What's up with the 2018 Grammy nominations?

Breaking down this year's divisive, male-dominated and swift-less awards

From left to right: Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z and Lorde.
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Photo illustration by Josh Granovsky

On Jan. 28, 2018, the golden gramophone will spend a night as the most valuable award in the music industry and not as a rejected Monopoly piece.

The Recording Academy announced the nominees for the 2018 Grammy Awards on Tuesday morning, allowing eager music fanatics to anticipate and prepare for the upcoming award show. 

Here’s a breakdown of the notable nominations: JAY-Z leads the pack with eight nominations this year, while Bruno Mars comes in second place with six. SZA is the most nominated woman this year with five nominations.

The nominations announced on Tuesday proved significant this year, breaking the mold of past Grammy nominations because of their race, gender and genre.

Now, you’re in the hands of a guy who got bored one night and conveniently read all of the award’s conditions. So, out of the goodness of my heart, I’m here to break down who got lucky, who got screwed and who to keep an eye out for.

Yes, this year is (mostly) Taylor Swift-free. 

Given Swift’s omnipresence in our lives, her scarce appearance in this year’s Grammy nominations proves quite surprising.

The Grammys’ eligibility period for this year’s awards ceremony was from Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017. Any music released before the start date is ineligible and any music released after the end date will only be considered for next year’s awards in 2019. Taylor Swift’s Reputation, already the top-selling album of 2017, was released on Nov. 10 of this year, meaning it’s not eligible to be nominated for this year. Other artists whose work falls into this category include Sam Smith and P!nk.

Swift’s first two singles, “Look What You Made Me Do” and “...Ready for It”, were both released during the eligibility period. However, both critically underwhelming songs were shut out in favour of hits like Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE” or Bruno Mars’ “24k Magic.”

Taylor did manage to sneak into some categories as a songwriter, raking up two nods for her Little Big Town song “Better Man” and her Fifty Shades anthem “I Don’t Want to Live Forever.”

Drake’s album More Life, which shattered numerous streaming records upon its release this past March, is similarly absent from the nominations, albeit for a different reason than Swift. Unlike Taylor, Drake chose not to submit his album for consideration this year because of his past criticism of the lack of diversity in the nomination process, meaning the Recording Academy couldn’t nominate it if they tried.

Frank Ocean also chose not to submit his two 2016 albums, Blonde and Endless, in what he described as his “Colin Kaepernick moment” — a reference to the Grammy’s mixed history of recognizing African-American artists. 

So what’s good about the 2018 nominations?

Something very positive about the 2018 Grammys is this year’s recognition for African-American artists. Half of the nominations for the four major awards were bestowed upon African-American artists. Non-white performers make up a whopping 80 per cent of those nominations as well. In fact, this is the first year ever a white man hasn`t been nominated for album of the year.

This recognition comes right on the heels of last year’s notable lack of diversity. In 2017, only 35 per cent of the four major award nominations were given to non-white artists and only one of those four winners wasn’t white (or named Adele). Adele’s 2017 sweep was also controversial since Beyoncé’s critical-smash Lemonade walked home with without any major awards.

What’s not so good about the 2018 nominations?

2017 has not been a great year for women in music. The first six months of the year didn’t have a single woman holding the top spot of the American songs or albums charts. It doesn’t help that albums released this year from popular singers like Katy Perry, Halsey and Lady Gaga were all critically divisive in discussions of quality comparable to their typical standards. On top of this, a number of strong female artists nominated last year — like Beyoncé, Adele, Rihanna, Sia and Ariana Grande — didn`t release any new music within this year’s eligibility period.

As a result, Lorde is the sole female nominee for Album of the Year, while Julia Michaels is the only Song of the Year nominee — unless you count Alessia Cara’s feature on Logic’s “1-800-273-8255.”

So what is the category to watch this year?

All eyes will be on Album of the Year, which includes nominees Kendrick Lamar, JAY-Z, Childish Gambino, Bruno Mars and Lorde’s albums. Many expect Kendrick to finally snatch his long overdue win after two unsuccessful nominations in this category. 

However, according to Grammy history, multiple rap albums typically don’t fare well when nominated together. Two or more rap albums receiving nominations in the same year has only occurred three times, and only once has it resulted in one of those albums winning. It’s very possible Kendrick and JAY-Z’s albums will split the vote and result in a win for Lorde. 

Whatever happens during this year’s Grammy Awards, it’s sure to be remembered for its diversity, appreciation of new artists and hopefully, the avoidance of any potential conflict between Kanye West and Taylor Swift because no one wants a VMAs repeat to talk about for another seven years.

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