The Weeknd, or Abel Tesfaye, as he’s known Monday through Friday, received zero Grammy nominations from the Recording Academy this year, and we just wanna know what gives? The Weeknd released his fourth album, After Hours, just before lockdowns went into place across the country. He continued to expand the After Hours narrative through music videos and remote performances, like the time he set fireworks off across New York City for the VMAs. All the while, his single “Blinding Lights” made itself comfy on the charts, peaking at No. 1 in March and eventually breaking the record for most weeks in the top five of the Billboard Hot 100. We don’t even have to tell you about the TikTok challenge that got everyone on their feet at the beginning of quarantine (but the Weeknd refuses to re-create). After Hours itself spent four weeks on the Billboard 200 and went four times platinum. So, after having one of the most ubiquitous songs of the year, how did the Weeknd end up with absolutely no Grammy nominations?
Sigh. It’s highly unlikely his label, Republic (which deals with Grammy nominees Taylor Swift and Drake), didn’t submit him, unless he’s doing some sort of protest. It’s more likely that the Recording Academy got confused on how to categorize the genre-bending artist. Is he Best Pop? Best R&B? It’s possible each of the screening committees considered him to be a different genre and left him out of theirs. Genre is always a huge mess at the Grammys and this year is no different, even with its new category names. The Weeknd has previously won in the now-retired “Urban Contemporary” category, but this year, his dream pop-influenced album was shut out of the pop spaces and the newly named “Best Progressive R&B” category. In its place is Justin Bieber’s Changes or Thundercat’s It Is What It Is, respectively. The Recording Academy continues to struggle with diversity, especially in its general and pop categories, where white artists are less scrutinized by genre. Yeah, we made a few jokes about the Weeknd and his red suit this summer, but, man, After Hours deserved its flowers.
Update, 4:10 p.m.: The Grammys’ interim president and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. talked to Variety about the Weeknd’s snub in a post-nominations interview — and by talked, we mean gave one long no comment. “Y’know, it really just comes down to the voting body that decides,” he said, going on to add, “It’s really interesting, though.” Indeed! Mason wouldn’t go into much further details, and couldn’t confirm whether the Weeknd made the shortlist for the general categories.
Update, 7:50 p.m.: Abel has responded to the monumental snub on Twitter, writing on Tuesday evening, “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…”
Update, 9:30 p.m.: The Grammys have responded to the controversy as well as the reports from Variety and Rolling Stone that the snub was the result of tense negotiations between the Grammys and The Weeknd over his Super Bowl halftime performance. According to the reports, The Weeknd was supposedly shut out of the nominations following “prolonged and contentious” talks over his potential performances at the Super Bowl and the Grammys, which take place within a week of each other. Reportedly, a decision was eventually made that he would perform at both events, but the Grammys then snubbed him with zero nominations.
In a statement to Rolling Stone that essentially functions as a sorry-you-feel-that-way non-apology, Mason said, “We understand that the Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling. His music this year was excellent, and his contributions to the music community and broader world are worthy of everyone’s admiration. We would have loved to have him also perform on the Grammy stage the weekend before [the Super Bowl]. Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists.” Mason went on to clarify that “voting in all categories ended well before The Weeknd’s performance at the Super Bowl was announced, so in no way could it have affected the nomination process. All Grammy nominees are recognized by the voting body for their excellence, and we congratulate them all.”