The Grammy nominations have been out for a few weeks, and if you’ve seen them… you’re probably unimpressed. The Weeknd was snubbed in every category, unconscionable given his critical and commercial success, and the Academy somehow found the justification to nominate the forgettable and forgotten Coldplay EP for “Album of the Year.” There are plenty more gripes beyond this (“Yummy” a Grammy-nominated single?). Still, the Academy could save themselves from complete shame by handing out one award correctly: Dua Lipa‘s Future Nostalgia for Album of the Year.
The Grammys state that Album of the Year is awarded based on “artistic achievement, technical proficiency, and overall excellence in the recording industry without regard to album sales, chart position, or critical reception.” While this is a nice platitude, few would seriously contend that this is how the award operates in practice. Was Adele’s juggernaut 25 given the award in 2017 for “technical proficiency” or because it was a good album that outsold every other nominee by millions of copies?
Pop records are overrepresented in this particular category because of their ubiquity. This would also be giving the award to a pop album for a second consecutive year and a white recording artist for a third. Those are valid qualms with a prospective Lipa win, but given the nominations, all of the other frontrunners would provide a less desirable outcome. At the same time, it is difficult to see the longshots pulling off an upset this year.
Future Nostalgia is a well-rounded contender at first glance: strong critical and commercial success, which would be enough to satisfy both music fans, industry titans, and critics alike. Its only competition critically is Taylor Swift’s folklore and HAIM’s Women in Music Pt. III (both of which were featured in our Best Albums of 2020), while commercially matched by folklore, Jhene Aiko’s Chilombo, and Post Malone’s mediocre Hollywood’s Bleeding.As of the end of 2020, Future Nostalgia’s SPS stands at 1.01M, with folklore at 1.90M and Bleeding at a whopping 5.35M. On review aggregator AOTY, Future Nostalgia has an 86/100, tied with … Continue reading There are, of course, cases to make for other records, but they are far flimsier than these.For example, Jacob Collier’s album boasts an 85 on AOTY, but this is only based on two reviews, with user reviews having the album rated in the low 60s and no sales to speak of. HAIM’s … Continue reading These three albums represent the most likely winners by a wide margin, according to predictors at GoldDerby. Only three nominated albums also scored album nominations in their respective genre categories: Future Nostalgia, folklore, and Aiko’s Chilombo.
This signals that the other contenders have weak support from voters within the academy. No album this century has won Album of the Year after failing to receive a genre nomination. While this doesn’t make it impossible for those other albums to win, it is improbable and difficult to foresee.Albums can and have won Album of the Year after failing to win their genre category, but never after being overlooked for a nomination. Then again, the Grammys are overdue for an Indie upset, with six years having passed since Beck upset Beyonce’s self-titled record.
While the other nominees have cases to be made for why they should walk away with the award in March, Dua Lipa stands out for just how far she has been willing to take her vision for this album cycle and era. Lipa gave pop both its first fully realized era since Taylor Swift’s Album of the Year-winning 1989 and one of the most multi-faceted this millennium. Between the standard LP, a club-remix release, an upcoming b-side set, a live stream spectacular, and – should god be willing – a full-blown tour in 2021, Future Nostalgia is a world of its own (sorry, Chromatica). The record boasts five fully promoted singles when most Pop records of the streaming age tap out at two or three. Once “Levitating” almost inevitably ascends to Pop Radio’s summit, she will be the first artist in five years to accumulate three No. 1s from one album (after “Don’t Start Now” and “Break My Heart” topped the chart).
What makes Lipa’s record more unique in the singles department is that all of the singles were released within the context of the album era. As Ariana Grande has noted, most pop eras in the streaming era can only muster two to three singles before getting tapped out, as she saw with her own albums Thank U, Next, and Sweetener. While Lipa may have only seen three out of her five singles truly succeed in the US – both “Physical” and “Hallucinate” failed to break the Top 40 – her perseverance despite these underperformances is what is sending “Levitating” up the charts at the moment.
Meanwhile, Taylor Swift’s folklore has only seen one music video released,Not counting lyric videos. and has already been succeeded less than five months later in Swift’s discography by evermore. Which begs the question, how could folklore be “Album of The Year” when it wasn’t even Swift’s? Swift’s 3rd win in the category would, at the very least, be far more warranted than her 2nd: 1989’s win would have been acceptable in any other year, but her edging out Kendrick Lamar’s Peabody winning To Pimp a Butterfly was an almost tone-deaf decision.
This is not to say necessarily that Swift’s folklore doesn’t deserve the award purely because it is already last summer’s news, or because Swift has enough trophies on her mantle already. There is little doubt that it is an impressive album (as is HAIM’s Women in Music Pt III), but given that Future Nostalgia is both an excellent record on its own and that it dominated the year, it’s difficult to justify handing the award out to anyone else. No other album nominated can compare to Future Nostalgia on both of those counts. No nomination stands out for being of exceptionally greater quality that might justify a win as it did for Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs over Lady Gaga, Eminem, and Katy Perry in 2011.
As for Post Malone, his record, despite having six singles, was over almost as quickly as it began and was largely overshadowed by the overwhelming success of the single “Circles.” It would be far more appropriate to award him Song or Record of the Year for his record-breaking track. Jhene Aiko’s album has the sales to support at least being considered for the award, but the quality of the over-bloated record holds it back. However, to her credit, the album was released merely one week before the worldwide COVID-19 lockdowns began, which complicates its narrative.
Ultimately, after a disappointing year, the Grammys delivered disappointing nominations, with only three albums having a real shot at the award and only two of those albums being good. But what better album could be used to look forward to what is to come than Future Nostalgia?
|↑1||As of the end of 2020, Future Nostalgia’s SPS stands at 1.01M, with folklore at 1.90M and Bleeding at a whopping 5.35M. On review aggregator AOTY, Future Nostalgia has an 86/100, tied with folklore and comfortably above Bleeding’s 71.|
|↑2||For example, Jacob Collier’s album boasts an 85 on AOTY, but this is only based on two reviews, with user reviews having the album rated in the low 60s and no sales to speak of. HAIM’s album boasts significant critical but not commercial recognition.|
|↑3||Albums can and have won Album of the Year after failing to win their genre category, but never after being overlooked for a nomination.|
|↑4||Not counting lyric videos.|