Spotify, which is more than anybody else in the world. Therefore, it’s an absolute shame that she wasn’t a part of the broadcast, or even in the building. This was completely avoidable: It seems all Grande really needed to make this happen was some artistic freedom, which seems like an easy concession to make to one of the world’s most talented and beloved artists.
I’m reminded of a lyric from Weezer’s “Perfect Situation”: “There’s the pitch, slow and straight / All I have to do is swing and I’m a hero / But I’m a zero.”
Winner: Childish Gambino and every other artist who was in a Grammys commercial
“This Is America” achieved a lot during this year’s awards, with wins for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best Rap/Sung Performance, and Best Music Video. Forgive me for burying the lede, though: Did you see that Google commercial he was in? Excuse me for deploying some obnoxious millennial over-exaggeration here, but it was everything. When it comes to Gambino having a dance battle with a CGI version of himself, I will take as much of that as is available.
On a related note, a lot of other musicians were also in ads during the broadcast, and to them I say: Good on you, get that money.
Upset: “This Is America” for Record and Song Of The Year
“This Is America” is a strong song with memorable lyrics and a thoughtful message about the state of current affairs. That said, its win for Record Of The Year — and for Song Of The Year, a category that focuses on songwriting — could be seen as suspect considering there have been some plagiarism accusations. It feels especially weird considering the other nominees included astounding songs like Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” and Kendrick Lamar and SZA’s “All The Stars.”
Loser: Post Malone
In a way, Malone was actually sort of a winner, in that in his first year nominated for Grammys, he was in contention for four of them. That said, nominations that don’t result in wins become historical footnotes, and that’s what happened. It’s a real letdown too, considering just how popular he is: Of all the Record Of The Year nominees, “Rockstar” was easily the most streamed song, with over 1.4 billion Spotify plays. Malone is one of the more likable stars that has emerged in a while so it’s a bit of a downer that he didn’t take home any hardware, but regardless, there’s a landscape-spanning valley between “Grammy nominee” and “Grammy winner.”
Winner: Brandi Carlile
Carlile’s name may have looked out of place alongside the other folks up for consideration in the major categories, but there’s no mistaking that she is the very best at what she does. She swept the Americana and roots-specific categories she was nominated in, and even if she didn’t get any major category wins, her nominations, as an artist who doesn’t perform in a chart-topping genre, were an honor on their own.
Loser: Kanye West
Kanye had some big, brow-raising plans for the Grammys this year. He reportedly submitted his Kids See Ghosts song “Freeee (Ghost Town, Pt. 2)” to be considered for Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance, but he scored neither nomination. The only recognition he did get was his nomination for Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical, but Pharrell claimed that hardware over him. At a time in Kanye’s career that a lot of fans have lost some faith in him for one reason or another, he really could have used this win.
Loser: The Grammys after getting roasted by Drake
Drake has a contentious history with the Grammys: He didn’t submit More Life for consideration when it was eligible, and after winning Grammys for “Hotline Bling,” memorably said: “I won two awards last night, but I don’t even want them.” When he took the stage this year after winning Best Rap Song, he didn’t pull any punches despite being on the Grammys stage, and essentially said that the Grammys don’t matter much because music is “an opinion-based sport.”
Upset: “God’s Plan” beating “Sicko Mode” for Best Rap Song
When Drake accepted the aforementioned award, he said he didn’t expect to win. That’s fair. “God’s Plan” is a fine song. It’s one of Drake’s better ones and it has a heartwarming philanthropic video, which surely rubbed the Recording Academy the right way. That said, Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode” coming away with no wins is a shame. If there was only one innovative hip-hop song last year, it was “Sicko Mode,” a multi-part rap suite that was a streaming hit despite its unconventional structure and relatively long runtime. By the way, “Sicko Mode” also lost Best Rap Performance to a two-way tie of two other songs, and it doesn’t feel right that Scott didn’t leave with any hardware at all after his truly progressive work on the artistic and commercial success that was that song.
Winner: St. Vincent
There wasn’t exactly a flood of indie rock representation in the nominations this year, but despite that, St. Vincent really made her presence known. She won two of the three Grammys for which she was nominated (Best Rock Song for “Masseduction” and Best Recording Package for Masseduction), and she shared the stage with Dua Lipa for one of the least expected but strongest performances of the night. If anybody can make sure both indie and rock don’t feel out of place in pop culture, it’s St. Vincent.
Loser: Taylor Swift
It wasn’t that long ago that Swift seemed invincible, but this year’s award results show it’s possible that she’s a mortal being like the rest of us. Her previous album, 1989, was named Album Of The Year, but Reputation wasn’t even nominated for it. Her only nomination this year was for Pop Vocal Album, and Ariana Grande’s Sweetener earned that title. It’s not surprising that Swift didn’t win. What’s more of a shock is that, considering her run of otherworldly greatness this decade, it doesn’t feel like she deserved it. Still, every great artist has an off season, and if the rumors are true, Taylor is just about to be very much back on. Let the games begin.