2018 Grammy Nominations: The Snubs and Surprises

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Let’s break down the noms. Photo: Getty Images

The 2018 Grammy nominations are here! Kendrick Lamar is back, and this time he might take Album of the Year, but he’s up against some strong contenders: Jay-Z, Lorde, Bruno Mars, and Childish Gambino all released major, career-defining (or in Jay’s case career-redefining) albums as well. In other categories, Cardi B continues her rise with a Best Rap Performance nomination, Lil Uzi Vert could score a Best New Artist win, “Despacito” nets a couple big nominations, and One Direction’s Grammys curse endures in the form of an across-the-board snub of Harry Styles’s self-titled album from earlier this year. Oh, also, Taylor Swift’s weird year continues: She’s (almost) nowhere to be found.

Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran Are Nominated, But Barely
The love is in short supply for two usual Grammy darlings. Though Taylor Swift’s Reputation didn’t make the Grammys’ eligibility cutoff this year — she’ll be one to watch in 2019 — she had three of her own songs still in the running, including “Look What You Made Me Do.” But the Grammys have spoken: It’s a dud. It received zero nominations, not even for Best Music Video. They did, however, nominate her contribution to the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack, “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever,” for Best Song Written for Visual Media. (It’s up against La La Land, so, uh, don’t bet on her winning there.) But as expected, her songwriting has been rewarded: Little Big Town’s “Better Man,” which she wrote on the sly, is nominated for Best Country Song and will likely win. Is this how the Grammys lure her back to country?

Meanwhile, Ed Sheeran, who was favored for an Album of the Year nom, appears to have lost his spot to Childish Gambino. Divide has been all but snubbed, picking up only a Best Pop Vocal Album nom, plus a Best Pop Solo Performance nom for “Shape of You,” another Sheeran juggernaut thought to contend in the top four categories. Four noms between the two biggest pop stars in the world? Oh, how the Grammy tide turns. —Dee Lockett

Cardi B Is Up Against Her Fiancé, Offset
It’s a rarity in the history of rap-specific Grammys for couples to get nominated in the same category. Jay-Z and Beyoncé were considered for Best Rap/Sung Performance for “Deja Vu” and “Part II (On the Run)” and won for “Crazy in Love” in 2004. Rihanna and Drake might have been together in 2010 when “Run This Town” and “Best I Ever Had” squared off for Best Rap Song, or else in 2011 when their collaboration “What’s My Name?” was nominated for Rap/Sung Performance. But this year’s showdown between “Bodak Yellow” and “Bad and Boujee” in the Best Rap Performance category pits betrotheds Cardi B and Offset of the Migos against each other for an award based purely on rhyme skills, a first since the show started giving out hip-hop awards in 1989. Are we witnessing the birth of another Grammy family? —Craig Jenkins

One Direction’s Grammy Curse Endures
One Direction was never nominated for a single Grammy in seven years, hit singles and No. 1 albums notwithstanding, but the recent parade of solo releases from Harry Styles, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, and Niall Horan seemed poised to break the curse. It sorta did: Zayn’s Taylor Swift collaboration “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker)” got nominated for Best Song Written for Visual Media … But that’s a songwriters’ award, meaning the honor would go to Taylor and producer Jack Antonoff, not Zayn. The technicality seems cruel. More glaring is the lack of love for Harry Styles’s excellent self-titled solo album, which could’ve slipped comfortably into a rock or pop category somewhere, at no loss to anyone special. The vocal performances on Harry’s record were stellar, and if there was room in the Best Pop Vocal Album–running for an Imagine Dragons project and a low-key, five-song Coldplay B-sides and remixes EP, it’s highway robbery for Styles to have been snubbed. What gives!? —CJ

Kesha Is a First-Time Nominee
Look who’s having the last laugh now. Kesha has completed her redemption story in style, picking up two nominations — her first ever! “Praying,” though snubbed for Song of the Year, is in the running for Best Pop Solo Performance and is in good shape to win. Have you heard that high note? That’s a performance. Rainbow is also up for Best Pop Vocal Album. —DL

This Is Jay-Z’s First AOTY Nomination
No, really: For all of Hov’s many, many nominations (previously 59), he’d never received an Album of the Year nom. That changes with 4:44. He’ll enter the night the most nominated, with eight total. Just one year after his wife contended for the top honor, now it’s his turn. Beyoncé, by the way, is also up for Best Rap/Sung Performance on his song “Family Feud,” because what’s the point of the Grammys if she’s excluded? —DL

