Music fans offended by Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow’s controversial remark earlier this year — that women need to “step up” in order to earn more Grammy nominations — will no doubt be pleased to see the just-announced list of contenders for the 61st Annual Grammy Awards packed with deserving names like Janelle Monáe, Brandi Carlile, Lady Gaga, Kacey Musgraves, Cardi B, H.E.R., Dua Lipa, Ella Mai, Margo Price, Bebe Rexha, SZA and Jorja Smith. However, some major female artists (and some male ones, of course) were shockingly overlooked this year.
Let’s deep-dive into the biggest snubs and surprises among the new nominees.
SNUB: Ariana Grande
The pop star just had the biggest year of her career (in fact, the night before the Grammy nominations announcement, Billboard named her Woman of the Year), and she was considered a shoo-in for Album, Record and Song of the Year. Yet she was inexplicably shut out of all of the “Big Three” categories. She’ll have to settle for a mere two nominations in the Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Solo Performance categories instead. Shockingly, Grande has never won a Grammy, and it doesn’t look like this will be her year. Thank u, next, indeed.
SNUB: Taylor Swift
Swift just set a record at the American Music Awards, and she has always been a Recording Academy favorite, having won a whopping 10 Grammys previously. But she was practically passed over entirely this year. Not only was her latest album, Reputation, not nominated for the Album of the Year award (which she has won twice, for Fearless and 1989), but also she only earned one nod overall, for Best Pop Vocal Album.
SURPRISE: Brandi Carlile
The gifted singer-songwriter has been a critics’ darling for years, and her sixth studio album, By the Way, I Forgive You, is sure to land on many 2018 best-of lists. But few pundits predicted that Carlile would be one of this year’s leading Grammy artists with six nominations total (trailing Kendrick Lamar’s eight and Drake’s seven), including for Album, Record and Song of the Year.
SNUB: Camila Cabello
The breakout pop star of 2018 wasn’t expected to be up for Best New Artist, due to her previous involvement with Fifth Harmony, but it was widely predicted that her full-length solo debut, Camila, would be up for Album of the Year. Like Grande, she instead scored just two nods in the marginalized Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album categories.
SNUB: The Carters
If Beyoncé and Jay-Z were hoping to avenge their controversial respective Album of the Year losses to Adele and Bruno Mars, they’ll just have to wait. The power couple did pick up three nominations (for Best R&B Performance, Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Music Video), but they were shut out of the major categories. On a related note, Bey and fellow Grammy favorite Ed Sheeran were also passed over for their hit duet, “Perfect.”
Up until recently, the true identity of this 21-year-old rising R&B singer/multi-instrumentalist — who, like Sia, tends to cover her face onstage and in photos — was a mystery. (Her real name is Gabi Wilson.) But the academy has certainly taken notice, giving H.E.R. five nominations, including two biggies: Album of the Year and Best New Artist.
SNUB: Juice Wrld
The SoundCloud-dominating rapper crossed over to pop radio this year with his massive hit “Lucid Dreams,” described by Yahoo Entertainment’s Grammy expert Paul Grein as “a very interesting record, a mix of pop, rap, and almost baroque elements.” Grein predicted Juice Wrld “would be the new talent that will break big as a result of the nominations” and said he was a lock for Best New Artist, but the hip-hop star was passed over entirely, even in the Rap categories.
SNUB: Troye Sivan
The openly gay pop star had a huge breakout year, even receiving a Golden Globe nomination this week for Best Song for his Boy Erased theme “Revelation,” and he was predicted to be up for a Best New Artist Grammy. Yet Sivan didn’t receive a single Grammy nomination this year, not even in the Pop categories.
SNUB: Sam Smith
Smith was the darling of the 2015 Grammys, when he won Best New Artist and Record and Song of the Year for “Stay With Me.” But this time around, he received no nominations — not even for “Pray,” which he actually performed at the Grammy Awards ceremony this past January.
SURPRISE: Jorja Smith
The British R&B singer-songwriter edged out more obvious contenders like Juice Wrld and Troye Sivan in the Best New Artist race.
SNUB: The Greatest Showman
This soundtrack dominated 2018, but failed to score an Album of the Year nod. (To put it in perspective, this soundtrack has sold more than Black Panther and A Star Is Born combined.) “It’s pretty rare for a soundtrack to be nominated for Album of the Year,” Grein notes. “Only two have been nominated in the last 25 years, O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Waiting to Exhale, and both of those were overseen by individuals who were very well-known and respected in the music community — Babyface in the case of Waiting to Exhale, T Bone Burnett with O Brother.” By that logic, the academy instead went with Black Panther, which was overseen by Grammy darling Kendrick Lamar, who leads this year’s Grammy nominations.
SURPRISE: Koryn Hawthorne
The Voice catches a lot of flak for not creating stars, so more casual viewers may not realize that this former Team Pharrell hopeful has carved out quite an impressive career for herself, as a contemporary Christian music/gospel artist, since placing fourth on the reality competition in 2015. She’s already won a Dove Award for “Won’t He Do It,” and that track just picked up a Grammy nomination for Best Gospel Performance/Song.
SNUB: Maroon 5
Cardi B cleaned up as a solo artist, scoring nominations for Album and Record of the Year and Best Rap Album. But her duet with Maroon 5, “Girls Like You” — one of the biggest hits of the venerable pop/rock band’s career — only scored one nod, for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
SNUB: Justin Timberlake
Perhaps Timberlake’s poor showing this time around isn’t really a surprise, considering the critical and commercial failure of his 2018 album, Man of the Woods. But the fact that the 10-time winner was recognized in only one category (Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, for his “Say Something” duet with Chris Stapleton) shows just how far he has fallen.
SURPRISE: Tierra Whack
The relatively unknown rising rap star picked up a Best Music Video nomination for the freaky “Mumbo Jumbo” (which, as of this writing, hasn’t even cracked half a million views on YouTube), going up against heavy hitters like the Carters’ “Apes**t,” Janelle Monáe’s “PYNK” and Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.”
SURPRISE: Mac Miller
It’s not necessarily surprising that Miller would be recognized. What is surprising is this is his very first nomination. The late rapper’s Swimming is up for Best Rap Album, but whether he wins or not, expect him to figure prominently in next year’s In Memoriam segment.
The 61st Annual Grammy Awards will take place in Los Angeles on Feb. 10, 2019.