Sounding Board

Winners, Losers, & Big Surprises In The 2020 Grammy Nominations

The 2020 Grammy nominations are out, and there’s a lot to discuss. Let’s work our way through the big storylines.

Lizzo Leads A Field Dominated By First-Time Nominees

Lizzo’s breakout year continues with an overall best eight nominations, including all four general field categories: Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Record Of The Year, and Best New Artist. Her total is two more than fellow A-list newcomers Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X, both of whom have six to their name. Eilish will compete in all four of the big categories as well; at 17 (18 by the time of the ceremony) she’s the youngest artist to ever be nominated for all four and would be the youngest to win Album Of The Year, surpassing 20-year-old Taylor Swift’s win for Fearless. Lil Nas X checked off three of those boxes including some very unsurprising nods (Best New Artist and Record Of The Year) and one somewhat shocking Album Of The Year nomination for his 7 EP. Lizzo, Eilish, and Lil Nas X are all first-time nominees.

Tied at five nominations are an intriguing trio of figures. Ariana Grande, whose superior Sweetener was largely snubbed last year, is in the mix big-time with thank u, next up for Album Of The Year and Best Pop Vocal Album, “7 Rings” up for Record Of The Year and Best Pop Solo Performance, and the Social House collab “Boyfriend” surprisingly up for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. (Social House, of course, are first-time nominees.)

Also with five is ascendant Grammy royalty H.E.R., who snuck her way into three of the four major categories and would have gotten a Best New Artist nod too if she hadn’t already been nominated for that one last year. And Eilish’s brother FINNEAS, who collaborates on all her music, has a shot at Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year, Best Engineered Album (Non-Classical), and Producer Of The Year (Non-Classical), where he’s up against Jack Antonoff, Dan Auerbach, John Hill, and Ricky Reed.

Swift & Sheeran Snubbed Again

Many prognosticators had Taylor Swift pegged to return to Grammy dominance this year, but Lover is boxed out of the Album Of The Year race, and none of its tracks are up for Song Of The Year either. Swift’s lone nomination in the big four “general field” categories is a Record Of The Year nod for Lover’s title track. As consolation, she does claim two other nominations in the pop realm: “You Need To Calm Down” for Best Pop Solo Performance and Lover for Best Pop Album.

This would be considered a big haul for most artists, but expectations are always stratospheric where Swift and the Grammys are concerned, considering she already has two Album Of The Year trophies to her name. Her pal Ed Sheeran also continues to get the cold shoulder from the Recording Academy — deservingly, because his new album is butt, but still, he seems like the kind of guy who’d score a lot of Grammy nominations.

Mainstream Indie Goes All The Way Mainstream

Blogger favorites Vampire Weekend, Bon Iver, and Lana Del Rey are all up for Album Of The Year. Vampy Weeks and Bonny Bear are both past Grammy winners, with Ezra Koenig’s crew taking home Best Alternative Album for Modern Vampires Of The City in 2014 and Justin Vernon’s project famously winning Best New Artist in 2012. LDR has been nominated before but never won; it will be interesting to see if the Recording Academy will allow the phrase Norman Fucking Rockwell to be uttered in primetime.

NFR’s title track is also up for Song Of The Year, while Bon Iver’s “Hey Ma” nabbed a Record Of The Year nod. Those Bon Iver nominations result in Brad Cook’s first nominations. No more general field love for Vampire Weekend beyond that Album Of The Year nomination, but “Harmony Hall” is up for Best Rock Song against the likes of Brittany Howard, the 1975, Gary Clark Jr., and… Tool. Yes, it’s weird, but honestly all these NPR-core heroes battling Tool is only mildly bizarre by this category’s recent standards. (This is the one where St. Vincent beat Greta Van Fleet, Twenty One Pilots, Ghost, and Bring Me The Horizon last year.)

