The 2022 Grammy nominations are full of snubs, surprises | Arts and entertainment

The Grammy Awards are not fair. Life either. Chaos reigns. Snapshots will occur, and who can say where to blame? With the 11,000+ voters of the Recording Academy, a mysterious group whose members lack transparency? Failure of public relations campaigns? God? All the foregoing?

Does it sound conspiratorial? Two words: The Weeknd. His blatant omission of last year’s nominations angered both the artist and almost anyone paying attention to the Grammys, leading to the abolition of so-called “secret committees” that could void the voting bloc. For better or worse, this year, no puff the size of a Weeknd has disrupted the debate. Shoe artists and pop greats including Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish and HER received plenty of nods. Ditto Doja Cat, Lil Nas X and Brandi Carlile.

But this year’s nominations came with the inevitable surprises and rebuffs from left field. Below are some of the more notable.

n Jon Batiste obtains 11 nominations. Batiste is best known as the affable conductor of CBS’s “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”. The New Orleans-born pianist’s loud laugh is instantly recognizable during the comedian’s monologue, and in jazz circles he is a respected player. But frankly: he barely ripped the pop charts or the critics’ lists. The versatile album he was nominated for, “We Are,” peaked at No. 86 on the Billboard 200 and dropped the following week. “Freedom,” which is nominated for the record of the year, has a paltry 5 million spins on Spotify. (By comparison, Rodrigo’s “driver’s license” recently passed $ 1 billion.)

Something about Batiste’s skills and approach, however, resonated with Grammy voters. In addition to the above, Batiste’s work is nominated for Traditional R&B Performance, R&B Album, Improvised Jazz Solo, Jazz Instrumental Album, American Roots Song and Performance, Media Soundtrack visuals, a music video and a contemporary classical composition.

n Arooj Aftab wins the nomination for Best New Artist. Among the top 10 new artist nominations were pop star Olivia Rodrigo, rapper Saweetie, and producer-songwriter Finneas (who won eight Grammys with his sister Billie Eilish), each of which was to earn kudos from the academy. Few were taken aback by seeing rappers Kid Laroi or Baby Keem among the 10 nominees, and the nomination of rising country singer Jimmie Allen made sense. That is, while varied in instrumentation, nine of the 10 groups released albums full of structured pop songs in 2021 – Glass Animals, Arlo Parks, and Japanese Breakfast included.

And then there is Aftab. Until Tuesday morning, the 36-year-old Brooklyn, New York singer and songwriter’s most prominent appearance was on Barack Obama’s summer playlist. She has never performed on network television and released her 2021 album “Vulture Prince” not through a major label but on experimental New York label New Amsterdam.

Born and raised in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, Aftab has gained attention with “Vulture Prince” for his seven meditative and minimal works that take inspiration from a form of flowing South Asian lyrical poetry known as ghazal. Singing primarily in Urdu, Aftab, trained at Berklee College of Music, combines stringed instruments, synthesizers, and occasional percussive accents with multitrack layers of her perfect vocals. Oddly enough, the work is not even nominated in the World Music Album category; rather, his song “Mohabbat” won a worldwide nomination for musical performance.

n ABBA’s long game has paid off. Those who measure musical success through Grammy trophies might stop to reflect on ABBA’s fate. Deprived of a single Grammy nomination despite its many decades of global success, the Swedish Eurovision-winning quartet managed to survive the indifference of the Recording Academy and build a career. Earlier this month, the band released a new album, “Voyager,” preceded by September’s debut single, “I Still Have Faith in You,” just before the voting deadline. The strategy, if they had one, paid off with their very first Grammy nomination: “I Still Have Faith in You” notched a nomination of the year record.

n Justin Bieber too. Bieber is a lot, but he has rarely been accepted by the Recording Academy’s old guard as a worthy artist. This year, however, Bieber’s eight nominations establish just that. Her work appears in three of four main categories: Record of the Year and Song of the Year for “Peaches” and Album of the Year for “Justice (Triple Chucks Deluxe)”. Bieber also landed a solo pop performance for “Anyone”, a duo / group pop performance (with Benny Blanco) for “Lonely”, as well as a pop vocal album, R&B performance and music video.

n Country music? Maybe next year. With each of the four major categories generating 10 nominees, 40 slot machines were in play this year. Among them, only one truly blue country artist, Jimmie Allen, got a major nod. Voters have slammed the stable doors on established stars like Kacey Musgraves, Chris Stapleton, Mickey Guyton, Maren Morris and Sturgill Simpson. (Whether Brandi Carlile will do country music in 2021 remains unresolved.) That left Allen, a native Delawaren, to represent the genre via his Best New Artist nomination. He did this through work on “Bettie James Gold Edition”, an enhanced version of his EP “Bettie James” which features collaborations with artists such as Nelly, Tim McGraw, Pitbull, Mickey Guyton and Monica.

n Did anyone say Kacey Musgraves? Belle du prom in 2019, when his sublime “Golden Hour” won both album of the year and country album at the Grammy Awards, Musgraves seemed like a lock for a major nomination. Sadly, her post-divorce album “Star-Crossed” was largely ignored by the academy, save for two nominations for “Camera Roll,” in the country song and country solo performance categories. (The pop-trending “Star-Crossed” was deemed ineligible for the country album.)

n BTS is short … again. Apparently 50 billion BTS fans could be wrong, or at least more of them must infiltrate the Recording Academy. Despite the group’s global dominance, the K-pop phenomena got only one nomination, in the duo / group performance category, for their song “Butter”.

n The Swifties will not be happy. It’s hard to feel sorry for Taylor Swift at the moment given her really good year (and decade and career). Last year she won Album of the Year for “Folklore” and her re-recording “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is the No. 1 album in the country. Still, a little violin doesn’t take up much room, so let’s pull it out to recognize that, despite all the praise, Swift has only received one nomination this year: her pandemic soft “Evermore” quilt is among the contenders for album of the year, but that’s it. Still, she can rest easy knowing that, like maybe only Beyoncé, her very absence is some kind of presence.

n Black voices run the table for the spoken word album. Among Grammy-watchers, who is nominated for the spoken word album has long been a source of wonder. The only category to honor non-musical recordings, it has been part of the ceremony since its inception in 1959 and has celebrated a banquet of names in bold: Dorothy Parker, Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., Jim Morrison, John F. Kennedy, Among them, William Shatner, Flea, Tiffany Haddish and Neil deGrasse Tyson. But this year for the first time, all the nominees are black. They include LeVar Burton’s reading of his science fiction book “Aftermath”; Don Cheadle’s reading of “Carry On: Reflections for a New Generation” by the late Congressman John Lewis; “Catching Dreams: Live at Fort Knox Chicago” by poet and spoken word artist J. Ivy; “8:46” by Dave Chappelle and Amir Sulaiman; and Barack Obama’s reading of his memoir, “A Promised Land”.

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