As has become the custom, this year’s Grammy Award nominations were announced last night via a live prime-time telecast, broadcast on CBS and hosted this year by LL Cool J and Taylor Swift.
This year’s nomination show took place in Nashville, and understandably the live performances were dominated (but not monopolized) by the town’s country vibe. The Band Perry and Dierks Bentley set the tone for the evening by kicking off the program with a tribute to the late Johnny Cash—a rousing performance of “Jackson.” Country newcomer Hunter Hayes continued the thread by singing country-fied versions of hits from the Best Pop Vocal Album category, while Luke Bryan later wowed the crowd with a performance of “I Don’t Want This Night To End.” Additional noteworthy performances included “Let Me Love You (Until You Can Love Yourself)” by Ne-Yo, and an orchestral version of “We Are Young” performed by fun. and Janelle Monae.
Speaking of fun., the newcomer smash act is one of six to receive six Grammy noms this year, but what makes this one interesting is that they are the only band nominated in all of the “Big Four” categories—Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Album of the Year—setting them up for a potential sweep, a feat that hasn’t been seen since Christopher Cross did it about two decades ago. Other strong contenders this year include R&B breakthrough artist Frank Ocean, Jay-Z, Mumford & Sons, Kanye West and The Black Keys (all of whom received six nominations, if you count Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach’s nod for Producer of the Year).
There were a few surprises along the way, both in who got nominated and who did not. Among the most notable snubs were Justin Bieber (who dominated the AMA’s a couple of weeks ago, but got no Grammy nominations) and boy-band sensation One Direction, who failed to make it into the Best New Artist category as Backstreet Boys and Jonas Brothers had previously done. Other snubs included Madonna, Lana Del Rey and Lionel Richie, among others. On the other side—collective head-scratches could be heard around the world as unknown Liechtenstein producer Al Walser somehow made it into the Best Dance Recording category alongside Avicii, Skrillex, Swedish House Mafia and Calvin Harris. Taylor Swift herself got nominated for Record of the Year for her advance single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” but her new album Red was not nominated because it was released too late in the year to qualify.
Surprises like these happen pretty much every year, and always raise the question whether the Grammys are “out of touch” since they so often differ from popular vote. The thing to remember is that the Grammys are voted on by industry insiders, not consumers, so the nominations (and the awards themselves) reflect the industry’s respect for its own artists’ musical achievements, not necessarily their success with the public. This is why (as Bieber and One Direction realize) it is possible to go multi-platinum and not receive a single Grammy nomination.
That being said, this year’s Grammy nominations also point to some interesting trends in the market, one of which is that newcomers and younger artists are beginning to dominate the awards, whereas in times past, more established artists tended to clean up. (Adele was a perfect example of this trend last year.) Also of note is the apparent resurgence in both the R&B and “roots” music genres, with the top nomination-getters ranging from Frank Ocean to Mumford & Sons, and the Best New Artist category showing a spread from R&B (Frank Ocean) to Americana folk and blues (Alabama Shakes and The Lumineers, respectively). Finally, the trend favoring indie artists over major label artists is apparently continuing. Last year’s indie sensation was Bon Iver; this year, indie-folk band The Lumineers (who swept the charts all year with “Ho Hey”) have landed themselves in both the Best New Artist and Best Americana Album categories, all without the help of major label support.
The Grammy Awards will be broadcast on February 10 on CBS. You can view the full list of nominees at Grammy.com.