We now have the complete list of nominations for the 64th annual Grammy Awards, which take place in January 2022, and in general, it’s a safe, conservative roster of contenders. Most of the big artists you might expect to dominate are there—Billie Eilish, Olivia Rodrigo, Justin Bieber, and more—meaning that the switch to an open and democratic process (instead of the secret committees previously used to pick the nominees) didn’t necessarily change much. This isn’t surprising: Of the major awards shows, the Grammys are perhaps most famous for being perpetually out of touch with the zeitgeist. Still, there were some names we were happier to see than others. Here are eight of the biggest surprises—including one major snub we didn’t see coming.
Snub: K-pop still can’t get the respect it deserves
Despite being arguably the year that K-pop fully entered the mainstream pop arena, its most popular heralds, BTS, found themselves relegated to the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category, for “Butter.” No matter that the song was a massive hit, or that critically and commercially it did just as well (if not better) than many of the artists nominated for Song Of The Year and Record Of The Year. It seems we still haven’t reached the point where the Academy is going to welcome the genre into its biggest categories. Regardless of whether you are a K-pop fan or not, at this point it feels a bit absurd to keep pretending it’s some niche field of pop.
Surprise: ABBA sneaks into the field just under the wire
Despite the album it’s on, Voyage, not coming out until after the window of eligibility for Grammys consideration had already closed, ABBA’s “I Still Have Faith In You” managed to sneak into contention for Record Of The Year. The single was released on September 2—just a few weeks before the deadline for Grammys consideration passed. We’re surprised, but not in a bad way, as it’s a solid number from the venerable reunion act.
Surprise: Jon Batiste leads the pack
If there was a single big winner in this list of nominations, it was musician and Late Show With Stephen Colbert bandleader Jon Batiste. The jazz and R&B giant came away with 11 nominations in total, more than any other artist, for everything from his latest album We Are to his work on the Soul soundtrack. Rarely has the phrase “don’t quit your day job” been less applicable.
Surprise: Justin Bieber once again gets put up for seemingly everything
Seriously, what is it about this guy? Do Justin Bieber fans even think his most recent album, Justice, is worthy of this many accolades? Look, “Peaches” was a bona fide banger, but putting “Anyone” up for Best Pop Solo Performance? His new record is acceptable, at best. At best.
Surprise: Arooj Aftab lands a much-deserved Best New Artist nomination
It was great to see some deserving musicians appear more than once, like Japanese Breakfast earning nominations for Best New Artist and Best Alternative Album. But one of the names we were happiest to hear read aloud was Arooj Aftab. The Pakistani singer and composer released one of the most compelling records of the past year with Vulture Prince, a hushed and intense collection of music. At the time of its release, we praised it for fusing “elements of traditional Pakistani music, jazz, classical, and more, yet that heady stew of influences combine to form a remarkably cohesive and singular musical style.” If you haven’t yet heard it, do yourself a favor and check out her killer sophomore album.
Surprise: The rock categories remain the territory of dinosaurs
Look, we love AC/DC, and would never begrudge the Australian greats a Grammy nomination, especially for a late-period record that kicks as much ass as Power Up. But boy, did this year’s nominees serve as a reminder of the yearly complaint that the Academy is woefully out of date when it comes to rock music. As usual, the categories were dominated by decades-old acts and posthumous honors: Foo Fighters, Chris Cornell, Paul McCartney, Deftones, and more. (The Best Metal category, with noms for Rob Zombie and Dream Theater, is even more embarrassing.) Is it too much to ask to see someone other than Black Pumas (who admittedly deserve to be there) get a chance to crack the list? We will accept a late nomination for The Armed’s ULTRAPOP as recompense.
Surprise: Three cheers for Masego!
Who knew the Academy was aware of the excellence in human form known as Masego? Seeing his Studying Abroad: Extended Stay album get a nomination for Best Progressive R&B album made for a wonderful surprise. When the record was first released, we sang its praises from the rafters: “the Jamaican American virtuoso trots from trap to jazz, hip-hop to dancehall. So it seems fitting that moments from his latest EP, Study Abroad, explore his international palette, infusing island grooves with brass and soul.” He’s up against heavyweights like Kamasi Washington, but still, it’s good to see the artist in the mix.
Snub: Whither art thou, Miley Cyrus?
Despite being one of the biggest names in pop, Miley Cyrus was completely shut out of the Grammys for her latest album, Plastic Hearts. It’s a shame, because we actually quite liked the record, saying that Cyrus “returns to doing what she does best on Plastic Hearts—namely, reveling in the glam and over-the-top theatrics of great electro-pop.” If a great pop provocateur can’t get recognized for some of her best work, then… well, then it would be the Grammys operating as normal, wouldn’t it?