Pop

Were Taylor Swift’s Grammy Losses Snubs Or Justified?

It’s no secret that the Recording Academy looks favorable on Taylor Swift. Is it because she deserves it? Absolutely yes. But let’s be honest, the Grammys are so fickle, and have such a strange track record when it comes to their winner picks that fans can have quite a discussion reflecting on back on wins and losses, with the test of time as a barometer for their fairness. Since she came onto the scene back in 2006 with Taylor Swift, the singer-songwriter has been nominated a whopping 42 times (!) Out of those nominations, she’s won 11 Grammys so far, including three for the coveted Album Of The Year award, becoming the only woman who has ever done that in 2021.

So, since Taylor’s only won about 1/4th of her nominations (keeping in mind the potential 2022 wins haven’t been added yet), which of those losses were justifiable, where she was beaten out by another strong contender, and which were outright snubs that Swiftian scholars all sagely agree she should’ve won? That’s exactly what this list is going to set the record straight on, going through every single nomination from each year one by one. Read on, Swiftie, and see whether you agree or disagree with my judgments.

2008: One nomination for Best New Artist

Verdict: Lost to Amy Winehouse
Snub or Justified: Justified

While the Recording Academy might’ve ignored Taylor’s debut self-titled, two years later, they were definitely aware of her growing potential. Taylor was nominated in this category along with future powerhouses like Amy Winehouse, Feist, and Paramore. Amy winning is a justified victory, though, and not a snub of Taylor at all. Actually, in retrospect, it’s nice that Winehouse earned this honor before her untimely death.

2010: A whopping eight nominations, most notably for Album Of The Year, which she won, along with Best Country Album, Best Female Country Vocal Performance and Best Country Song (“White Horse” winning in both those song categories).

Nomination: “You Belong With Me” for Record Of The Year
Verdict: Lost to “Use Somebody” by Kings Of Leon
Snub or Justified: Justified

This might be an unpopular opinion, but I think “Use Somebody” is absolutely an all-time banger. It’s hard for me to ride for “You Belong With Me” over this tune, though I’m very tempted to suggest that “Love Story” or even “White Horse” would’ve had a much better shot.

Nomination: “You Belong With Me” for Song Of The Year
Verdict: Lost to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies”
Snub or Justified: Justified

After Kanye’s mind-boggled response to Taylor besting Beyonce in a battle between these two songs at the 2009 VMAs, it was probably the safer choice for the Grammys to pick Bey. And let’s face it, “Single Ladies” is an iconic bit of pop culture that will be enshrined forever because of the dance alone, and “You Belong With Me” has become one of the far lesser songs in the Taylor canon. The Grammys got this right.

Nomination: “You Belong With Me” for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
Verdict: Lost to “Halo” by Beyonce
Snub or Justified: Justified

Well, “Halo” is just a better song in this case. And since Beyonce lost out on the Album Of The Year award — an honor she’s still never won — this feels something like a consolation prize.

Nomination: “Breathe” (with Colbie Caillat) for Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals
Verdict: Lost to “Lucky” by Jason Mraz and Colbie Caillat
Snub or Justified: Justified

Colbie Caillat was having a massive moment at that time, so she deserved to win off one of her nominations, and “Lucky” deserved the nod over her song with Tay.

2012: Three nominations, but all within the Country genre and no Big Four looks. Two wins for Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Song (“Mean” winning in both those song categories).

Nomination: Speak Now for Best Country Album
Verdict: Lost to Own The Night by Lady Antebellum
Snub or Justified: MASSIVE SNUB

There’s a large faction of Swifites who swear up and down that Speak Now is Taylor’s best album, and honestly, I really see their point. We have “Sparks Fly,” “Back To December,” “Speak Now,” “Mean,” “The Story Of Us,” “Enchanted,” “Long Live” — the list goes on. So many absolute classics that illustrate Taylor’s songwriting at the top of her craft. And while Lady Antebellum are a great band, their record hasn’t stood the test of time like Speak Now arguably has. Even within Lady Antebellum’s own discography, it hasn’t been the most successful or heralded album. Speak Now deserved more.

2013: Three nominations, since some of Red’s singles fall into an earlier eligibility period. One win for Best Song Written for Visual Media for “Safe & Sound” (with The Civil Wars).

Nomination: “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” for Record of the Year
Verdict: Lost to “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye and Kimbra
Snub or Justified: Justified

That song was everywhere in 2013. It’s fine, this loss was nothing personal.

