The Top Independent Artist Nominees
Nominations: record of the year ("Holocene"), song of the year ("Holocene"), best new artist, best alternative music album (Bon Iver)
In perhaps the most surprising nomination this year, Bon Iver-the project of Eau Claire, Wis., native Justin Vernon and his ever-growing ensemble-landed a nod for best new artist (among others) despite the fact that he's worked with a variety of bands and on solo projects for more than a decade. The self-titled album is the second for Bon Iver and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, thanks to the sales success of the first record, For Emma, Forever Ago, and a guest appearance on Kanye West's "Monster." Despite the multiple nominations, Vernon has openly expressed indifference for the awards: A few days after the nominations concert, the New York Times published a 10-month-old interview, in which he called the Grammys "unimportant."
Mumford & Sons
Nominations: record of the year, song of the year, best rock performance, best rock song (all for "The Cave")
When they released their October 2009 debut album, Sigh No More, British indie-folkies Mumford & Sons became unlikely superstars nearly overnight. Among their successes: an 88-week reign on the Billboard 200 and two Grammy nominations last year for best new artist and best rock song (for "Little Lion Man"). The group didn't win either prize, but this year it pulled off a clever eligibility maneuver. The band earned four nominations with Sigh No More track "The Cave" by releasing it as a single in October 2010.
Nominations: best rock performance ("Lotus Flower"), best rock song ("Lotus Flower"), best alternative music album (The King of Limbs), best short form music video ("Lotus Flower")
Radiohead is no stranger to the Grammys. In the band's double-decade run, the seminal indie group has earned two best alternative music album awards and one best alternative music performance award, as well as 11 additional nominations-including three for album of the year-since 1998. This year, even as The King of Limbs elicited mixed reviews and failed to nab the No. 1 slot on the Billboard 200 when it came out in February, the record and single "Lotus Flower" still managed to impress by non-Radiohead standards. Donald Twain and Zachariah Wildwood, art directors for the deluxe edition of The King of Limbs, also earned a nod in the best boxed or special limited edition package category.
Nominations: best country solo performance ("Dirt Road Anthem"), best country duo/group performance ("Don't You Wanna Stay," with Kelly Clarkson), best country album (My Kinda Party)
Broken Bow Records
This country king owned 2011 with his November 2010 release My Kinda Party. The record has sold 2.1 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan, which earned him the No. 4 spot on Billboard's year-end Top Billboard 200 chart and No. 13 on the Top Artists ranking-the second-highest-ranking independent artist on both, behind Taylor Swift. He also earned two Country Music Assn. Awards and six American Country Awards in 2011.
Nominations: best improvised jazz solo ("All or Nothing at All"), best large jazz ensemble album (The Jazz Ballad Song Book, with DR Big Band), best instrumental composition ("I Talk to the Trees")
Four of trumpeter Randy Brecker's five Grammy wins have come in the contemporary jazz category, the other for large ensemble in 2006. Brecker recorded The Jazz Ballad Song Book with the Danish Radio Big Band and the Danish National Chamber Orchestra in Denmark. "I Talk to the Trees" is one of two Brecker compositions on the album, the other eight tracks being familiar themes like Arthur Altman's "All of Nothing at All," which has long been associated with Frank Sinatra.
Nominations: best R&B performance ("Not My Daddy," with Stokley Williams), best R&B song ("Not My Daddy"), best R&B album (Kelly)
My Block/Sang Girl/Malaco
Publishers: For the Write Price/Roynet
Kelly Price, who scored her first No. 1 R&B hit in 1998 with "Friend of Mine," returns to the Grammy derby this year with three nominations. It's the latest step in a comeback sparked last year by a Grammy nod for best female R&B vocal performance for "Tired." That track, as well as the currently nominated "Not My Daddy," appear on the singer/songwriter's first R&B album since 2003, Kelly. The set landed at No. 9 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
Nominations: best country solo performance ("Mean"), best country song ("Mean"), best country album (Speak Now)
Big Machine Records
Publishers: Sony/ATV Tree Publishing, Taylor Swift Music
Billboard's Woman of the Year and the top country artist of 2011, Taylor Swift's Speak Now was the No. 2 album of the year on the Billboard 200, selling 3.8 million units, according to Nielsen SoundScan, and No. 1 on the year-end Top Country Albums chart. "Mean" sold 1.2 million digital tracks, peaking at No. 2 on the Hot Country Songs chart and No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it spent 20 weeks. Swift won four awards at the 2009 ceremony including album of the year for Fearless.
Nominations: best dance recording ("Raise Your Weapon," with Greta Svabo Bech), best dance/electronica album (4X4=12)
Released in December 2010, 4x4=12 from Canadian electro house producer/DJ Joel Thomas Zimmerman, who performs and records under the name Deadmau5, marked his debut on the Billboard 200. The set spent 42 weeks on the chart and peaked at No. 47. (It debuted at No. 2 on the Dance/Electronic Albums chart as well.) In addition to the above nominations, Deadmau5 is up for best remixed recording, non-classical for Foo Fighters' "Rope" (RCA/Roswell Records). It's Deadmau5's second remix nod-his remix of Morgan Page's "The Longest Road," featuring Lissie, was a 2009 nominee.
The Civil Wars
Nominations: best folk album (Barton Hollow), best country duo/group performance ("Barton Hollow")
Guitarist/singer John Paul White and singer Joy Williams attended the Grammy nominations concert in Los Angeles and walked away a bit overwhelmed. "I'm most proud that we did things our way-made the record we wanted to do, toured the way we wanted," White said backstage, offering considerable gratitude to Taylor Swift for tweeting to her fans about the Nashville-based duo. Selling 216,000 copies (according to Nielsen SoundScan) of Barton Hollow and hitting No. 12 on the Billboard 200, White said, "shows the power of word-of-mouth."
