Grammys Snubs and Surprises: Beyoncé Dominates, No Love for Nicki, and, Hey, There’s Drake

Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty
Elizabeth Brockway/The Daily Beast/Getty

It’s the most wonderful—and debate-filled—time of the year for music lovers: the 2023 Grammy nominations are here!

To absolutely no one’s surprise, Beyoncé leads the pack of nominees, thanks to her summer-dominating seventh studio album, Renaissance. After she became the winningest woman in Grammy history last year, she’ll now have nine chances to add to her grand total, leading a pack of nominees that includes fellow stars Kendrick Lamar, with eight nominations; Adele and Brandi Carlile, with seven each; and Harry Styles, Future, DJ Khaled, and Mary J. Blige, with six apiece. In short: music’s heavy hitters are back. (No offense to last year’s big winner, Jon Batiste. Remember him?)

As predicted, Beyoncé will also have something of a rematch against Adele, as the two will once again face off for Album of the Year (Renaissance vs. 30) and both Record and Song of the Year (“Break My Soul” vs. “Easy on Me”). The two superstars last squared off at the Grammys in 2017, when even Adele was shocked that 25 beat out Bey’s Lemonade for the evening’s top honor.

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All of that was to be expected, but, because this is the Grammys we’re talking about, Tuesday’s nominations also gave us plenty of snubs and surprises to pore over. Let’s unpack it all.

SURPRISE: The Best New Artist nominees are actually new. What a concept!

Not only that, but this year’s 10 nominees also really run the gamut genre-wise. Over the past few years, this predictably unpredictable category has favored major stars having a capital-M pop culture Moment (Olivia Rodrigo, Megan Thee Stallion, Billie Eilish, and Dua Lipa), but with such a diverse field of actual newcomers this year, it’s really anyone’s for the taking—which makes it one of the more exciting races to keep an eye on. (It should be noted that both Steve Lacy and Jack Harlow—two such artists who broke into the mainstream in a big way this year—were deemed ineligible due to their past Grammy nominations.)

Among the highlights are Brazilian superstar Anitta, Eurovision sensations Måneskin, bilingual babe Omar Apollo (whose rumored boyfriend, Frank Ocean, notably despises the Grammys), and indie rockers Wet Leg.

SNUB: Not a lot of love for K-pop.

Some experts were betting on BlackPink becoming the first K-pop act to land a nomination in a Big Four category for their album Born Pink and/or their smash single “Pink Venom.” But alas, the Grammy voters are apparently no Blinks. And in even more snubbery, none of the genre’s big acts who submitted for Best New Artist consideration—like TWICE, TOMORROW X TOGETHER, and SEVENTEEN—made the cut.

There was, however, some love for Grammy favorites BTS, who are nominated for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “My Universe,” their collaboration with Coldplay, as well as Best Music Video. But when, oh when, will the Grammys finally acknowledge another K-pop act outside of BTS?

SURPRISE: Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ “Unholy” (barely) snuck in.

Sure, “Unholy” is a smash that recently gave both Sam Smith and Kim Petras their first, history-making No. 1s in the U.S. But the key word there is “recently”—“Unholy” came out just eight days before the end of the Grammys’ Sept. 30 eligibility cut-off date, and many predicted it might not have enough time to resonate with voters. Not the case; “Unholy” picked up a nod for Best Pop Duo/Group performance, and Petras is now determined to become what she calls a “trammy” (a “tranny with a Grammy,” that is).

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SURPRISE: The Grammys love TikTok like all the rest of us.

Eighteen-year-old rising pop star GAYLE scored a surprise nod for Song of the Year for “ABCDEFU,” the bratty rager that became a smash on TikTok last year. The app also helped Memphis rapper GloRilla score a nom, as her raucous hit “F.N.F. (Let’s Go)”—which we previously named as a “song of the summer” contender upon blowing up on TikTok—is nominated for Best Rap Performance. And yet in another TikTok-assisted nod, Rosalía is up for Best Music Film for her live performance of Motomami on the app.

SURPRISE: Drake’s here!

Despite both Drake and The Weeknd opting not to submit their most recent blockbuster albums for Grammy consideration, Drizzy pops up four times on this year’s list of nominees as a co-writer or featured artist. Future’s “Wait for U,” which features both Drake and Tems, is up for Best Melodic Rap Performance and Best Rap Song, while “Churchill Downs,” Drake’s collaboration with Jack Harlow, is also a contender in the latter category. He’s also nominated for co-writing Beyoncé’s “Heated.”

Will this actually do anything to help thaw the Toronto star’s relationship with Music’s Biggest Night? TBD, but it’s clear the Grammys still want the certified lover boy on their side.

SNUB: Morgan Wallen keeps getting shut out.

