Whitney Houston's Grammy shut-out: Was she robbed?

Of many unexpected admissions and omissions in last night’s Grammy nominee announcement, few are as surprising as the total absence of Whitney Houston on the ballot. Granted, her August release I Look to You was not her finest hour, and it yielded few commercial singles; her often uneven performances to promote it didn’t help.

But she’s also the stuff these shows are made of (26-time Grammy nominee, seven-time winner); her label even moved the release of her album up a day to make sure it was eligible, and Look‘s redemption tales seemed calibrated to hit Academy voters right in the solar plexus—and the voting-finger.  And yet, not a single nod for the chest-thumping title track or slinky “Million Dollar Bill,” penned by Grammy darling Alicia Keys. So is it the notes Houston hit (or didn’t) that kept her out?

Clearly, what was once one of the greatest natural instruments in pop music is not what it was. But no one ever said that Bob Dylan or Tom Waits sounded like a flock of baby songbirds at sunrise, and artists like Billie Holiday made transcendant art of the quirks and crags inherent in their traditionally “imperfect” voices.

Maybe if Houston had chosen material more like Dylan’s or Holiday’s—something deliberately rougher and more intimate, less reliant on modern R&B polish—Grammy voters would be throwing her a ticker-tape parade today. Or maybe Look‘s material just wasn’t good to stand amongst nominees in the R&B fields like Beyonce, Maxwell, or India.Arie (and Pleasure P, Jamie Foxx, Melanie Fiona, Trey Songz…) Give us your theories below.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
Grammy noms for Best Album: All the single ladies (and a few back-up dudes)
Grammy nomination special: The best and worst performances
Nominees (Kings of Leon! Sugarland! Maxwell!) talk Taylor Swift and more after the Grammy nomination special
Grammy nominations: We’re shocked! Six huge surprises
The Grammy nomination rules: An idiot’s guide


Comments (220 total) Add your comment
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  • Wes

    Houston’s album was safe, mainstream pop, and it was shut out in favor other, safer, more mainstream pop. The Grammys aren’t relevant in any terms except sales, and this year Houston was beat. Big deal.

    • Tina

      Thank you. What a pointless attempt to stir up debate. Debate about what? Nothing at all. Don’t care about the Grammys and I don’t care about Houston.

      • Roosevelt

        Well I agree w/u about the Grammys, but watch what u say about Ms. Houston- She’s the REAL DEAL

      • IndyMusicMogul

        Whitney Houston gave the Grammys their record setting viewership for many years as she belted out standards that are still sung today. Whitney Houston is a legend and it is a shame that the Grammy voters did not celebrate her comeback CD. And u should watch what you say about Whitney Houston. She is no amateur…she is an international DIVA of all DIVAs with a voice that can still blow the roof off a convention center!!!

      • Laird

        “Don’t care about the Grammys and I don’t care about Houston.”


        And yet you read this article and took the time to post a comment.

    • Bobby

      Whitney SHOULD have been shut out. Her cd was crap. It would have only been a PITY nomination anyway.

  • Sarah T.

    I agree. Though her comeback was decent, she simply doesn’t have the talent that she used to and she’s been out of the spotlight too long. I don’t think she really deserves a Grammy nod. If her album had been better, yes but when it’s average, you’re not going to get the recognition that you used to.

    • OMG

      I agree – she isn’t at the same level she used to be and therefore she shouldn’t be nominated.

    • Laura

      And Beyonce’s album wasn’t average? She had one memorable hit out 8 singles yet she still got 10 nods.

      • Zach

        She had 3 hits and her voice is much stronger than Whitney’s now.

      • Matt

        Uh, she had a little more than just 1 hit. I mean, Halo AND Single Ladies are nominated in the top-categories, not to mention the other slew of songs people were listening to. She dominated this year, whether people liked it or not, and there is no point in arguing this.

    • Princess P.

      Whitney Houston’s album was a great album. And she should have been recognized with a Grammy. Come on….not one Grammy nomination. That is absurd. Have you heard any of the music from the nominees? Do you know who they are other than Beyonce and Lady GaGa? This is an embarrassment for the Grammys.

      • Cutie Cake

        Ha ha….thanks for the laugh PP!

      • Houstonwehaveaprob

        Yes Princess P. I have heard of some of the other artists nominated. You must live under a rock to not have heard of Taylor Swift. Oh wait, you probably live in a hole with your headphones on listening to Whitney Crackhead all day and night – no wonder you can’t tell why the Grammy’s have moved on.

