With the “Big Four” categories — Album, Record and Song of the Year, and Best New Artist — expanded from the usual five nominees to a more unwieldy eight this year, the 61st Annual Grammy Awards were more difficult to predict than ever. And there were certainly a few shockers at Sunday’s ceremony. But surely most viewers did not expect that Kendrick Lamar, 2019’s most-nominated artist, would be almost completely shut out.
SNUB: Kendrick Lamar
Lamar went into Sunday’s ceremony with eight nods, but he only picked up one award, for Best Rap Performance award — and in a rare tie, he actually had to share that honor with co-winner Anderson. Paak. Lamar was the frontrunner to win Album of the Year for his curated Black Panther soundtrack, but he lost that award for a fourth time — after being nominated in 2014 for Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, in 2016 for To Pimp a Butterfly, and just last year for DAMN., which actually won a Pulitzer. Instead, Kacey Musgraves’s Golden Hour clinched the top award. Lamar probably doesn’t regret sitting out this year’s Grammy ceremony.
It wasn’t so much a shock that Drake won Best Rap Song for “God’s Plan,” even if he said, “I definitely did not think I was winning anything.” It was more surprising that he actually turned up to accept his award, since he has accused the Grammys of being racist in the past, and in 2017, he even refused to submit his music for consideration at all. This year he, like Lamar, reportedly turned down an invitation to perform on the show. Drake seemed somewhat nonplussed by his win Sunday, putting things into perspective for other artists out there by saying, “You’ve already won if you have people who are singing your songs word for word. If you are a hero in your hometown, if there’s people who have regular jobs who are coming out in the rain, in the snow, spending their hard-earned money to buy tickets to come to your shows, you don’t need this [Grammy trophy] right here, I promise you, you already won.”
SNUB: Lady Gaga
The A Star Is Born theme “Shallow” seemed like the frontrunner to win Record and Song of the Year, but it lost in both categories to “This Is America” by Childish Gambino — who wasn’t even there to accept his awards in person.
SNUB: Linda Perry
Only seven women have ever been nominated for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical — and no female producer has ever won. Perry, the first female nominee since 2004, seemed set to change all that, especially on a night that very overtly celebrated women. She even directed the Grammys’ Dolly Parton tribute. But Perry ultimately lost to Pharrell Williams.
The mysterious soul stylist and five-time nominee was the only Best New Artist contender to be nominated in any of the “Big Four” categories, with her self-titled debut up for Album of the Year. But she lost in the Best New Artist category to British pop singer Dua Lipa. Still, H.E.R. didn’t go home empty-handed: She won for Best R&B Album and Best R&B Song.
SURPRISE: Greta Van Fleet
The derivative retro rock band has become America’s most hated — basically the new Nickelback — since their disastrous Saturday Night Live performance and a scathing, viral Pitchfork album review. But their EP From the Fires still controversially won Best Rock Album over old-school favorites Alice in Chains, Weezer and Fall Out Boy and the critically acclaimed previous Grammy winners Ghost.
SNUB: Maren Morris
The country-pop crossover darling and 2017 Best New Artist nominee was up for five awards this year — both alone and with Zedd and Grey for “The Middle” — but she was shut out completely, making her the most-nominated artist to win nothing.
SURPRISE: Lady Gaga
Everyone expected Gaga to have a great night, of course. But the fact that she won Best Pop Solo Performance not for “Shallow” but for the title track from her underwhelming 2016 studio album, Joanne — over smashes like Camila Cabello’s “Havana” (which actually opened Sunday’s telecast), Ariana Grande’s “God Is a Woman” and Post Malone’s “Better Now” — was definitely unexpected.
SNUB: Post Malone
The rap-rocker was nominated for four awards, including Album and Record of the Year, but he also went home empty-handed.
SNUB: Pete Shelley, Bob Dorough, Vinnie Paul, XXXTentacion
The Buzzcocks’ first-wave punk forefather, the Schoolhouse Rock composer, the founder of Pantera and the controversial rapper were most noticeably left out of the broadcast’s In Memoriam segment. While XXXTentacion was reportedly a deliberate choice, due to his history of domestic violence, the other omissions seemed to be unfortunate oversights.
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