In 2004, journalist and entrepreneur Chris Anderson wrote an article for Wired arguing that the future of entertainment would not lie in a handful of chart-topping megahits but in the “millions of niche markets at the shallow end of the bitstream” — known in stats terms as the “long tail,” or the modest, lower-volume sales streams that businesses tend to overlook in favor of pushing their most popular products. While the long-tail philosophy has since been adopted by many industries, Anderson’s predictions have held especially true for music in the streaming era. It’s evidenced nowhere more than in this year’s slate of Grammy nominations.
Rapper-singer Lizzo leads the pack in the nominations announced Wednesday, notching eight nods for categories including Record and Song of the Year. But three of her nominations are for “Truth Hurts” — a track she released on September 19th, 2017, far out of the usual eligibility period of the Grammys. (Official eligibility spanned October 1st, 2018, to August 31st, 2019.) “Truth Hurts” did not chart upon its release; it did bubble up in early 2019, though, when a series of TikTok videos riffing off the song’s lyric “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that bitch…” catapulted the track into a cross-platform social-media meme. Lizzo hopped on the trend herself in a video on iHeartRadio’s TikTok account, and the song enjoyed yet another wave of attention when it was featured in Netflix’s popular rom-com Someone Great. The song hit Number One on the Billboard and Rolling Stone music charts around September 2019, two entire years after its release.
“Truth Hurts” was tacked on as a bonus track on the deluxe version of Cuz I Love You, Lizzo’s third studio album, which falls squarely inside the eligibility timeframe with its release date of April 19th, 2019. A rep for the Recording Academy told Rolling Stone that the Academy may accept previously released singles that later become a track on an artists’ album for nomination eligibility, as long as the single has not been previously entered into the Grammy Awards process — but suggested that such situations are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
That a three-year-old sleeper hit could take home one or more of the Grammys’ top prizes next year speaks not only to the long-tail effect of timeless internet culture but also to the idea that artists no longer have a designated window for success — be it a week, a month, or several years — in which to achieve popularity, significant revenue, or accolades. Without cost barriers to music access, listeners can make a song go viral at any time. If artists and executives begin to intentionally adopt long-tail plays by, for example, pushing older releases in film deals or launching marketing campaigns for years-old songs, we may see much more awards show rule-bending yet.
Lizzo’s eight nominations are as follows:
- Best New Artist
- Cuz I Love You (Deluxe) — Album of the Year
- Cuz I Love You — Best Urban Contemporary Album
- “Truth Hurts” — Record of the Year
- “Truth Hurts” — Song of the Year
- “Truth Hurts” — Best Pop Solo Performance
- “Exactly How I Feel” (with Gucci Mane) — Best R&B Performance
- “Jerome” — Best Traditional R&B Performance