The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” is just the latest year-end No. 1 song to be Grammy-snubbed…

(November 26, 2020). By now everyone and their brother knows that The Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) was snubbed mightily in this week’s nominations for the 2021 Grammy awards.  Everyone from the artist himself to his fans and anyone who’s ever been snubbed by the Grammys before have weighed in on the egregiousness of this latest Recording Academy oversight.

The omission of both Tesfaye’s massive hit single “Blinding Lights” and its parent album (After Hours) from this year’s awards nominations is indeed a slight that has sent shockwaves throughout the industry. 

But nothing will be as much a reminder of the enormity of this heinous offense as the announcement that’s coming within the next couple of weeks: “Blinding Lights” will be named the No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 single of the year (mark the blog’s word).

Anything less than that outcome for a song that has spent a record 40 weeks (and counting) in the top ten (including 33 weeks in the top five and four weeks at No 1) would be a shock the equivalent of, say, this week’s unveiling of the 2021 Grammy nominations. 

It’s no doubt that The Weeknd’s Grammy omission is one of mammoth proportions, but it’s one whose significance doesn’t really come into focus until you place it in its historical context.

Now we’re not saying that a song’s enormous commercial success should automatically qualify it for Grammy recognition, but assuming our prediction is correct about the year-end standing of “Blinding Lights,” The Weeknd’s absence from the next Grammys really places him in some rarified air and some dubious company.  

Since 2000, only two other songs that ranked as the No. 1 Hot 100 song of the year came up empty in the corresponding Grammy nominations.  In both cases, the artists themselves were left out as well, with neither receiving nominations for albums or Best New Artist (an award for which, ironically, both artists in this case were eligible).

First, in 2001, “Hanging By A Moment” – the debut song by the post-grunge group Lifehouse – ranked as the year’s biggest hit.  Although it never topped any of the weekly Billboard Hot 100 charts, it did spend 20 weeks in the top ten (remember when that seemed huge?).  Lifehouse has never received a Grammy nomination.

Lifehouse (right) and Kesha both got snubbed with their biggest hits of 2001 and 2010, respectively.

Then in 2010, another debut single, “Tik-Tok,” by the then-unheard-of female pop sensation Kesha topped the Hot 100 for nine weeks, and wound up being ranked at No. 1 for the year.  Kesha received zero nominations for “Tik Tok” or anything else.  She finally got Grammy recognition years later when her 2017 album Rainbow received two nods (which she lost).

Now we fast-forward to 2020, where The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” has set Billboard records for most weeks in the top five and in the top ten on the Hot 100 charts, eclipsing both marks in November.  While its Grammy snubbing isn’t a first for a (projected) year-end No. 1, it certainly qualifies as one of the most glaring.

But a look further back in time over the past 40 years finds several other notable cases of year-end No. 1s missing out on Grammy glory. 

Between 1980 and 2000, seven of the songs that ranked as year-end No. 1s received no Grammy love.  In four of the seven cases, neither the artists nor the songs received nominations, while in the three other cases the artists received either album nominations or nominations for other songs, or both.  

The four artists who received no nods were The Bangles (“Walk Like An Egyptian,” No. 1 of 1987), Chicago (“Look Away,” No. 1 of 1989), Los Del Rio (“Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix),” No. 1 of 1996), and Next (“Too Close,” No. 1 of 1998).  Interestingly, neither the Bangles, Next or Los Del Rio have ever received nominations, although the latter group received a Lifetime Achievement award at the Latin Grammys in 2017.

The other situations involved artists who were nominated for either the parent album containing the year-end No. 1 song, or another song altogether, or both. 

In 1985, Prince received three nominations for the Purple Rain soundtrack album, but none for “When Doves Cry,” the biggest hit of 1984.

The late Prince (left) and late George Michael both got snubbed for their huge hits in 1984/85.

Also in 1985, Wham! received a nod for “Wake Me Up Before You Go Go” for Best pop vocal performance by a duo or group, but not for “Careless Whisper,” the song billed as Wham! featuring George Michael, which wound up being the biggest hit of 1985 (it was not nominated in 1986 either).

And speaking of George Michael, he factors into the final situation as well.  His “Faith” ranked as the biggest single of 1987, but he only received nods for “Father Figure” (pop male vocal) and the parent album for both songs, Faith, which won album of the year. 

But the Prince and George Michael/Wham! situations can hardly be viewed as “snubs” since each artist was heavily recognized by the Grammys, even if not specifically for the songs that ranked as the year’s biggest.

However, it does go to show that a song’s preeminence on the charts doesn’t always translate to a Grammy bonanza, or in some cases, even a dip in the pool.

So to recap, that’s eight of the past 40 year-end Hot 100 chart-toppers that have received no Grammy love (nine-of-41 now including The Weeknd).  The remaining 32 songs have received a nomination in at least one category, with some also sparking nods for the parent album or the artists themselves.  

Over the past 40 years, only 16 of the songs that ranked No. 1 on Billboard’s year-end Hot 100 chart received Record of the Year (ROTY) Grammy nods, the award that would seem most appropriate for such occasions as that award goes to the records’ performers and producers, both of whom were largely responsible for the products’ success.

In reverse chronological order, the tally is as follows:

RecordNo. 1 YearROTY Outcome
“Old Town Road” – Lil Nas X2019Lost
“God’s Plan” – Drake2018Lost
“Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars 2015Won
“Someone That I Used To Know” – Gotye2012Won
“Rolling in the Deep” – Adele2011Won
“Irreplaceable” – Beyoncé 2007Lost
“We Belong Together” – Mariah Carey 2005Lost 
“Yeah!” – Usher2004Lost
“How You Remind Me” – Nickelback 2002Lost
“Believe” – Cher1999Lost
“Gangsta’s Paradise” – Coolio1995Lost
“I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Houston1993Won
“(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” – Bryan Adams 1991Lost
“That’s What Friends Are For” – Dionne & Friends1986Lost
“Every Breath You Take” – The Police1983Lost
“Bette Davis Eyes” – Kim Carnes1981Won

That’s five wins out of sixteen Record of the Year nominations for the No. 1 year-end songs of the past 40 years. 

Correction: make that five wins in the past 41 years now with The Weeknd’s drubbing.

It’s gonna be tough for the Recording Academy to out-do this one.

The Weeknd in the video for “Blinding Lights”

DJRob

DJRob is a freelance blogger from Chicago who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff!  You can follow him on Twitter @djrobblog.

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