GRAMMYS 2021: the artists and albums that were left in the cold.

I have already published an article last night that addressed the rampant unfairness and rather foolhardiness of the nominations that had absolutely no regard for ‘real music’. Music that meant so much in terms of songwriting and experimentation, aesthetics and overall outreach was left in the cold and that too at a juncture in our culture where we thought that previous oversights would be rectified and meritocracy will spring back to action.

Here, I share the artists, songs and albums that were treated unjustly by the behemoth we know as Recording Academy. In my honest opinion, they all deserved nominations at the very least as a mark of due acknowledgement for them and their overall teams’ contributions.

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Some of the glaring snubs/ omissions were reserved for the Best Pop Solo Performance, a category that has over the years awarded and initially nominated works with no real merit whatsoever in that field. I was aghast hence when ANYONE by Demi Lovato, which began its emotional spell on us with a live rendition at the 2020 ceremony itself, did not find favour, given the studio cut was flawless and detailed the singer’s brush with loneliness and a near death experience. She laid her soul bare, quite literally and it clenched ours, in turn. With just a spare piano as accompaniment, ANYONE exemplifies a solo performance and Demi is an extremely beloved artist so how it fell off the ‘voters’ radar, in the manner it did, is baffling and excruciatingly unjust.

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THE LUMINEERS’ 3

The Lumineers’ members have been collectively nominated as Best New Artist and for their breakout hit HO HEY but I believe their true artistic melifluence as an unit reached peaks on CLEOPATRA which went unnoticed by the Grammys and now their third album was again snubbed completely, given that it continued its streak of poetic lyrics and melodic whole plus Wesley Schultz’s vocal beauty merited nods for songs like DONNA, JIMMY SPARKS, MY CELL and the sombre and poignant SALT AND THE SEA. They could have merited an ALBUM OF THE YEAR, VOCAL ALBUM, BEST GROUP/DUO PERFORMANCE nods for any of the above songs and the album as an entity in itself. Neglecting them is absolutely unnecessary. I am mourning their no show. I understand that they will be thought of as an alternative act or folksy to mainstream voters. Hence, it’s high time they recognized music without pigeonholing categories through the prism of pre-conceived notions.

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BLOWBACK, LAND OF THE FREE by THE KILLERS

IMPLODING THE MIRAGE deserves to be up for ALBUM, VOCAL ALBUM considerations in an ideal world, in fact I would have loved to see their names up for a Group/ Duo Performance for anything from CAUTION, MY OWN SOUL’S WARNING to the underrated LIGHTNING FIELDS and MY GOD. Being seen as a predominantly rock outfit by voters, it’s imperative to understand that this album was pop and retro, timeless and enjoyably infectious so pushing it into one categorical niche would be unfair.

BLOWBACK and LAND OF THE FREE(live) needed to be considered as they are beautiful lyrically and sonically. We have awarded HEY, SOUL SISTER by THE TRAIN and Adele’s SET FIRE TO THE RAIN for their live iterations; so why not for the latter choice in this case? It’s a downer that Song of the Year nominations eluded Brandon Flowers and his team’s sincere and always productive efforts.

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HEAD ABOVE WATER, IT WAS IN ME by AVRIL LAVIGNE

Avril Lavigne is an icon and each one of us has embraced one or the other of her eras or collective discography through almost two decades. Is that the excuse for shutting doors on either of her excellent, accessible vocal and lyrical turns on HEAD ABOVE WATER and IT WAS IN ME for Pop Solo Performance or Song of the Year? She deserved to have a shot with her victorious comeback. If Ed Sheeran’s No.6 Collaborations Project can make it to Pop Vocal Album list, then HEAD ABOVE WATER as an album needed to rightfully be up for consideration. It’s a cruel omission.

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NORAH JONES’ PICK ME UP OFF THE FLOOR

I suspected this could happen given she has won multiple times before. My fears were validated when her excellent new album was blocked out for anything: VOCAL ALBUM, POP SOLO PERFORMANCE for works like I’M ALIVE, TRYING TO KEEP IT TOGETHER, TO LIVE, HOW I WEEP and especially the sensuous, elegant FLAME TWIN or even a SONG OF THE YEAR nod. She has one nomination in AMERICAN ROOTS PERFORMANCE berth for a collaboration with the legendary Mavis Staples this time. But unlike me, it will be skipped by most who only have eyes towards the more mainstream categories.

