The Weeknd, Fiona Apple, Harry Styles, Bob Dylan, BTS: Biggest snubs and surprises of the 2021 Grammy nominations

Lyndsey Parker
·Editor in Chief, Yahoo Music
·6 min read

UPDATE: The Weeknd has accused the Recording Academy of “corruption” over his nomination shutout, following TMZ’s report that he was snubbed after the Grammy powers-that-be issued him an ultimatum, demanding that he choose between playing the Grammy telecast or Super Bowl LV.

When the nominations for the 63rd Annual Grammys Awards, which will take place on Jan. 31, were announced on Tuesday morning, there was one stunning, major omission: The Weeknd.

Critical darling and commercial juggernaut the Weeknd, a.k.a. Abel Tesfaye, was the odds-on favorite to be this year’s leading nominee — with “Blinding Lights,” the biggest single of 2020, predicted by both bookmakers and journalists to be up for Record and Song of the Year, and After Hours already considered a frontrunner to win Album of the Year. Yet the singer-songwriter, fresh off his multiples victories at the MTV Video Music Awards and American Music Awards and the announcement that he will headline next year’s Super Bowl LV halftime show, bafflingly received zero nominations, not even in the Pop or R&B categories.

While this is literally one of the most shocking shutouts in Recording Academy history, the Weeknd’s snub was far from the only surprise among the latest batch of nominees. These were the 2021 Grammy nominations other jaw-droppers:

SURPRISE/SNUB: The entire Album of the Year category

Along with the Weeknd’s After Hours, other albums that were widely predicted to be nominated for the Grammys’ most prestigious honor included Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways, Harry Styles’s Fine Line, Lady Gaga’s Chromatica, the Chicks’ Gaslighter, and the most critically acclaimed album of this year, Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters. All of these albums were passed over, while relative outliers like alt-soul singer Jhené Aiko’s Chilombo, jazz-pop multi-instrumentalist Jacob Collier’s Djesse Vol. 3, indie trio HAIM’s Women in Music Pt. III, Coldplay’s largely forgotten Everyday Life, and Texan rock-soul band Black Pumas’ self-titled album were recognized instead.

SURPRISE/SNUB: The entire Best New Artist category

While Megan Thee Stallion, Ingrid Andress, Phoebe Bridgers, and Doja Cat were expected to receive nominations in this category, other surprise artists — rappers Chika and D Smoke, DJ/producer Kaytranada, and Miley Cyrus’s younger sister, Noah Cyrus — were nominated over more obvious contenders like Summer Walker, Mickey Guyton, BLACKPINK, Morgan Wallen, Gabby Barrett, and Pop Smoke.

SNUB: The entire Best Alternative Album category

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Ghosteen, Metacritic’s highest-scoring album of 2019, and Perfume Genius’s Set My Heart on Fire Immediately, Metacritic’s third-highest album of 2020, were both astonishingly overlooked here.

SURPRISE: Beyoncé

No, it’s not exactly shocking that the Recording Academy would recognize Beyoncé, the most-nominated and second-most-awarded woman in Grammy history. But it is surprising that she is this year’s leading nominee, in a whopping nine categories, when she only released one new song, and didn't even release a full album, during the eligibility window of Sept. 1, 2019-Aug. 31, 2020.

SNUB: Run the Jewels

El-P and Killer Mike’s RTJ4 was one of the most critically acclaimed — and topical — albums of 2020, but it bafflingly received no nominations, not even in any of the Rap categories.

SNUB: The Chicks

The Academy usually loves a good comeback story, and it usually loves the trio formerly known as the Dixie Chicks — whose 2006 album, Taking the Long Way, won five Grammys, including Album, Record, and Song of the Year. But the Chicks’ first album since 2006, Gaslighter (and first album under their politically correct, shortened new name), received no nods, not even in the Country, Folk, or Americana categories.

SNUB: Luke Combs

The country star won Album and Male Artist of the Year, and was nominated for Entertainer of the Year, at both the Academy of Country Music Awards and Country Music Association Awards in 2020. Yet he was completely shut out of the Grammys’ Country categories.

SNUB: Gabby Barrett

The American Idol alum broke barriers in country music this year: Her debut single "I Hope" was certified gold, topped Billboard's Country Streaming Songs and Country Airplay charts, and helped break the curse against female artists at country radio when it recently became was first top 10 Hot Country Songs debut by a solo woman since October 2017. She was also the first Idol contestant to have a mainstream hit since Phillip Phillips with “Home” in 2012, proving that the Idol franchise can still create stars. But Barrett received no nominations in the Grammys’ Country categories.

SNUB: Fiona Apple

While the reclusive singer-songwriter did pick up three nominations in the Rock and Alternative races, she was entirely overlooked in the General Field (Album/Record/Song), despite releasing Metacritic’s highest-scoring album of 2020.

SNUB: Bob Dylan

Metacritic’s second-highest-scoring album of 2020, Rough and Rowdy Ways, didn’t get a single nod.

SNUB: Halsey

The pop superstar has long been looked over by the Recording Academy, and sadly, her luck did not change this year — even though her 2020 album, Manic, was her most successful to date.

SNUB: K-pop

The unstoppable BTS were recognized in only one category — Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, for their ubiquitous earworm “Dynamite” — while one of the past year’s other K-pop breakout artists, girl group BLACKPINK, received no nominations at all. K-pop fans have most definitely expressed their rage over this oversight via social media.

SNUB: Harry Styles

Despite having a huge year with his No. 1 single “Watermelon Sugar,” a spot hosting Saturday Night Live, a groundbreaking Vogue cover story, and his Variety honor for Hitmaker of the Year, the former One Direction star still can’t seem to shake his boy-band stigma. Styles only picked up two nominations: Best Pop Vocal Album (for Fine Line) and Best Music Video (for “Adore You”).

SNUB: The Highwomen

Brandi Carlile and Maren Morris have long been Grammy favorites, but their supergroup with Natalie Hemby and Amanda Shires received only one nomination, for Best Country Song.

SNUB: Jason Isbell

Shires’s husband, critics’ darling Isbell, received no nominations at all for his critically lauded 2020 album, Reunions.

SURPRISE: Poppy

The Gen Z YouTuber picked up a curveball nomination in the Best Metal Performance category, going up against Power Trip and Ice-T’s veteran metal side-project Body Count.

SURPRISE: Cats

Taylor Swift and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Beautiful Ghosts,” from the box-office bomb Cats, got a nom for Best Song Written for Visual Media, despite being passed over in the Best Original Song category at the Oscars earlier this year.

SURPRISE: Eurovision: The Story of Fire Saga

Yes, there’s a chance that “Jaja Ding Dong” will be performed by Will Ferrell at next year’s Grammy ceremony, as the soundtrack for his campy Netflix musical comedy was nominated for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media.

SNUB? SURPRISE?: Justin Bieber

Bieber has been controversially snubbed by the Grammys in the past, so you’d think he’d be pleased with his impressive four nominations, which is obviously a lot more than many other deserving artists received. But instead, the ex-child star oddly took to social media to complain that he’d been recognized in the Pop categories, instead of the R&B categories, for his Changes album.

For a full rundown of the 63rd Annual Grammy nominees, click here.

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