Five Biggest Takeaways From the 2023 Grammy Pop Nominations: Superstar Showdowns, Historic Noms and ABBA

When the Grammys unveil their annual nominations, fans pore over the Big Four categories — album of the year, record of the year, song of the year and best new artist — to pinpoint the biggest snubs, surprises and upcoming showdowns. Yet the nominations for the 65th annual Grammy Awards, which were announced on Tuesday (Nov. 15), also included particularly stacked shortlists in the main pop categories; those include best pop solo performance, best pop duo/group performance and best pop vocal album. (Best traditional pop vocal album — which includes works by Michael Bublé, Kelly Clarkson, Norah Jones, Pentatonix and Diana Ross — is a little removed from this conversation.)


Some of the biggest names in music have songs and albums in the running this year, a veteran group translated its shocking Big Four nods into the pop categories as well, and history could be made by international superstars turning their nominations into victories. Here are the five biggest takeaways from this year’s Grammy pop category nominations — buckle up, because a whole lot of star power is about to be unleashed.

The Superstars Show Out

The pop artists in the culture’s current upper echelon have nearly all been active over the past year, and as such, the pop categories are brimming with big names and their latest respective smashes. Out of the 11 songs nominated for best pop solo performance or best pop duo/group performance, six of them — Harry Styles’ “As It Was,” Adele’s “Easy On Me,” Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit,” Lizzo’s “About Damn Time,” Coldplay and BTS’ “My Universe” and Sam Smith and Kim Petras’ “Unholy” — have reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100, while other major hits from long-proven hitmakers like Doja Cat, Bad Bunny, Post Malone and Camila Cabello have also scored nods.

That’s hardly unusual for the pop categories — but in most years, songs by A-listers are intermixed with those by newer artists. This year, however, the 10 best new artist nominees score zero nominations in the pop categories, as well as none in the other Big Four categories. Lacy, who was ineligible for best new artist due to past nominations, is a rare representative of the rising-artist class, with his Hot 100-topping “Bad Habit” up for best pop solo performance, as well as for record of the year and song of the year. And kudos to Petras, who not only earned her first career Hot 100 entry with “Unholy,” but now has her first career Grammy nomination.

ABBA Crashes the Party

After scoring a surprise record of the year nod at this April’s Grammys with “I Still Have Faith In You,” the legendary Swedish quartet shows up twice in the Big Four categories this year — with their long-awaited comeback LP Voyage placing in the album of the year race, and “Don’t Shut Me Down” giving ABBA their second consecutive record of the year nod.

Both the album and song show up in the pop categories, too — for best pop vocal album and best pop duo/group performance, respectively — and those nominations might end up being more meaningful for ABBA in the long run. The Big Four categories are as hyper-competitive as ever with 10 nominees in each, and if Voyage or “Don’t Shut Me Down” prevails in the less-crowded pop categories (five noms each), ABBA would earn their first-ever Grammy, capping one of the most celebrated runs in pop history.

Bad Bunny Keeps Making History

With his May blockbuster album Un Verano Sin Ti earning Bad Bunny his first album of the year nod, the Puerto Rican superstar continues breaking ground — and could become the first recipient of the top prize for an album performed predominantly in Spanish. Yet it’s also worth noting that album standout “Moscow Mule” becomes the first-ever Spanish-language nominee for best pop solo performance in the category’s 12-year history, and gives Bad Bunny his first career appearance in the pop categories. The “Moscow Mule” nod confirms what we’ve already known about Bad Bunny’s enormous year: His popularity transcends language and genre, and he belongs in competition with his fellow A-listers of any nationality.

Could the Stars Align for Coldplay and BTS?

Seven-time Grammy winners Coldplay may have not won a new trophy since 2009, but the stadium rockers keep racking up nominations, including another album of the year nod — this time for 2021’s Music of the Spheres, the band’s third overall nod in the category and second consecutive project to be nominated. The space-pop full-length is also up for best pop vocal album this year, and Hot 100 No. 1 hit “My Universe” (alongside BTS) will compete for best pop duo/group performance — where it has a strong chance to earn the K-pop group its first career Grammy win.

BTS is actually up for three total Grammys — their song “Yet to Come” snagged a nod for best music video, and they’re credited for their Music of the Spheres contributions in album of the year — but ARMY should circle “My Universe” in best pop duo/group performance as perhaps the group’s best shot at a long-coveted W, especially as part of a category that doesn’t include mega-stars like Adele, Harry Styles or Taylor Swift. Recording Academy voters are still in Coldplay’s corner, and that support could earn the band their first trophy in over a decade — and, simultaneously, a historic win for BTS.

Adele, Harry and Lizzo Could All Dominate Early, Then Late

This year, five artists — Adele, Beyoncé, Harry Styles, Kendrick Lamar and Lizzo — could earn a hat trick by winning in each of the album of the year, record of the year and song of the year categories. And while Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar both could rack up additional wins in the dance, R&B and hip-hop categories, Adele, Styles and Lizzo all have work nominated for best pop solo performance and best pop vocal album — and if any of them dominates in those categories, that could foreshadow a big night for someone in the Big Four.

Could Adele — who has won three best pop solo performance trophies in the past, and has yet to lose in the category — score another victory with “Easy on Me”? Will Harry Styles, whose “Watermelon Sugar” emerged victorious in the category two years ago to give him a first career Grammy, come out on top with his even-bigger smash “As It Was”? Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” won in the category the year prior to “Watermelon Sugar” — can “About Damn Time” notch another W for her? And when it comes to best pop vocal album, can 30, Harry’s House or Special take home the trophy and set the stage for the night’s top prize? No matter which artist wins on Grammy night, the pop categories will be a clash of some of music’s biggest personalities, and just might preview a return trip or two to the stage.

Andrew Unterberger