SZA, Olivia Rodrigo and Men Come Up Short

Everybody gets a trophy! Well, we don’t want to sound that dismissive of the way the Grammys like to spread the love. But it did seem as if the Recording Academy votership was determined to give nearly all the major nominees at least one significant award. And not allowing any of the multiply nominated artists a sweep means fewer of them come in for so-called snubs. Still, if we’re focusing on the top three all-genre categories, especially, in as strong a year of candidates as this one, there are going to be a fair amount of deserving superstars who will have to have their genre-specific awards to keep them warm tonight.

Let’s just point out before we get into the snubs that Variety correctly picked all four top winners: Taylor Swift for album of the year, Miley Cyrus for record of the year, Billie Eilish for song of the year and Victoria Monet as best new artist. So can any of those count as surprises? To much of the viewing audience, maybe, but not to us, and few other soothsayers in our midst.

So let’s make this an all-snubs edition of Snubs & Surprises… even though everyone’s a winner, etc.

SNUB: Men. It turns out they really aren’t Ken-ough!

Well, this was a foregone conclusion, even going into the telecast. In the top three categories, the only male artist to get even a single nomination was Jon Batiste — and unlike 2022, he was not due for a series of upsets this time. But a telecast in which not one male artist wins one of the televised awards? This imbalance is historic… and some of us love it, knowing the pendulum will likely swing back to an era in which someone is tempted to say women need to step up.

SNUB: SZA’s slaying streak doesn’t extend to the top categories.

SZA came into the ceremony with the most nominations — nine — but only picked up a third of those. “Only” is a relative thing; most other candidates would kill Bill, or anyone else, to rack up that many. But her failure to come through in any of the top all-genre categories was either (a) just the product of too many juggernauts to reward in a big way this year, or (b) a failure of diversity, continuing in the tradition of Beyonce being unable to win album of the year even once. Expect to see these and probably many other theories discussed in the hours and days to come.

SNUB: New artists... MIA on the telecast.

Of course there was a win in the best new artist category — for Variety cover star Victoria Monet, as we predicted in these pages. But in watching the telecast, you’d be hard-pressed to know there are any new artists in music at all, despite the most potent lineup in that category in years and years. When you have performers as galvanizing as Monet, Noah Kahan (currently one of the top ticket draws in America with his sold-out coming tour, with a perennial top 5 album), Jelly Roll (already a country superstar) and The War and Treaty… not one of them is deserving of a prime-time spot? We may love our Billy Joel, but something’s wrong with this formula.

SNUB: Lana Del Rey: still a cult artist, according to the Recording Academy.

Still Grammy-less for an unshared award of her own after all these years, and after 11 nominations. That’s not flash flooding hitting the Los Angeles area tonight: that’s the tunnel under Ocean Blvd. overflowing with Lana fans’ tears. But she did share in Taylor Swift’s album win for their duet, and her iconography will hardly be tarnished if the Academy didn’t acknowledge what almost everyone else did: that “Did You Know…” was the best album of her career, with probably still greater peaks to come.

SNUB: Olivia Rodrigo’s slightly sour shutout.

Rodrigo was the other biggest artist to get shut out this year, although, unlike Del Rey, she already has some silver on her shelf. It’s hard to imagine an album as universally acclaimed and as wildly commercial as “Guts” could come home empty-handed, yet it did. Only in considering the strength of the competition does it seem even conceivable that we didn’t just dream Rodrigo not having an armful. Will this matter a whit when Rodrigo shortly gets underway on the tour that is one of the toughest tickets of 2024? Not likely — and voters practically figured that she has about six decades ahead of her to rack up wins.

SNUB: Jon Batiste can’t make lightning quite strike twice.

Batiste was the surprise success story two years ago, and it’s hard to pull off a shockeroo twice in close succession, even with as many nominations as he once again got this time. But the most joyful man in music still came away a winner for his tribute to Bill Withers in the In Memoriam segment, with Oscar contention still to look forward to — and a currently widely seen documentary that has the potential to change lives.

SURPRISE: Phoebe Bridgers educates the Grammys, better late than never.

All right, there’s room for one surprise — the four awards picked up by Bridgers, three of them as a member of Boygenius. This stands in radical contrast to the zero she picked up as the hottest artist of the moment her last time at the Grammys, contending for “Punisher.” Boygenius being big doesn’t really seem like a shock — unless you remember just how recently the Academy voters got it completely wrong in regards to Bridgers. Good to see they can be semi-fast learners when they need to.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *