Stop The Presses!

The Grammy Nominations Hit Prime Time

Stop The Presses!

A concise, one-hour Grammy show, heavy on performances and with no acceptance speeches. Many of you doubtless wish that this were the format for the regular Grammy telecast in February. Dream on. But it was the winning formula for a special in which the Grammy nominations were announced, for the first time, in prime time.

The Wednesday night show on CBS, co-hosted by LL Cool J and Taylor Swift, was smartly produced. The best decision was to have the performers pay tribute to other artist's songs. Christina Aguilera stepped out of her comfort zone on a tender, jazz-shaded reading of "I Loves You, Porgy," a hit for Nina Simone. Celine Dion toned down her chest-thumping power on a surprisingly effective version of Janis Ian's poignant "At Seventeen." Taylor Swift was unimpressive on Brenda Lee's "I'm Sorry," but sounded more sure on her own current hit, "White Horse." The red-hot Swift was the only performer to get to perform two songs. (Her co-host didn't perform at all.)

There were, as always, some surprises in the nominations. Leona Lewis, who has the year's #1 song with "Bleeding Love," was passed over in the Best New Artist category--though she did show up in the Record of the Year contest. Sara Bareilles, who has another of the year's biggest hits with the lilting "Love Song," also missed the cut for Best New Artist, though she rated a nomination for Song of the Year.

Kid Rock, whose "All Summer Long" was a hit on a wide range of radio formats, was passed over for a nomination for Record of the Year. A spot in that contest went instead to "Please Read The Letter," a track from the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration, Raising Sand. It's safe to say no one saw that one coming.

Here are the nominees and surprising shut-outs in the top categories.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

The Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration Raising Sand, which has seemed like a front-runner in this category virtually since it was released in October 2007, will face Coldplay's equally inevitable Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends. Krauss has won more Grammys (21) than any other woman in history. And voters love collaborations by artists from different worlds. (Last year, you'll recall, this award went to jazzman Herbie Hancock for River: The Joni Letters, his take on the music of Joni Mitchell.)

Radiohead's In Rainbows and Ne-Yo's Year Of The Gentleman were also recognized. This is Radiohead's third nomination in this category, following OK Computer in 1997 and Kid A in 2000. Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III, the year's #1 album, rounds out the category. This is the eighth time in the past nine years that a rap album has made the Album of the Year finals, a sign both of rap's popularity and the Recording Academy's concerted effort to update its image.

All five of these albums are also nominated for Best Album honors in their respective genres. Coldplay is vying for Best Rock Album, Radiohead for Best Alternative Music Album, Ne-Yo for Best Contemporary R&B Album, Lil Wayne for Best Rap Album and Plant/Krauss for Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album.

The select committee of about 25 Grammy insiders that determines the final nominees in the top four categories appears to have decided that one rap entry in the Album of the Year finals was enough, which was bad news for T.I.'s Paper Trail.

Alicia Keys and Usher, both of whom were nominated in this category in 2004 with their last studio albums, were passed over for their latest albums, As I Am and Here I Stand, respectively. Eagles, who have been nominated twice in this category, were also passed over for their latest album, Long Road Out Of Eden.

Sugarland's Love On The Inside and Carrie Underwood's Carnival Ride both failed to take the country slot that went last year to Vince Gill's These Days.

Adele, who was nominated in three of the top four categories, fell short with her debut album, 19. Other albums that were passed over include Duffy's Rockferry, Kid Rock's Rock N Roll Jesus, Al Green's Lay It Down, Jack Johnson's Sleep Through The Static, Leona Lewis' Spirit, Chris Brown's Exclusive, Metallica's Death Magnetic and Mary J. Blige's Growing Pains.

I predicted four of the five nominees correctly. My only bum guess was thinking Duffy would be nominated. That spot went to Radiohead.

RECORD OF THE YEAR

In the Record of the Year contest, Leona Lewis' elegant and soulful ballad "Bleeding Love" will face Coldplay's majestic "Viva La Vida," Adele's "Chasing Pavements," M.I.A's "Paper Planes" and the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration, "Please Read The Letter."

I got the first two right (no big deal, your great aunt in Ohio knew those two would be nominated), but missed the next three. I figured those spots would be filled by T.I.'s hip-hop smash "Whatever You Like," Kid Rock's nostalgic summer anthem "All Summer Long" and Duffy's Brit pop/soul hit "Mercy."

