Grammy nominations: Eminem leads with 10, Bruno Mars has 7, and Cee-Lo? Forget it
The beleaguered record industry couldn’t have been happier about the return to the spotlight in 2010 of rapper Eminem, the biggest-selling artist of the new millennium, and heaped upon him a field-leading 10 Grammy Award nominations for his “Recovery” album, including nods in all three top categories of album, record and song of the year.
Although it was widely expected that Eminem would do well in this year’s Grammy competition, Hawaiian-born producer-singer-songwriter-multi-instrumentalist Bruno Mars caught many by surprise as runner-up to Eminem with seven nominations, announced Wednesday in conjunction with a televised Grammy nomination concert from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.
Mars is competing with himself in the record of the year category for his production and vocals on rapper B.o.B’s “Nothin’ on You,” and as one of the producers of R&B-soul singer Cee-Lo Green’s broadcast-confounding hit single “… You.”
Given that each record of the year nominee is traditionally performed live on the awards telecast, which will be held Feb. 13 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, Grammy ceremony producers will have a challenge in how to present a song on national television in which the profanity is not simply a casual toss-off that’s easily excised, but central to the song’s message from a guy to the girl who has dumped him. Expectations are that Green will perform the PG-rated “Forget You” version that allowed many radio stations to play it during the year.
Wednesday’s telecast skirted the issue by listing only the names of the artists who recorded the nominated songs, not the titles. When presenters Dave Grohl and Selena Gomez announced the titles, Gomez referred to it as “the song otherwise known as ‘Forget You.'”
Eminem and Lady A are vying in the album category with Lady Gaga’s “The Fame Monster,” Katy Perry’s frothy “Teenage Dream” and the latest critically acclaimed effort from Canadian indie rock group Arcade Fire, “The Suburbs.” Eminem also got nominations for pop vocal collaboration, short-form music video and every rap category in which he was eligible: rap solo performance, rap-sung collaboration, rap album and twice for rap song.
Green’s profanity-laced send-off also is up for song of the year, which is strictly a songwriter’s award, along with the Lady Antebellum hit written by Dave Haywood, Josy Kear, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott; Alexander Grant, Holly Hafferman and Marshall Mathers’ “Love The Way You Lie”; Ray LaMontagne’s “Beg Steal or Borrow”; and Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin’s “The House That Built Me,” a hit for Texas firebrand Miranda Lambert, who landed three nominations of her own in country categories.
Lambert got humorously political in choosing “Only Prettier” for her performance segment, in which she sang, “Let’s shake hands and reach across those party lines.… We might think differently, but we got a lot in common you will see/We’re just like you, only prettier.”
Teen idol Justin Bieber shares space in the new artist category with Canadian rapper Drake, Portland, Ore.-born jazz-pop musican Esperanza Spalding and a pair of English groups, Florence & the Machine and rock quartet Mumford & Sons.
“I can’t believe I’m in this position … I don’t know what to say,” Bieber told show host LL Cool J after the new-artist nominees were named. “It feels good.”
There are a bounty of multiple nominees this year, with Jay-Z, Lady Gaga and Lady Antebellum scoring six each, and five apiece to rapper B.o.B., classical producer David Frost, English guitar hero Jeff Beck , R&B-soul singer-songwriter John Legend and songwriter-producer Philip Lawrence.
Some were surprised that Southern California’s Katy Perry made it into one of the marquee categories not for her summer-dominating hit single “California Gurls,” which would have set up an East-West rivalry with Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” in the record of the year competition, but instead in the best-album field with her critically drubbed “Teenage Dream,” which scored a 52 out of a possible 100 on the review aggregate website Metacritic.com.
"It's amazing," Perry said during the telecast. "It’s like no other award shows, because I feel like you’re being recognized by your peers. Being nominated is kind of like a win, but if I win, I’ll take that.”
Arcade Fire’s album has received the highest marks from critics among the category’s nominees, with an average score of 86, compared to a 77 for Lady Gaga’s “The Fame Monster,” 63 for “Need You Now” and a 62 for “Recovery.”
This year’s nominations raise the question of the continued impact of “American Idol,” as none of the show's winners were in the top four fields. Adam Lambert did snag a nod in the male pop vocal performance category for the track “Whataya Want From Me” from his debut album “For Your Entertainment.”
TV's newest music-focused hit show, “Glee,” made its debut in Grammyland with two nominations: in the duo or group pop vocal category for the Glee cast’s version of Journey’s hit “Don’t Stop Believin’,” and in best compilation soundtrack album for “Glee: The Music, Volume 1.”
Not surprisingly, “Britain’s Got Talent” phenom Susan Boyle collected another jewel in the crown of her fairytale success story with a nomination for pop vocal album, a category in which she’s up against Bieber, Perry, Lady Gaga and John Mayer.
Bay Area punk band Green Day is nominated, but not in the alternative music category. Instead, the cast album for the Broadway production of “American Idiot” is in the running for musical show album along with the Afro-pop-centric “Fela!,” “Promises, Promises" and two Stephen Sondheim shows, “A Little Night Music” and “Sondheim on Sondheim.”
Grammys are awarded for recordings released during the eligibility period between Sept. 1, 2009, and Sept. 30, 2010, and are decided on by about 12,000 voting members of the Recording Academy.
[Updated] "I'm still kind of soaking it all in," Mars said backstage Wednesday. "It's just been a hell of a year. We record these songs in this little shabby studio, and here we are with nominations. It's just surreal."
-- Randy Lewis
Photo: Eminem / Associated Press