2015 Grammy Nominations: Old Standbys Dominate Rock & Alternative

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Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney of the Black Keys accept Best Rock Performance for 'Lonely Boy' onstage at the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.

The year was 2014, and nothing -- not even some silly old rules -- could stop U2 from getting a Grammy nomination.

The nominations for Feb. 8, 2015's 57th annual Grammy Awards are here, and industry-watchers are once again being reminded how much staying power some old standbys have in the eyes of the Academy. Bono and company received an awful lot of attention (much of it negative) for an album that only made the Sept. 30 cutoff date because of a last-minute, limited-edition vinyl release. And the wonkiness of the nomination process -- Jack White was perplexingly picked across genres for Best Rock Performance and Best Alternative Music Album -- again reared its head. Still, there were worthy picks and encouraging developments within the rock and alternative music nominations that arrived Friday morning (Dec. 5).

Head Here for Our Complete Coverage of the 2015 Grammys

All the major categories save for Album of the Year have been announced, and the obvious has been confirmed -- guitar music had a bad year. Or guitar music at least had a poor showing in the more visible part of the music industry that the Grammys account for. The Song of the Year and Record of the Year categories yielded only one rock nomination -- Hozier's sleeper hit "Take Me to Church," which has risen all the way to No. 3 on the Hot 100. But can anyone really complain? Where are the big rock snubs? It was a beat-driven Top 40 year, and these crucial categories reflect that.

Rock and alternative fared better in the Best New Artist category -- as they often do -- since mass appeal and high sales traditionally mean less there. Unfortunately for Haim and Bastille (and alt-leaning country singer Brandy Clark), this category figures to be a showdown between Sam Smith and Iggy Azalea, with all others on the outside looking in.

But seriously -- this is still a major honor for Bastille and especially Haim, since their breakout hasn't been validated through a no-questions-asked hit like "Pompeii." The sisterly trio can now prefix itself with "Grammy-nominated" after releasing a fantastic debut album in 2013, yet finding only modest success with its many singles. And for Bastille, after "Bad Blood" failed to follow the Hot 100 success of "Pompeii," the British group gains some extra validation in fending off the one-hit-wonder tag as it moves past its debut.

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It’s in the genre-specific categories where the Grammys begin to baffle. In Best Rock Album, the voting leans heavily on rock’s past, giving nods to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers' Hypnotic Eye and U2's Songs of Innocence. The latter dominated the music conversation for a chunk of 2014, but Songs of Innocence's nomination feels like an inside job, a prize simply for showing up and being U2. The album received generally mixed reviews and even worse -- when a band is forced to apologize for an album rollout, how can it be considered for such an honor?

And where is Jack White in the Rock Album category? The outspoken Third Man Records leader was nominated there in 2013 for Blunderbuss, and this year, received a nomination for Best Rock Song? Yet, 2014’s Lazaretto oddly appears in the Best Alternative Album field, raising questions about the consistency of the nomination process.

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Beck, Ryan Adams and The Black Keys are the common threads in the Rock Album and Rock Song categories, each getting a nomination in both. For the Black Keys, it’s par for the course. Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney won six Grammys as a band and figure to be frontrunners this time around. Beck’s moody, Sea Change-esque 2014 album Morning Phase seems like a better fit for alternative, but remains a worthy choice, especially for its standout single “Blue Moon.” And Ryan Adams? Well, someone needs to remind him that he can only lose to U2 in the Rock Album category.

Returning champs Arcade Fire come to play in the Alternative Album bracket, where they were oddly not nominated in 2011, despite winning Album of the Year for The Suburbs. Their main competition here appears to be Jack White, with alt-J, St. Vincent, and Cage the Elephant far behind in career Grammy cred. Don’t expect to see any “Who Is St. Vincent?” Tumblrs, at least not this year.


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