This album was made for more glory than the Recording Academy afforded it. Not to mention, her consistent output with her live sessions from home throughout these months has captivated us.

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THE LET GO by ELLE KING

A controlled, diverse vocal turn, that too live, by ELLE KING needed to be considered for a Solo Performance. All those cohesive highs and lows of the overall song, alas, fell on deaf ears.

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LETTER TO YOU, GHOSTS by BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

These two songs too should have atleast had a chance to contend in the Song of the Year category as both personalize and universalize their central lyrics and testify to the Boss and his E Street Band’s longevity above anything. The time-tested ‘legends are above mere awards’ argument will be presented as a defence in this instance but we are not buying it.

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THE LAKES by TAYLOR SWIFT

FOLKLORE deserves all accolades and I’m happy with its overall tally in the major categories. Taylor Swift truly managed to curate a refined confection of lilting melodies that put this year in perspective and played to her songwriting strengths, harkening back to her heyday of FEARLESS, SPEAK NOW and even her Hunger Games standout SAFE AND SOUND.

THE LAKES, however, could have been the honoured one among the Song of the Year and Pop Solo Performance nods as it’s still underrated owing to it featuring as a bonus track. As far as songwriting goes, it’s golden.

That would have been a profound choice. But Taylor has come back to earth after reaching stratospheric heights in popularity and any kind of triumph is welcome.

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CAM’S THE OTHERSIDE

No. This had to be Cam’s moment as she delivered flawless lyrics on REDWOOD TREE, TILL THERE’S NOTHING LEFT and the beautifully revisionist DIANE that was the gentle, progressive flipside to Dolly Parton’s legendary JOLENE. Even CLASSIC was all kinds of peppy while FORGETTING YOU was wistful, charmingly produced and sung. I had stood steadfast by her labours on all these and in an ideal world, SONG OF THE YEAR, VOCAL ALBUM( pop is a word that needs to go from this category since true singing merits no one train of thought or stringent terminology) and ALBUM OF THE YEAR would have been in her reach.

The added insult to injury is that she holds no pride of place in the country echelons as well. It’s difficult to see her be snubbed so outrightly as she’s among the best artists in the industry at this moment. THE OTHERSIDE is clearly among the casualties of this nomination cycle. I mourn that as an avid listener and champion of her musical gifts.

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MIDNIGHT SKY by MILEY CYRUS

They could hold the nerve to consistently ignore the alchemy of Miley Cyrus and on a classic sounding track like this. Tragic.

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BAD FRIEND, CHOSEN FAMILY by RINA SAWAYAMA

Rina Sawayama has been championed by the likes of SIR ELTON JOHN and she’s clearly a hit with fans worldwide. Her debut album surely then deserved more love, atleast in regards to Pop Solo Performance with BAD FRIEND or CHOSEN FAMILY. Also, a career boosting Best New Artist acceptance was in store. But it wasn’t so.

If it’s tantamount to her U.K. roots then it’s baloney. She has as many takers, if not more across the Atlantic as scores of music reactors, writers and commentators have looked out for her evolution. Why did the Academy not fall in line? We will wait for an explanation that may never come.

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No love for CELINE DION’S COURAGE or MANDY MOORE’S SILVER LANDINGS

Celine Dion is a living legend and that may be the possible explanation for a no-show for COURAGE from a Pop Solo Performance nod; it doesn’t hold water because each work should be taken separately, in the present without the halo of what came before, no matter how esteemed. The album could have also passed muster.

It’s another tale with beloved star Mandy Moore’s restrained, beautifully written work on SILVER LANDINGS, especially FIFTEEN and TRYING MY BEST, LOS ANGELES. She has always been around and with THIS IS US’ phenomenal success skyrocketing her fortunes, she turned to her first love: music. It’s hard for me to fathom how her solo turn from A WALK TO REMEMBER, that is ONLY HOPE, an exceptionally sweet, celebrated melody didn’t get marks for a Solo Performance or Visual Media stamp of approval back in 2003. This was surprising, given the film’s cult status. The Academy has repeated the same oversight as SILVER LININGS hits one like a breath of fresh air, calming and holding fort for her vocals. She deserved a shot with atleast a Vocal Album nod.