Nomination: “Safe & Sound” (with The Civil Wars) for Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Verdict: Lost to “Pontoon” by Little Big Town
Snub or Justified: Justified

Little Big Town is one of the best modern country groups on the planet, and “Pontoon” is a little down-home fun. Clearly, Taylor didn’t take this one personally, because she later gave this group “Better Man,” an unreleased song from the Red era, that won the group yet another Grammy.

2014: Four nominations, zero wins. It was a Very Bad Year for the Swifties and their fearless (heh) leader

Nomination: Red for Album Of The Year
Verdict: Lost to Random Access Memories by Daft Punk
Snub or Justified: SNUB

You know that phrase about Helen Of Troy, “the face that launched a thousand ships” aka caused a war? That’s essentially what happened here. Taylor losing this massive award for what is the best album in her discography — folklore would like a word, but Red lasted in that position for almost a decade — essentially fueled her writing sessions for 1989. It drove her to seek out Jack Antonoff and go full-blown stadium pop, a totally different direction for her. And in the end, as it always is with the Grammys, it didn’t really matter if they gave Tay an award or not. Red was the Album Of The Year that year. The winner was a late-career album from a waning musical duo who had to tap a huge host of collaborators to even be relevant, and the hype around Random Access Memories quickly turned a few years later. Meanwhile, Red lives on.

Nomination: Red for Best Country Album
Verdict: Lost to Same Trailer Different park by Kacey Musgraves
Snub or Justified: Justified

We didn’t quite know it then, but this album would turn Kacey into a country star, and then, she’d follow in Taylor’s footsteps and turn into a full-blown pop star. This wasn’t a snub, because Red just wasn’t quite a country album.

Nomination: “Highway Don’t Care” with Tim McGraw for Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Verdict: Lost to From This Valley” by The Civil Wars
Snub or Justified: Snub

This actually was a snub, Taylor and Tim’s song was better.

Nomination: “Begin Again” for Best Country Song
Verdict: Lost to “Merry Go ‘Round” by Kacey Musgraves
Snub or Justified: Justified

Kacey was doing things way more country at that point than Taylor. Plus, “Merry Go ‘Round” helped change and draw attention to the sexist bias in country radio.

2015: Three nominations, another strange year with zero wins

Nomination: “Shake It Off” for Record Of The Year
Verdict: Lost to “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith
Snub or Justified: Justified

This year felt like the Grammys trying very hard to support a queer artist, which is definitely not a bad thing. What can you say? When someone has such a ubiquitous hit, the Grammy’s commercial performance reward system kicks in. Sam deserved this, even if their career fell off hard later.

Nomination: “Shake It Off” for Song Of The Year
Verdict: Lost to “Stay With Me” by Sam Smith
Snub or Justified: Snub

A treacle-y ballad begging someone not to leave you shouldn’t best a peppy empowerment anthem in my book. Let Sam have a few and Taylor have a few… the commercial success of 1989 was pretty significant, and partially due to lead singles like this one. Since this award is about the writing and less about the performance, I think Taylor would’ve made way more sense here.

Nomination: “Shake It Off” for Best Pop Solo Performance
Verdict: Lost to “Happy (Live)” by Pharrell Williams
Snub or Justified: Definitely a snub

At this point Tay is losing to elevator music. I mean, “Shake It Off” isn’t my favorite hit from her ever, but it’s definitely better than “Happy.”

2016: Seven nominations, three wins, including 1989 for Album Of The Year. 1989 also won for Best Pop Vocal Album and her “Bad Blood” remix featuring Kendrick Lamar won for Best Music Video. Arguably, this was the year that changed everything.

Nomination:”Blank Space” for Record of the Year
Verdict: Lost to “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars
Snub or Justified: Justified

This was a tough call, but Mark Ronson is a true genius and deserved the look.

Nomination:”Blank Space” for Song of the Year
Verdict: Lost to “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran
Snub or Justified: Snub

While Ed is deep inner circle when it comes to Taylor Bestie Rankings, I find it hard to argue his song was better than “Blank Space” in any conceivable way. But then again, it’s not fully a snub, because Taylor and Ed would always be happy for each other winning.

