The 58th Grammy Awards nominations were announced this morning and, in a surprising twist of events, they were not that bad. You may even call them "good."
Kendrick Lamar picked up 11 nominations in nine different categories, including an Album of the Year nod for his 2015 record To Pimp a Butterfly. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift, his “Bad Blood” collaborator, grabbed seven nominations, including an Album of the Year nomination for 1989 and a record of the year nomination for "Blank Space." She tied The Weeknd, who also grabbed Album and Record nods, with the second most nominations.
Like I said: actually pretty good!
By recognizing Lamar and Swift with so many nominations, the Grammys have correctly identified two of the most popular, relevant, and aesthetically singular artists of the last year. That’s what these giant awards shows are for, right? We want to see pop icons “compete” in sports-like narratives that have little bearing on the meaning, complexity or personal nature of their work. Plus, the presence of Swift and Lamar will make it even more surprising when Alabama Shakes or Chris Stapleton pull off the patented Beck-esque upset win in the Album of the Year category.
The pleasant surprises aren’t limited to the Album of the Year. In nominating Australian indie rock singer Courtney Barnett for Best New Artist, R&B innovators the Internet for Best Urban Contemporary Album and newcomer Fetty Wap’s inescapable hit “Trap Queen” for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song, the Grammys showed a willingness to honor emerging artists slightly outside the mainstream. Sure, dad-approved legend James Taylor grabbed a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album, but he’s up against Florence + The Machine, Kelly Clarkson and Taylor Swift. I suppose that’s what progress looks like.
The Grammys will always be about weird pairings and stylistic incongruities -- and I don’t just mean in the often awful performances. The joy of scanning the Grammy nominees list is discovering and relishing all the odd match-ups. Will Slipknot triumph over Deathcab for Cutie in the Best Rock Album category? Can Jimmy Carter destroy Dick Cavett and take home another Best Spoken Word Album trophy? Why is the voice of Ted nominated for the same award as Bob Dylan? These questions make the Grammys both infuriating and fun.
At the very least, it’s probably more enjoyable on a Monday morning to focus on the strange aspects of the nominees than to stew in anger about any number of perceived “snubs.” Yes, in a perfect world, Future’s DS2 would be up for just as many awards as Kendrick Lamar’s more ornate magnum opus. Of course it would be nice if, in addition to the Record of the Year nomination for “Really Love,” D’Angelo had been honored with a Album of the Year nod for Black Messiah. Miguel and Nicki Minaj should get nominated for more awards; the Foo Fighters should get nominated for fewer. Like every award shows, the Grammys will always be imperfect. But, at least this year, the nominees weren't embarrassing.
Check out the full list of nominees here.
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Dan Jackson is a staff writer at Thrillist Entertainment and he's glad Macklemore didn't put out an album this year. He's on Twitter: @danielvjackson.