The Year of Donald Glover Continues
Donald Glover cleaned house at the Emmys for his work on Atlanta; now the multi-hyphenate threat is coming for the Grammys, too. In a surprise twist, his 2016 funk album Awaken, My Love!, released under his rap moniker, Childish Gambino, snuck in for an Album of the Year nomination. And “Redbone,” its hit that spawned a dozen memes, picked up a Record of the Year nom. But that’s not all: He’s also up for Best Traditional R&B Performance, Best R&B Song, and Best Urban Contemporary Album. That’s five total! Glover previously earned a Best Rap Album nomination, but it seems the Grammys love anything and everything he does. Put the man on EGOT watch! —DL

Chris Cornell, Leonard Cohen, and Glen Campbell All Have Posthumous Noms
The Grammys have a fondness for posthumous awards: Note that for his many stone-cold classics, David Bowie never got nominated for an album until 1983’s Let’s Dance, and he never won an award for one until 2016’s Blackstar earned him four Grammys he’d never live to receive. Bob Marley and Jimi Hendrix weren’t honored until they died, and we’re still waiting for Diana Ross to get recognized. We lost a lot of legendary musicians this year, and the rock and roots categories are so packed with the dearly departed that it’s hard to say who’ll get the honor. Do you give Best Rock Performance to Chris Cornell or Leonard Cohen? Do you give Best American Roots Performance to Cohen or Glen Campbell? It’s gonna get weird … but when aren’t the Grammys weird? —CJ

Rapsody Stunned the Rap Category
It appears the Grammys discovered North Carolina rapper Rapsody from her standout feature on Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and liked what they heard. She’s the surprise story of the rap field, where she’s a two-time nominee, including for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Song. That first category is key: She’s only the fourth solo woman ever nominated for Best Rap Album (remember, Lauryn Hill got nominated with the Fugees, but never as a solo rapper). If she wins, she’ll make history as the first woman to ever do it. Meanwhile, with both her song “Sassy” and Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” up for Best Rap Song, it’s the first time two women-led songs have ever been nominated in that category in the same year. —DL

What the Hell Is Happening in Spoken Word?
Could any other category yield such a bizarre collection of nominees? Neil DeGrasse Tyson vs. Bruce Springsteen vs. Carrie Fisher vs. Shelly Peiken vs. Bernie Sanders and Mark Ruffalo. This category is a bit of a catchall, with significant real estate devoted to audio books. My money’s on Springsteen’s 18-hour reading of his autobiography, Born to Run, which is the closest most of us will get to seeing his intimate Broadway show. Springsteen’s already earned 50 nominations and 20 wins over the course of his career, so he’s a known quantity at the Grammys. In this case that isn’t a bad thing. —Sam Hockley-Smith

“Despacito” Won’t Be Ignored
Rather than have to face the music for shutting out one of the biggest songs ever recorded, the Grammys wisely voted to extend “Despacito”’s reign even longer. The remix to Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s megahit, featuring Justin Bieber, has been nominated for both Record and Song of the Year, the only double nominee in both top categories. In a fair and just world, it’d take home Record of the Year, for the culture. As we predicted, it’s also been given a spotlight in the pop category, up for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. —DL

For Some Reason, Father John Misty Is Alternative Music Now
I’m not sure I even know what “alternative music” is anymore, but in the Grammys universe, it is the music that Father John Misty makes. As a result, he’s up against a motley crew of disparate artists: LCD Soundsystem, Gorillaz, Arcade Fire, and the National. There’s not a lot of sonic similarities here, but the one common strain through each of these records is an obsession with aging, and what it means to make art in a world that is increasingly difficult to understand. It’s genuinely hard to predict who will take this award — each artist has an equal chance, as far as I’m concerned — but what is notable is the very inclusion of Misty, whose Pure Comedy album was a bloated, searing, and often very good look at the state of America right now. It’s shocking that it’s here, until you realize that it’s an album like they don’t make too much anymore — a grand statement from an artist with an idiosyncratic point of view. —SHS

