Grammys Big 4: A Tip Sheet for the Top Categories
When it comes to Grammy categories, all eyes are especially keen on Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. Here, Billboard takes a deeper look at this year's field. And the nominees are.... artists that have been making undeniable, head-turning music. Read on.
Album of the Year
In the company of former winners like Sinatra, Wonder and McCartney -- the best of the best.
Born This Way
Doo-Wops & Hooligans
Photo Credits (from top): lauren dukoff; steve gullick; Mariano Vivanco; sebastian kim; universal music group
Record of the Year
The records that captured the imaginations of us all.
"Rolling in the Deep"
Photo Credits (from top): lauren dukoff; d.i. anderson; sebastian kim; rebecca miller; lauren dukoff
Song of the Year
Lyrical achievement. The power and truth of a beautiful song.
|"All of the Lights"|
Songwriters: Jeff Bhasker, Stacy Ferguson, Malik Jones, Warren Trotter, Kanye West
One of the longest songs from Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was also one of its biggest-Rihanna sings the chorus and Kid Cudi and Fergie drop guest verses while Alicia Keys and La Roux's Elly Jackson harmonize between Kanye's raps. This is West's third song of the year nomination, following previous nods for "Jesus Walks" in 2005 and for his guest rap on Estelle's "American Boy" in 2009. "All of the Lights" peaked at No. 2 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Songwriters: Ted Dwane, Ben Lovett, Marcus Mumford, Country Winston
Also up for record of the year (as well as best rock song and best rock performance), "The Cave" became Mumford & Sons' second single to chart in the United States following "Little Lion Man." An anthemic song with uplifting lyrics ("And I'll find strength in pain/And I will change my ways"), "The Cave" has sold more than 1 million digital tracks, according to Nielsen SoundScan. This is the band's first song of the year nomination.
Songwriters: Brody Brown, Claude Kelly, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Bruno Mars, Andrew Wyatt
Bruno Mars went to intense lengths to declare his unrequited devotion to a lady in "Grenade," offering to catch one of the title explosives on her behalf and even take a bullet to his brain. The hard-hitting lyrics caught on among pop and R&B fans alike, sending the song to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 as well as such lists as the Hot Digital Songs and Mainstream Top 40 charts. This is Mars' second song of the year nomination, having been previously nominated as a co-writer of Cee Lo Green's "F**k You" last year.
| Songwriter: Justin Vernon |
Performer: Bon Iver From: Bon Iver
Publisher: April Base Publishing
Bon Iver's self-titled second album documents moments in singer Justin Vernon's life during the band's 2010 U.S. tour. "Holocene" finds Vernon on the icy streets of Chicago, calling an old friend in Milwaukee. Although "Calgary" was the first single released from the album, "Holocene" scored the major nominations thanks to a bittersweet atmosphere and cinematic music video. This is Bon Iver's first nomination in this category, and one of four that the budding folk act received for its second album.
|"Rolling In The Deep"|
| Songwriters: Adele Adkins, Paul Epworth |
Performer: Adele From: 21
Publishers: Universal-Songs of PolyGram/EMI Music Publishing
Label: XL Recordings/Columbia Records
"There's a fire starting in my heart/Reaching a fever pitch/It's bringing me out the dark." Those lyrics are etched in many a radio programmer's memory this year as the song became Billboard's biggest crossover hit of the past 25 years. In addition to topping the Billboard Hot 100 and pop charts, the song appeared on Hot Latin Songs and Triple A, among others. This is Adele's second song of the year nomination, following 2010's "Chasing Pavements."
Best New Artist
They're from country, hip-hop, indie folk and electronic dance music -- this year's new kids on the block.
| The Band Perry |
The Band Perry has quietly become one of country's biggest breakouts and pop crossovers in recent years, with its self-titled debut album peaking at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and selling approximately 1 million copies after more than a year on the Billboard 200, according to Nielsen SoundScan. The single "If I Die Young" has also been a juggernaut on the Billboard Hot 100, with more than a year on the chart and sales of 3.5 million downloads despite the song peaking at No. 14.
While not exactly new to the indie music circuit after his acclaimed 2008 debut, For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver's breakout year (in which he became a group) was buoyed by singer Justin Vernon's appearance on Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The crossover appeal trickled down to the act's second album, Bon Iver, which found Vernon dabbling in other genres that stretched beyond his mostly acoustic brand of folk-pop. The self-titled sophomore set debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and has sold 325,000 copies to date, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
Debuting just before the Grammy nomination cutoff, J. Cole's Cole World: The Sideline Story entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1 in October with sales of 217,000 copies. The album was preceded by a series of mixtapes from the North Carolina rapper as well as a popular weekly online feature, "Any Given Sunday," in which Cole debuts new songs. Cole was also nominated for best new artist at the 2011 BET Awards.
Billboard's 2011 Rising Star had a packed year that included two top 10 Hot 100 singles and a No. 1 album with Pink Friday. The latter accomplished the rare feat of reaching the No. 1 spot two months after its release. Minaj's single "Super Bass" also reached No. 3 on the Hot 100-the highest-charting song by a solo female rapper since Missy Elliott's "Work It" in 2003.
Perhaps the least well-known on the pop circuit among this year's best new artist nominees, electronic/dubstep DJ Skrillex has quickly made a name for himself on the dance scene, where he can regularly play to a few thousand people. His debut EP, Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, ranked in the upper reaches of Billboard's Dance/Electronic Albums chart for the better part of 2011. It also helped the DJ book high-profile gigs on MTV and at South by Southwest, as well as a new collaboration with members of the Doors for an upcoming Hyundai campaign.