Grammy nominees were announced late last night. Here are my observations:
Album of the Year
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs
Eminem - Recovery
Lady Antebellum - Need You Now
Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster
Katy Perry - Teenage Dream
As there always is, surprises abounded in the nominees, but this year's Album of the Year (AOTY) and Record of the Year (ROTY) lineups held more surprises than usual.
Biggest good surprise: a nomination for Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster, her fantastic second album that was really more like an EP. Overall, I thought The Fame Monster was a much better album than The Fame, which, apart from its singles, was a mixed bag, whereas every song on The Fame Monster was good.
Also a surprise: There are 3 rap/sung collaborations in ROTY this year. I was hesitant to suggest that two could be nominated. It's interesting that Grammy likes to spread AOTY around different genres, but doesn't feel the need to do so for ROTY.
Biggest bad surprise: a nomination for Katy Perry's Teenage Dream. This album has generated a few good singles, but after that, it's really not a good album, and it's a shame to see it here over so many other more deserving works. I could probably name 50 albums released in the eligibility period that I would consider to be more deserving. What a shame.
Biggest snub: Carole King and James Taylor. I thought their Live at Troubadour album would be major Grammy bait. I considered it a strong contender for AOTY, a shoo-in for Pop Vocal Album, and a likely contender in many of the other pop categories. Instead, the album received zero, zip, nada, nothing. To add insult to injury, one King and Taylor song did get nominated--"You've Got a Friend"--in the R&B category, for the Ronald Isley and Aretha Franklin version. Their own version, which was eligible for Pop Collaboration, didn't make the cut.
Also snubbed: Sade. Soldier of Love looked like a solid contender, but it was passed over here, as well as in R&B album, where it was also submitted. They did, however, pick up some other nods, so it's not as big a snub as King & Taylor.
No rock album: The Arcade Fire's The Suburbs (which I'm happy to see here), is from the "alternative" field, so there's actually no rock album in the lineup this year, which hasn't happened since 2000.
Outlook: Eminem scored the most nominations (10), and is therefore the obvious frontrunner here. In a race of relative newcomers, he's also the closest thing to a Grammy legend here. Recovery is his third album to nominated in AOTY after The Marshall Mathers LP in 2000 and The Eminem Show in 2002, neither of which won. Lady Antebellum was a shoo-in for a nomination, but I don't see them winning, since a country album won last year, and Need You Now isn't overwhelmingly loved. Lady Gaga is probably Eminem's biggest competition, since certainly Arcade Fire and Katy Perry should consider it an honor just being nominated.
Record of the Year
"Nothin' on You" - B.o.B feat. Bruno Mars
"Love the Way You Lie" - Eminem feat. Rihanna
"Fuck You!" - Cee Lo Green
"Empire State of Mind" - Jay-Z feat. Alicia Keys
"Need You Now" - Lady Antebellum
Biggest surprise: A nod for Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You!" is definitely the biggest surprise in this category and a Grammy first, for nominating a song with a clearly obscene title for one of its biggest awards. It's certainly achieved a certain notoriety, as shown by the reception to the Glee version of the clean version, "Forget You."
Biggest snub: No "Bad Romance." Lady Gaga's massive hit was one of the defining songs of 2010. Everybody was predicting it would be nominated. To see it missing, is probably the biggest snub of all the Grammy nominees. To a lesser extent, "California Gurls" by Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg was also snubbed. It's actually a bit shocking that both Lady Gaga and Katy Perry ended up in AOTY, when it seemed they both had a better shot of ROTY.
Outlook: I doubt Grammy winners will give it to "Fuck You!" or "Nothin' on You," which was the other song that was a bit of a surprise to see here. "Love the Way You Lie" is the slate's biggest hit, and that's why it will lose, since the biggest single never wins (not since 1999 at least). It's also a bit dark from Grammy. "Need You Now" could have a shot, but I think "Empire State of Mind" is the frontrunner right now. I'd love to see it win.
BNA is a foreign affair: Best New Artist has two Canadians (Justin Bieber and Drake) and two British acts (Florence + the Machine and Mumford & Sons), plus one American jazz act, Esperanza Spalding. Considering that she's the wild card, it's almost a given this award won't go to an American. I think Drake or Florence have the strongest chance. Shame The XX didn't make the cut.
Pop Female is a snooze: In a year where newcomers triumphed over legends (see King & Taylor above), the pop female category is the exception. Every nominee except Lady GaGa has been nominated in this category before. This is the third nomination for Norah Jones, who won both times before, and for Katy Perry, who's never won. I love Beyonce. I do. But it's real lazy to see a live version of "Halo" get nominated here, considering that the studio version of "Halo" won the award last year. Give someone else a chance! Ke$ha got snubbed, as this was her only real chance of a nod for "Tik Tok," and P!nk's "Glitter in the Air," which some thought would be honored, was not.
Pop Male is an interesting mix: I'd consider Michael Buble's "Haven't Met You Yet" the frontrunner in this race that includes newcomers Adam Lambert ("Whataya Want from Me") and Bruno Mars ("Just the Way You Are"), perennial nominee John Mayer ("Half of My Heart," his 6th nomination in this category), and a postumous nod for Michael Jackson ("This Is It").
Pop Vocal Album is a disappointment: Susan Boyle? Justin Bieber?? Katy Perry??? Really???? John Mayer is such a snooze too. I really hope Lady Gaga has this in the bag. Would have been so much better to see Rihanna and Corinne Bailey Rae on the list.
Chris Brown vs. Rihanna: The two square off in rap/sung collaboration, which includes his "Deuces" (with Tyga & Kevin McCall) and her "Love the Way You Lie" (with Eminem).
Alternative album: Since Arcade Fire is in AOTY, they are the obvious frontrunner here. Nice to see a nod for Broken Bells, but a shame that The National wasn't nominated.
Contemporary R&B album: Great to see Janelle Monae make the cut! I imagine Usher is the frontrunner here though for Raymond v. Raymond, despite its lukewarm reviews.