Nominations for the 60th Grammy Awards were announced on Tuesday morning (list is on CNN), and there were some major shocks. The biggest shock is that Kesha and Lady Gaga were completely shut out of the major categories. Both received nominations in minor categories, but fans are still surprised. They shouldn’t be.
Although Joanne is Gaga’s least-selling album (in terms of physical and digital copies sold), Joanne did have some critical acclaim, which was well deserved. Once you get past Gaga’s contrived new image, the album really is fantastic. If somebody tells you that Lady Gaga doesn’t have any talent, this is the album you would play to prove them wrong.
But most importantly, Joanne was literally Grammy bait. Gaga put all the gimmicks aside, showed herself as a natural musician, and Grammy voters usually love this. Lady Gaga seemed to have everything going for her, and it was a safe bet that she would add more Grammy awards to her collection.
Lady Gaga’s performance at the Super Bowl was well received, and one of the album’s singles, “Million Reasons,” peaked at No. 4 (although the song immediately dropped off after the Super Bowl hype). Still, the song was well liked, and it was a certain contender for Song of the Year. Just as Lady Gaga was about to return to her Grammy glory, Mother Monster did as she often does during an awards campaign by annoyingly tooting her own horn.
Lady Gaga even wanted her fans to start a hashtag to let everybody know that Joanne went platinum. The problem is that almost any album can go platinum these days since the RIAA recently changed how it certifies albums. That means Lady Gaga (she’s not the only one to do this) was able to add sales of her 69-cent discounted singles and YouTube views (which can be easily manipulated) to her total “points” in order to achieve platinum status.
Considering that Joanne didn’t do nearly well as anticipated, and Gaga’s new Americana image didn’t take off, the tweets looked like desperate attempts to make the album look more of a hit than it really was. Considering that she made these tweets during the Grammy campaign season, it was obvious she was hoping to get more votes. And when Gaga tweeted that “Million Reasons” sold almost 2 million copies, she didn’t mention that most of those copies were sold at a deeply-discounted 69 cents.
But this isn’t the first time Lady Gaga turned off voters of a major awards show. She actually did receive an Oscar nomination in 2016 for the sexual harassment-themed song “Til It Happens to You,” which she claimed to write with Dianne Warren. However, once the Hollywood Reporter noted that songwriter Linda Perry claimed Gaga’s songwriting credit was bogus, things went downhill.
In order to combat the backlash, Lady Gaga made appearances everywhere and claimed how victimized she still felt from being sexually assaulted 10 years prior. She also made herself an advocate for sexual assault survivors everywhere. Though this isn’t wrong, the pop star made it easier for people to call her out for working with accused sexual predators R. Kelly and Terry Richardson (he worked with Gaga for several years) on a video for a song called “Do What You Want with My Body” only two years prior. The video was never officially released, but clips of it have unfortunately appeared on YouTube.
Kesha has never made a sexually explicit video with alleged sexual predators, but her experience of allegedly being assaulted by producer Dr. Luke became the cornerstone of her “comeback” and Grammy campaign. “Praying” was Grammy bait from the moment it was released, and that was well deserved. On the single, which is one of the best (if not the best) songs of the year, Kesha sings in an emotive voice that barely any pop star has ever matched. Her album Rainbow, which many thought would be nominated for Album of the Year, was also well received.
Had Kesha and her record company let the music speak for itself, she could have received nominations in three of the major categories instead of two minor ones. But the whole album and PR campaign seemed to revolve around Kesha’s status as a victim. The PR campaign went so well that anybody who questioned Kesha’s authenticity was accused of being “sexist” or complacent in “rape culture.”
Perhaps Kesha should have waited until her legal matters with Dr. Luke have ended. As USA Today noted a couple months back, her battle is not even close to being over. It didn’t help when it was revealed that Kesha hired a PR firm to smear Dr. Luke as much as possible. And this was revealed just as the Grammy voters were casting their votes.
As their latest projects show, both Lady Gaga and Kesha still have great days ahead of them. However, if both acts want to be recognized with awards for their work, they need to change their PR strategies.