UPDATE: The Weeknd has spoken up on Twitter, posting the somewhat cryptic message, “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…”
Meanwhile, TMZ is reporting that the Weeknd was given an ultimatum by CBS before the snub, requiring him to play either the Grammys or the Super Bowl, but not both. This just keeps getting weirder…
Recording Academy interim president and CEO Harvey Mason said in a statement: “We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling. His music this year was excellent, and his contributions to the music community and broader world are worthy of everyone’s admiration. Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists.”
ORIGINAL POST: The 2021 Grammy nominations were announced this morning, and they made little sense, even by Grammy standards. The big question is: After an incredible year in which “Blinding Lights” might have been the biggest single of the year, how did the Weeknd get zero nominations?
The short answer: We have no earthly idea. Let’s try to talk through some of the possible reasons why the Recording Academy might have chosen to ignore one of popular music’s biggest superstars and make him one of the biggest Grammy snubs ever.
Possible Reasons Why The Weeknd Was Snubbed:
Most of these theories are unlikely and even ridiculous. But let’s examine them.
Theory #1: Grammy voters just didn’t like his music.
We’re going to dismiss this possibility immediately, since he’s been nominated 10 times over the years, with three wins. He was even up for Album of the Year in 2016. He’s both critically and commercially successful, which makes him the ideal Grammy nominee.
“Blinding Lights” is the first song in history to spend 40 weeks in the Top 10. It should have been a shoo-in for Record of the Year.
Theory #2: His name was too low on the ballot.
Grammy voters select their nominees from an alphabetical list of candidates. This may sound silly, but is it possible that while scanning the category lists, voters found someone else they liked without ever getting all the way down to “W”?
We find this quite unlikely as well, given Weeknd’s past nominations and the massive Grammy success of people like U2. People who really love a particular artist can find their name on a sheet just fine.
Theory #3: He was submitted to the wrong categories.
The Weeknd’s music has always skirted genre boundaries. It’s R&B, but it’s also pop, and it also has elements of dance and hip-hop. Which field do you nominate him in?
Artists who want to be nominated (or, usually, their labels) get to decide which categories they want to apply for. Perhaps he was submitted in categories that didn’t quite match his target audience, and thus got snubbed by those voters?
This theory can’t be ruled out, but it still seems unlikely. The Weeknd has been nominated in the past in the Pop, R&B, and Rap fields, so folks in all three of those genres have shown they appreciate his work. And he did, in fact, submit songs to both the R&B and Pop categories.
Plus, he still would’ve been eligible for the general field, where you’d think “Blinding Lights” and After Hours would have gotten recognition for Record and Album of the Year, respectively.
Edit: The Academy has announced that the Weeknd submitted After Hours to the Best Progressive R&B Album category, but the Academy moved it (as is their prerogative) to the Pop Vocal Album field for consideration, where its members simply didn’t vote for it.
Theory #4: Voters just assumed he’d get nominated, and didn’t go out of their way to vote for him.
Stay with us on this one. Sometimes in political elections, voters who believe they already know the outcome decide to vote for a third-party candidate they like instead, just to give that person a pat on the back. If too many people do that, it sometimes (hello, 2016) has the unintended consequence of costing the favored candidate the election.
The same logic could hold true here. People might have seen The Weeknd’s name on the lists and said to themselves… Oh, everybody’s going to vote for him, so let me show some love to Jhene Aiko or Chloe x Halle or Dua Lipa instead. (For what it’s worth, I still believe this is the reason Melinda Doolittle was voted off American Idol years ago.)
The problem with this theory is that it doesn’t take into account the categories which have “Quality Control Panels,” aka groups of industry insiders who sit down together and actively discuss each possible nominee before choosing the final group. There’s no chance that Weeknd would have been completely omitted from such discussions in categories like Record of the Year. So he wasn’t accidentally overlooked.
Theory #5: The Grammys went out of their way to highlight female artists this year, and the Weeknd was collateral damage.
The nominees in the R&B and Pop categories this year (and in the rock and country fields, for that matter) are overwhelmingly female. The Grammys are still stung by the criticism about a lack of female representation two years ago, so it’s possible they purposely made an effort to nominate more women this time around.
This theory is complete speculation. And we’re not saying it would be a bad thing – highlighting more talented female artists is definitely a good thing! But it could be possible that with fewer spots available for men, the Weeknd just missed out. For all we know, he might have been the next runner-up in several categories.
But on the other hand, Justin Bieber was shockingly nominated four times for an album that didn’t make much of an impact. If Grammy voters found room for Justin, they could’ve done the same for the Weeknd. So the gender theory doesn’t feel like a strong argument.
Conclusion: Why Was the Weeknd Snubbed?
So, what’s the real answer? Perhaps it’s some combination of all of the above. Or none of the above. Feel free to suggest your own theories.
We’re waiting to hear what the Weeknd and his reps have to say about all this. In the meantime, fans can at least enjoy the fact that the Weeknd picked up three American Music Awards this past weekend, making him one of the show’s top honorees. And get ready for his performance at the Super Bowl in a couple of months!