Southern rapper Lil Wayne, whose “Tha Carter III” is the biggest-selling album released this year, received eight Grammy nominations Wednesday night to lead the field in the 51st annual Grammy Awards.
For the first time ever, the Recording Academy announced the nominations during a nighttime concert event that was aired on CBS.
The concert, which featured past Grammy winners and Taylor Swift performing songs inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, featured the announcement of five categories.
The awards, given in 110 categories, will be handed out Feb. 8 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Hip-hop and rock were well represented among the those who received multiple noms. Coldplay pulled in seven, Jay-Z, Ne-Yo and Kanye West had six each and Alison Krauss, John Mayer, Robert Plant, Radiohead and Jazmine Sullivan snared five apiece. Adele, Danger Mouse, the Eagles, Lupe Fiasco, George Strait, and T.I. each received four.
Coldplay and Adele are the only acts nominated in three of the top categories. Coldplay, the only contender in the top four that has won a major Grammy previously, will be vying for album, record and song of the year; Adele is up for new artist, record and song.
Lil Wayne, whose “Tha Carter III” is up for album of the year, is also nominated for rap/sung collaboration, rap album, rap solo, two times for rap song and twice for rap performance by a duo or a group.
The song and record categories rewarded tracks that have shown themselves to have legs rather than tracks released late in the eligibility period that ended Sept. 30. A common strategy in recent years, which has paid off for Alicia Keys and U2, is to release a single at the tail end of the eligibility period and an album at the start of the next one.
In fact, Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida” is the only contender for record of the year that appears on an album released after the spring. It’s up against two songs that built an audience over the course of the year, M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” and Adele’s “Chasing Pavements”; iTunes’ top-selling track of 2008, Leona Lewis’ “Bleeding Love”; and a cut from a 14-month old album, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ “Please Read the Letter.”
Two of the year’s hottest tracks on radio, Estelle’s “American Boy” and Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song,” go up against “Viva La Vida,” Adele’s “Chasing Pavements” and Jason Mraz’s “I’m Yours” for the song trophy.
Four of the album of the year contenders were among the most discussed albums of 2008. Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” raised a ruckus when it was self-released by the band, initially online in a “pay-what-you-want” format; “Tha Carter III” is the only album to top the 1 million sold mark in a week this year; and “Viva la Vida” is the most downloaded album in 2008. The Plant-Krauss collaboration, “Raising Sand,” saw its profile blossom this year after scoring well with critics after its October 2007 release and an extensive tour that went through most of the year.
All the nominated albums have sold more than 1 million copies except for Ne-Yo’s “Year of the Gentleman,” which has moved 650,000 since its June 24 release.
New artist category features the teen idols the Jonas Brothers, whose third album was released during the eligibility period, contending with the young British thrushes, Adele and Duffy, the country trio Lady Antebellum and soul singer Jazmine Sullivan.
Adele and Duffy are among the class of British hitmakers who arrived Stateside with U.K. No. 1s under their belts. And both had to fight through comparisons to Amy Winehouse to get their specific belnds of ’60s-style pop and soul heard on their own merits. Both artists have received extensive support from their labels — Duffy from Mercury, Adele is on Columbia — but it was a luck of the draw that recently put Adele in the spotlight; she was the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” on the seg that featured VP candidate Sarah Palin.
That appearance breathed new life into her album “19,” which now has a cume of 240,000.
Like most Grammy kudocasts it had its moments but was not a complete success.
The hourlong telecast attempted to combine contempo stars, vintage material and alert viewers to the opening of the Grammy Museum.
Taylor Swift, the 18-year-old country sensation, and LL Cool J were hosts that did not appear entirely comfortable. John Mayer, on the other hand, seems like a natural.
Foo Fighters’ aggressive performance of Carly Simon’s “You’re So Vain” received the biggest ovation inside the Nokia Theater and head Foo Dave Grohl provided the night’s only light-hearted moments with his slightly goofy readings of nominees in a pop and a country category.
But he cracked a joke about a “Nudie suit,” referring to the late North Hollywood tailor who designed colorful sequined outfits for country stars, that soared over the heads of the assembled crowd.
Mariah Carey, who received no noms for her “E=MC2” album, opened the evening a bit stiffly, singing the Phil Spector-produced Darlene Love classic “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home).” Celine Dion did a letter-perfect reading of Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen” that, due to the gentleness of the ballad, served as a reminder of why so many Grammy telecasts in the ’70s were rather yawn-inducing.
Christina Aguilera tried to fill the biggest shoes, singing the Gershwins’ “I Loves You Porgy” as a tribute to Nina Simone. Backed by a jazz quartet, Aguilera displayed impressive control through the bulk of the perf, showing off the range of her pipes only at the song’s conclusion.
After the show Recording Academy president and CEO Neil Portnow said it’s too early to say whether the Academy and CBS will do an encore.
“We think it has great potential,” he said. “We’ll go back and evaluate. Right now it feels pretty good.”