If you missed the Grammy nomination concert last night, the most important thing that you need to know is that within the first few minutes of the show Taylor Swift was beatboxing. The other thing that you should know is that by the end, there was a six way tie for the top number of nominations: fun., Jay-Z, Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, Mumford & Sons, Frank Ocean and Kanye West lead the nominations with six apiece.
The concert in and of itself was a spectacle, with Taylor Swift hosting the emphatically titled Grammy Nominations Concert Live!!, with LL Cool J in her hometown of Nashville, Tenn. The locale lent some country flavor to the night’s proceedings with presenters and performers like Hunter Hayes, Dierks Bentley and The Band Perry on hand to represent the country genre. Over the course of the hour-long show, with the help of some well-connected artists, the Grammy nominees in several key categories were revealed, including the nominees in the so-called Big Four categories: Album, Record and Song of the Year and Best New Artist. In case you’re interested in the technicalities of the competition, the eligibility period for the nominees was 10/1/11-09/30/12.
The nominees in the Best Pop Vocals category were, in a strange and distracting move, sung (yes, sung!) by Hunter Hayes — the country upstart who will undoubtedly be an international phenomenon soon. The nominees are: Kelly Clarkson’s Stronger, Florence + the Machine Ceremonials, Fun. Some Nights, Maroon 5 Overexposed and P!nk The Truth About Love. No real surprises, and no glaring omissions, but it’s always nice to see Kelly’s talent recognized.
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Record of the Year announcement honors went to Sheryl Crow and Chris Young. The nominees are: “Lonely Boy” by Black Keys, “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson, “We Are Young” by fun. featuring Janelle Monae, “Somebody I Used To Know” by Gotye, Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You” and, of course, Taylor Swift for “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” In response to the news, the camera cut to Taylor Swift just in time to see her patented “humble shock face,” which warms the cockles of the heart. (Sadly, when going up against songs like “Stronger” and “Thinking About You,” it’s hard to think that We Are Ever Gonna Think that song is worthy of a Grammy.) Taylor’s heartwarming humility is ruined when the camera cuts directly to the sight of an open-shirted bare chested Roger Daltrey performing “Don’t Get Fooled Again.” The Who’s performance was sadly truncated by commercials, but it’s nice to see that Pete Townsend still has the ability to wear a shirt, even if Roger Daltrey doesn’t.
Luke Bryan performed and Little Big Town offered a four-part harmonizing version of The Beatles’ “Yesterday” before the nominees for Best New Artist were announced. The nominees are: Alabama Shakes, fun., Hunter Hayes, the Lumineers and Frank Ocean. The category is solid, but Carly Rae Jepsen would have been a more likely inclusion than Hunter Hayes or even The Lumineers. While Alabama Shakes are fantastic and deserve the honor, it’s an odd choice for the Grammys, especially with much more traditionally Grammy friendly artists like Ed Sheeran being missed. (Although arguably, Ed Sheeran’s big year stateside will be 2013, meaning his next album will be Grammy loved. And knowing the awards circuit shenanigans, he will be nominated for Best New Artist next year.)
After the break, fun. performed their runaway hit “We Are Young” with Janelle Monae stopping by the stage to deliver her incredible, but brief addition to the song. In the future, fun., the more Janelle Monae the better. Speaking of which: When is the next Janelle Monae album coming out?
Ne-Yo, who is in the middle of a full-court press for his new album, showed up to sing and ended up showing the rest of the so-called performers how a live show should be done. His dynamic performance to “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself)” was fast and furious and so much fun to watch that hopefully fun. took some notes. (Seriously, guys, sitting on stools is not a great performance.)
Best new artist nominees The Lumineers took their turn on the dais to announce the Country Solo Performance nominees: Dierks Bentley “Home,” Eric Church “Springsteen,” Ronnie Dunn “Cost of Livin’,” Hunter Hayes “Wanted” (he must have gone to the same “shock face” coach as Taylor Swift), Blake Shelton “Over” and “Blown Away” by Carrie Underwood. The category is solid, but Carrie Underwood is always a strong contender.
The final category of the night was Album of the Year, which LL Cool J noted Taylor Swift won in 2010. Somewhat surprisingly the nominees were primarily male rock bands: The Black Keys El Camino, fun. Some Nights, Mumford & Sons Babel, Frank Ocean Channel Orange and Jack White Blunderbuss, which was surprising only in that it was hard to remember that White put out an album this year. White was previously nominated for his work with both The White Stripes and The Raconteurs, but Blunderbuss is his solo debut. fun.’s inclusion in this category means that they are nominated in all four major categories. It’s the second year in a row that no country act was nominated for album of the year. Taylor Swift’s Red will be eligible for —and probably sweep—next year’s Grammys.
Notable categories that weren’t included in the concert include Alternative Album, whose nominees are Fiona Apple, M83, Björk, Tom Waits and Gotye, and Best Rap Album, with Drake, the Roots, Rick Ross, Nas, Lupe Fiasco and 2 Chainz all nominated. Best R&B Album nods went to Robert Glasper Experiment, Anthony Hamilton, Tamia, Tyrese, and R. Kelly for his excellent “Write Me Back.”
So who was overlooked? Carly Rae Jepsen and Miguel were the most obviously overlooked artists. While both are nominated in the Song of the Year category, Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and Miguel’s “Adorn” both deserved more recognition. Plus, competing in a category that also includes such heavy hitters as Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” fun.’s “We Are Young” and Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team,” there’s a good possibility Jepsen’s song of the summer will be entirely shut out of the Grammys. Finally, while it’s not completely clear what the standards are for inclusion in the new Urban Contemporary Album category, it’s a bit odd that both Rihanna and Usher were shut out of it.
Head here for the complete list of Grammy nominees. The 55th Annual Grammy Awards air Sunday, Feb. 10th.