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WRONG DIRECTION by HAILEE STEINFELD, FIRST MAN by CAMILA CABELLO, ALICIA KEYS’ RAISE A MAN or UNDERDOGS.

These are all soulful melodies, piano ballads that could have been in the running for Pop Solo Performance. The final song by Alicia Keys is further a token of hope that is joyful and Zen in its approach, just like the singer. All got crossed out perhaps before we could even raise expectations for them.

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GLASGOW(NO PLACE LIKE HOME) by JESSIE BUCKLEY

This gem from the WILD ROSE O.S.T. is a showcase for the singer-actress in her prime. With Oscars too choosing to sideline it, I thought Grammys will be kinder to an exceptional songwriting( courtesy iconic actress Mary Steenburgen) and vocal feat. Our hopes were dashed but this melody will always be special and hauntingly beautiful for us. A Best Song From Visual Media nod was due.

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YOU SHOULD BE SAD and FINALLY/ BEAUTIFUL STRANGER by HALSEY

When Halsey showed the world she could trump notions of her pop ascendancy with an inter-generic highlight( YOU SHOULD BE SAD) and bring guitar gravitas to a simple and sonorous melody(FINALLY/BEAUTIFUL STRANGER), the Academy looked the other way. It ain’t fair, at all because her clever wordplay alone was ripe for a Song of the Year nod or the vocals could have fit snugly in the Pop Solo Performance category.

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WASTELAND, BABY by HOZIER

A Vocal Album consideration, atleast, for the always reliable HOZIER’s output with NINA CRIED POWER( featuring Mavis Staples), MOVEMENT, the title track and the gripping, beguiling DINNERS AND DEATRIBES was sought after. He was met with silence from a so called ‘body of experts’

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FALLING by HARRY STYLES

This piano melody should have been on the Pop Solo Performance list than the mediocre WATERMELON SUGAR. I fail to understand why the Academy chooses to shut out genuinely good songs over the seemingly popular ones? It’s maybe a rule now.

MY FUTURE

The same logic applies to MY FUTURE being replaced by EVERYTHING I WANTED when the former is clearly the superior one, its first two minutes of vocals alone warranting a nod.

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ORVILLE PECK

Orville Peck’s career crest has been solidified. A deserving BEST NEW ARTIST nod passed him by but several of his songs merited a Solo Performance stamp, such as DEAD OF NIGHT, TURN TO HATE, QUEEN OF THE RODEO, SUMMERTIME, NO GLORY IN THE WEST; a Vocal Album would have been wonderful too. As for his cowboy persona and timeless vocals, Country echelons could have called out to him, with a Best Duo Performance nod for LEGENDS NEVER DIE, his accessible and utterly bewitching duet with the iconic Shania Twain, at the least. A void greeted him hence across the board.

(More than the academy, hosts like JIMMY KIMMEL and JIMMY FALLON have done more to promote him and Rina Sawayama)

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ABOVE ALL, NO LOVE FOR HAYLEY WILLIAMS’ PETALS FOR ARMOUR?

Hayley Williams has been no stranger to Grammy nominations or wins as leader and vocalist of the highly acclaimed PARAMORE. So when she transferred her personal strength and unconventional sonic palette to her debut solo album PETALS FOR ARMOUR, we thought it was a given she will get away with a Pop Vocal Album nod, at the very least. No, that didn’t happen. And we are indeed heartbroken. Be it SIMMER, LEAVE IT ALONE, DEAD HORSE or CINNAMON, the textures and instrumentation balanced moments of restraint with energy, contemplation with stirring personal narratives. It was all for nothing for the Academy; it will obviously be a huge setback for all her admirers and champions.

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DAISIES

Katy Perry fully, wholeheartedly deserved a Pop Solo Performance and Song of the Year nods each for one of her best written and vocally delivered songs. It had to be also because she was the most consistent star creating one memorable live arc after another, in the middle of a pregnancy and a pandemic. For me, she is a clear-cut Entertainer of the Year. It’s a shock the Grammys again put her out of the league tailor-made for her.

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NOTE: another article on the same issue will be out by Sunday. For now, read this one and share your own thoughts.

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