The select committee that determines the final nominees in the top four categories appears to have given M.I.A a tremendous boost. She wasn't even nominated by the academy's 12,000 rank-and-file voting members in her "performance category"--Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

Sara Bareilles' "Love Song," Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" and "American Boy" by Estelle featuring Kanye West were passed over in this category, even though the songs themselves were nominated for Song of the Year. Other key tracks that were passed over include Rihanna's "Take A Bow," Ne-Yo's "Closer" and two more classy collaborations: "Superstar" by Lupe Fiasco & Matthew Santos and "Love In This Club" by Usher & Young Jeezy.

SONG OF THE YEAR

While Record of the Year goes to the artist and producer for a specific recording, this award goes to the songwriter for the song itself.

Two works that are in the Record of the Year competition showed up here too: "Viva La Vida" (written by the members of Coldplay) and "Chasing Pavements" (which Adele co-wrote with Eg White). These two were joined by "Love Song" by Sara Bareilles, "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz, and "American Boy," which Estelle (Swaray) and Kanye West co-wrote with William Adams, Keith Harris, Josh Lopez, Caleb Speir and John Stephens.

Record of the Year finalists that were passed over here are "Bleeding Love" (so no nomination for writers Jesse McCartney and Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic), "Paper Planes" (which M.I.A co-wrote with Diplo) and "Please Read The Letter" (which Robert Plant co-wrote with Charlie Jones, Michael Lee and Jimmy Page).

BEST NEW ARTIST

Adele's nominations for both Record and Song of the Year for "Chasing Pavements" give her an edge here. The surprising failure of Leona Lewis and Sara Bareilles to make the finals makes Adele's path to victory much easier. But it's not a lock. Adele's strongest competition is Duffy, who had a widely admired hit with "Mercy." Duffy, who is Welsh, is from the same school of British blue-eyed soul that inspired last year's winner, Amy Winehouse. Rank-and-file Grammy voters have demonstrated an early preference for Duffy. They put her Rockferry in the finals for Best Pop Vocal Album, while bypassing Adele's 19. But Adele's nominations in the two marquee categories will prompt voters to give her a second look.

The other nominees are Jonas Brothers, the hottest teen group in recent years; Lady Antebellum, a popular country trio; and Jazmine Sullivan, a rising female R&B artist. Sullivan was also nominated for Best Contemporary R&B Album. (Jonas Brothers and Lady Antebellum were passed over for nominations for Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Country Album, respectively.)

Jonas Brothers qualified for Best New Artist consideration in their second year of eligibility because of a long-standing Grammy practice of allowing artists in this category a little extra time to gather momentum (though that flexible standard didn't push fellow 2007 newcomer Colbie Caillat into the finals).

Jonas Brothers are the first teen group to receive a nomination in this category since Backstreet Boys scored 10 years ago.

The rock band Vampire Weekend and 2007 American Idol winner Jordin Sparks were passed over in this category, along with Katy Perry ("I Kissed A Girl" was probably seen as too much of a novelty), OneRepublic and Flo Rida (Timbaland and T-Pain, respectively, may have been perceived as driving forces behind their smashes "Apologize" and "Low"), as well as Flobots and The-Dream.

Jennifer Hudson wasn't eligible in this category because she received a nomination last year as a cast member of Dreamgirls. Once an artist has received a nomination in any category, they are precluded from consideration in this category.

 

THE TV SHOW

T

he show featured performances by six frequent past Grammy winners. Celine Dion, John Mayer, Mariah Carey, B.B. King, Christina Aguilera and Foo Fighters have won a combined total of 39 Grammys. Yet several of these artists were bound to be disappointed in this year's nominations. Dion's Taking Chances was passed over for Best Pop Vocal Album. Carey's E=MC2 was snubbed for Best Contemporary R&B Album. LL's Exit 13 was passed over for Best Rap Album.

Mayer, 31, teamed with King, 83, on "Let The Good Times Roll," one of King's signature songs. Carey opened the show with a solid version of "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)," originally sung by Darlene Love. Foo Fighters offered a crunchy rock rendition of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain."

EARLY PREDICTIONS

Record of the Year - Lewis' failure to rate a nomination for Best New Artist may show some weakness for her here. You may want to put your money on Coldplay's "Viva La Vida." It would be the group's second win in this category. They took the prize for 2003 with "Clocks."

Album of the Year - By the same logic, if Robert Plant and Alison Krauss are strong enough to get a nomination for Record of the Year for a project that was an album all the way, they may be unbeatable here.

Coldplay, their strongest rivals in this category, have reason to worry.

Song of the Year - Coldplay may well take this award too. U2's "Beautiful Day," which has some of the same uplift and grandeur, swept both prizes in 2000.

Best New Artist - Duffy is strong, but it's hard to see how Adele can be stopped.

 

The eligibility period for the 51st annual Grammys is Oct. 1, 2007 through Sept. 30, 2008. The awards will be presented at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Feb. 8.

View Comments