While the Grammys are famous for out-of-nowhere choices for top prizes, this year’s nominations are largely down-the-middle consensus picks. Other than one former talk-show bandleader, all the contenders for the top three Grammy Awards — album, song and record of the year — come bearing Billboard Hot 100 mega-hits and/or critically acclaimed LPs that had a broad impact.
There’s very little to argue with in the actual nominations for the 66th Grammy Awards, scheduled for Feb. 4 at Crypto.com Arena; you think Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo and SZA weren’t going to be locks? But a few glaring absences suggest some blind spots, or at least a lack of enthusiasm for certain taste-making sounds this year.
Here are the notable snubs and surprises.
SURPRISE: All those Jon Batiste nominations
Two years ago, Batiste left his gig on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert” and dove head-first into the Grammy spotlight, leading the field in nominations (11) and wins (five), including a head-turning victory for album of the year. This year, he’s back with a vengeance, collecting an album of the year nomination for the expansive “World Music Radio” and nods for both record of the year (“Worship”) and song of the year (“Butterfly”), neither of which had any commercial impact. In total, Batiste sits near the top of the leaderboard with six nominations, dead even with the likes of Swift, Rodrigo and Billie Eilish.
SNUB: Country music
The Grammys had many paths to acknowledge country music’s outstanding year. Luke Combs had a massive crossover hit with a cover of Tracy Chapman’s beloved “Fast Car.” Zach Bryan topped the streaming and Billboard charts with a thoughtful, ferocious album that featured a hit duet with Grammy fave Kacey Musgraves. Lainey Wilson just cleaned up at the CMA Awards, a victory lap after a decade in the Nashville trenches. And Morgan Wallen sold out stadiums and easily outstreamed Swift and SZA, to name two powerhouses.
And yet country came up almost totally empty. Jelly Roll and the War and Treaty got nods for best new artist, but otherwise, the genre was shut out in the four general field categories. Overall, Combs has one nomination, Wilson has two, Bryan has three and Brandy Clark has six — almost all in country and adjacent genre categories. Voters might still be ignoring Wallen for his N-word indiscretion, but it’s now clear they don’t seem to care much for country as a whole, even in a banner year.
SURPRISE: Victoria Monét and Janelle Monáe
Monét recently told The Times she wants to win 16 Grammys in her career; with seven nominations this year, including for best new artist, she’s on her way to that lofty goal. It’s a welcome surprise to see her song of the year nomination for “On My Mama,” a slick ode to stepping out and looking right that peaked at No. 58 on the Hot 100. Formerly a songwriter for Ariana Grande, Fifth Harmony, et al., Monét has seized the spotlight with her solo debut, aided by her accomplished producer D’Mile, who helped power Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open” to wins in 2022. And, kudos to the similarly surnamed Janelle Monáe, who earned her second straight album of the year nomination for “The Age of Pleasure.”
SNUB: Regional Mexican
One heartening trend this year was the rise of regional Mexican music as a TikTok and streaming sensation. Acts like Peso Pluma, Natanael Cano, Eslabon Armado and Fuerza Regida rocketed to arena stardom with a tradition-steeped yet insouciantly modern sound that resonates with the success of Anglo county music this year. Voters not immersed in contemporary Mexican music would have at least heard Pluma and Eslabon Armado on the No. 4 Hot 100 hit “Ella Baila Sola,” or seen Bad Bunny and Kendall Jenner singing Cano, Pluma and Gabito Ballesteros‘ “AMG” on Instagram.
Yet the 24-year-old Pluma got just one nod, for Música Mexicana album. Like the subject of his big hit, Pluma will be dancing more or less alone on Grammy night.
SURPRISE: Phoebe Bridgers
Phoebe Bridgers is the new Dave Grohl: that is, the one rocker everyone can agree on. With seven nominations this year, mostly with her supergroup Boygenius, she adds to her lifetime total of 11. Nods in the record and album categories confirm what the cool kids already knew: She and her bandmates Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus made an era-defining guitar LP. Bridgers also was recognized in pop duo/group performance, for a feature on SZA’s “Ghost in the Machine.”
It’s an annual tradition to point fingers at the Grammys for dropping the ball when it comes to hip-hop. Ice Spice is a deserved best new artist nominee after a breakthrough year that included three Top 10 hits and a Taylor Swift collaboration, but the Brooklyn rapper is the genre’s only representation in the big four categories. Meanwhile, would-be contenders such as Lil Durk’s “All My Life,” Lil Uzi Vert’s “Just Wanna Rock” and Killer Mike’s “Scientists & Engineers” (which features André 3000, Future and Eryn Allen Kane) were relegated to the rap-specific categories.
Fun fact: There are more members of Boygenius than there are dudes nominated for album and record of the year (just one, Batiste). This year, women artists or groups make up an overwhelming majority of the top nominees, including SZA, who leads all artists with nine nods.
Speaking of women surpassing men: Should Taylor Swift take home album of the year on Feb. 4 for “Midnights,” she’d surpass Frank Sinatra, Paul Simon and Stevie Wonder and become the first four-time winner of the Grammys’ most prestigious award.