  • Kendis

    Sad to say, the Grammy’s only nominate the same female artist every year—Beyonce and Alica Keys. Next year (2010) Alicia Keys will have the most nominations. It’s basically who sells the most records in order to get a Grammy.

  • JP

    LMAO. Too funny Whitney Houston robbed. No she was rebuked that’s what she get for smoking all that crack and then acting like there was nothing wrong with her.

    • Roosevelt

      JP u need to put down your pipe and stop hating

    • Ejones

      YOU NEED TO STOP HATEING AND WHITNEYS ALBUM NEER 1 MILLION IN JUST 3 MONTHS SO WHAT, AND SECOND WHNE WHITNEY SINGS HER BALLADS OFF HER NEW CD SHE SINGS IT BETTER THEN ALBUM VERSION. NOW WATCH BY THIS TIME NEXT YEAR WATCH HOW DIFFERENT HER VOCIE BE ITS ALREADY CAME A LONG WAY CONCIDERING SHE USE TO COULDNT BARLEY TALK SO GET OFF AND SHUT YO TRAP NIPPY ALL THE WAY I LOVE YOU

      • @Ejones

        ……..And you need to learn how to spell and speak proper English. Get thee to a classroom RIGHT NOW!!!

    • mishka

      I love Whitney. Her material is decent but her voice…come on admit, her voice is done!
      If she can’t sing no matter how awesomely awesome her voice was, how come she gotta earn a grammy nod? I’m sorry but no she can’t.

    • Princess P.

      Your comment was made to illicit a reaction.

      • shopper

        ….it worked…..

  • Frank from MusicNerdClub.com

    Whitney Houston was robbed? She wasn’t the only one. There was wholesale thievery going on in this year’s nominations. No one can tell me Black Eyed Peas or Lady Gaga was better than U2, Dylan, Wilco, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Bruce Springsteen, Maxwell, Brad Paisley, Diana Krall, Green Day, and so many others. I generally admire the Grammy nominations each year as I think they’re usually better than many give credit, but this year’s is a travesty.

    • Brandon

      I agree that a lot of this year’s nominations (as usual) miss the mark, but I just want to point out that almost all the artists you just listed DID get a Grammy nomination (or more) this year. Go look at the list.

      • Frank from MusicNerdClub.com

        Brandon, you are right, and I should have clarified my argument. Though focusing strictly on what may largely be considered the Grammys’ most important and sales-influencing big awards – best song, album, and record – all the artists I mentioned except Maxwell did not get nominated. And that is a real shame. Having clarified that, I think you and I are on the same frequency.

    • RyRyNYC

      OMG… are you effing serious… the Yeah Yeah Yeahs? they produce the same sucky sounding sh*t on each album. that album was off my iPhone 24 hours after I bought it from itunes. and as for Dylan and U2 – did you read their reviews? they were called past their prime and phoning it in. I will admit I am appalled by the amount of nominations Swift and Beyonce got.

    • Zach

      Lady Gaga and BEP’s deserve credit for CATCHY songs. CATCHY, dammit!

  • Tri

    It was more because “I Look to You,” was simply an disaster compared to her previous work. Remember the good old days when she kept taking risks musically? “My Love is Your Love,” anyone?

    • aleet

      ‘an disaster’???, yeah we’re going to listen to someone who is unable to spell or speak. moron!

    • Princess P.

      “I Look To You” is a great album. I consider the Grammy’s to be at loss. A Whitney Houston performance is RATINGS GOLD to any show. You think Whitney is crying over it…….NOT!! Her CD just went Platinum!!!!

      • Houstonwehaveaprob

        Ratings Gold?? Hey everyone, I think we have found Whitney’s crack smoking friend here in Princess P.

      • shopaholic1965

        Lol….you’re funny!

  • beb

    Honestly, I think it was the quality of the music itself that is leaving Whitney looking in from the other side of the glass. “Million Dollar Bill,” despite being penned by Alicia Keys, is a mediocre song at best (could you honestly see AK doing it herself) and the title track just didn’t resonate with mainstream audiences, peaking at #70 on the Billboard Hot 100. I’d make more of a rant about Kelly Clarkson being snubbed (although she DID sort of shoot herself in the foot with the Halo/Already Gone brouhaha).

