SZA Has Moved On From 2018 Grammys Shutout: ‘It’s an Old Energy to Me’

SZA shines as the golden cover star on the February 2021 issue of Cosmopolitan, and in the cover story, she addresses her 2018 Grammys shutout and why it’s “old energy.”

Three years ago, SZA (real name Solána Imani Rowe) was up for five Grammys, including best new artist. Alessia Cara won that year, which some SZA fans took issue with, but the “Hit Different” singer was a good sport and came to Cara’s defense with a lengthy Instagram post, writing, “…she deserves every accolade that she gets. And people can’t be mad.”

But just like the title of her memorable debut album Ctrl, which opened at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 in 2017, SZA remains in control of her emotions.

“I’m just a girl from the ’burbs. I never had dreams of being nominated for a Grammy,” she tells Cosmo. “I thought I was going to be a gymnast and a f—ing business accountant somewhere. Or working at Nike corporate or some shit in Portland. Who knows, but something that involved a power suit. So it’s not a heavy burden. Once you’ve been nominated and lost, you’re very much free because you’re not concerned. I passed that threshold years ago — it’s an old energy to me. Why would I be mad?”

SZA received four more Grammy nominations the following year, all for “All the Stars,” her hit collab with Kendrick Lamar. But she was again shut out.

SZA is also acknowledging the unreleased snippet of one of her songs that’s been making the rounds on TikTok, thanks to user @bgottfanns. Since the R&B singer just joined the platform, she decided to soundtrack her first clip with the same fan-uploaded snippet of her own music. We’ll have to keep waiting to see if she officially drops the full-length song, but she has discussed what will be featured on her next highly anticipated album that will be the follow-up to Ctrl.

“This album is going to be the sh– that made me feel something in my…here and in here,” she said during the interview while laying one hand on her heart and the other on her gut. “That’s what’s going to go on the album. I’m making all different types of sh– every day from different places in my spirit.”

SZA released two solo singles at the tail-end of 2020: “Hit Different,” featuring Ty Dolla $ign, and “Good Days,” which she previewed at the very end of the “Hit Different” music video.

Check out SZA’s cover story for Cosmopolitan here and her first TikTok below.

@actualszaATTTEMMMPPTINGGG@bgottfanns♬ FOLLOW ME IF YOU LOVE SZA – i am not sza.

Mariah Has Company: Holiday Streaming Data Shows Newer Classics Are Rising

Walk through a store in November or December, or listen to a holiday playlist, and you’re likely to hear one of a handful of classics, like Andy Williams’ “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” The Ronettes’ “Sleigh Ride” or Perry Como’s “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas.” Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” is practically a national anthem for those two months. And popular renditions of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and “Jingle Bell Rock” are instantly familiar even if the performers are not (Brenda Lee and Bobby Helms, respectively).

Nearly all Christmas standards possess two characteristics: if they’re not time-tested hits released by major labels, they’re new songs by one of a handful of artists with the marketing muscle to get attention. In any given year, a new Christmas “hit” is attained only by a few original songs by well-known artists. (Covering a standard such as, say, “Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas” might get your foot in the door, but know that Burl Ives’ 1964 recording is the definitive version that’s preferred by curators and programmers.) A new Christmas song must overcome listeners’ desire for familiarity during a season of ritual and whether it has longevity will be battle-tested over multiple years.

Billboard performed a review on Christmas 2020’s on-demand streaming data from the weeks ending Oct. 30 to Dec. 24 (weeks 44 to 51, from Nielsen Music/MRC Data), comparing them to the same weeks in 2019 to see which tracks made moves this holiday season. (Note: This is not an official Billboard chart).

Here are eight takeaways:

1. The top 10 was impenetrable. The top 10 had no turnover from 2019 to 2020, though there was some minor shuffling. While some entries were reordered, last year’s top five tracks remained in the top five while the bottom five remained in the bottom five. Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” were again ranked first and second, respectively. Bobby Helms’ “Jingle Bell Rock” switched places — from No. 4 in 2019 to No. 3 in 2020 — with Andy Williams’ “It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Burl Ives’ “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas” dropped from No. 3 to No. 5.

