- Taylor Swift received just one nomination for the 61st annual Grammy Awards, which will take place on Sunday, February 10.
- Given that Swift has traditionally been a Grammys darling, this shocked many critics and outraged fans.
- But we can’t truly call the underwhelming number of nominations a “snub” when the album was the most underwhelming of her career.
- “Reputation” isn’t even the best in the one category it was nominated (best pop vocal album).
- If anything, the 2018 single “Delicate” deserved a nod for song of the year.
Throughout her career, Taylor Swift has been the definition of a Grammys darling: She became the youngest artist ever to win album of the year with “Fearless,” and later became the first woman ever to win the award twice with “1989.”
But this time around, the riskiest album of her career, “Reputation,” essentially received a cold pat on the back. Swift’s newest body of work was nearly shut out of the 61st annual Grammy Awards, which will take place on Sunday, February 10.
“Reputation” was a divisive effort, but Swift’s gambit paid off – at least commercially. Despite its 2017 release date and minimal follow-up promotion, it was the biggest-selling album of 2018. Its perfunctory nomination for best pop vocal album translates as a conscious decision to shut Swift out of the major awards, which naturally shocked many critics and outraged fans.
Tay got SNUBBED so hard ohmygod ????????♀️????????♀️???? Rep deserved AOTY! Period.
— starlight (@Skyabove6) December 21, 2018
But can we truly call Swift’s underwhelming number of nominations a “snub” when the album was arguably the most underwhelming of her career?
“Reputation” had some great moments, but the end result was wildly uneven.
“Reputation” starts on a relatively high note with the topical, catchy, feature-packed “End Game” (we can skip right over “…Ready For It?” because, duh) and then immediately hits its climax with Swift’s powerful pop-rock holy trinity, “I Did Something Bad,” “Don’t Blame Me,” and “Delicate.”
It also ends on a high note, gliding from the sharply tender “Call It What You Want” to the album’s only Swiftian ballad, “New Year’s Day.”
This leaves the midsection, the bulk of the project: a bloated eight song-stretch with grating chord changes and try-hard electronic effects.
To be sure, we should all be thankful that “Reputation” wasn’t the “celebrity self-pity party” that many people expected – or, in other words, an album full of “This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” and “Look What You Made Me Do.”
But even though it was largely an album of love songs, which is typically where Swift shines, it mostly just felt melodically strained and rhythmically clumsy. Production-wise, Swift was out of her depth, and it shows.
Even the lyrics were disappointing for someone of Swift’s songwriting calibre. There are moments of clarity (“Getaway Car” employs an intriguing extended metaphor) and delightfully specific personal details that shine through the grime (“I’m spilling wine in the bathtub / You kiss my face and we’re both drunk,” she sings on “Dress”), but they aren’t enough to salvage the songs themselves.
These lyrical gems are also weighed down by moments of childishness (“King of my heart, body, and soul” is a ridiculous phrase) and Swift sounding like an immature high schooler (“You should take it as a compliment that I got drunk and made fun of the way you talk,” she titters on “Gorgeous”).
“Reputation” is not a bad album. But it’s inconsistent and messy, which are hardly adjectives that should be used to describe an “album of the year.”
Commercial success does not always equal quality.
That commercial success does not equal quality has been used to belittle pop music for decades, which is neither fair nor what I’m trying to do here. “1989,” one of Swift’s most beloved projects to date and easily her biggest embrace of radio-friendly bangers, is one of my personal favourite albums of all time. (It was also highly deserving of its 2016 album of the year nomination. Whether it deserved the award itself is another story.)
But to say that high sales and streaming numbers for “Reputation” means it’s award-worthy by default is to deliberately simplify the way music is popularised and consumed.
“Look What You Made Me Do” spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 10 and 20 weeks on the chart. It had the highest streaming debut in history for a female artist. And the song is abysmal – we all know it.
“Reputation” isn’t even the best album in the one category it was nominated.
“Reputation” earned a nom for best pop vocal album during the eligibility period (nominations include recordings released between October 1, 2017, and September 30, 2018).
The category used to be called “best contemporary album” and then “best pop album,” finally arriving at its current iteration in 2000. It recognises albums containing “at least 51% playing time of new vocal pop recordings,” meaning that it can’t be largely instrumental.
First and foremost, Grande easily deserves the win in this category. Bouncing back from an unspeakable tragedy –a bombing at her concert in Manchester that killed 22 people, many of them children – in an appropriate way would have been a Herculean task for anybody.
But Grande managed to do just that and more, creating music that radiated with positivity while tackling important topics like PTSD and anxiety. “Sweetener” was impeccably produced, fresh, fun-loving, and painfully relevant. Put simply, it redefined Grande’s career and positioned her as one of the pop music greats.
Moreover, both Cabello and Mendes managed to produce cohesive and career-making albums – as opposed to the irregular track list on “Reputation,” a let-down compared to Swift’s previous bodies of work.
If an album isn’t even the most deserving in its subcategory, how can it deserve an additional nomination for album of the year?
In reality, Swift most deserved a nomination for song of the year.
Indeed, Swift deserved one nomination, no more no less – she just got it in the wrong category. Her nod should have been for song of the year, not best pop vocal album.
“Delicate,” the only single from “Reputation” released in the US in 2018, is ostensibly one of the most perfect songs in Swift’s extensive catalogue. It boasts some of her most poignant, vulnerable lyrics on top of subtly powerful, sparkling synths.
As Rob Sheffield rightly points out for Rolling Stone, “‘Delicate’ is her triumph on ‘Reputation,’ a whispery vocoder rush that sums up everything she’s about.” And given how song of the year is a category dedicated to excellent lyricism, “Delicate” is extremely deserving. This was Swift’s true snub.
Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.
- Read more about the 2019 Grammy nominees:
- The 14 biggest snubs of the 2019 Grammy nominations, from Ariana Grande to Travis Scott
- 7 artists who don’t deserve their nominations – sorry
- Meet the 8 stars nominated for best new artist
- Cardi B’s ‘Invasion of Privacy’ is up for album of the year – here’s how her rap skills actually measure up to fellow nominees like Drake and Kendrick Lamar
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