Nomination:”Blank Space” for Best Pop Solo Performance
Verdict: Lost to “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran
Snub or Justified: Snub

If Ed is going to win in the Big Four, give someone else a chance in the genre-specific category. This is a general rule I tend to stand by, but the Recording Academy hasn’t consulted me about it yet. Clearly. And, “Blank Space” is way more traditional pop than “Thinking Out Loud” which is like… almost adult contemporary. With that 1989 win this doesn’t sting as much though.

Nomination: “Bad Blood” Remix with Kendrick Lamar for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
Verdict: Lost to “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars
Snub or Justified: Justified

There was just no beating them this year.

2018: Two nominations, zero wins

Nomination: ”Better Man” for Best Country Song
Verdict: Lost to “Broken Halos” by Chris Stapleton
Snub or Justified: Justified

Considering this wasn’t Taylor’s Version (yet!) and Chris Stapleton was Having A Moment, this genre loss for a song she’d written and given to another band didn’t sting at all. Plus, Little Big Town would go on to pick up a win anyway that night, just for Best Country Duo/Group Performance instead.

Nomination: ”I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” for Best Song Written for Visual Media
Verdict: Lost to “How Far I’ll Go” by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Auli’i Cravalho from Moana
Snub or Justified: Justified

Taylor, I love you so much that when we met my mouth couldn’t form any words… but this song sucks. Moana got some shine it rightly deserved.

2019: One nomination, zero wins

Nomination: Reputation for Best Pop Vocal Album
Verdict: Lost to Sweetener by Ariana Grande
Snub or Justified: Justified

Though I ride a lot harder for Reputation than plenty of other fans, Sweetener is an all-time classic. And, Ariana doesn’t tend to get all the Grammy looks the way Taylor has, even nominations-wise, so it was nice to see her get honored. Not to mention, after the year she’d had, Ari really needed the pick-me-up.

2020: Three nominations, zero wins

Nomination: ”Lover” for Song of the Year
Verdict: Lost to “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish and Finneas
Snub or Justified: Justified

There was only Billie, and she was everything. *Billie Voice* DUH.

Nomination: Lover for Best Pop Vocal Album
Verdict: Lost to When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? by Billie Eilish
Snub or Justified: “Justified”

Considering Billie was breaking records previously set by Taylor when she became the youngest female artist to hit certain milestones at the Grammys, you have to imagine Taylor was pretty proud of her. A mid-career album from Taylor losing to a rising star’s debut record, it’s not a snub, it’s just how the industry works.

Nomination: ”You Need To Calm Down” for Best Pop Solo Performance
Verdict: Lost to “Truth Hurts” by Lizzo
Snub or Justified: Justified

Once again, unlike many detractors I absolutely loved Taylor going balls-to-the-wall for the queer community as she grew past her fear of openly speaking on political issues. But “Truth Hurts” beats “Calm Down” handily. No snub here.

2021: Six nominations, only one win, but it’s her third Album Of The Year award for folklore, which puts Taylor in a category unto herself.

Nomination: “Cardigan” for Song Of The Year
Verdict: Lost to H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe”
Snub or Justified: Justified

This song was part of an important moment of racial reckoning in American history. It absolutely deserved the nod.

Nomination: Folklore for Best Pop Vocal Album
Verdict: Lost to Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia
Snub or Justified: Justified

All of Taylor’s losses this year were to emerging new voices in pop who were doing something completely new, while Lover tended to rehash old ground for her. Dua earned this win fair and square.

Nomination: ”Cardigan” for Best Pop Solo Performance
Verdict: Lost to “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles
Snub or Justified: Justified

C’mon, I mean, “Watermelon Sugar”? It’s a banger and a half. Harry wins, no hard feelings.

Nomination: “Exile” with Bon Iver for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
Verdict: Lost to “Rain On Me” by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande
Snub or Justified: Justified

“Rain On Me” is perfect, and we needed an anthem like this in the early days of lockdown more than a sad sack ballad from Tay and Justin.

Nomination: “Beautiful Ghosts” from Cats was nominated for Best Song Written for Visual Media
Verdict: Lost to “No Time To Die” by Billie Eilish and Finneas
Snub or Justified: Justified

Do I even need to explain this one?

So in reality, Taylor’s Grammy career only has seven major snubs. That’s really not that many, considering how artists like Beyonce, Jay-Z and Kendrick have been treated. Here’s the Grammys Taylor’s nominated for this year: Album Of The Year for Evermore, and as a writer on Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour, which is also nominated for Album Of The Year. So if either of those two wins, she’ll be picking up another hefty award this year.

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