Top 10 Holiday Songs of 2020 (2019 Ranking)
1. Mariah Carey “All I Want for Christmas is You,” 154.9 million (1)
2. Brenda Lee “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” 135.4m (2)
3. Bobby Helms “Jingle Bell Rock,” 126.5m (4)
4. Andy Williams “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” 108.6m (5)
5. Burl Ives “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” 89.3m (3)
6. Wham! “Last Christmas” 88.7m (6)
7. Jose Feliciano “Feliz Navidad,” 86.6m (9)
8. Ronettes “Sleigh Ride” 86.1m (8)
9. Nat King Cole “The Christmas Song,” 83.2m (7)
10. Perry Como “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas,” 79.2m (10)

2. A few new holiday songs rose in the ranks. Whereas a pop song can become a staple within weeks or months, a Christmas song requires a decade to become a standard. Only three songs released in the last decade have risen to such distinction — and they each ranked higher than a year ago. Kelly Clarkson’s “Underneath the Tree,” released in 2010, rose from No. 16 in 2019 to No. 11 in 2020 while Ariana Grande’s 2014 track “Santa Tell Me” jumped from No. 30 to No. 13. Justin Bieber’s 2011 “Mistletoe” rose from No. 40 to No. 29.

3. Broadcast television exposure helps — if you can get it. First-year songs by Carrie Underwood from her album My Gift, released Sept. 25 — “Favorite Time of the Year” at No. 38, “Hallelujah” featuring John Legend at No. 57 and “Silent Night” at No. 58 — had help from Underwood’s Christmas special on HBO Max, My Gift: A Christmas Special from Carrie Underwood. Dan + Shay’s “Take Me Home for Christmas” reached No. 44 thanks in part to their performance on The Voice season finale Dec. 15. Kelly Clarkson’s new track, “Under the Mistletoe” with Brett Eldridge, was No. 40 after performances on Clarkson’s nationally syndicated talk show as well as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and The Voice.

4. Amazon had the muscle to turn two exclusive recordings into successes. Justin Bieber’s new version of “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” ranked No. 34, the highest of any 2020 releases. (A younger Bieber covered the song in 2011.) Underwood’s “Favorite Time of the Year,” at No. 38, is also an Amazon Original (included on her new album, My Gift).

5. Even proven classics can make a big jump. In 2020, Paul McCartney’s omnipresent “Wonderful Christmas Time” jumped from No. 43 to No. 21 on a 67.9% increase in on-demand audio streams. Digital services can take some credit: at Spotify, McCartney was on 801 service-created playlists, according to Chartmetric — a 147% gain from 324 playlists a year earlier. (Note that MRC Data figures cover only the U.S. while Chartmetric data is global.) As a point of reference, Mariah Carey peaked at 731 editorial playlists in 2020 compared to 372 in 2019 — a 96.5% increase.

6. Early success is difficult to maintain. Jonas Brothers’ peppy “Like It’s Christmas” debuted as No. 14 on-demand streaming in 2019 but fell to No. 48 in 2020. Likewise, Katy Perry’s 2018 track “Cozy Little Christmas” dropped from No. 29 to No. 51. To be sure, both tracks are among the few holiday tracks released in the last decade that ranked in the top 100 in 2020.

7. Indies are almost entirely shut out of the top rankings. Of the top 100 tracks of 2020, only three are owned by an indie label. Tori Kelly’s cover of “Let It Snow,” released on Schoolboy Records in October, at No. 99; Schoolboy has major label distribution — through Universal Music Group — but is independently owned by Scooter Braun’s SB Projects. Two Vince Guaraldi tracks from A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack were released in 1965 by Fantasy Records, now owned by Concord Music Group: “Linus and Lucy” at No. 49 and “O Tannenbaum” at No. 56.

8. New holiday music might be better off making money through purchases. While a holiday classic collects a growing amount of streaming royalties each year, new music can make money from one-time purchases and hope to have a life the following year. An avalanche of Christmas music is released each year either as a gift to fans or to capitalize on the category’s popularity — or both. Last year, Pentatonix, Meghan Trainor, Dolly Parton, Lady A, For King & Country, Matt Nathanson, The Bird and the Bee and Goo Goo Dolls were among the artists to release a full album of holiday music. If they’re lucky, those albums will keep selling in the coming years.

Morgan Wallen Responds to Walmart Album Leak by Leaking His Songs Himself

Morgan Wallen is just days from unveiling his 30-song project, Dangerous: The Double Album, on Friday (Jan. 8), but Walmart leaked the music ahead of time.

In a video shared to Instagram on Monday (Jan. 4), the country star addressed the situation. “I saw that some of y’all have been posting and trying to spread the new music, which I’m super thankful for,” he explained. “I’m glad you’re eager to do that, but man, I’ve been working on this album for three years and I’ll be damned if I’mma let Walmart do the leaking like that.”

He went on to note that he will be “doing the leaking of the songs [him]self” on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter, before throwing some shade at the retail mega-corporation.

