The Grammy Award nominations were announced yesterday. My predictions ranged from 4 right (Record of the Year, Dance Recording, Electronic Album) to only 2 right (Male Pop Vocal, Pop Duo/Group Vocal, Alternative Album, R&B Album) and although I only got 3 right on Album of the Year, the lineup did follow the rules I established. Here are my 10 observations about this year's Grammy Award nominees:
1. Beyonce Knows How to Play the Grammy Game. Beyonce ended up the queen of the evening with 10 nominations including the triple crown of Album, Record and Song of the year. The Album of the Year (AOTY) nomination for I Am...Sasha Fierce is her first in this category, while "Halo's" nomination in Record of the Year (ROTY) is her third after "Crazy in Love" and "Irreplaceable." Neither of those songs were nominated for Song of the Year (SOTY). I'm glad she got AOTY, as I think she really deserved it for this album.
She played the Grammy game well to get all those nominations, taking advantage of the fact that just because an album is limited to being nominated in only one genre doesn't mean the singles from it can't be put up in different categories (a way to get around the rule that any artist can't be nominated more than once in a category except for collaborations). Michael Jackson played this game best when, in 1984, he won Pop Male Vocal for "Thriller," R&B Male Vocal for "Billie Jean," and Rock Male Vocal for "Beat It." Thus Beyonce sees her songs from I Am...Sasha Fierce nominated in Female Pop ("Halo"), Female R&B ("Single ladies"), and Rap/Sung Collaboration ("Ego" with Kanye West), plus additional nomination for her songs from the Cadillac Records soundtrack in Traditional R&B ("At Last"), and Song from a Movie/TV Show ("Once in a Lifetime").
Such calculation is carried further to the ROTY and SOTY categories where Beyonce is nominated in both, but for different songs, "Halo" for ROTY and "Single Ladies" for SOTY. What makes this unique is that generally the SOTY nominees tend to be the slower, more adult songs, so it's surprising that she put the poppier upbeat song in that category (but hey, it worked). Other recent examples of artists getting nominated in both categories with different songs were U2 in 2001 ("Walk On" in ROTY and "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out of" in SOTY) and TLC in 1999 ("No Scrubs" in ROTY and "Unpretty" in SOTY).
2. Pop Music Dominated ROTY. This year's Record of the Year slate is dominated by hits. Not since 1999 have all five nominees been such major pop hits. The average Hot 100 peak position of these five songs is 2.6, which includes two #1s, "I Gotta Feeling" and "Poker Face." Last year there were also two #1s ("Bleeding Love" and "Viva La Vida") but because the field also included two songs that were not big hits ("Please Read the Letter" and "Chasing Pavements") the Hot 100 peak position average of last year's nominees was at least 25.6 (it's actually incalculable, since "Please Read the Letter" didn't chart at all).
3. The Night's Biggest Surprise: Dave Matthews Band. Dave Matthew Band's Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King was the surprise nominee for AOTY. Most pundits (including me) thought U2 or Green Day would have the rock album slated in AOTY, but no one I read thought both would lose out to DMB. An interesting twist, deserving I think given how both of those albums, while good, underperformed.
4. The Night's Biggest Snub: Whitney Houston. Remember back in August when everyone was saying that Whitney Houston was going to clean up at the Grammys this year? Not going to happen, considering that she's received ZERO nominations. Ouch. While I wasn't surprised not to see her in the general and pop categories, I thought she'd at least eek out an R&B nomination someplace. Grammy does love a big comeback, but truthfully, this comeback hasn't been so big, as I Look to You is not selling well and has generated no hits.
5. The Night's Second Biggest Snub: Kanye West. Yes he managed to snag six nominations, which is quite a few, but if look closely, you'll see its really circumstantial and that he was majorly snubbed. All six of his nominations are for collaborations with other artists (Kid Cudi, Young Jeezy, Beyonce, Keri Hilson, and Jay-Z and Rihanna). His album, 808s and Heartbreak, became his first album not to be nominated for AOTY, and in fact, it was also shut out of Pop Album. Even more damning is his exclusion from Male Pop Vocal--a category that is completely devoid of pop hits this year. It should have been a slam dunk, until he went and ruined his chances because he just can't control himself. Impulse control is something we adults have learned--time to grow up and join us Kanye. PR matters.
6. The Night's Third Biggest Snub: Maxwell. Maxwell still made out pretty well, but I was expecting "Pretty Wings," one of the year's biggest R&B hits, to snag a ROTY nomination, and I Thought the acclaimed parent album BLACKsummers'night was a lock for ROTY. Maxwell did get SOTY, plus several nominations in pop and R&B categories.
7. New Artist - Who ARE These People? The New Artist category has the least amount of star power this year than any in recent memory. Only Keri Hilson's had a top 10 hit among the bunch. It's such as contrast from the star power of the other three general categories. I'm glad MGMT made the list, as well as The Ting Tings. Much has been said about how Lady GaGa deserved a nod, but she was not eligible since "Just Dance" was nominated last year.
8. Black Eyed Peas - Not Just a Singles Act. I thought The E.N.D. would miss out on AOTY because it's viewed more as a vehicle for launching great singles than as a great album. I was wrong, and I shouldn't have discounted that a pop album would sneak onto the list instead of an R&B album (Maxwell, snubbed from AOTY for BLACKsummers'night). The Peas tied Maxwell, and Kanye West for the third most nominations with 6.
9. Lady GaGa Leads Electronic Music into AOTY. The Fame is the first album from the Electronic genre to be nominated in AOTY. Of course it's really a pop album, as is Beyonce's and Taylor Swift (maybe they were trying to give Kanye West a fair chance of being nominated in pop). GaGa, like Beyonce and Taylor Swift, scored the general category trifecta of AOTY, ROTY and SOTY.
10. Taylor Swift. Not much to say, just that she got 8 nominations--the second most after Beyonce. She also played the genre game, snagging a country nomination for "White Horse" and pop nominations for "You Belong with Me" and "Breathe."
So what are your observations? And what do you hope will win? I don't think there's a clear frontrunner in AOTY. Probably not BEP or GaGa. Dave Matthews Band might actually be best positioned, based on their veteran status (Grammy LOVES to award the veteran).