Beyonce leads with 10 nominations

As the Recording Academy showered nominations on the year’s biggest hits, the Grammy race is shaping up as largely a showdown between R&B/pop diva Beyonce, who led the noms with 10 mentions, and teen country-pop star Taylor Swift, who nabbed eight.

Pop/hip-hop unit the Black Eyed Peas, R&B vocalist Maxwell and rapper Kanye West all hauled in six nominations for the 52nd annual Grammy Awards, announced Wednesday night. A handful of nominees were revealed during a special show broadcast on CBS from L.A.’s Club Nokia.

There were precious few surprises in the noms, and few selections will please critics who continue to condemn as narrow and retrograde the academy’s concept of what constitutes music of quality.

Facing off for album of the year honors are Beyonce’s “I Am…Sasha Fierce,” Swift’s “Fearless,” Gaga’s “The Fame,” the Black Eyed Peas’ “The E.N.D.” and the category’s longshot, the Dave Matthews Band’s “Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King.”Competing for record of the year are Beyonce’s “Halo,” the Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling,” Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody,” Gaga’s “Poker Face” and Swift’s “You Belong to Me.”

Nominees for song of the year — a writer’s award — are Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” (written by Thaddis Harrell, Terius Nash, Beyonce Knowles and Christopher Stewart), Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” (by Lady Gaga and RedOne), Maxwell’s “Pretty Wings” (by Musze and Hod David), Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” (by band members Caleb, Nathan, Jared and Matthew Followill) and Taylor Swift’s “You Belong to Me” (by Swift and Liz Rose).

In the running for best new artist are Atlanta-bred country act the Zac Brown Band, Brooklyn electro-pop twosome MGMT, pop/R&B songwriter-turned-soloist Keri Hilson, L.A. rock unit Silversun Pickups and the English rock twosome the Ting Tings.

Former Destiny’s Child leading lady Beyonce continues to percolate as a solo artist. Her “Sasha Fierce” has sold 2.5 million copies to date. She has won seven Grammys in her own name, but has never collected one outside the R&B or rap categories, despite two record of the year nods. This year she finds herself nominated in three of the big four slots, but she will have to go head-to-head with Swift, the bestselling performer of 2009.

Swift’s presence in the top categories was assured by her astounding commercial track record over the last year. Her late-2008 release “Fearless” has moved more than 4.5 million units to date. She has garnered awards in every imaginable corner of the industry: the Academy of Country Music, the Country Music Assn., the American Music Awards, and (most memorably) the MTV Video Music Awards, where her acceptance speech was interrupted by notoriously unpredictable rapper Kanye West.

She’s a prime candidate for the kind of multi-Grammy coronation accorded Alicia Keys (2002), Norah Jones (2003) and Amy Winehouse (2008). And, though her self-titled 2007 debut has also sold in excess of 4.4 million, she’s been a Grammy wallflower so far — nominated as best new artist two years ago, she lost to Winehouse.

Though Lady Gaga collected a Grammy nomination last year, thereby disqualifying her for the best new artist category this year, the dance-pop vocalist is repped in the three other top categories. She made her breakthrough in 2009, as her album “Fame” sold more than 1.7 million copies. She currently holds two slots in the top 10 of the U.S. album chart.

Black Eyed Peas are unlikely to go home empty-handed, for the ubiquitous hip-hop/pop group has dominated the charts for much of the year with “E.N.D” and the singles “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling,” which held the top two singles slots simultaneously this summer. The act has picked up a trio of Grammys in both rap and pop categories, for their singles “Let’s Get It Started” (2005), “Don’t Phunk With My Heart” (2006) and “My Humps” (2007).

The brotherly Nashville rockers Kings of Leon, who garnered a total of four nods, busted into two of the four major categories on the strength of their long-running hit “Only By the Night,” which housed the twice-nominated “Use Somebody.”

Maxwell’s “BLACKsummers’night” picked up, after a long lay-off, where the vocalist left off with his last album, his No. 1 entry “Now.” The Brooklyn neo-soul singer’s mid-summer chart-topper, his first release since that 2001 opus, was a lustrous affair that has sold 885,000 units to date.

The vocalist attempted to curry some goodwill among Grammy voters by headlining a concert benefiting the struggling Grammy Museum at L.A.’s Club Nokia after the nominations show there on Wednesday night.

