The Weeknd began the year with two singles from his 2020 release After Hours on the Billboard Hot 100. One was Heartless, a lead single which had already peaked at number one mid-December. The second was Blinding Lights, a song that at the time had only peaked at number eleven, but would spend the rest of the year dominating, shattering chart records left and right, and spending weeks at the top.
Blinding Lights wasn’t his only crowning achievement though. After Hours itself broke the record for most global pre-adds for an album in Apple Music history back in March with over 1.02 million users pre-adding the album. Upon its release it debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 with 444,00 album equivalent units, and was the biggest first week sales of 2020 for an album at the time. The album remained at number one for several weeks, becoming the first album to notch four consecutive weeks since Drake’s 2018 release Scorpion. In addition to its success in the US, it also reached the top spot in 20 other countries, including Canada and the United Kingdom.
Streaming and charting records aside
The album was met with favorable critical response as well. A Metacritic score of 80, and positive reviews from The Guardian, Rolling Stone, and Variety to name a few. Throughout the year he’s been racking up awards and nominations, from MTV’s Video Music Awards to the American Music Awards.
With all this commercial and critical success, fans thought Grammy nominations were guaranteed. Turns out, they weren’t. In fact, The Weeknd did not receive a single Grammy nomination for After Hours or any of the songs on it. Despite having one of the biggest songs of the year, despite staying relevant with an album that was released back in March, he got nothing.
Criticism of Grammy nominations happens every year. With so many artists submitting, there are bound to be fanbases disappointed by the results. However, it’s rare that we see an album so successful, both critically and commercially, miss out in every single category. This did not go without notice, as people took to social media to discuss the very obvious omission.
Is an album with a whole story and world inside of it. Yes, the singles are all fantastic and catchy in their own right, but the entire record deserves praise for its focus and immersion. It expands on the dark electronic sounds of 2016’s Starboy, combining new wave and dream pop with a melancholic, dark undertone that feels like a return to some of The Weeknd’s older projects. It has the emotional depth that Starboy lacked, introspective and deeply personal.
Not only is the music compelling, but the visuals and aesthetics that accompanied the album’s release played a huge role in creating the entire world of After Hours. The dreamy, eerie feel of the record is communicated perfectly through the project’s music videos, each their own piece of a larger, darker story. The Weeknd moves around a world of flashing lights, violence, and an overwhelming presence of the color red. It’s a bit unnerving at times, but it man is it captivating.
After Hours has everything you’d expect from an Album of the Year nominee. Not to mention Blinding Lights seemed to be a clear contender for Record and Song of the Year. This news was not only shocking to fans of The Weeknd, but fans of music in general. It doesn’t take a diehard fan to know that The Weeknd had an incredible 2020, in terms of streaming, sales, and critical reception.
There might be more to this snub than a simple oversight by the recording academy. According to a TMZ article, there is growing suspicion that The Weeknd’s decision to perform at the Super Bowl is what cost him nominations. Allegedly, there was an initial conflict that would’ve kept him from doing both events. Both sides worked out an agreement, however things did get testy. People are now theorizing that these negotiations may be what sealed his fate.
The Weeknd himself weighed in on the matter
Tuesday evening, taking to Twitter and Instagram calling the Grammy’s corrupt and demanding transparency. With most of the internet on his side, this conversation is far from over. If one things for sure, a lot of people are losing their faith in the Grammy awards.
No one’s losing faith in The Weeknd though, he’ll continue to dominate. We can’t wait for his Super Bowl halftime show.
Stream After Hours here.
Cover photos: Instagram