Jay-Z absolutely cleaned up on Tuesday, leading all nominees with eight nominations for the 2018 Grammy Awards.
Jay-Z absolutely cleaned up on Tuesday, leading all nominees with eight nominations for the 2018 Grammy Awards.
Photo by Marco Torres

What We Learned From the 2018 Grammy Nominations

Sure, the Grammy Awards may not have the pop or cachet they once did. Hell, Drake didn’t even submit this time around. Nevertheless, the Grammys are still the unquestioned standard bearer as music industry awards go.

The 60th Annual Grammy Awards are scheduled for late January 2018, but the nominations for those awards were revealed on Tuesday morning. There were surprises, snubs and a few interesting choices. Here are a few things we learned from the 2018 Grammy nominations.

ANOTHER HEAVYWEIGHT BATTLE
Last year, Grammy audiences were treated to a battle between Adele and Beyoncé, arguably the two biggest pop stars on the planet. In the end, Adele went home with more trophies, but it lent the Grammys a little something extra to have pop stars of that magnitude vying for Grammys in pretty much every major category. This year, we kinda get to do it all over again. Sure, Kendrick Lamar and Jay-Z (who, coincidentally enough, is married to Beyoncé) are absolute titans in the hip-hop game, but their reach outside the genre certainly doesn’t match that of Adele or Beyoncé. That said, with a combined 15 nominations between them – including Record and Album of the Year – Grammy audiences are going to get treated to the Jay-Z and Kendrick show. Speaking of which …

THE GRAMMYS GO ALL-IN ON HIP-HOP
Hip-hop has certainly gained more respect from Grammy voters over the years, but to put it on par with more standard pop music wouldn’t exactly be accurate. In fact, only two hip-hop albums have won Album of the Year in the history of the Grammys – Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (which is probably more of an R&B than hip-hop album) in 1999, and Outkast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below in 2003. That’s going to change in 2018, when either Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. or Jay-Z’s 4:44 claims the title; here’s guessing Kendrick, having been jobbed in 2016, but that’s just a guess. Hell, Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love!, an album whose genre is kinda hard to classify but one with hip-hop influences, is even nominated in the category.

THE WEEKND HAS COOLED OFF…
The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness was a revelation upon its release in 2015. Few before The Weeknd could blend tales of drugs and sex and do so in such a haunting way. The album was an absolute phenom, which is why it sold north of two million copies and earned an Album of the Year nomination at the 2016 Grammys. The Weeknd’s follow-up, last year’s Starboy, is certainly fine, albeit a bit bloated and self-indulgent. That explains why it had to settle for a Best Urban Contemporary Album nomination in 2018, an award that is pretty much already earmarked for Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love!

…AND SO HAS TAYLOR SWIFT
Swift’s much-maligned Reputation, which dropped earlier this month, won’t be eligible for Grammy consideration until next year’s nominations are announced. However, the album’s lead single – "Look What You Made Me Do" – was eligible, and yet, received a grand total of zero Grammy nominations. This is both surprising and expected. On one hand, the song is not very good and doesn’t deserve awards show love of any kind. On the flip side, Swift has won 10 Grammys, including a pair of Album of the Year nods, so it’s a little surprising she wasn’t at least issued a courtesy nomination. It’ll be curious to see how much, if any, Grammy love Reputation receives this time next year.

JUST ASK KATY PERRY
Perry really tried with her latest, Witness, a purposeful pop record that saw Perry ditching bubblegum radio hits in favor of something truly meaningful. Turns out, that really isn’t her strong suit, which is why Witness was a critical and commercial failure, one that was shut out entirely in the latest Grammy nods. Perry may one day win that elusive first Grammy; it just won’t happen in 2018.

BEST NEW ARTIST FINALLY GETS IT RIGHT
The Best New Artist Grammy has been somewhat controversial in the past, since it hasn’t always gone to, ya know, new artists. Zac Brown Band in 2010. Shelby Lynne in 2001. Amy Winehouse in 2008. Hell, Chance the Rapper last year! The Grammys have a tendency to spotlight emerging artists as opposed to new ones, something they apparently took notice of with the most recent crop of nominations. Of the five nominees – Alessia Cara, Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert, Julia Michaels, SZA – none have released more than one proper full-length studio album. That’s called progress.

'ALTERNATIVE' HAS BECOME A CATCH-ALL CATEGORY
Nominees for Alternative Album of the Year include Arcade Fire, Gorillaz, LCD Soundsystem, Father John Misty, and The National. To call that cast of artists eclectic is an understatement, mostly because it appears the Grammys didn’t really know where else to put them. To combat the whole “what does alternative music even mean anymore” argument, the Grammys should consider simply expanding the Rock categories and placing more of this music under that particular umbrella.

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