In spite of himself, hot-headed rapper West is back in the Grammy game this year. But he will likely take little pleasure in his six nods, since his offbeat album “808s and Heartbreak” was snubbed in the album, record and song of the year categories.

West has taken home a dozen Grammy trophies since 2005, but he has consistently fallen short in the major categories, including album of the year (with three previous nominations) — no doubt to some degree because of his tendency to shoot from the lip.

Some sentimental choices and Grammy favorites are conspicuously absent from the four main categories.

Whitney Houston’s much-trumpeted comeback album “I Look to You” was released by Arista Records on Aug. 31 to make the pushed-back deadline for nomination eligibility, but found no favor. Neither did U2’s “No Line on the Horizon”; despite 22 Grammys to their credit, the Irish band could only muster support in the rock categories.

On the film and TV front, sets competing for best compilation soundtrack album include “Cadillac Records” (a recent Beyonce film vehicle), “Inglourious Basterds,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “True Blood” and “Twilight.”

Up for best score soundtrack album are “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (composed by Alexander Desplat), “Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince” (Nicholas Hooper), “Milk” (Danny Elfman), “Star Trek” (Michael Giacchino) and “Up” (Giacchino).

Tagged for best song written for a motion picture, TV or other visual media are “The Climb” (from “Hannah Montana: The Movie”), “Decode” (from “Twilight”), “Jai Ho” (from “Slumdog Millionaire”), “Once in a Lifetime” (from “Cadillac Records”) and Bruce Springsteen’s title song for “The Wrestler.”

Legit tuners nominated for best musical show album are “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” “Hair,” “9 to 5 The Musical,” “Shrek the Musical” and “West Side Story.”

Winners in 109 Grammy categories, voted on by members of the Recording Academy, will be announced Jan. 31. CBS will telecast the ceremony from L.A.’s Staples Center.

SONG OF THE YEAR
Beyonce – “Single Ladies”
Lady Gaga – “Poker Face”
Maxwell – “Pretty Wings”
Kings of Leon – “Use Somebody”
Taylor Swift – “You Belong With Me.”

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Beyonce – “I Am … Sasha Fierce”
Black Eyed Peas’ “The E.N.D.”
Lady Gaga – “The Fame”
Taylor Swift – “Fearless”
Dave Matthews Band – “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King.”

RECORD OF THE YEAR
Beyonce – “Halo”
Black Eyes Peas – “I Gotta Feeling”
Kings of Leon – “Use Somebody”
Lady Gaga – “Poker Face”
Taylor Swift – “You Belong With Me”

BEST COUNTRY PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP WITH VOCALS
Brooks & Dunn – “Cowgirls Don’t Cry”
Zac Brown Band – “Chicken Fried”
Lady Antebellum – “I Run To You”
Rascal Flatts “Here Comes Goodbye”
Sugarland – “It Happens”

BEST RAP SOLO PERFORMANCE
Drake – “Best I Ever Had”
Eminem – “Beautiful”
Jay-Z – “D.O.A. (Death of Auto-Tune)”
Kid Cudi – “Day ‘N’ Nite”
Mos Def – “Casa Bey.”

BEST ROCK ALBUM
AC/DC – “Black Ice”
Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood – “Life from Madison Square Garden”
Green Day – “21st Century Breakdown”
Dave Matthews Band – “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King”
U2 – “No Line on the Horizon.”

BEST POP PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP WITH VOCALS
Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling”
Bon Jovi – “We Weren’t Born to Follow”
The Fray – “Never Say Never”
Daryl Hall and John Oates’ “Sara Smile”
MGMT – “Kids”

BEST NEW ARTIST
Zac Brown Band
Keri Hilson
MGMT
Silversun Pickups
The Ting Tings

BEST FEMALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE
Adele – “Hometown Glory”
Beyonce – “Halo”
Katy Perry – “Hot N Cold”
Pink – “Sober”
Taylor Swift – “You Belong With Me”

BEST MALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE
John Legend – “This Time”
Maxwell – “Love You”
Jason Mraz – “Make It Mine”
Seal – “If You Don’t Know Me By Now”

For the complete list in PDF form, photos/_storypics/grammys_2011.pdf’>click here.

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