Careful, Grammy…you might hurt yourself trying to demonstrate your hipness this year.
Bon Iver? Mumford & Sons? Skrillex? All nominated in major categories instead of the usual niche pockets (if at all)?
Wednesday’s “The Grammy Nominations Concert Live!!” (yes, two exclamation points officially required) marked the fourth time the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences chose to hype its February music awards show with an hour of performances sprinkled with a handful of award nominations.
And, for the first time in years, several surprising names slipped into marquee categories: Bon Iver’s “Holocene” nabbed nods for Record and Song of the Year, as did Mumford & Sons’ “The Cave.
Meanwhile, the Best New Artist grouping ranged from predictable – The Band Perry, Nicki Minaj (whose first name was misspelled on stage) – to the somewhat surprising inclusion of North Carolina rapper J. Cole and electro-dance producer/artist Skrillex.
But does anyone think Adele won’t sweep her major categories, which also include Record and Song of the Year for “Rolling in the Deep” and Album of the Year for the critically heralded and commercially monstrous “21”?
The British songstress scored a total of six nominations.
There were a couple of surprising omissions from the album category, which targeted Grammys more mainstream sensibilities with the Foo Fighters’ “Wasting Light”; Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way”; Bruno Mars’ “Doo Wops & Hooligans”; and Rihanna’s “Loud.”
Some might have expected appearances from Taylor Swift’s “Speak Now,” Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” or his collaboration with Jay-Z, “Watch the Throne.” Atlanta-born West does lead the nominations with seven.
But who had time to think about awards during the Wednesday telecast, so stuffed with performances, the nominees were mostly an afterthought? (Also an afterthought: Van Halen, whose “historic reunion” was more than lightly hinted at in Grammy press material in the weeks leading up to the show, yet never materialized).
Neil Portnow, president of NARAS, is obsessed with creating musical “moments” you’ll never see elsewhere, so in that regard, the incongruous pairing of Georgia boys Jason Aldean and Ludacris on Aldean’s “Dirt Road Anthem” was a success. Still, the performance didn’t quite gel, despite Luda dropping one of his typically funny and fluid raps into the song and breaking out some guitar hero moves at its conclusion.
But Usher’s moving tribute to songwriters Nick Ashford and Jerry Leiber – accompanied by Ashford’s wife and collaborator Valerie Simpson on one piano and Leiber’s iconic partner Mike Stoller on another – was understated and classy. Usher pushed himself vocally on a version of “You’re All I Need to Get By” that was filled with earnest emotion, then slickly segued into “Stand By Me,” urging the crowd at the Nokia Theatre in L.A. to sing along.
But the highlight was, predictably, saved for last, when Sugarland joined Lady Gaga for the latter’s excellent “You and I,” undeniably her meatiest song to date (no pun intended). The pairing worked on every level, with Jennifer Nettles and Gaga trading impressive wails on the rootsy, Elton John-like song, and sparse accompaniment from Gaga’s piano and Sugarland’s guitars.
Nettles even improvised the line, “I’m a Georgia woman gonna run you down” while vamping with Gaga at the song’s climax.
Here’s a look at the nominees in the four categories announced on the show, as well as a cursory compilation of some Georgia nominees (It’s easy to miss a local name amid 78 categories, but I’ll be sure to correct any omissions).
The complete list of noms can be found at www.grammy.com. The 54th Annual Grammy Awards air Feb. 12 on CBS.
Record of the Year: Adele, “Rolling in the Deep”; Bon Iver, “Holocene”; Bruno Mars, “Grenade”; Mumford & Sons, “The Cave”; Katy Perry, “Firework.”
Song of the Year – Kanye West, “All of the Lights”; Mumford & Sons, “The Cave”; Bruno Mars, “Grenade”; Bon Iver, “Holocene”; Adele, “Rolling in the Deep.”
Best New Artist – The Band Perry; Bon Iver; J. Cole; Nicki Minaj; Skrillex
Album of the Year – Adele, “21”; Foo Fighters, “Wasting Light”; Lady Gaga, “Born this Way”; Bruno Mars, “Doo Wops & Hooligans”; Rihanna, “Loud.”
Some Georgia nominees:
Pop Vocal Album – Cee Lo Green, “The Lady Killer”
Best Traditional R&B Performance – Cee Lo Green and Melanie Fiona, “Fool For You”
Best R&B Song – Cee Lo Green and Melanie Fiona, “Fool For You”
Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance – Mastodon, “Curl of the Burl”
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration – Beyonce with Andre 3000, “Party”
Best Country Solo Performance – Jason Aldean, “Dirt Road Anthem”
Best Country Duo/Group Performance – Jason Aldean with Kelly Clarkson, “Don’t You Wanna Stay”
Best Country Album – Jason Aldean , “My Kinda Party”; Lady Antebellum, “Own the Night”
Best Contemporary Christian Music Song – Chris Tomlin, “I Lift My Hands”; Laura Story, “Blessings”
Best Contemporary Christian Music Song - Jamie Grace, “Hold Me”
Best Contemporary Christian Music Album – Chris Tomlin, “And If Our God is For Us…”
Best Blues Album – Gregg Allman, “Low Country Blues” (he’s competing against Allman Brothers brethren Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks)
Best Gospel Song - Canton Jones, “Window”
Best Song Written For Visual Media – Zac Brown, “Where the River Goes” (from “Footloose”); Diane Warren for Justin Bieber’s “Born to Be Somebody” (from “Never Say Never”)
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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene Blog