2021 GRAMMY Nominations: The Good and The Bad

Two days ago, the GRAMMY’s announced the official nominations for the myriad of awards that they present. While the GRAMMY’s conventionally represents the gold standard of creativity and innovation for the artists that are nominated, recent years has seen the awards favor big names and smash hits over the true instances of pure art, in some genres especially. This year, while the GRAMMY’s did leave out some glaring names from the nominations, they did also manage to get some things correct that they have not in a very long time.

Check out the best and the worst of the 2021 GRAMMY nominations below:

Record Of The Year
Award to the Artist and to the Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s) and/or Mixer(s) and mastering engineer(s), if other than the artist.

  • BLACK PARADE
    Beyoncé
    Beyoncé & Derek Dixie, producers; Stuart White, engineer/mixer; Colin Leonard, mastering engineer
     
  • COLORS
    Black Pumas
    Adrian Quesada, producer; Adrian Quesada, engineer/mixer; JJ Golden, mastering engineer
     
  • ROCKSTAR
    DaBaby Featuring Roddy Ricch
    SethinTheKitchen, producer; Derek “MixedByAli” Ali, Chris Dennis & Liz Robson, engineers/mixers; Susan Tabor, mastering engineer
     
  • SAY SO
    Doja Cat
    Tyson Trax, producer; Clint Gibbs, engineer/mixer; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer
     
  • EVERYTHING I WANTED
    Billie Eilish
    Finneas O’Connell, producer; Rob Kinelski & Finneas O’Connell, engineers/mixers; John Greenham, mastering engineer
     
  • DON’T START NOW
    Dua Lipa
    Caroline Ailin & Ian Kirkpatrick, producers; Josh Gudwin, Drew Jurecka & Ian Kirkpatrick, engineers/mixers; Chris Gehringer, mastering engineer
     
  • CIRCLES
    Post Malone
    Louis Bell, Frank Dukes & Post Malone, producers; Louis Bell & Manny Marroquin, engineers/mixers; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer
     
  • SAVAGE
    Megan Thee Stallion Featuring Beyoncé
    Beyoncé & J. White Did It, producers; Stuart White, engineer/mixer; Colin Leonard, mastering engineer

Song Of The Year
A Songwriter(s) Award. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.

  • BLACK PARADE
    Denisia Andrews, Beyoncé, Stephen Bray, Shawn Carter, Brittany Coney, Derek James Dixie, Akil King, Kim “Kaydence” Krysiuk & Rickie “Caso” Tice, songwriters (Beyoncé)
     
  • THE BOX
    Samuel Gloade & Rodrick Moore, songwriters (Roddy Ricch)
     
  • CARDIGAN
    Aaron Dessner & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)
     
  • CIRCLES
    Louis Bell, Adam Feeney, Kaan Gunesberk, Austin Post & Billy Walsh, songwriters (Post Malone)
     
  • DON’T START NOW
    Caroline Ailin, Ian Kirkpatrick, Dua Lipa & Emily Warren, songwriters (Dua Lipa)
     
  • EVERYTHING I WANTED
    Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell, songwriters (Billie Eilish)
     
  • I CAN’T BREATHE
    Dernst Emile II, H.E.R. & Tiara Thomas, songwriters (H.E.R.)
     
  • IF THE WORLD WAS ENDING
    Julia Michaels & JP Saxe, songwriters (JP Saxe Featuring Julia Michaels)

An important distinction: the Record Of The Year award highlights the artists, producers and recording engineers involved, while the Song Of The Year award celebrates the writers of songs. Now, onto the nominations. As far as the ROTY award, none of the songs stand out as being especially memorable, but the award is usually given to a song that defines the year of music, even if it doesn’t have much impact beyond its year. Do you remember what song won song of the year last year? The year before? Neither do I, because the songs that are nominated are pop songs that define their time and have little impact beyond. Celebrating some songs from some of the year’s best albums would highlight songs that might have some influence on music beyond this year. Speaking of the year’s best albums…

Album Of The Year
Award to Artist(s) and to Featured Artist(s), Songwriter(s) of new material, Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s), Mixer(s) and Mastering Engineer(s) credited with at least 33% playing time of the album, if other than Artist.

  • CHILOMBO
    Jhené Aiko
    Fisticuffs & Julian-Quán Việt Lê, producers; Fisticuffs, Julian-Quán Việt Lê, Zeke Mishanec, Christian Plata & Gregg Rominiecki, engineers/mixers; Jhené Aiko Efuru Chilombo, Julian-Quán Việt Lê, Maclean Robinson & Brian Keith Warfield, songwriters; Dave Kutch, mastering engineer
     
  • BLACK PUMAS (DELUXE EDITION)
    Black Pumas
    Jon Kaplan & Adrian Quesada, producers; Adrian Quesada, Jacob Sciba, Stuart Sikes & Erik Wofford, engineers/mixers; Eric Burton & Adrian Quesada, songwriters; JJ Golden, mastering engineer
     
  • EVERYDAY LIFE
    Coldplay
    Daniel Green, Bill Rahko & Rik Simpson, producers; Mark “Spike” Stent, engineer/mixer; Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion & Chris Martin, songwriters; Emily Lazar, mastering engineer
     
  • DJESSE VOL.3
    Jacob Collier
    Jacob Collier, producer; Ben Bloomberg & Jacob Collier, engineers/mixers; Jacob Collier, songwriter; Chris Allgood & Emily Lazar, mastering engineers
     
