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The Grammy Award nominations are out, and there is a glaring number of unexpected nods and snubs: Less-known artists like Jacob Collier and Black Pumas and rock institution Coldplay scored nominations for top prizes. But The Weeknd? Shut out completely.

It’s a surprising turn: A year ago, the annual awards show seemed to have a finger on pop music’s new guard. But the nominees for next year’s prizes, announced by the Recording Academy on Tuesday, are a mix of quirky and conventional, with small, niche artists receiving high-profile nods, widely favored and zeitgeisty acts getting snubbed and established names instead of newcomers dominating overall nominations. Next year’s Grammys will take place on Jan. 31 in Los Angeles, hosted by “The Daily Show" host and comedian Trevor Noah.

Three of the eight nominations for the most prestigious prize, Album of the Year, went to R&B singer Jhené Aiko, genre-crossing music prodigy Jacob Collier and retro-soul duo Black Pumas. These are less commercially-successful artists that have currency with Grammy voters but may be unfamiliar to most music fans. Veteran rock band Coldplay was also nominated in the category, a surprise given the lack of buzz in the run-up to the nominations. And the only rapper recognized for the top award is Post Malone, who straddles the fence with pop music. Other nominees in this category include pop star Dua Lipa—considered a major contender—Taylor Swift and rock sister-trio Haim. Beyoncé, who leads the pack with nine nominations overall, is the most nominated female artist in Grammy history.

In perhaps the biggest upset this year, R&B-pop crooner The Weeknd was shut out of all award nominations. The Canadian superstar was considered a frontrunner by many in the music business, having released one of 2020’s most successful and praised albums, “After Hours." (The Weeknd is also playing next year’s Super Bowl.) On Monday, “Blinding Lights," one of The Weeknd’s recent songs, became the longest-running Top-Ten hit in the 62-year history of Billboard’s singles chart.

On Tuesday evening, The Weeknd criticized his Grammy shut-out on Twitter. “The Grammys remain corrupt," he said. “You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency."

In response, the Recording Academy’s interim CEO and President, Harvey Mason Jr., said it was an “unusual and competitive year."

“We understand that The Weeknd is disappointed... I was surprised and can empathize," Mr. Mason Jr. said. He also addressed speculation that The Weeknd was asked to pick between performing at the Super Bowl and the Grammys. “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," Mr. Mason Jr. said.

In addition, Harry Styles, the One Direction member who has built a thriving solo career driven by pop-rock hits like “Watermelon Sugar," didn’t receive any nominations in the top categories for which he is eligible: Album of the Year, Song of the Year (for songwriters), and Record of the Year (for performers, producers and engineers). The fourth top category is Best New Artist.

Critical darling and singer-songwriter Fiona Apple, whose “Fetch the Bolt Cutters" is among this year’s most effusively praised albums, also was relegated to lower-profile award categories.

At the same time, this year’s higher-profile nominations covered a wider array of music genres than usual, including rock, which is less dominant on streaming services and in the broader culture. Acclaimed female rock artists Brittany Howard and Phoebe Bridgers are among the most nominated acts, joining more-expected names like new rap superstar Megan Thee Stallion; country singer Ingrid Andress is up for Best New Artist; and K-pop behemoth BTS won a nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.

“We’re happy this year that the voters chose to represent and showcase a very, very wide variety of genres and music creators," says Mr. Mason Jr. “It is not about chart success or streaming numbers or who has the most followers."

For years, the Grammys’ more than 11,000 voting members have been criticized for myriad and sometimes contradictory perceived failings: too much emphasis on commercial heavyweights over critical favorites; a lack of recognition for hip-hop and R&B acts, female artists and boundary-pushing younger names; insufficient nods for rock, country and metal acts in top categories; and a lack of transparency over voting processes. (More recently, the integrity of the voting system has also been questioned.)

The biggest move by the Grammys to address these issues has been to expand the number of nominees for the top four awards to eight nominees, from five. Enlarging the playing field for nominees could be helping to fuel this year’s unexpected nods and diverse nominee pool. “There’s eight slots in some of those categories," says Mr. Mason Jr. “You don’t know, from year to year, what’s going to appear in those areas, and what the voters are going to gravitate toward." This year, the Grammys also received a record 23,207 nomination entries, he says.

Despite the surprises, this year’s nominations were, on the whole, dominated by artists firmly established in their careers, a contrast with last year.

Ten of the 12 artists who received at least four nominations are previously nominated acts. Beyoncé’s song “Black Parade," which garnered two high-profile nominations for song and record of the year, was a timely response to this year’s movements against police brutality and racial injustice. Last year, four of the six most-nominated artists—led by pop-R&B singer and rapper Lizzo—were first-time nominees.

Other top nominees this year include Taylor Swift, Dua Lipa (recently a Best New Artist winner) and “The Box" rapper Roddy Ricch, each with six nods; as well as Brittany Howard, who broke through with her band Alabama Shakes, with five.

For the third year in a row, women are predominant in the top-tier nominations. Across the four highest-profile award categories, roughly two-thirds of the nominations recognize female artists. This year, several rock and country award categories also are dominated by female artists.

Mr. Mason Jr. says there will be live performances at next year’s show, but given the pandemic, the size of any in-person audience has yet to be determined. “I can definitely tell you there won’t be 17,000 fans there," he says.

Grammy Nominations: Top Categories

Record of the Year

“Black Parade"—Beyoncé

“Colors"—Black Pumas

“Rockstar"—DaBaby Featuring Roddy Ricch

“Say So"—Doja Cat

“Everything I Wanted"—Billie Eilish

“Don’t Start Now"—Dua Lipa

“Circles"—Post Malone

“Savage"—Megan Thee Stallion Featuring Beyoncé

Song Of The Year

“Black Parade"—Beyoncé

“The Box"—Roddy Ricch

“Cardigan"—Taylor Swift

“Circles"—Post Malone

“Don’t Start Now"—Dua Lipa

“Everything I Wanted"—Billie Eilish

“I Can’t Breathe"—H.E.R.

“If The World Was Ending"—JP Saxe Featuring Julia Michaels

Album Of The Year

Chilombo—Jhené Aiko

Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition)—Black Pumas

Everyday Life—Coldplay

Djesse Vol. 3—Jacob Collier

Women In Music Pt. III—Haim

Future Nostalgia—Dua Lipa

Hollywood’s Bleeding—Post Malone

Folklore—Taylor Swift

Best New Artist

Ingrid Andress

Phoebe Bridgers

Chika

Noah Cyrus

D Smoke

Doja Cat

Kaytranada

Megan Thee Stallion

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

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