Kanye West, Jay-Z, Mumford & Sons among top Grammy contenders
BY THOMAS CONNER Pop Music Criticfirstname.lastname@example.org December 5, 2012 8:48PM
Mumford and Sons is one of the top contenders in the 55th annual Grammy Awards. | Mark Humphrey~AP Photo
For a tally on which local artists made the Grammy cut, go to blogs.suntimes.com/music.
Updated: January 7, 2013 7:18AM
It’s been a nail-biting year for Grammy handicappers. Leading up to the announcement Wednesday of the nominations, there was no clear front-runner. Plus, the best-selling disc of 2012 was also the best-seller of 2011, Adele’s “21,” which already snared six Grammys.
Now the nominations are in — and still no one leads the pack.
Six artists top the list with six nominations each: Chicago rapper Kanye West, hip-hop titan Jay-Z, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys (five for the duo, plus a producer nod for Auerbach), British folk-rockers Mumford & Sons, and the night’s two biggest success stories: pop-rock band fun. and R&B singer Frank Ocean.
Lacking a single headliner like Adele, the crop of honorees for the 55th annual Grammy Awards, announced Wednesday during a hourlong TV special, is a welcome mash-up reflecting a singles-driven, online-dominated music market, and a corresponding younger and more diverse talent pool.
New York’s fun. swept the top four categories, receiving nominations for best new artist, song and record of the year for “We Are Young” and album of the year for “Some Nights.”
Ocean, who preceded his acclaimed “Channel Orange” album with a stirring revelation of a same-sex relationship, scored three of those top slots: best new artist, record for “Thinkin’ Bout You” and album of the year.
West, as usual, is mixed up in all of it. His six nominations include two for “N****s in Paris” and two for “No Church in the Wild” (which features Ocean), both from his collaboration with Jay-Z, “Watch the Throne,” plus two more for “Mercy,” the lead single from his “Cruel Summer” mixtape. He competes against himself in two categories: rap performance and rap song.
Grammy’s usual play-it-safe choices abound, like the requisite nods to Grammy’s favorite young muses: Taylor Swift, Pink, Florence + the Machine and ever-reliable Kelly Clarkson — but the list contains many pleasant surprises, such as retro-soul band Alabama Shakes for best new artist, Jack White’s rambling solo debut “Blunderbuss” for album of the year and even a top-level record of the year nod for Carly Rae Jepsen’s omnipresent “Call Me Maybe.”
The annual TV ratings grab attempted to cram a lot of performances into a little time. Frenetic R&B wunderkind Janelle Monae contributed a subdued assist to fun. for its required run-through of the band’s chart-dominating anthem, “We Are Young,” performed as an acoustic trio backed by strings.
Two sides of pop-R&B were showcased. First came a wallpaper medley from Maroon 5, then some shag swag from Ne-Yo, crooning “Let Me Love You,” the second single from his new album, “R.E.D.”
Fresh from last week’s two Chicago concerts, veteran rockers the Who appeared on the show to trundle through “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” though the telecast joined them in progress and cut them off to go to a commercial.
The concert, hosted by the perpetually incredulous Swift and the perennial LL Cool J, was broadcast live from Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena — the first outside Los Angeles since the televised show began five years ago, as well as the first Grammy event to be held in Music City since Johnny Cash kicked off the awards ceremony there in 1973 (video of which launched Wednesday’s show, too).
The Grammy Awards will be presented Feb. 10 on CBS.