Grammy Nominations: The Biggest Shocks And Snubs

We take a look at the surprises — and outright outrages — of the Grammy nominations, in Bigger Than the Sound.

Here's about all you need to know about the nominations for the 54th Grammy Awards, which were announced Wednesday night in Los Angeles: Bon Iver got more of them (4) than Lady Gaga did (3). So did Mumford & Sons, Radiohead and Skrillex.

Call it the residual effects of Arcade Fire's Album of the Year triumph at the previous Grammys or perhaps the first creaks of a seismic shift in voter tastes, but there's definitely something going on with this year's field of nominees ... it's just difficult to say exactly what.

Because, sure Gaga got shunted. But Kanye didn't. In fact, he's this year's most-nominated artist, collecting seven of them (though his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, by all accounts a commercial and critical success, failed to pick up an Album of the Year nod) in a move by the Grammy voters that certainly poked a lot of holes in what everyone believed would be the story line of these awards: Namely, that women would dominate, since, you know, they've basically done that on the charts all year long.

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Adele, who you've probably heard of (and whose 21 album you probably own), ended up snagging six nods, including Album, Record and Song of the Year. But most expected her to get more, or at least be the most-nominated act. Instead, she's tied with a bunch of dudes (Bruno Mars and those old Grammy faves the Foo Fighters) in second. Nicki Minaj ended up with five noms, while Rihanna — who is usually the one left out at these kinds of shows — got four. And then the drop off begins.

Taylor Swift, who won Album of the Year not too long ago, and whose Speak Now sold a million copies in a week, was shut out of the so-called "Big Four" categories and ended up with just three nominations total, all of which came in the country categories. Katy Perry, who has three #1 singles to her name this year, earned two noms. So did Beyoncé, and one of her nods came in the Long Form Music Video category. Britney Spears was shut out completely. All of those decisions were curious, to say the very least.

Then again, as I wrote on Wednesday, the Grammys usually shake out this way. They are usually unpredictable ... if not incomprehensible. So, with the field of nominees set, I've decided to take a look at some of this year's biggest shocks and snubs, in a last-ditch attempt to make sense of it all. What can I say? At least I'm trying.


I've already mentioned two eyebrow-raisers: First, that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was edged out of Album of the Year, a twist that I don't think anyone saw coming, especially since he's been up for the award three times before. And second, that Speak Now failed to gain more traction with Grammy voters. Given Swift's track record with the awards, and how well her latest sold, her absence in AOTY seems all the more glaring. Then again, the two albums that took their spots — Mars' Doo-Wops & Hooligans and the Foos' Wasting Light — didn't exactly represent stretches by Grammy voters, either. Mars picked up some heat at last year's awards, and the Foos, well, they've already got six Grammys to their name.

I'm also sort of amazed that those voters deviated from recent tradition, and ignored the token "old dude" releases by Tony Bennett and Paul Simon in AOTY. A cultural shift? Perhaps. In keeping with that theme, I was also surprised to see one of the year's biggest country acts, Jason Aldean, get shut out of the "Big Four" categories: He had two of the year's biggest songs ("Dirt Road Anthem" and "Don't You Wanna Stay") and he performed at the annual nominations telecast. Those two things seemed to guarantee him some nods. He ended up with just three.

I suppose given the continued success of Mumford & Sons, their Grammy haul — four noms, including Record and Song of the Year for "The Cave" — shouldn't really be considered all that shocking, but given everyone they edged out (Gaga, Beyoncé, Aldean, Minaj, Swift) — it's still rather surprising. Rihanna's Album of the Year nomination is also mildly surprising, considering she's not exactly an album artist ... then again, neither is Katy Perry, and her Teenage Dream was nominated in the same category last year.

But overall, the biggest shock has to be the four nominations earned by Justin Vernon, the bearded wunderkind also known as Bon Iver. Without the support of radio — or even a major label — his "Holocene" earned Record and Song of the Year, and he's also up for Best New Artist (the term applies loosely, I know), giving him a stake in three-quarters of the "Big Four," a feat equaled only by Adele and Bruno Mars. He is without a doubt this year's biggest Grammy story, and the question of whether his success — coupled with Arcade Fire's triumph last year — represents voters' newfound recognition of indie artists may wind up being the story line that shapes the awards for years to come.


Let's start with Gaga. For everything that led up to the release of Born This Way (and everything that followed subsequently), not to mention she's been nominated for Album of the Year twice before, the fact that she walked away with just three nominations has got to be considered a snub. Are voters just growing tired of her? Did BTW not do enough? Are we really in the midst of some grand change? Tough to say.

I'd also say Katy Perry's two nominations count as a boldface snub, given her continued success in 2011. Then again, she did earn her share of nods at last year's show, so my outrage is tempered, albeit slightly. Beyoncé released 4, the very definition of a grower, both commercially and critically, but for the album to receive just one proper nomination seems like a slight. Taylor Swift fans probably have some qualms with the voters, as do Nicki Minaj's Barbz. And Britney Spears' goose egg is slightly aggravating, then again, she's never been considered a Grammy artist, and has won just once during her entire career.

And though I already mentioned it as a shock, the fact that Dark Twisted Fantasy didn't scoop up an Album of the Year nod may also go down as the year's biggest snub too. It sold well, was heaped with critical praise and, like I said, he's been nominated in the category before. Perhaps it was just released too long ago, or maybe he split votes by releasing Watch The Throne, but whatever the case, its absence in AOTY is rather outrageous, to say the very least. And even though he's the show's most-nominated act, I'd like to think Kanye would agree with me in that regard.

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