Hip-hop dominated the nominations for the 56th annual Grammy Awards, announced Friday in a nationally televised hype fest. Jay Z led the way with nine nominations, followed by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Kendrick Lamar with seven and Drake with five.
Producer-songwriter Pharrell Williams and singer Justin Timberlake also collected seven nominations each for the Grammys, which will be awarded Jan. 26 by the industry professionals in the Recording Academy.
Macklemore and Lewis, who kicked off the nomination concert in Los Angeles with a performance of their breakthrough hit “Thrift Shop,” were the only artists to receive nominations in three of the top four categories: album of the year for “The Heist,” song of the year for the gay-marriage anthem “Same Love” and best new artist. The latter category gets points deducted for accuracy, as Ben Haggerty (aka Macklemore) has been recording and performing for more than a decade out of his hometown of Seattle. But the category has been loosely configured for years, honoring artists for releases that establish their “public identity.” That was clearly the case with “The Heist,” which turned the underground duo into an arena act.
The other best new artist nominees were James Blake, Lamar, Kacey Musgraves and Ed Sheeran. A surprising exclusion was Lorde, the New Zealand teen who received four nominations, including song and artist of the year for her massive hit “Royals.” She made the most of her prime-time TV spot, though, with a poised performance as she sang over clipped hip-hop rhythms.
Other album of the year nominees included Sara Bareilles (“The Blessed Unrest”), Daft Punk (“Random Access Memories”), Lamar (“Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City”) and Taylor Swift (“Red”). Justin Timberlake, who made a much-hyped comeback that included debuting songs on this year’s Grammy telecast for his “The 20/20 Experience” was a surprising omission in this category. None of Timberlake’s seven nominations included the Big Four prizes.
Another shut-out for the prestige honors was Kanye West, whose polarizing “Yeezus” yielded only two nominations, for best rap album and best rap song (“New Slaves”). West’s mentor, Jay Z, also was shut out in the top categories, as was twerk-princess Miley Cyrus.
Record of the year nominees besides Lorde included Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams (“Get Lucky”), Imagine Dragons (“Radioactive”), Bruno Mars (“Locked out of Heaven”) and Robin Thicke (“Blurred Lines”). Besides Lorde and Macklemore and Lewis, nominations for song of the year (which is awarded to songwriters) went to Pink’s “Just Give Me a Reason,” Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” and Katy Perry’s “Roar.”
The most decorated rock band? It turned out to be Black Sabbath, the heavy metal progenitors who have won only one previous Grammy, with three nominations, edging out fellow veterans Led Zeppelin, as well as Imagine Dragons, Queens of the Stone Age and Coldplay, all with two. The most confounding nomination? Among many, the winner would have to be Swift, whose “Red” album strayed far from her country-pop beginnings, yet was nominated for country album of the year. She solidified that impression Friday with a televised performance in Los Angeles that was closer in tone to Pat Benatar’s early ‘80s hard-rock dramatics than Grand Ole Opry strumming.
Artists with ties to Chicago who also received nominations included two septuagenarian legends: Mavis Staples for best Americana album (“One True Vine”) and singer and harmonica whiz James Cotton for best blues album (“Cotton Mouth Man" on Chicago's Alligator Records). Justin Roberts was nominated for best children’s album; Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy for producer of the year, non-classical; and critic Neil Tesser for best album notes. David Frost’s nomination for best classical producer included his work on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Chicago Symphony Chorus’ recording of Verdi’s “Otello,” conducted by Riccardo Muti.
Tribune critics Howard Reich and John Von Rhein contributed to this report.Copyright © 2015, RedEye