The Weeknd Shut Out of All Grammy Categories [Updated]

The most surprising omission of the year

the weeknd grammy snub after hours blinding lights nominations recording academy
The Weeknd, photo by Duncan Loudon

After Hours is the best full-length album of The Weeknd‘s career, and this year “Blinding Lights” has been about as ubiquitous as photons. Many observers expected a slew of Grammy nods for the artist born Abel Tesfaye, so when the nominations were announced earlier today, it came as a shock when he was shut out entirely.

As Variety points out, there are a few possible explanations. First, perhaps The Weeknd’s representatives at Republic Records forgot to submit his music for consideration. Granted, they successfully handled Taylor Swift’s paperwork, helping her on the way to five nominations, but it’s conceivable. Another possibility is that the right hand didn’t know what the left hand was doing; that the R&B committee considered him pop, the pop committee figured he counted as R&B, and he slipped through the cracks. The Weeknd has not responded to a request for comment.

Update: In a Tweet posted late Tuesday, The Weeknd wrote, “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…”

As for the Grammys, Recording Academy interim president/CEO Harvey Mason, Jr. did not confirm or deny that The Weeknd had been submitted for consideration. But he did defend the “process” that produced the nominations, telling Variety that,

“The process is there so we can continue to monitor excellence. I was in the ‘core room’ this year [which decides the main categories] and I observed, and the people in it are music professionals, at the top of their craft in songwriting and producing and there are a lot of artists. And they were critically listening to every song that came across their desks — or virtual desks — so I don’t think it shows a flaw in the process. It’s a long, arduous process and people take pride in it. The people in that room care: there are no agendas in there, there’s no ‘let’s snub this person’ or that person. It’s about, ‘Let’s try and find excellence.’”

Mason did not confirm if this is the same commitment to “excellence” that saw the Recording Academy bestow a heavy metal award on Jethro Tull, reward Milli Vanilli after they had been outed as frauds, or lift up Macklemore over Kendrick Lamar. Award shows are objectively stupid, but the Grammys continue to scrape the bottom of the barrel.

In other news, the Grammys finally gave a music nomination to a K-pop group, recognizing BTS for “Dynamite”. The Weeknd will is already on to bigger and better things, and will be headlining the 2021 Super Bowl Halftime Show.

Update: In a follow-up statement (via Variety), Mason addressed rumors that The Weeknd’s Super Bowl appearance may have factored into his Grammys snubbing. TMZ reports that people close to the singer feel the Recording Academy retailed against him after he agreed to play the Super Bowl in addition to the Grammys, taking away exclusivity from the latter. Mason denied this was the case, saying:

“Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists. But as the only peer-voted music award, we will continue to recognize and celebrate excellence in music while shining a light on the many amazing artists that make up our global community. To be clear, voting in all categories ended well before The Weeknd’s performance at the Super Bowl was announced, so in no way could it have affected the nomination process.”