Lil Uzi Vert’s Nomination for Best New Artist Might Actually Mean Something Else
Is Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” the polar opposite of Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” (which is nominated for Song of the Year)? The former deals in loneliness and a particularly melancholy strain of nihilism, and is more powerful for it. The latter is a warm request to ask for help when you need it, but the message feels more important that the song itself. Both feel particularly of the moment: They’re calls to action in opposite directions. Uzi’s track, though, is harder to contend with. Will the often stuffy Grammys ever be comfortable giving accolades to a song that finds a weird sort of beauty in the lyrics, “I might blow my brain out / Xanny help the pain, yeah / Please, Xanny make the pain go away”? Probably not! So Lil Uzi Vert scores a nomination for Best New Artist, even though, in this case, that Best New Artist nom is actually a celebration of the certified classic song Uzi created. —SHS

Dave Chappelle and Kevin Hart Are First-Time Nominees
Two of the biggest names in comedy have shockingly never been nominated for a Grammy until now. Kevin Hart is up for Best Comedy Album for the first time, for his show What Now?, as is Dave Chappelle for his two Netflix specials, The Age of Spin and Deep in the Heart of Texas. Per Vulture’s resident comedy expert Jesse David Fox, Chappelle’s a first-timer essentially by choice — he previously hadn’t released his specials as an album, so therefore wasn’t eligible. Meanwhile, it seems the Grammys have only just caught on to Hart’s overwhelming popularity. Hey, they’re only ten years late. —DL

Katy Perry’s First Grammy Shutout
Katy Perry has been a mainstay in the Grammy pop and prestige categories since the release of her breakthrough single “I Kissed a Girl.” She collected 13 nominations from 2009 to 2015 without missing a year of nods in between, although it should be noted that so far she has never won. The notable absence of Witness and its singles from this year’s pop and dance song and album categories speaks to the stiffness of the competition in the field and, let’s be frank, the shaky quality of the product Perry was selling this time. —CJ

Only Three Musical Theater Albums Were Nominated
Music-industry shade extends to Broadway too, people. Just three cast recordings — Dear Evan Hansen, Come From Away, and Hello, Dolly! — were nominated for Best Musical Theater Album in a year that saw some pretty stacked productions. The Recording Academy has failed to nominate five albums in this category only three other times: 2014, 2012, and 1964. The biggest snub here is the beautiful Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 which features Josh Groban and Denée Benton doing their damndest to wring tears from your eye sockets, while other exclusions were Groundhog’s Day, which we argue had one of the best tracks of the season, and War Paint, which gave us the most emotional ode to a color. And while maybe Sunday in the Park With George didn’t boast the strongest cast, we are very upset that Jake Gyllenhaal’s singing isn’t getting the recognition it deserves. —Tara Abell

Somehow, Game of Thrones Found a Way In
You probably thought the series would end without snatching every award in creation, but you were wrong, because now Game of Thrones is up for a Grammy. And it has nothing to do with Ed Sheeran’s cameo! Instead, Ramin Djawadi’s season-seven score has been nominated for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media. It’s up against the film scores for Arrival, Dunkirk, Hidden Figures, and La La Land, but none of those enemies have an ice dragon, so. —DL

Where Are All the Women in Rock?
The Grammys aren’t just a sausage fest in its top tier this year. The male dominance trickles down to the genre-specific fields as well, where only one woman-led act this year has been nominated in the rock category. Kristine Flaherty, better known as K.Flay, is up for Best Rock Song for “Blood in the Cut,” making her the only stand-alone woman in a category overrun by dudes. (Joining her is LCD Soundsystem’s Nancy Whang and Arcade Fire’s Régine Chassagne.) Paramore, Beth Ditto, St. Vincent, Diet Cig, Girlpool, Sheer Mag: all snubbed. Meanwhile, you’ll find Alabama Shakes over in Best American Roots Performance, and Lorde, who still confusingly charts under Alternative, remains category-less. She’s only up for Album of the Year. —DL

Jack Antonoff Got Snubbed
Despite producing every pop album under the sun, including Album of the Year nominee Lorde’s Melodrama, Jack Antonoff got stiffed. He’s nowhere to be found under Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. His Taylor Swift song for the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack got a nom, but “Look What You Made Me Do,” plus his Bleachers album, have gone unnoticed. Instead, perennial nominee Greg Kurstin, Calvin Harris, No I.D., Blake Mills, and the Stereotypes have all been recognized for their year’s worth of production. —DL

2018 Grammy Nominations: The Snubs and Surprises