  • jfms777

    Houston should be grateful that this lousy cd has sold as many copies as it has, and get on with her life. It’s not as if she writes her own music and therefore would be totally responsible for the poor material. Spread the blame
    around and start working on a new and better cd.

    • Roosevelt

      Lousy CD??? I bet you haven’t evening listen to it…. IT’S ONE OF HER BEST

    • IndyMusicMogul

      The CD is far from lousy! And let me say that it is an insult to call that carefully crafted collection of hits lousy. Your are dissing on some of the best songwriters and song producers in the game!!!

      • aleet

        idiot!!!!! I bet you wouldn’t know good music if it jumped up and bit you on your jingle bells.

      • Whit’s friend

        It cant be to lousy, its went platiumn and also went number one the first week and made her the fastest selling album of 2009. Whitney doesnt sound alot like she did but she is still good at what she does. Everyone gets off track in their lives and does things that they shouldnt but she over came it and is learning from her mistakes. Why would any of us act like we have done nothing in our lives or someone we know. None of us are perfect. Dont point your finger at someone when you have 3 pointed right back at you. I love this new voice of Whitneys and I cant wait to see what she does with her next album.. shes alot better then all of these singers today that really doesnt even sing.. if it wasnt for the music and sexy moves then they wouldnt sale. You take any singer today and put whitney against them acapella and see who can sing and who cant.. You go Ms. Whitney!!

      • Phil

        @Whit’s friend – CHECK YOUR FACTS, THEY’RE LOUSY! “I Look To You” HASN’T YET gone platinum, and the now fastest selling cd of 2009 goes to Susan Boyle, and before her it was Eminem, so I dunno if you just constructed these fictitional stats in your head to make Whitney sound more respectable, but you’re WAY off base!
        And honestly, I’m not hating here, but I called it back in August & September saying the album wasn’t strong enough for whatever ‘comeback’ her label was trying. I just love how all her superfans were trying to say, wait til the Grammy nominations come out, & then the album will sell. WELL WHAT ARE Y’ALL GRASPING TO NOW!? For the record The Freemasons Club Mix is my FAVORITE dance remix of the year, and shoulda been nominated for Best Remixed Dance Recording, but technically, she missed the cut off for that since it was released in September, NOT August. And sad how not one message board, not even Billboard reported the various Remix EPs of her new singles she released earlier this month, the Remix collection with the dance radio edits are SO much better than that tired album!
        One final thought…her performance at the AMAs was a travesty. That last minute where she stopped, and paused!? I LOVE how everyone said she stopped in order to let the crowd applaud her…SHE STOPPD CAUSE SHE WAS OUTTA BREATH AND COULDN’T HIT THE NOTE IF SHE DIDN’T! She is washed up. And DONE. She ruined her voice. Y’all can call me a hater all y’all want, but the Voice is gone, and so is her appeal. If y’all can’t see that than I dunno what to tell you.

    • Princess P.

      It’s obvious you have not listened to Houston’s new Cd. Just spewing unintelligle hate….

      • Ejones

        YOUR A HATTER AND HER AMA PERFORMANCE WAS THE BEST IN YEARS AT AMA’S. I BET YOU COULD’NT SING AT HER PITCH AND STILL HAVE POWER IN YOUR VOICE. HER VOICE IS DAM GOOD CONSIDERING OVER 15 YEARS OF CONSTENT ABUSE ITS AMAZING THAT SHE CAN STILL SING WITH AND RANGE OR HOLD A NOTE NO MY ADVCE TO U IS SHUT YO TRAP HATER

      • Princess P.

        Phil

        Whitney Houston CD “I Look To You” is certified Platinum. Now what? Will you even remember Susan Boyle next year. Whitney has been in the business nearly 25 years and it is not up to you to say that her voice is gone. You wish you had an ounce of her talent.

      • shopper

        WHITNEY IS THAT YOU???????????????????????????

  • paige

    This was a lackluster “effort” and didnt deserve to be nominated for anything… I am very greatful for the Mariah snubbing!

    • Joe C

      Mariah wasn’t eligible, Paige. Hate all you want, but know your facts.

    • steve

      Aug 19, 2009 … Mariah Carey won’t be accepting a Grammy at next year’s 2010 award ceremony – the singer has taken herself out of the running for nominations.~on google.com

      • paige

        she wouldnt have been nominated anyway…

    • jessica

      Oh poor poor Whitney fan, always using mariah careys name as a quick retaliation when, once again, she’s shut down by everyone around her.

