It's phase two of the youth movement at the Grammys. With blockbuster albums like Adele's and Taylor Swift's falling outside of Grammy eligibility, the Recording Academy bestowed multiple nominations on acts in the early stages of their careers for the 55th Grammy Awards, rather than legends in the twilight years. Fun., Frank Ocean, Mumford & Sons, Gotye and Ed Sheeran are strong contenders in the song, album and record categories; the "veterans" in this case are artists such as Jack White, Black Keys and the woman still referred to as an "American Idol" winner, Kelly Clarkson.
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Six acts received six nominations at last night's live ceremony -- Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, fun., Jay-Z, Mumford & Sons, Ocean and Kanye West -- and another 21 acts received at least three. When the headlines are written after the Feb. 10 ceremony, however, the focus probably will be on the select group of 13 artists in the big four categories. It gives telecast producer Ken Ehrlich an opportunity to give prime-time-watching America its first taste of a healthy number of acts whose TV exposure has been limited to late night or cable. The show's challenge, coming off the 2012 show's multiple storylines and stratospheric ratings in the wake of Whitney Houston's tragic death the night before the show, will be in mixing the known names with the young acts to attract viewers in the early going.
One of those acts would be fun., who are nominated in all four major categories, giving them the opportunity to commandeer a sweep that has only happened once before, when Christopher Cross did it in the early 1980s. Ocean is the running for album, record and new artist; the Black Keys are in for album and record; "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" could win record for Clarkson and song for its writers. Taylor Swift, Gotye and Carly Rae Jepsen are among the others in the youth brigade.
At times over the years, the special committees who have made the selections in the general categories have seemed to be working to ensure that all genres have some representation, and that a balance is struck between the popular and the popular-in-its-genre. Those rules have gone out the window in favor of a lineup in the album category -- Black Keys, Frank Ocean, Mumford, Jack White and fun. -- that could have been taken from fake flyer for next year's Coachella festival. The record category includes two smashes that penetrated mainstream culture - the 6.8 million-seller Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" and fun.'s "We are Young" with 6 million sold - a current hit from one of the country's biggest stars (Swift's "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together") and a breakthrough that had the Internet buzzing for a month (Ocean's "Thinkin Bout You").
Best New Artist candidates have the usual genre mix of pop, rock, country, R&B and an act that straddles a couple of areas. Take fun. out of the mix and the quartet is united by artists with rootsy approaches to their music -- Alabama Shakes, Ocean, Hunter Hayes and the Lumineers all connect with storied periods of their particular style.
There were several veteran artists with high-profile projects whose names were not called the night of Dec. 5 when the nominations were announced in Nashville. Lionel Richie, Madonna, the Beach Boys, Norah Jones, Whitney Houston's work on "Sparkle" and Linkin Park were among the snubs, as were high-profile young artists such as Ellie Goulding, Lana Del Rey and, perhaps most notably, Justin Bieber, who swept the American Music Awards last month. Bieber manager Scooter Braun went on a Twitter tirade assailing the Grammys for the snub in the hours after the ceremony.
From a distributors' standpoint, the nominations in the four major categories lean heavily toward the Warner Music Group labels; Sony/ATV, meanwhile, has a piece of three of the song of the year nominees.
Four categories wound up with only three nominations, owing to last year's rule that category needs at least 40 entries to fill all five slots. Traditional pop music, urban contemporary album, large jazz ensemble album and classical compendium received between 25 and 39 entries; the classical and urban categories are new this year.
While the young'uns are getting the spotlight, the veterans fill many of the genre slots -- Black Keys and Jack White are up against Bruce Springsteen in three of the rock categories; Mumford & Sons and Coldplay have two rock nominations each.
Veteran Nas is nominated in all four rap categories, Drake and 2 Chainz in three of them. Jay-Z and Kanye West are nominated twice in two rap categories, so the most either could win is four awards. Jazz pianist Chick Corea, too, is nominated twice in two categories. Marvin Sapp and Mark Hall of Casting Crowns have three nominations each in gospel categories.