Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Female Artists Dominate 2019 Grammy Nominations

The 2019 Grammy nominations have been announced, and there are approximately measures of expected outcomes and befuddling choices. Kendrick Lamar reigns supreme with a staggering eight nominations, including his fourth for Album of the Year.  Drake followed with seven nominations for his latest album “Scorpion.” One of the most notable trends in this year’s choices is the extent to which women dominated. Neil Portnow, president and chief of the Recording Academy drew much criticism for the relative exclusion of women from last year’s ceremony, and this year seems to be something of an overcompensation. The four general field categories Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year and Best New Artist all primarily feature females. A shocking six of the eight acts up for Best New Artist are women, including Bebe Rexha, Margo Price, Dua Lipa, and Jorja Smith. A standout nomination is that of artist H.E.R, who performs wearing dark glasses, avoids using her real name, and has suddenly, ironically, been placed in the spotlight. Brandi Carlile got some long-overdue recognition, earning six nominations, including Song, Album, and Record of the Year. Several of the songs being considered for Record of the Year feature women in lead roles, including “The Joke” by Brandi Carlile, “I Like It,” by Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin, and “All the Stars” by Lamar and SZA. Maren Morris received five nominations. The most predictable is for her massive collaboration with Zedd and Grey, “The Middle,” which made both Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Her Elton John cover, “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters” was one of the more surprising. The late Mac Miller posthumously received his first, overdue Grammy nomination, for Best Rap Album, while his notorious ex-girlfriend Ariana Grande is a contender in several categories, including Best Pop Album.   

This year’s nominations were full of surprises. With the Grammys receiving plenty criticism in recent years for its lack of variety, it seems that the committee is going out of its way to throw curveballs and get heads scratching. The Backstreet Boys yes, really won a Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for their comeback song “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart,” after seventeen years. Nineties pop acts are making a rather bizarre resurgence, with Christina Aguilera landing nominations in two surprising categories, both for collaborative tracks Best Duo/Group Performance for “Fall In Line” with Demi Lovato, and Best Rap/Sung Performance for “Like I Do,” featuring GoldLink. Fall Out Boy got their first nomination since 2006, for Best Rock Album. The “Black Panther” soundtrack was announced a contender for Album of the Year, a category from which soundtracks have traditionally been excluded, save for a few exceptions over the years. On the other hand, this one was curated by Kendrick Lamar, so it’s recognition isn’t so much of a surprise after all. “A Star Is Born” is the film whose score everyone assumed would win big, but has incomprehensibly turned out unrecognized, apart from a nomination for its lead single “Shallow.” “The Greatest Showman,” another musical expected to score big only made the less celebrated Best Compilation Soundtrack category. Nicki Minaj’s behemoth of an album “Queen” came out without a nod, and one can only imagine the venom that this will provoke come her next release. Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” only landed one nomination, for Album of the Year, in a tight race with Camila Cabello, Kelly Clarkson, Ariana Grande, Shawn Mendes, and Pink.

Carrie Underwood surprisingly got no nominations, although her major wins at the ACMs and CMAs should provide some consolation. A particularly disconcerting turnout was Travis Scott’s lack of recognition, considering that Scott specifically sought acknowledgment by the institution. Regarding his latest release, “Astroworld,” an A&R representative told Rolling Stone, “A real driver on this album too was when we got snubbed for the Grammys in 2016.” Fortunately, Scott knows he’s one of the biggest rappers in the world right now, and he’ll likely lose little sleep over this. Lil Wayne’s long-awaited “The Carter V” got no attention whatsoever. Ella Mai, Shawn Mendes, and Childish Gambino won nominations for Song of the Year, and the variety of genres under consideration should make for an especially interesting race. Whatever the outcomes, Kendrick, Drake, and a ton of women are sure to come out winners, given the sheer number of nominations that they earned. Considering the Me Too movement, Black Lives Matter, etc, it seems about right.

The 61st Grammy Awards will take place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA and airs on CBS on Feb. 10, 2019.