  • Michael

    It’s very sad. The first popular female singer at the time from when I could first recognize things as a child was Whitney Houston, and continued to adore audiences well into my teen years. Her legacy/biographical following is definately on the line. She was invited last year to present Jennifer Hudson the best R&B album; but sadly the good old days of Whitney Houston will be found on her old albums and YouTube. Having her World Tour in the US next year is still questionable. She is definately pop’s ultimate “fallen diva”.

    • aleet

      US platinum album in less than 4 months after being away for years. Gold in countless countries, a sell out world tour. Fallen Diva???? Don’t think so. Watch this space Micky because it’s up from here

  • steve

    Her best song is ‘It’s Not Right, but It’s Okay’ I’m going to make it anyway…that won her the deserved prestigious Grammy award unlike material on her newest CD.

  • Theresa

    Her AMA performance was fabulous!

    • Libby

      Not hardly!

    • IndyMusicMogul

      Whitney’s AMA performance was heroic because she overcame her darkest hour and won so the heck with the Grammys. Whitney Houston is the real winner in life. God is good!!!

    • Princess P.

      I agree. It was a phenomenal performance. It was so great that you can’t even remember who else performed……Magnificient performance!!!

      • IndyMusicMogul

        That’s a good point. I don’t remember much else. I started to watch Lady Gaga at the piano and just got bored. I heard she broke some glass to generate excitement. Oh Yeah, I remember Rhiana wrapped in white tape but do not recall what she sang and I know that is your point. There is no real talent under the spotlight right now. Just alot of gimmicks!

    • Phil

      Please see my above commnent about the AMAs, her performance was a TRAVESTY. She didn’t move around the stage, and she was still sweating like a whore in church on her chest at the end of her performance! Unless she is going through menopause, she is STILL using drugs.

      • Rob

        This shows you know nothing about Whitney. Whitney always sweats during her live performances. Not a knock on Beyonce but she would be sweating too if she didnt have the fans blowing on her to cool her off. I luv you too B.

  • Joe C

    With Whitney, I can’t help but wonder about Roger Friedman, who continually worships at the feet of her label boss, Clive Davis. I guess Clive couldn’t pull the strings this year, huh???

  • Philip and Jennifer Bowman

    Whitney may not be as good as she once was..but most arent after 25 years. She is still better than a Katie Perry, Taylor Swift and most everyone else on the raido. The album is a good comeback, it has already gone platinum and is still on the charts. Mariah’s already fell past 100, and is not even gold yet and was released a month after. She deserved nominations, but I don’t think she is crying any about it.

    • Princess P.

      I agree!!

    • RyRyNYC

      Yes… Katy Perry nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Perf. over Whitney is a joke… as is Swift over Gaga… The nominations were a real mess in the pop category this year.

    • Phattestkid

      I agree with someone’s post earlier. Why does anything about Whitney have to be compared to Mariah? and vice-versa. But let’s look at this objectively. The ONLY reason Whitney’s album sold the way it did was BCUZ it was a comeback. Her last album was horrible and didn’t sell neither did the album before that (You probably don’t even remember her Christmas album in 2005 and Just Whitney). Memoirs didn’t do well, but she took herself out of the running for Grammy’s. However, Mariah’s COMEBACK album, EOM, earned her 10 grammy nominations. NOT to mention a song from that album was made song of the decade. The nxt album, EM2’s first week sales were WAY more that Whitney’s comeback. Obsessed has gone platinum. Sales for I Look to You and Million Dollar bill COMBINED wouldn’t make either platinum. As for Album Sales? It says a lot when people flock to buy your album, and then don’t wanna hear any more of your songs afterwards. It says even more when you release and album EARLY specifically for the Grammys and you get NOT ONE nomination…

  • Div

    buh 2 be fair 2 her, she probably had 2 play it safe wiv dis album coz its a ‘cumbak’ n all. Ive got da album n i really lyk it. Becoz shes ‘The Voice’ and lyk ‘The Whitney Houston’ pple just compare her 2 how she used 2 sound. Becoz of her old habits, her voice is neva gonna be wat it was. Buh give her a break, the album is for all the Whitney fans, not haters.

    • Lane

      Did you ever learn how to spell or is that just a really annoying affectation?

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