The pair of Big Four nominations, as well as Grande’s three other nods this morning, represent a long-overdue acknowledgment of one of the defining pop artists of the 2010s from the Recording Academy. Since she debuted in 2013 and immediately began collecting Hot 100 hits while showcasing a beyond-her-years vocal range, Grande has been noticeably overlooked in the major Grammy categories.
She failed to score a best new artist nomination in 2013, after her debut album, Yours Truly, bowed at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and quickly established the former Nickelodeon star as an impressive new talent capable of toeing the line between R&B and pop. The Recording Academy had a tendency to shrug off pop artists with younger-skewing fan bases back then — Grande contemporaries like Demi Lovato, One Direction and Selena Gomez also failed to crack the best new artist category — but considering that Jonas Brothers and Justin Bieber had been nominated a few years prior, Grande certainly had a claim to a nomination that didn’t materialize that year.
As her career progressed, Grande routinely collected nominations in the pop categories at the Grammys without getting a Big Four nod. “Problem,” Grande’s breakthrough radio hit with Iggy Azalea, was considered a record of the year shoo-in back in 2014, but got passed over, while Azalea collected multiple general-category nominations herself. Last year, Sweetener became a critical breakthrough for Grande, garnering the best reviews of her career while also spawning top 10 hits like “No Tears Left To Cry” and “God is a Woman.” Yet once again, Grande was relegated to the pop categories at the Grammys, as Sweetener failed to secure an expected nomination in the expanded album of the year category.
Grande released Thank U, Next less than six months after Sweetener, and two days before the 61st Grammy Awards took place this past February; the personal, provocative 12-song project earned even more raves than its predecessor. The single “Thank U, Next” became Grande’s long-awaited first Hot 100 chart-topper in late 2018, after years of approaching the chart’s summit with previous singles; now, the album of the same name is her first album of the year nominee at the Grammys, as well as her fourth straight project to earn a best pop vocal album nod.
Meanwhile, “7 Rings” is vying for record of the year after becoming the longest-running No. 1 hit of Grande’s career, with eight weeks atop the Hot 100 earlier this year. Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” the song that replaced “7 Rings” at the top and subsequently broke the Hot 100 record for longest-leading No. 1, is among its competition in the category.
And while she’ll have to wait until Jan. 26, 2020 to see if she emerges victorious in either album or record of the year, Grande has a solid chance to win one of the major categories, if not both. “A-list artist making crowd-pleasing, critically appreciated pop” has been a winning formula for artists like Taylor Swift, Adele and Bruno Mars in the album category, and “7 Rings” is one of the more inventive smashes in a record of the year category full of them, including “Old Town Road,” Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” and Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy.”
Based on the nominations, there are a handful of artists who could end up dominating the major Grammy categories at the upcoming ceremony; Grande is finally one of them, and could very well be the one to define the night.