Anytime the Grammys get anything right, it’s cause for a minor celebration. And at least three good reasons to start a party were revealed when the Recording Academy released its 110-category nomination list Wednesday night, after a first-ever one-hour telecast on CBS called “Grammy Nominations Concert Live!!”
The first commendable headline is that the most nominated artist, with eight, is Lil Wayne. “Tha Carter III,” the new album from the New Orleans rapper born Dwayne Carter Jr., is the biggest seller of the year, but the deranged and dreadlocked MC’s abundant talents are of more of a, shall we say, rambunctious variety than the Grammys are in the habit of rewarding. So kudos to you, kudos-givers!
Grammy list offers reasons to cheer
The second happy surprise is that Philadelphia’s rising R&B singer, Jazmine Sullivan, pulled in five nominations, tying her for fourth-most with perennial Grammy favorites John Mayer and Alison Krauss. (In a mild shocker, another fresh-faced star with an album called “Fearless,” 18-year-old Taylor Swift, received not a single nod, though she did cohost the show from L.A.‘s Nokia Theater. In addition to singing Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry,” she snuck in a few verses of her own “White Horse.”)
It stood to reason that Sullivan, whose “Fearless” debut scored hits with “Need U Bad” and “Bust Your Windows,” and who is signed to Clive Davis’ J Records label, would snag a nomination for best new artist (one of the four major categories, along with album, record and song).
But Sullivan, 21, surpassed expectations by also scoring nominations for female R&B performance, R&B song, traditional R&B performance, and contemporary R&B album.
The third pleasant surprise is that M.I.A.‘s “Paper Planes” has a chance to win record of the year. The nomination puts icing on the cake of one of the most heartening developments of the year: the emergence - thanks, in large part to the song’s inclusion on the trailer to the genius stoner comedy “Pineapple Express” - of the Sri Lankan-British firebrand Maya Arulpragasam as a full-blown pop star.
The Recording Academy is by far the most generous of the organizations giving out popular-arts awards - it hands out trophies like Ronald Reagan gave out jellybeans. So there are several story lines to follow when the miniature gramophones are handed out in February.
Brit soft-rockers Coldplay got the second-highest number of nominations, seven, on the strength of “Viva La Vida,” or “Death and All His Friends,” named in all four major categories. Artier (and superior) Brit-rockers Radiohead, whose “In Rainbows” was an Internet-only release in 2007 and an actual CD this year, received six nominations - seven if including Nigel Godrich as producer of the year.
Joining those Brits, and Lil Wayne, and Krauss and Led Zeppelin singer Robert Plant’s seductive “Raising Sand” in the prestigious best-album competition, were neo-soul singer Ne-Yo, whose suave “Year of the Gentleman” pulled six nominations, tying Kanye West and Jay-Z.
The show, hosted by Swift and LL Cool J, served as an ad for the Feb. 8 Grammy telecast and was a prime-time attempt to buck up declining music sales. The concept had contemporary stars singing Grammy-winning songs of the past - not a bad idea since it ensured a standard of quality the younger artists couldn’t maintain on their own.