For the first time in Grammy history, three of the five finalists for Record of the Year are collaborations. The smash by Eminem featuring Rihanna is joined by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' "Empire State Of Mind" and B.o.B featuring Bruno Mars' "Nothin' On You." All three of these recordings pair a rap artist with a pop or soul singer, which is the surest pathway to success in contemporary music.
The other Record of the Year finalists are Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" and Cee Lo Green's "F*** You (Forget You)." The inclusion of the latter hit was a surprise. The old-school soul smash is irresistible, but the title pushes the envelope, especially for a tradition-bound organization like the Recording Academy.
This is the third Record of the Year nomination for both Eminem and Jay-Z. It's the second for Rihanna, Keys and Green (who made the finals four years ago as a member of Gnarls Barkley). It's the first for Lady Antebellum, B.o.B and Bruno Mars.
Key hits that were passed over for Record of the Year include "California Gurls" by Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg, "Airplanes II" by B.o.B featuring Eminem and Hayley Williams, Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance," Bruno Mars' "Just The Way You Are" and Taylor Swift's "Mine."
The Fame Monster is the first EP to be nominated for Album of the Year. Gaga, who was nominated in the category last year for her debut album The Fame, is the first artist to receive back-to-back Album of the Year nominations since Kanye West did it in 2004 and 2005.
This is Eminem's third Album of the Year nomination. He previously made the finals with The Marshall Mathers LP and The Eminem Show.
The nominations in key categories were announced in a prime-time TV special for the third straight year. B.o.B, Bruno Mars, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Miranda Lambert and Train performed on the show.
Florence + the Machine is the name used by Florence Welch, an English singer/songwriter whose album Lungs was released in late 2009. Mumford & Sons are nominated in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category for their album Sigh No More. Spalding is vying for Best Jazz Vocal Album for her album Chamber Music Society.
The list of acts that were passed over for Best New Artist includes such household names as Susan Boyle and Adam Lambert, whose reality TV backgrounds may have hurt their chances. Also left out: Ke$ha, The Script, Kid Cudi, Jason Derulo, Taio Cruz, Vampire Weekend and Charice.
Bieber, 16, is the youngest solo artist to be nominated for Best New Artist since LeAnn Rimes, who was 14 when she was nominated (and won) 14 years ago.
Kanye West's critically acclaimed My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was released after the end of the eligibility year, which extends from Sept. 1, 2009 through Sept. 30, 2010. This will give him an extra year for the backlash which followed his ungentlemanly behavior at the 2009 VMAs telecast to recede.
Paul Grein writes the Chart Watch blog, which appears on the site each Wednesday.
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