It's official: Justin Bieber was "snubbed" by the Grammy Awards. I think Bieber's shut-out has gotten more attention than the fact that fun. swept the nominations in the top four categories. There's a good reason for that. Everybody knows Justin Bieber; fun. is just now becoming known outside of the slice of the population that's plugged into pop music.
With all the talk about Bieber's snub, you would think that that every other working musician received a Grammy nomination. (With 81 categories on the Grammy ballot, it sometimes seems that way.) In fact, many other artists went unrecognized, including Nicki Minaj, Mary J. Blige, Train, the Beach Boys, Cee Lo Green, R. Kelly, Monica, Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, The Band Perry and Lionel Richie.
Still other artists received one or more noms, but were skipped over for high-profile "genre album" awards. Among them: Rihanna, Trey Songz, Little Big Town and Bieber's early mentor, Usher.
Yet I haven't seen one reference to how Bob Dylan was "snubbed" because Tempest wasn't nominated for Best Americana Album or how Neil Young & Crazy Horse were "snubbed" because Americana wasn't nominated for Best Rock Album. But then, Dylan, Young and most of these other artists aren't as buzz-worthy as Bieber. You can point out that Dylan or Blige or Richie didn't get any Grammy nominations and it won't create a stir. Point out that Bieber was shut out and it's big news.
Bieber had better luck at the Grammys two years ago. He was nominated for Best New Artist (though he famously lost to Esperanza Spalding). And his first full-length album, My World 2.0, was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album.
Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, tweeted his displeasure with the outcome. "I just plain DISAGREE," he wrote on Twitter. "The kid deserved it. Grammy board, u blew it on this one."
Braun also tweeted: "The hardest thing to do is transition, keep the train moving. The kid delivered. Huge successful album, sold out tour, and won people over…this time he deserved to be recognized and I dont really have any kind nice positive things to say about a decision I dont agree with."
I sympathize. All three of the singles from Believe were well-designed to take Bieber from his early bubblegum image into the slinky, R&B-accented pop that made Justin Timberlake a superstar. And all three have been successful. "Boyfriend" reached #2 on the Hot 100, "As Long As You Love Me," featuring Big Sean, hit #6 and "Beauty And A Beat," featuring Nicki Minaj, is currently in the top 15.
Bieber was a serious candidate in three Grammy categories: Best Pop Vocal Album for Believe, Best Pop Solo Performance for "Boyfriend" and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "As Long As You Love Me." (The latter hit, which is Bieber's most impressive work to date, would have had a better chance of being nominated in the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category. It's really a pop record with hip-hop shading rather than the other way around. More on that in a minute.)
Let's take a closer look at these three categories.
A whopping 315 albums competed for Best Pop Vocal Album. The nominees are fun.'s Some Nights (which is also up for Album of the Year), Kelly Clarkson's Stronger, Florence + the Machine's Ceremonials, Maroon 5's Overexposed and P!nk's The Truth About Love.
Simple math tells us that 310 albums were left out, "snubbed" to use a media buzz word. These include such prominent albums as Rihanna's Talk That Talk, Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, John Mayer's Born And Raised, One Direction's Up All Night, Lana Del Rey's Born To Die, Jason Mraz's Love Is A Four Letter Word and The Beach Boys' That's Why God Made The Radio.
A total of 343 recordings competed for Best Pop Solo Performance, with nominations going to Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" (which is also up for Record of the Year), Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe," Adele's "Set Fire To The Rain (Live)," Katy Perry's "Wide Awake" and Rihanna's "Where Have You Been." (Bieber, of course, gave Jepsen a vital early boost, and then she winds up beating him out for a nomination in this category and also Song of the Year, where "Boyfriend" was also a candidate.)
(A side note: You may have noticed that no male artists were nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance. This is the second year that the Grammys have put males and females in the same category. And it's the second year that women have dominated the category. Last year one male, Bruno Mars, made the finals. This reflects the degree to which women have dominated pop music in recent years.)
Many recordings were left out in the Pop Solo Performance category, including Taylor Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," which is a Record of the Year finalist, and Ne-Yo's masterful "Let Me Love You (Until You Learn To Love Yourself)," which deserved to be. (It's rare for a Record of the Year nominee not to receive a nomination for a "performance award," though it also happened this year with Frank Ocean's "Thinkin Bout You," which was passed over for a nomination for Best R&B Performance.)
Among other recordings that were left out in this category: Lady Gaga's "You And I" (Live), Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up," P!nk's "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)" and Phillip Phillips' "Home."
Finally, 99 recordings competed for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. The nominees are "Wild Ones" by Flo Rida featuring Sia, "No Church In The Wild" by Jay-Z/Kanye West featuring Frank Ocean and The-Dream, "Tonight (Best You Ever Had)" by John Legend featuring Ludacris, "Cherry Wine" by Nas featuring Amy Winehouse and "Talk That Talk" by Rihanna featuring Jay-Z.
Most of the recordings that were entered in this category have rap or hip-hop artists in the lead position. But there are exceptions. As you can see, John Legend and Rihanna were slotted in this category.
Still, I think "As Long As You Love Me" would have been more at home (and would have had a better chance of a nomination) in Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Nominations in that category went to "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye featuring Kimbra and "We Are Young" by fun. featuring Janelle Monae (both of which are also up for Record of the Year), "Payphone" by Maroon 5 featuring Wiz Khalifa, LMFAO's "Sexy And I Know It" and Florence + the Machine's "Shake It Out."
Many notable recordings were left out in both categories. In Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, the list of also-rans includes "Lotus Flower Bomb" by Wale featuring Miguel, "Young, Wild & Free" by Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa featuring Bruno Mars, "Girl On Fire" by Alicia Keys featuring Nicki Minaj, "Both Of Us" by B.o.B featuring Taylor Swift, "International Love" by Pitbull featuring Chris Brown and "Best Love Song" by T-Pain featuring Chris Brown.
Left out for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: One Direction's "What Makes You Beautiful," Train's "Drive By," The Lumineers' "Ho Hey," The Wanted's "Glad You Came," The Beach Boys' "That's Why God Made The Radio" and "Princess Of China" by Coldplay featuring Rihanna.
Part of the dynamic is that there are so many recordings and only five slots in most categories. The overwhelming majority of entries in all categories don't get nominated.
I hope Bieber is smart enough to realize the reason the media zeroes in on him is that he's one of the biggest and buzziest names out there. It would be worse if an artist didn't get any Grammy nominations and nobody thought twice about it. Put that way, this week's focus on Bieber was really recognition of his popularity and front-running status. That's probably not as good as a Grammy nomination, but for now, at least, it will have to do.