“It’s kind of messed up but I don’t shop at Walmart anyway,” he concluded his video. “I also gave Target two extra songs, so if you’re gonna buy my album physically, go to Target baby.”

Watch the video here.

He has since stayed true to his word, sharing links to songs “Warning,” “Dangerous” and “Rednecks, Red Letters, Red Dirt” on his Instagram Stories.

Dangerous: The Double Album is available for pre-order here (including a link to Target’s pre-sale and not Walmart’s).

Grammys Postponed Due to COVID-19

The 2021 Grammys, scheduled for Jan. 31, have been postponed due to concerns over the spread of COVID-19, Billboard can confirm.

According to a report from Rolling Stone, the Recording Academy is eyeing a new date in March, which would put the show one month before the 93rd annual Academy Awards, now set to air April 25 from The Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Holiday gatherings have caused a surge in COVID-19 cases, nationally and especially in Los Angeles, which is now considered the epicenter of the pandemic. Staples Center in Los Angeles has been the home of the Grammys for all but two years since 2000 — though due to the confusion of recent months, Grammy organizers never confirmed that the show was to be held at Staples, saying only it would be held in “downtown Los Angeles.” That could have meant Staples, the adjacent (and much smaller) Microsoft Theater or outdoors on city streets.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on awards shows in the past year. The CMA Awards made an effort to do an in-person show in November, seating just a few people at each table, with guests attempting to socially distance. Despite all the show’s safety protocols, country legend Charley Pride died of COVID-19 one month after he performed at the show. Though it’s not known if his appearance at the show had anything to do with his death — he tested negative days later, after returning home to Texas — it raised questions about whether live awards shows are possible or advisable until this public health nightmare is under control.

Beyoncé is this year’s nominations leader with nine nominations, followed by Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift and Roddy Ricch with six nods each.

The first five Grammy telecasts, from 1971-75, aired in March, but the show has aired in January or February in recent decades. This would be the first time since 1995 that the show has aired in March.

Tim McGraw & Florida Georgia Line’s Tyler Hubbard Teaming Up for ‘Undivided’ Collab

Tim McGraw and Tyler Hubbard of Florida Georgia Line are linking up to release a new collaboration titled “Undivided” on Jan. 13.

Hubbard co-wrote the upbeat, inspirational anthem with Chris Loocke while reflecting on his personal quarantine in his tour bus after testing positive for COVID-19 (which made FGL unable to perform at the CMA Awards last year along with four other performers).

The two country stars will also unveil the official behind-the-scenes music video of them in the studio next week. Hubbard and Brian Kelley openly addressed their FGL fans in a recent video, where the two talked about pursuing their solo music and collaborations with other artists while reassuring everyone that they weren’t breaking up.

“Music gives us hope and brings us together in a way nothing else can. This doesn’t mean we don’t have work to do. Quite the opposite,” McGraw said in a statement. “I loved the positivity of this song and that it called me to check myself and to remember that love is bigger. It’s why I knew this song had to be my next single with Tyler as soon as he sent it to me.”

“I knew immediately when I finished it, I had to text it to Tim. He has a way of communicating with the world that is unique in music,” Hubbard added. “For him to want to perform with me was an amazing feeling. The song is about coming together, and that’s exactly what we did.”

“Undivided” will be on the deluxe edition of McGraw’s latest studio album Here on Earth, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart in September. The deluxe LP is set to be released later this spring via Big Machine Records.

Pre-order “Undivided” here.

Lil Yachty Asks Donald Trump to Commute Kodak Black’s Prison Sentence

As President Donald Trump’s end of term nears, he’s been making the most of his power to issue pardons and commutations, particularly to those closest to him.

Since the Commander in Chief seems to be in the spirit of giving, Lil Yachty put in his own request on Monday (Jan. 4) for Kodak Black’s prison sentence to be commuted.

“Hey @realDonaldTrump my friend @KodakBlack1k deserves to be commuted. The system punished him way to hard for a paperwork crime #freekodak,” the “Flex Up” rapper tweeted.

In November 2019, Kodak was sentenced to more than three years in federal prison after pleading guilty to weapons charges stemming from his arrest just before a scheduled concert performance in May of that year.

The 23-year-old rapper admitted in August 2019 that on two separate occasions, he falsified information on federal forms to buy four firearms from a Miami-area gun shop. He also faces drug, weapons and sexual assault charges in other states.

A commutation reduces a sentence, either totally or partially, and can also release an unpaid fine imposed at sentencing. It does not, however, erase a conviction or remove the ban on voting or running for office for those convicted of a federal crime.