Despite being one of the country world’s biggest stars, Wallen has yet to earn a single Grammy nomination—and this year is no exception. Wallen, of course, is perhaps best known to most people as the dude whose videotaped use of the N-word made nationwide news in early 2021, making him persona non grata at awards shows for a while. But the ostracization seemed to ease up recently, as he took home the top honor for Album of the Year at this year’s Academy of Country Music Awards for his chart-topping Dangerous: The Double Album. And yet, the Grammys aren’t forgiving and forgetting just yet. (Either that, or his album just sucks.)

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SURPRISE: The Grammys are still rewarding terrible men.

Wallen aside, however, there are still a few controversial figures who eked their way onto this year’s list of nominees, including returning winner Louis C.K., Chris Brown, and Dave Chappelle, who’s up for Best Comedy Album for The Closer, aka the very Netflix special that landed him in hot water late last year for his tasteless jokes against transgender people.

SURPRISE: It’s Diana Ross versus Christmas.

Somehow, Diana Ross has never won a Grammy in a competitive category, despite having received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy. That could change this year, as her album Thank You (listen to the title track if you want a burst of feel-good energy; trust me on this one) is nominated in the Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album category, giving Ross her first nomination since 1983. But she faces stiff competition from some holiday divas: she’s up against three Christmas-centric albums (Kelly Clarkson’s When Christmas Comes Around…, Norah Jones’ I Dream of Christmas (Extended), and Pentatonix’s Evergreen), plus Michael Bublé’s Higher.

SURPRISE: Taylor Swift is country again.

Despite firmly establishing herself as one of the planet’s biggest pop forces over the past several years, Swift’s three nominations all harken back to her country roots. She’s up for Song of the Year for her emotionally bloated 10-minute version of “All Too Well” from her Red re-release. Elsewhere, her Where the Crawdads Sing cut “Carolina” is up for Best Song Written for Visual Media, while the Red (Taylor’s Version) bonus track “I Bet You Think About Me” is up for Best Country Song.

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SNUB: Nicki Minaj and Megan Thee Stallion’s respective reigns appear to be on pause.

After getting showered in Grammy love in recent years, Megan Thee Stallion got shut out of this year’s nominations, with no love for her sophomore album, Traumazine. Similarly snubbed was Nicki Minaj, who’s no doubt pissed about it after making a stink over her chart topper “Super Freaky Girl” being deemed more pop than rap by the Recording Academy. Beware the wrath of the Barbz, Grammy voters.

SURPRISE: The Recording Academy can’t resist Bad Bunny’s world domination.

In better news, the summer of Bad Bunny is still raging on! The Puerto Rican superstar’s smash 2022 album Un Verano Sin Ti rightfully earned an Album of the Year nod, and he’s also up for Best Pop Solo Performance for “Moscow Mule” and Best Música Urbana Album, which he won last year. Given the Grammys’ not-so-stellar track record when it comes to non-English music, this is certainly a feat worth celebrating—especially as it makes Un Verano Sin Ti the first Spanish-language album to snag an AOTY nomination.

SNUB: Rosalía deserved an Album of the Year nod and we all know it.

But for every Bad Bunny, there’s also a Rosalía. Motomami was one of the year’s most exciting and musically adventurous albums, but it was disappointingly relegated to Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album.

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SURPRISE: The Grammys <3 Mary J. Blige

The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul emerged as a surprise top nominee, earning an Album of the Year nod for Good Morning Gorgeous, a Record of the Year nod for its title track, and four more nods in the R&B categories. Maybe Grammy voters just really dug her performance at February’s Super Bowl halftime show?

SURPRISE: The ABBA train rolls on.

After the beloved Swedish group landed its first-ever Grammy nomination last year, they’re back in the Record of the Year category for “Don’t Shut Me Down,” as well as Album of the Year for Voyage, their first new album in 40 years. ABBA fandom never goes out of style.

SNUB: The Grammys won’t talk about Bruno.

“We Don’t Talk About Bruno,” aka the Disney hit that everyone and their mom couldn’t stop humming earlier this year, was predicted to weasel its way into at least one of the major categories this year. But no, no, no. The Encanto ensemble chart-topper was siloed away to the genre categories, where it will compete for Best Song Written for Visual Media. The movie’s soundtrack, meanwhile, is up for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media and Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media.

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SURPRISE: Viola Davis is gunning for that EGOT.

She’s three for four, and now Viola Davis is looking for the “G” to fill out her EGOT status. She’s nominated for the audio book version of her memoir Finding Me, and if she wins, she’ll join recent EGOT winners John Legend and Jennifer Hudson in the ultra-exclusive club.

SNUB: Summer Walker wants the Grammys to check their work.

Summer Walker topped the charts late last year with her sophomore album Still Over It, but she’s definitely not over the Grammys shutting it out of this year’s nominations. She wrote in an Instagram Story on Tuesday, “& as for grammys for a 2nd time, the math is literally not matching,” referring to the album’s stellar chart success. Walker is, however, nominated as a contributor to Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, so at least there’s that. Also pissed he was “snubbed” was Chance the Rapper, but we’ll let you decide if that was actually a legit snub or not. (We’re leaning toward “not,” for what it’s worth. Sorry, Chance.)

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