Nominations: best improvised jazz solo ("500 Miles High"), best jazz instrumental album (Forever, as part of Corea, Clarke & White)
Forever, a two-CD live album recorded in 2009 that peaked at No. 4 on Billboard's Jazz Albums chart, showcases pianist Chick Corea, bassist Stanley Clarke and drummer Lenny White working through Corea's originals, a few standards and songs they recorded as Return to Forever. One of the RTF tracks, "500 Miles High," dates back to the first RTF album, Light As a Feather (1972). Corea has won 16 Grammys; Clarke and White have two each.
Nominations: best instrumental composition ("Timeline"), best jazz instrumental album (Timeline, as part of Yellowjackets)
Mack Avenue Records
Timeline peaked at No. 5 on Billboard's Jazz Albums chart when it was released in March. Since the fusion ensemble's self-titled debut in 1981, Ferrante (the band's songwriter and pianist) and crew have racked up nominations for nearly all of their 21 studio albums, winning the awards for best R&B instrumental performance (orchestra, group or soloist) and best jazz fusion performance in 1986 and 1988, respectively.
Nominations: best instrumental composition ("Hunting Wabbits 3 [Get Off My Lawn]"), best instrumental arrangement ("Rhapsody in Blue")
Gordon Goodwin is a five-time Grammy nominee and winner of the 2005 statuette for best instrumental arrangement for "The Incredits" (from the soundtrack to "The Incredibles"). Also a three-time Emmy Award winner, the multitasker-saxophonist, pianist, composer and arranger-and his 18-piece Big Phat Band energetically wind their way through the group's latest album, That's How We Roll. The 10-song set features nine Goodwin-penned originals and a cover of the Gershwin gem "Rhapsody in Blue."
Nominations: best improvised jazz solo ("Work"), best jazz instrumental album (Alone at the Vanguard)
A pianist known largely for his sensitive solo and trio recordings, Fred Hersch performed his second solo engagement at New York's Village Vanguard nightclub in late 2010. Alone at the Vanguard, recorded during the last set of his engagement, hit No. 28 on Billboard's Jazz Albums chart. The Jazz Journalists Assn. named him jazz pianist of the year in 2011.
Nominations: best contemporary classical composition (Mackey: Lonely Motel-Music From Slide), best small ensemble performance (Mackey: Lonely Motel-Music From Slide, with Rinde Eckert and Eighth Blackbird)
A Princeton music professor, composer and guitarist, Steven Mackey received his first Grammy nominations for the 2010 release Dreamhouse, a piece commissioned for the Holland Festival in 2003 and recorded by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. Mackey: Lonely Motel-Music From Slide is a cycle of 11 Mackey compositions recorded with singer Rinde Eckert and new-music sextet Eighth Blackbird.
Nominations: best album notes (The Bristol Sessions, 1927-1928: The Big Bang of Country Music, with Tony Russell), best historical album (The Bristol Sessions, 1927-1928: The Big Bang of Country Music)
The five-disc compilation for which Olson is nominated catalogs what he calls "one of the watershed moments in American cultural history." The set contains more than 120 tracks by artists like Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family laid down in 1927-28 in Bristol, Tenn.
Patrick Dupré Quigley
Nominations: best choral performance (Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, Op. 45), best small ensemble performance (A Seraphic Fire Christmas, with Seraphic Fire)
Seraphic Fire Media
Patrick Dupré Quigley is the founding artistic director of Seraphic Fire, a Miami-based vocal ensemble dedicated to underperformed music with cultural significance. Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem, the group's eighth album since forming in 2002, was its first to chart on Billboard's Traditional Classical Albums chart, peaking at No. 7. Seraphic Fire also appeared on Shakira's 2005 album Oral Fixation Vol. 2.
Nominations: best album notes and best historical album (both for Syl Johnson: Complete Mythology)
The Numero Group
As co-founder of the Numero Group, Ken Shipley has spent the past eight years running the archival label, which specializes in reissuing lost soul records from the '60s and '70s. Shipley's two nominations for his work on Syl Johnson: Complete Mythology mark the second and third nominations for the label. Numero's 2009 release Light: On the South Side was nominated for best boxed or special limited edition package.
Nominations: best jazz vocal album (American Road), best instrumental arrangement accompanying vocalist(s) ("On Broadway")
This marks the fourth time Tierney Sutton has been up for best jazz vocal album. The Los Angeles-based vocalist is also up for best instrumental arrangement accompanying vocalist(s) for her eponymous band's work on Lieber & Stoller's "On Broadway." American Road features a trio of Gershwin ballads from "Porgy & Bess" ("My Man's Gone Now," "It Ain't Necessarily So" and "Summertime") as well as lesser-known standards like Harold Arlen's "The Eagle and Me."
Nominations: best opera recording (Britten: Billy Budd and Verdi: La Traviata)
A composer known for his choral works and music for film and TV, James Whitbourn has produced music since studying at Oxford University's Magdalen College. Other recordings of Britten's "Billy Budd" and Verdi's "La Traviata" have earned Grammys: Daniel Harding's version of "Budd," featuring Nathan Gunn and Gidon Saks, was named best opera recording at the 2009 ceremony, while James Levine's version of Verdi's opera with Placido Domingo and Teresa Stratas won in 1983.
Reporting by Phil Gallo, Andrew Hampp, Devon Maloney, Benjamin Meadows-Ingram and Gail Mitchell.