Other Overlooked Artists

The Best New Artist field comprises a lot of the expected names (Lizzo, Eilish, Lil Nas X, Maggie Rogers, Rosalía) and a few wild cards (Black Pumas, Tank And The Bangas, Yola). That leaves out some other names that had been bandied about including Juice WRLD, Megan Thee Stallion, Ari Lennox, Carly Pearce, Morgan Wallen, and Tyler Childers. Many pegged Jonas Brothers to get some love for their #1 comeback smash “Sucker,” which did not happen. Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s hit duet “Señorita” was similarly snubbed; it’ll have to fight with “Sucker” for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Tyler, The Creator had been heavily tipped to compete for Album Of The Year and other major categories, but he’ll have to settle for one measly Best Rap Album nomination for IGOR, which isn’t even really a rap album. (Surely they could have given Lil Nas X’s Album Of The Year nod to Tyler instead?) Maren Morris also could have run the table in an alternate timeline, but she’s stuck with a solitary Best Country Duo/Group Performance nod for “Common” alongside her Highwomen bandmate and recent Recording Academy obsession Brandi Carlile. Dan + Shay, another country act who could have edged into the general field categories, are left with Best Country Song and Best Country Duo/Group Performance bids for their hit “Speechless.” Beyoncé’s beloved Beychella live album Homecoming, seen as a longshot contender, is also shut out of the top categories, though its visual component is up for Best Music Film and her Lion King album scored her three more genre categories.

Khalid is up for Record Of The Year with “Talk” but could have had a much bigger haul. Former Grammy golden child Chance The Rapper’s only love comes in the form of a Best Rap Song nod for “Bad Idea” with first-time nominee and Chance heir apparent YBN Cordae, who released his The Lost Boy on the same day as Chance’s The Big Day and is the one who ended up in the Best Rap Album category. Presumptive contenders Bruce Springsteen, Solange, and Halsey were all completely shut out. Last year “Shallow” was up for Grammys, but technically the A Star Is Born soundtrack could have made a big splash this year; as it stands, it seems so far in the past that “Always Remember Us This Way” entering the Song Of The Year fray feels more like a triumph than a snub.

One artist who seems like a partial snub but really isn’t is Post Malone, whose album Hollywood’s Bleeding came out a week after the deadline. He still enjoys Record Of The Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance nominations for the Swae Lee collab “Sunflower.” He can’t be too upset about that, especially considering the Grammys overlooked the K-pop genre entirely.

More Notable First-Time Nominees

Big Thief get their first nomination with U.F.O.F. up for Best Alternative Album; the race pits them against the aforementioned Vampire Weekend and Bon Iver and serious electronic men Thom Yorke and James Blake, both of whom have also won before (Yorke in this category three times with Radiohead plus a packaging win for Amnesiac, Blake for his turn on Jay Rock’s Black Panther posse cut “King’s Dead”). A long overdue Gucci Mane is finally nominated for something, but it’s just for his guest turn on Lizzo’s “Exactly How I Feel” in the Best R&B Performance category. Members Ashley Monroe and (especially) Miranda Lambert have prior nominations, but Pistol Annies have never been nominated as a group before getting into the Best Country Album mix for Interstate Gospel.

Although denied a Best New Artist bid, DaBaby doubly becomes a first-time nominee with “Suge” up for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. Lewis Capaldi is another one who could have been in the Best New Artist race, but he can’t bee too bummed about joining the nominees club via “Someone You Loved” landing in the Song Of The Year category. Alt-rock veterans the Cranberries are nominated for the first time with In The End, completed after singer Dolores O’Riordan’s death, up for Best Rock Album. Mariachi-informed indie veterans Calexico have their first two nods, with their latest Iron & Wine collaboration Years To Burn launching them into the Best American Roots Performance and Best Americana Album races.

Burna Boy gets his first nod with African Giant up for Best World Music Album, though he did technically appear on a Fall Out Boy album that was nominated last year. Apparat are first-time nominees with LP5 up for Best Dance/Electronic Album against the Chemical Brothers, Flume, Tycho, and another first-timer, RÜFÜS DU SOL. Intellexual, an offshoot of Chance The Rapper’s backing band the Social Experiment, are first-time nominees in the Best Recording Package category. Other names making their first appearance: Lettuce, Bones UK, Death Angel.

CBS will air the Grammys live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles at 8PM ET on Sunday, 1/26, though many categories will be announced that afternoon. Until then, find the full list of nominations here.

Tags: Grammys