Taylor Swift, Bruce Springsteen, Halsey, BTS: Biggest snubs and surprises of the 2020 Grammy nominations

Lyndsey Parker
Editor-in-Chief, Music
Taylor Swift performs at Amazon Music's Prime Day concert on July 10, 2019. (Photo: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP, File)

Music fans offended by former Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow’s controversial remark in 2018 (that women need to “step up” in order to earn more Grammy nominations), will no doubt be pleased to see the just-announced list of contenders for the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards — packed with deserving names like Lizzo (this year’s top nominee, with eight nods), Billie Eilish (the youngest artist ever to receive nominations in all of the top four categories), Lana Del Rey, H.E.R., and Ariana Grande. But Grammy voters can’t please everyone, not even with the “Big Four” categories now expanded to eight nominees each. So, let’s deep-dive into the biggest snubs and surprises among the 2020 nominations.

SNUB: Taylor Swift

She may be picking up the Artist of the Decade trophy at this weekend’s American Music Awards, and she did receive a respectable three Grammy nominations this year (for Song of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album, and Best Pop Solo Performance), but Lover was passed over for Album of the Year. Swift was the first female artist in Grammy history to win twice in that all-important category, for Fearless and 1989.

SNUB: BTS

This was the breakthrough year for the superstar K-pop boy band. Their platinum-selling “Boy With Luv” went to No. 8 on the Billboard Hot 100, and its video set the record as the most-viewed online music video in 24 hours. BTS also became the first Asian act to surpass 5 billion streams on Spotify, were named one of Time magazine’s 100's most influential people of 2019, and were the first Korean act to ever perform on Saturday Night Live. They even presented at the 2019 Grammys and will have their outfits from that ceremony displayed at the Grammy Museum… but they didn’t land a single nomination for the 2020 Grammys.

SNUB: Halsey

BTS’s “Boy With Luv” collaborator also had a great year, scoring her first No. 1 hit with the passionate breakup ballad “Without Me” and even performing on two other major awards shows, the Emmys and CMAs. “Without Me” seemed like a solid contender for Record and Song of the Year, but Halsey was shut out of the Grammys entirely, even in the Pop categories. 

SNUB: Maren Morris

The country star’s critically acclaimed Girl won Best Album just last week at Country Music Awards (where she was this year’s most-nominated artist), and she has received nine Grammy nominations in the past. But Morris was almost entirely passed over, even in the Country categories — having to settle for just one nomination (Best Country Duo/Group Performance for "Common," a duet with Grammy favorite Brandi Carlile).

SURPRISE: Bon Iver

The indie-folk veterans have always been embraced by Grammy voters (they won Best New Artist in 2011), but their nomination for Album of the Year for I,I still comes out of nowhere. This could be the 2020 Grammys’ equivalent of Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs or Beck’s Morning Phase, both indie-leaning outlier winners in this category in previous years. Perhaps even more surprisingly, Justin Vernon and company’s “Hey Ma,” which didn’t crack the Billboard Hot 100, is up for Record of the Year.

SURPRISE: Vampire Weekend

If Bon Iver aren’t the surprise Album of the Year winners at next January’s ceremony, that honor could go to fellow indie-rockers Vampire Weekend, who just earned their first Album of the Year nomination for Father of the Bride. They’ve been nominated twice before Best Alternative Music Album, winning that award in 2013. 

SNUB: Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello

The IRL couple’s red-hot duet “Señorita” was one of the biggest singles of 2019 — it went to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was the fastest song in history to reach a total of 1.5 billion streams — but it was passed over for both Record and Song of the Year. The song received only one nomination, for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

SNUB: Bruce Springsteen

The Boss has always been a favorite with Grammy voters, with 20 wins to his credit, and his 19th studio album, Western Stars — his first album of solo material since 2012 — has garnered critical acclaim. But Springsteen didn’t receive a single nomination this year. Springsteen on Broadway didn’t even get a nod for Best Music Film.

SNUB: A Star is Born

The Oscar-winning "Shallow" received four nominations (and won two awards) at the 2019 Grammys, but the full soundtrack — which was released during the latest eligibility window of Oct. 1, 2018-Aug. 31, 2019 — failed to earn an Album of the Year nomination this time around. It had been widely predicted that Star could be the first Album of the Year soundtrack winner in 18 years. Lady Gaga did receive a Song of the Year nomination for "Always Remember Us This Way," while the soundtrack got one nod, for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media.

SNUB: Sam Smith

Smith was the darling of the 2015 Grammys, when he won Best New Artist, Best Pop Vocal Album for In the Lonely Hour, and Record and Song of the Year for “Stay With Me.” But he seems to have fallen out of favor with Grammy voters, as he hasn't been nominated since. Last year he was shut out entirely for his second album The Thrill of It All, and this year his hit duet with Normani, "Dancing With a Stranger," was skipped over.

SNUB: Ed Sheeran 

The four-time Grammy winner and 14-time nominee had to settle for just one nomination (Best Pop Vocal Album) for his all-star No. 6 Collaborations Project, with no recognition in the major categories. 

SNUB: Lewis Capaldi

Another male British singer-songwriter, Capaldi did receive a nod for Song of the Year for “Someone You Loved,” but he was surprisingly passed over for Best New Artist.

SURPRISE: Beastie Boys vs. Michelle Obama vs. John Waters

Amusingly, all three are up for Best Spoken Word — a category that truly ought to be presented on the air this around.

SNUB: Chance the Rapper

In 2017, Chance won Best New Artist and was up for five awards total, but this year his The Big Day album was skipped over for Album of the Year and even Best Rap Album. He did pick up one nomination, for Best Rap Song.

SNUB: The Jonas Brothers

Fans were thrilled by the JoBros’ reunion, resulting in the trio scoring their first-ever No. 1 single, “Sucker.” However, that song garnered only one nomination, for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, and their reunion album Happiness Begins was completely snubbed.

SNUB: Madonna

The queen of pop, a seven-time winner and 28-time nominee, didn’t receive any nominations for her ambitious 14th album, Madame X — other than remixer Tracy Young being up for Best Remixed Recording, for the Pride Intro Radio Remix of “I Rise.”

SNUB: Solange

Her big sister Beyoncé received four nominations this year, but Solange Knowles’s critically heralded When I Get Home, which Pitchfork recently ranked at No. 81 on its "The 200 Best Albums of the 2010s" list, was completely overlooked.

SNUB: Megan Thee Stallion

Apparently Megan is out of season, as the “Hot Girl Summer” breakout star was totally ignored by Grammy voters.

SURPRISE: Lil Nas X

While it was expected that the trap/country crossover phenomenon would be up for Best New Artist and Song of the Year for “Old Town Road,” the Album of the Year nod for his 7 EP was unexpected.

SURPRISE: Black Pumas

The Best New Artist nomination for this fairly obscure psych-soul Austin duo came totally out of left field. Oddly, they received no nominations in any other categories.

SURPRISE: Tank and the Bangas

Like Black Pumas, this New Orleans funk collective received no other nominations, but still got a nod for Best New Artist over more obvious contenders. Could Black Pumas or Tank be the next Esperanza Spalding? Watch this space.

The 62nd Annual Grammy Awards will take place Jan. 26, 2020, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

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