(2015 and 2016 ceremonies)
Wait, come back, Taylor! All is Grammy-forgiven, and your best is clearly yet to come! “1989” generated 10 nominations over two years, and won three of those, including her second album of the year prize. Repeating in that top category is a rare honor that’s only ever been afforded to six artists, historically. Was she indomitable after all?
(2018 and 2019 ceremonies)
No, she wasn’t. She scored two noms in ‘18 for non-album efforts (for writing Sugarland’s “Better Man” and serving as a movie theme creator with “I Don’t Wanna Lie Forever”). When the year of “Reputation’s” eligibility rolled around, Swift got just a single nomination for the album… and it wasn’t even in a major category, but for pop vocal album (which she lost). One hates to use the word “snub” loosely this was a Snub with a snake-shaped capital S.
You could write off the Grammys’ no-thanks attitude toward “Reputation” to that darker album being admittedly polarizing. But with popular opinion on most matters controversial having shifted toward Team Taylor, more universally strong reviews for “Lover” than those that greeted “Reputation” surely portended for a return to Grammy gold — until they didn’t. Of the mere three nominations handed to the album, only one was in a top category (song of the year for the title track). The Grammy telecast’s producers tore their remaining hair out, unable to book her for the show, yet again. She was hardly alone in being subject to this seeming randomness; conspiracy theorists have also wondered if nominating committees shut out a smash like Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” because they were worried that if went to the general votership, it would win. But maybe it’s not all that shady; the committee probably really just does love Bon Iver that much more.
Swift had an ingenious way of getting back into the Grammys’ good graces: she booked Bon Iver, who could be said to have taken some of her slots in the previous Grammy slate, to do a duet on her new album! Just kidding — if anything, her Justin Vernon boosterism actually makes a generous implicit case that the committee was on solid ground with the BI love last time around. Anyway, with the surprise release of “Folklore,” an album that was started and finished in quarantine, the Grammys have been handed a gift on a silver platter: the biggest album of the year has a narrative around its making that speaks to productivity and grace under pressure during COVID.
A look at the album’s Metacritic average score among music critics (88, by far her highest yet) establishes that she’s now about as antagonist-free as a superstar gets in the pop wars of 2020. And “Folklore” has spent seven non-consecutive weeks at No. 1, far more than any other long-player this year, So can she be denied her first album of the year nomination since the “1989” coronation? Of course she can — it’s Grammy-town, Jake. But the odds favor the Grammys getting in line for at least a little rubber-stamping of that success.