  • WOMEN IN MUSIC PT. III
    HAIM
    Rostam Batmanglij, Danielle Haim & Ariel Rechtshaid, producers; Rostam Batmanglij, Jasmine Chen, John DeBold, Matt DiMona, Tom Elmhirst, Joey Messina-Doerning & Ariel Rechtshaid, engineers/mixers; Rostam Batmanglij, Alana Haim, Danielle Haim, Este Haim & Ariel Rechtshaid, songwriters; Emily Lazar, mastering engineer
     
  • FUTURE NOSTALGIA
    Dua Lipa
    Koz, producer; Josh Gudwin & Cameron Gower Poole, engineers/mixers; Clarence Coffee Jr. & Dua Lipa, songwriters; Chris Gehringer, mastering engineer
     
  • HOLLYWOOD’S BLEEDING
    Post Malone
    Louis Bell & Frank Dukes, producers; Louis Bell & Manny Marroquin, engineers/mixers; Louis Bell, Adam Feeney, Austin Post & Billy Walsh, songwriters; Mike Bozzi, mastering engineer
     
  • FOLKLORE
    Taylor Swift
    Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner & Taylor Swift, producers; Jack Antonoff, Aaron Dessner, Serban Ghenea, John Hanes, Jonathan Low & Laura Sisk, engineers/mixers; Aaron Dessner & Taylor Swift, songwriters; Randy Merrill, mastering engineer

This list isn’t terrible, but it sure isn’t great. Jhené Aiko, HAIM and Taylor Swift succeeded to make music that subverted expectations and overdelivered, while names like Post Malone and Coldplay bring up some red flags, as they each have clearly had more superior works in the past than what they put out this past year. The Black Pumas certainly made a great album, but including a deluxe album in the AOTY nominations seems slightly unfair. Lastly, it is truly mind boggling how Dua Lipa, Jacob Collier, Coldplay, Post Malone and pretty much every other nomination for AOTY beat out The Weeknd’s After Hours. It makes zero sense, and it is probably the biggest mistake the GRAMMY’s made this year.

Best New Artist
This category recognizes an artist whose eligibility-year release(s) achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and notably impacted the musical landscape.

  • INGRID ANDRESS
     
  • PHOEBE BRIDGERS
     
  • CHIKA
     
  • NOAH CYRUS
     
  • D SMOKE
     
  • DOJA CAT
     
  • KAYTRANADA
     
  • MEGAN THEE STALLION

These artists have all achieved this year, but the general feeling behind this award is, are these artists really considered “new” at this point? Most of these artists have either achieved some level of mainstream success already, or have been making music for years, if not decades, or even both. This is not meant to take anything away from this group of artists, as they are all definitely talented and capable of being considered mainstream-level. However, it would be really awesome if the GRAMMY’s went above and beyond to recognize truly new and emerging talent in the industry, not names that music fans have known for years already.

Best Rock Album
For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new rock, hard rock or metal recordings.

  • A HERO’S DEATH
    Fontaines D.C.
     
  • KIWANUKA
    Michael Kiwanuka
     
  • DAYLIGHT
    Grace Potter
     
  • SOUND & FURY
    Sturgill Simpson
     
  • THE NEW ABNORMAL
    The Strokes

Checking in on the state of rock, there is definitely a lot of great music in these albums, and there is also a lot of variety between these albums. Hard rock, punk rock, indie rock and contemporary rock are just some of the styles of rock to appear across the albums, making the selection process likely very difficult. One curious aspect of these nominations is three of these albums being released in 2019 as opposed to 2020. While I do not know what the exact criteria is, this seems rather unfair, and there are surely other quality rock albums made in 2020 that could have deserved nomination, like AC/DC’s POWER UP.

 Best Rap Album
For albums containing at least 51% playing time of new rap recordings.

  • BLACK HABITS
    D SMOKE
     
  • ALFREDO
    Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist
     
  • A WRITTEN TESTIMONY
    Jay Electronica
     
  • KING’S DISEASE
    Nas
     
  • THE ALLEGORY
    Royce Da 5’9″

This category has always been a bane for hip hop fans, but for the first time in a long time it seems like the GRAMMY’s actually got this one right. In years past the awards have simply nominated the big hits and the big names, while paying little attention to the actual content that is contained within the albums (check the other rap categories and nominations). However, for the most important award in the genre, it finally seems like the GRAMMY’s are ready to honor some albums that contain true value and substance rather than flash, as each one of these albums are not only true AOTY candidates, but also extremely detailed, emotional and layered with meaning. Each artists is deserving to have his album nominated, although it would have been nice to see some Griselda artists recognized by the GRAMMY’s.

These are just some of the many nominations across a wide variety of categories. You can check out the full list of categories and nominees here.

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Drew Feinerman View All →

I have just completed my senior year at the University of Michigan majoring in international studies with an emphasis in political economics and development, with a minor in Chinese language and culture, and I have recently been accepted into the Berklee School of Music’s masters of music business program. Although economics, politics and history are all academic interests of mine, I consider music to be my true passion.

Music has always been my passion, and it is a driving force for the way I think, act, and conduct myself on a daily basis. I have been playing the clarinet and saxophone since the age of ten, and the ability to play music at a high level has allowed me to embrace music on a multitude of levels. I am both an avid player and listener of music, and I find myself constantly in search of new artists who bring something new and different to the art form, and writing about new music has become a new outlet for me to explore what is going on in the musical world.

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