Superstar Taylor Swift crowded the top categories in the nominations for the 58th Grammy Awards, but the presence of newcomers and wild cards could make for an interesting race leading up to the Feb. 15 ceremony.
Named in 11 categories, California rapper Kendrick Lamar grabbed the most mentions overall while Swift and the Weeknd both reaped seven nods in the nominations unveiled early Monday by the Recording Academy.
Album of the year nominees are Swift’s late-2014 blockbuster “1989,” Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” the Weeknd’s “Beauty Behind the Madness,” Alabama Shakes’ “Sound & Color” and Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller.”
Record of the year nods (which acknowledge artists and producers) went to Swift’s “Blank Space,” D’Angelo and the Vanguard’s “Really Love,” Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” the Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars.
Tabbed in the song of the year category (honoring writers) were Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” (by Lamar, Mark Anthony Spears and Pharrell Williams), “Blank Space” (by Swift, Shellback and Max Martin), Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” (by Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose), Wiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” (by Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charlie Puth and Cameron Thomaz) and Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” (by Sheeran and Amy Wadge).
Competing as best new artist are a quintet of neophyte singer-songwriters: Aussie Courtney Barnett, country act Sam Hunt, Brit James Bay, Massachusetts-born Meghan Trainor and California-bred Tori Kelly.
It was unlikely that Swift, who predictably dominated the pop vocal categories, would be denied in the major categories and the pop slots. Released in October 2014, “1989,” the vocalist’s first full-fledged pop effort, made the biggest-selling chart debut in a dozen years, with a first-week score of nearly 1.29 million. (That number has since been dwarfed by Adele’s record-leveling 3.48 million-unit cumulative bow with “25.”)
Swift’s set, issued after the cut-off date for 2015 Grammy nominations, spent 11 weeks at No. 1 and nearly a year in the top 10. It rang up five hit singles, including the lead-off “Shake It Off,” which garnered three 2015 noms but came up empty. The album prefaced a sold-out U.S. tour and foreign dates.
A seven-time Grammy winner, Swift carted home album of the year honors for “Fearless” in 2010.
Lamar has himself been a beneficiary of Swift’s star power, as a collaborator on her No. 1 single “Bad Blood,” included on “1989.” The widely-heralded Compton-born rapper’s sophomore set “To Pimp a Butterfly” followed up his smash 2012 debut “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City,” which brought him Grammy nods for album of the year and best new artist; the track “I” collected a pair of trophies in rap categories during the 2015 awards show.
Toronto-born R&B-rap fusioneer the Weeknd (born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye) made his mark in both pop and R&B categories. He notched his first No. 1 title in the U.S. this year with “Beauty Behind the Madness,” which succeeded his No. 2 full-length bow “Kiss Land” (2013). “Can’t Feel My Face” was drawn from his August release, and both singles reached No. 1 in the U.S. He captured his only previous nod, for “Remember You,” a collaboration with Wiz Khalifa, two years ago.
Newly minted star Stapleton has proved to be the year’s major dark horse. The former lead singer of the bluegrass act the SteelDrivers and writer of hits for such artists as Dierks Bentley and Luke Bryan, he broke through in his own right with his solo debut “Traveller.” The album found instant favor with Americana-leaning listeners, but was also viewed in some quarters as an earnest and earthy antidote to so-called “bro country” acts. After he grabbed three major honors at the Country Music Assn. Awards in early November, the collection rocketed to No. 1 on the pop albums chart.
Critics favorite Alabama Shakes could finally make a Grammy impact in 2016. The rock band fronted by dynamic lead singer Brittany Howard reaped three nominations, including one as best new artist, behind its 2012 debut “Boys and Girls,” but to date has come up empty at the podium.
Shaking off the classic rock orientation of recent years, the Grammy rock categories and alternative slot sported entries by Alabama Shakes, new artist nominee Bay, Death Cab For Cutie, Highly Suspect, Muse and Tame Impala.
Tabbed in the best compilation soundtrack for visual media category were “Empire: Season 1,” “Fifty Shades of Grey,” “Glenn Campbell: I’ll Be Me,” “Pitch Perfect 2” and “Selma.”
Nominated for best score soundtrack (a composer’s award) were “Birdman” (Antonio Sanchez), “The Imitation Game” (Alexandre Desplat), “Interstellar” (Hans Zimmer), “The Theory of Everything” (Johann Johannsson) and “Whiplash” (Justin Hurwitz).
Nominees for best song written for visual media included “Earned It” from “Fifty Shades of Grey” (written by Ahmad Balshe, Stephan Moccio, Jason Quenneville and Abel Tesfaye), “Glory” from “Selma” (Lonnie Lynn, Che Smith and John Stephens), “Love Me Like You Do” from “Fifty Shades of Grey” (Savan Kotecha, Max Martin, Tove Nilsson, Ali Payami and Ilya Salmanzadeh), “See You Again” from “Furious 7 (Andrew Cedar, Justin franks, Charles Puth and Cameron Thomasz) and “Til It Happens to You” from “The Hunting Ground” (Lady Gaga and Diane Warren).
The best musical theater album nods went to “An American in Paris,” “Fun Home,” “Hamilton,” “The King and I” and “Something Rotten.”
Named in the newly-minted category of best music film were “Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown,” perennial Grammy fave Dave Grohl’s “Sonic Highways,” the Nina Simone doc “What Happened, Miss Simone?,” Roger Waters’ concert pic “The Wall” and the Amy Winehouse feature “Amy.”
Non-classical producer of the year nominees were Jeff Bhasker, Dave Cobb, Diplo, Larry Klein and Blake Mills.
In a refreshing reversal of last year’s contorted Twitter-centric revelation of nominations in the non-general categories via a morning-long trickle of celebrity videos on the social media site, the Recording Academy dropped the noms in an early-a.m. announcement to media outlets.
CBS, which will again telecast the live awards ceremony from Los Angeles’ Staples Center, eschewed a nomination-linked Yuletide special this year in lieu of Sunday’s “Sinatra 100” salute special on CBS. Alicia Keys was tapped to reveal nominees in the top four categories on “CBS This Morning.” Last year, album of the year candidates were unveiled on the evening special “A Very Grammy Christmas.”