The 2020 Grammys nominations are here and while some young critical darlings and commercial favorites like Billie Eilish, H.E.R., Lil Nas X, and Lizzo top the list, the nominations are unsurprisingly causing an uproar in certain circles.
The first question people will probably ask when looking at the nominations list concerns how Lizzo‘s “Truth Hurts” scored nominations for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, when only songs released between October 1, 2018 and August 31, 2019 are eligible. Yes, that song was everywhere this year and was given a new life after it was featured in a Netflix rom-com called Someone Great. But if the voting academy is supposedly so strict about deciding cutoff dates for what is eligible for a nomination, how is it, then, that a song released in 2017 is being nominated for a Grammy in 2020? It probably has something to do with the fact that Lizzo re-released it as part of her album, Cuz I Love You (which is technically the artist’s third studio album, but her debut major label LP), after its renaissance this spring.
Some might also ask how Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper sneaked there way into the 2020 Grammys, when Gaga already performed “Shallow” at the Grammys last year. Hasn’t the A Star Is Born frenzy died down yet? This year, “Always Remember Us This Way” from A Star Is Born received a nomination for Song of the Year, her heartbreaking finale ballad “I’ll Never Love Again (Film Version)” received a nomination for Best Song Written for Visual Media, and the entire A Star Is Born soundtrack received a nomination for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media. But because the soundtrack was released on October 5, 2018, these are all technically eligible.
Then, there’s the question of what fits in those murky categories. There are some— like Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album—which seemed named to intentionally cause confusion. Bad Bunny, J. Balvin, Flor De Toloache, iLe, and Rosalía all received nominations in Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album— which lumps rock, urban, and alternative genres into a single, Spanish-language group. And should Rosalía’s music be considered Latin in the first place? The singer won some Latin Grammys in 2019 (and was nominated in 2017 and 2018) and her music does draw from both Latin American influences and Flamenco (which originated in Spain, but is attributed to Andalusian and Romani people), but she is not Latina, and many media outlets have received criticism from Latinx fans for not being clear enough about the difference between someone being a Hispanic performer who makes Latin music and someone who is Latina.
And where are all of the women producers? Producer of the Year, Non-Classical nominations went to a whole bunch of men (Jack Antonoff, Dan Auerbach, John Hill, Finneas, and Ricky Reed), and not a single woman. What happened to the up-and-coming engineers and producers, or even the established ones like Missy Elliott and Linda Perry?
There’s also the fact that those who have committed reprehensible acts of violence towards women are somehow not shut out of this particular type of popularity contest. Chris Brown, who has been canceled at least two times over, received a Best R&B Song nomination for “No Guidance [ft. Drake].”
In the non-music arena, Aziz Ansari, whose Netflix special Right Now was released as a comedy album that attempted to tackle “wokeness” but ended up falling flat, received a nomination for Best Comedy Album, when the special was, to put it lightly, not that funny.
And with some performers, the type of awards they are nominated for don’t match up with the best parts of their work. Lil Nas X, the nation’s beloved Gen-Z country star, won the world over with his viral “Old Town Road,” which most would agree deserves many accolades. Best New Artist? Sure. Record of the year? Absolutely. Album of the Year? Not so fast. Lil Nas X’s album 7 was critically panned. So, are these awards determined by what is popular or by what is good?
But the biggest question you should ask when looking at the list of nominations for next year’s Grammy Awards is, why should anyone be surprised? Every single year, not only do the nominations spark confusion, anger, and frustration, but the wins do as well. Who could forget the cringeworthy “you got robbed” text Macklemore sent to Kendrick Lamar when he won Best New Artist in 2014? If you think the Twitter response to these nominations is thorny, just wait until we see who wins.