Justin Bieber's Grammy Snub: Why Did 'Believe' Get Overlooked?
An Analysis of the teen superstar's lack of nominations.
No Bieber, no Grammys.
It's a simple statement that became an obvious Twitter hashtag the instant that the 55th annual Grammy Award nominations were announced on Wednesday night (Dec. 5) and 18-year-old pop superstar Justin Bieber's name was not spotted in any of the categories. After Bieber lost out to Esperanza Spalding in the Best New Artist category at the 2011 ceremony, the teen sensation was expected to contend for major nods this year with his first "adult" full-length, "Believe," as well as with hit singles like "Boyfriend" and "As Long As You Love Me." At the very least, one of the best-selling albums of the year could scoop up a nomination or two in the pop categories, and inch Bieber closer to a Grammy award, an accomplishment he explicitly salivated over during an interview on a recent episode of "Oprah's Next Chapter."
• PHOTOS: Highlights From the Concert
• NOMINEES: List of Major Nominations
• SNUB: Justin Bieber's Manager Reacts
Yet by the end of Wednesday night, "Believe" had been shunned on all fronts, and #NoBieberNoGrammys was born.
Like in 2011, when Spalding's surprising Best New Artist win over the teen star inspired Beliebers to effectively desecrate the jazz artist's Wikipedia page, the online backlash has been swift and unforgiving. "Seeing that Justin Bieber isn't nominated for a grammy i just feel like doing this. #NoBieberNoGrammys #BieberForGrammy," posted "Victorious" star Ariana Grande on Twitter, linking to a picture of a computer monitor being hurled out of a window to her 129,000 followers. Hours later, Bieber's manager Scooter Braun told his 2 million followers, "The kid deserved it. Grammy board u blew it on this one," in a post that has thus far garnered 13,000 retweets. And those are just the high-profile Twitter blasts -- every minute, there is another enraged Belieber swearing off music's biggest night and pledging their loyalty to the Bieber cause.
To his fans...looks like we get to stay the underdog a little longer. #BRINGIT- Scooter Braun (@scooterbraun) December 6, 2012
In some ways, Braun and the Beliebers have a valid point. In the past, the Grammys have blanched at rewarding pop figures early in their careers in spite of their international stardom -- Madonna, for example, didn't win a non-music video Grammy until her 1998 album "Ray of Light," and Britney Spears couldn't capture Grammy gold before 2005's "Toxic." Yet the past three years has seen some of that precedent erode, as Taylor Swift won Album of the Year for sophomore set "Fearless" at the age of 20 and Lady Gaga won five Grammys over the course of her first three heavily nominated albums. If Rihanna, Bruno Mars and Katy Perry can all score Album of the Year nominations for full-lengths that were not universally adored by critics, surely Bieber can as well, right?
Braun brought up another sticking point over the snubs on Twitter: the impressive leap Bieber has made from a child star singing puppy-love anthems to a deep-throated vocalist trying to swag, swag, swag on you in the most mature way imaginable. "The hardest thing to do is transition, keep the train moving," Braun noted. "The kid delivered." Bieber's "Believe" has often been compared to Justin Timberlake's 2003 solo debut and first post-*N Sync project, "Justified," as the moment that a multi-faceted male pop icon has attempted to shed his kiddie image and present a more confident, quasi-sexual, three-dimensional persona for Top 40 fans of all ages to consume (thanks in part, of course, to hip-hop guest features and blistering production selections).
From a critical standpoint, "Believe" was given the same solid-if-not-overwhelming reception that greeted "Justified" when it was released nearly a decade ago. According to Metacritic, a website which aggregates various reviews to present a critical average, Timberlake's "Justified," which included the hits "Like I Love You" and "Cry Me a River," received a score of 68 out of 100 based on "generally favorable reviews." Upon its release, Bieber's "Believe" received a score of… 68 out of 100, with many non-Beliebers conceding that Bieber had successfully entered adulthood. "Justified" was nominated for Album of the Year and earned Timberlake the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance trophy for "Cry Me a River" at the 2004 ceremony, while Bieber and his revamped image will watch the 2013 awards show from the sidelines.
Yet the fact that "Cry Me a River" -- one of the best singles of the 2000s -- was the key to Timberlake's first Grammy win makes it easier to digest the oversight of Bieber and his "Believe" work this year. Despite the fact that the album itself was well-received, "Believe" has not spawned a universally beloved single to carry the torch from past Grammy winners like Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," Kelly Clarkson's "Since U Been Gone," Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" and Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" -- songs that both the general public and the industry peers that vote for the Grammys can get on board with. Neither "Boyfriend" nor "As Long As You Love Me" reached the top spot on the Hot 100, and were not championed by critics and pop music fans in the same way that nominees "Call Me Maybe," "We Are Young," "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" and "Somebody That I Used To Know" soundly were. Without a signature single cozying up to Grammy voters, "Believe" undoubtedly had a tougher time of winning favor.
And although the Grammy Awards have extended their youth movement to honor mainstream artists like Katy Perry, Carly Rae Jepsen and Bruno Mars, underage artists have remained a notable blind spot over the past decade. While Bieber did not receive any nominations this year, neither did One Direction, Demi Lovato or Scotty McCreery, who all released successful and positively reviewed music during the period of eligibility; the "newcomers" that lead this year's Grammy crop -- Frank Ocean, Carly Rae Jepsen, Hunter Hayes and Ed Sheeran among them -- are all over the legal drinking age. While there have been exceptions to the no-teens-allowed rule in the past (mostly with adult-friendly female vocalists like LeAnn Rimes, Joss Stone and Swift), Bieber is still in an age bracket that has historically been overlooked at the Grammys.
But fear not, Beliebers: there has never been a pop star as big as Bieber without a golden gramophone on his or her mantle, and with the teen superstar's prolific studio output, the drought will likely end when he enters his 20s and unveils an album or single that stands as his defining work. "Life is long, with many ups and downs, but we get to keep going, everyday brings a new opportunity. NOTHING GREAT EVER CAME EASY," Braun wrote last night. Despite the #NoBieberNoGrammys hashtag, the 2013 Grammy Awards will go off as planned, and Bieber and his team will keep working to bring the world even more sumptuous pop music in search of Grammy glory.