The Grammys have long enjoyed a mutually affectionate relationship with Taylor Swift, but 2019 snubs may mark the end of an era.
Taylor Swift has a complicated relationship with award shows.
Coming off her hugely successful Reputation tour, many expected Swift to rack up Grammy nominations like she has for previous albums like 1989 (10) and Fearless (8). Reputation not only showed the “Delicate” singer leaning into her pop-star status, but it was also a metaphorical middle finger to her critics. She reclaimed her narrative. The irony is that it’s this album that resulted in what Rolling Stone called the 2019 Grammy Awards’ “biggest snub.”
The singer’s sixth studio album received a single nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album at the 61st Grammy Awards, which air Feb. 10, 2019 in Los Angeles. Now, most people consider any Grammy nomination an honor. An artist receiving a nomination from the Recording Academy is on par with TV stars getting an Emmy Award nom or movie stars snagging an Oscar. It means something. So, if you’re someone who’s unfamiliar with Taylor’s history with the Grammys, it’s easy to count her sole nomination as a victory — a sign of a job well done. But, that perspective doesn’t reflect the full story.
In 2008, the Pennsylvania native received her first ever Grammy nomination. The then -18-year-old country star was brand new to the music scene. She was nominated for Best New Artist, but ultimately lost to Adele. She went home that night with zero trophies and it might have been easy to write her off. But, in 2010, she hit the red carpet again — this time with eight nominations including Album of the Year, Record of The Year and Song of the Year. The Recording Academy nominated her in three out of four of the “Big Four” categories (she wasn’t nominated for Best New Artist, but let’s not forget she was two years prior). That night Taylor went home with four Grammys for her second studio album, Fearless. The singer became the youngest solo artist in history to win Album of The Year at the age of 20. She made history that night and adopted a new accolade: Grammy darling.
Taylor embarked on a love affair with the Grammys after a rocky history with another award show. Most fans of the 29-year-old pop-star will never be able to forget the moment Kanye West barged on stage during her acceptance speech for Best Female Video at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards. The controversy is cemented in Taylor Swift’s narrative when it comes to the media, Kimye and award shows. For the singer, the VMAs became synonymous with scandal, but the Grammys became synonymous with success.
In the subsequent years, she’s received an additional 23 Grammy nominations and six Grammy wins establishing her status as an artist that the Recording Academy likes to recognize. So, when news hit that she was only nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album for Reputation people were surprised. Fans were outraged, left wondering if this meant her run as Grammy princess was over.
One fan tweeted, “Surprised that Taylor Swift didn’t get an Album of the Year nomination for Reputation.” While another added, “For 1989, Taylor Swift was nominated for 10 #GRAMMYs, of which she won 3. Reputation has got her one measly nomination, for Best Pop Vocal Album. Ouch.” One fan plainly stated, “@taylorswift13 getting snubbed from 2019 #GRAMMYs is absolutely delusional and disappointing.” So, what happened? Was Reputation not up to the Recording Academy’s standards, or was this snub a signal of the Grammys looking to recognize new artists?
Last year, the Grammys made a promise to create a more inclusive awards show by honoring artists that many have criticized have been overlooked by the Recording Academy. In 2015, Taylor won Album of the Year for her first bonafide pop album, 1989. The singer beat out Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly in what some considered an unfair bias from the Academy. One fan tweeted, “Love Taylor but Kendrick deserved best album. So few artists write albums that are actually cohesive and not a few good singles w/ fillers.” There was even an essay titled “Why I’m so angry that Taylor Swift beat Kendrick Lamar.” In it, the author reasoned that the Grammys choice of Taylor over Kendrick was more political than professional.
“They’re still favoring someone who appropriates the parts of black music they want and then disguises it under a white aesthetic,” the author, who wrote under the by-line apolovick, explained. “Taylor Swift’s use of a heavy rhythmic beat and rap verses uses the popularity of hip hop to catapult her sales and the audience of her music. I’m not saying 1989 isn’t catchy – it is… But I am saying that the Grammy’s [sic] decided to award someone who benefits from black musical aesthetic and influence rather than someone who comes from that actual experience.”
If you look at the nominees for Album of the Year at the 2019 Grammy Awards it’s impossible not to notice the inclusivity. The nominees this year are more inclusive when it comes to race and genre. Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, Drake’s Scorpion, Gabriella Wilson’s H.E.R and Kendrick Lamar’s Black Panther soundtrack are proof of that. It’s refreshing to see diverse artists acknowledged for their work because for too long there’s been a mentality that people of color’s stories don’t matter. That’s why the #OscarsSoWhite movement didn’t only feel necessary — it felt overdue. In the same way, the Grammys acknowledgement of a bias feels like a step in the right direction. (And that’s coming from someone who is a huge Swiftie.)
The Grammys still have work to do when it comes to creating an award show that is reflective of the ever evolving music industry. It’s not right to honor pop-stars over hip-hop artists because of a conscious (or subconscious) bias. And honestly, Taylor doesn’t need the drama, trophies or attention that follow award shows anyway. In 2018, Reputation became the biggest selling album of the year despite the singer’s noticeable lack of traditional promotion. Forbes called the Reputation Stadium Tour a “massive success.” And it was. According to Billboard, it grossed $266.1 million and sold over two million tickets domestically. But, she didn’t stop there. She shocked the world with a Netflix movie giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at her tour. Remember, this is the woman who famously said, “I’m intimidated by the fear of being average.” So, maybe the question isn’t if the Grammys are done with Taylor Swift — it’s if Taylor Swift is done with the Grammys.