Big Boi and Alicia Keys are also left out, but Florence and the Machine and Ray LaMontagne get some much-deserved love.
By Gil Kaufman
What would the annual Grammy nominations announcement be without the next-day quarterbacking and bellyaching about who got dissed and who got just the right amount of Academy love?
While this year’s batch of contenders is mostly devoid of the WTF factor of past nomination seasons, when veteran acts such as Steely Dan, Robert Plant and Herbie Hancock sucked most of the air out of the room, there were still plenty of surprises, omissions and flat-out questionable choices to go around.
The one most people were buzzing about Thursday (December 2) was the blank delivered to Ke$ha, who earned a grand total of zero nominations for her debut, Animal, despite launching several hits and earning a major spot in the pop-culture universe in 2010. The snub was even more noticeable because one of her producers, Dr. Luke, was nominated in the producer category and four of the eight songs that earned him that spot were from Ke$ha’s debut.
We spoke to Entertainment Weekly music critic Leah Greenblatt about that oversight and many others in this year’s nominations. She said the Ke$ha situation was surprising, especially considering the love that the similarly poptastic Katy Perry got for Teenage Dream, which has sold well but, like Animal, was not critically adored upon release.
“But I think it’s really cool to see Florence [and the Machine] get that nomination [for Best New Artist], and I think it’s awesome that Esperanza Spalding also got nominated [in that category],” she said of the little-known jazz singer who likely sent many people to Google on Wednesday night.
Greenblatt was also excited that raspy-voiced singer Ray LaMontagne snagged a spot in the Song of the Year category for “Beg Steal or Borrow” and another in the Best Contemporary Folk Album category.
“As fogie-ish as the Grammys are, it seems like this year they went more towards a Teen Choice Awards direction with a noticeably younger group of nominees,” she said, wondering if it was a conscious decision to try and make the show hipper or if it’s a signal of the changing demographic of Grammy voters. “And I think Bruno Mars deserves all of his nominations,” she added about the singer/songwriter/producer who scored seven nods. “He only had one hit, but he really shaped popular music this year with the songs he did for Travie McCoy, B.o.B and Cee Lo. He brought so much musicality to R&B and pop. He’s making music and playing instruments and he’s insanely melodic. He’s not just jacking samples.”
As for how Eminem ended up with the most nominations at 10, she chalked it up to the “Sandra Bullock factor,” speculating that Grammy voters might have just thought it was Marshall Mathers’ time to shine again. “He’s not universally liked for his sparkling personality, but it seems like it’s his time,” she said of the rapper, who had the year’s best-selling album with Recovery and stormed back with some of the most melodic, accessible music of his decade-plus career. “It almost seemed like he was deemed safe enough for the Grammys this year … and the album is so incredibly commercial. It’s as safe as Eminem gets.”
As for who got left off, Greenblatt said she was surprised at the lack of “American Idol” names on the list, with season-eight winner Kris Allen getting shut out and that season’s runner-up, Adam Lambert, only getting a bid for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for “Whataya Want From Me.”
And for a song that was one of the best-selling singles of the year, it was surprising that Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister,” Grammy bait if there ever was, managed only one nod for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals — for a live version of the tune.
There were other glaring omissions to be sure: no love for rappers Rick Ross and Big Boi, just a pair of nominations for last year’s big winners Kings of Leon, a shutout for Lady Gaga’s smash “Bad Romance” in the Record and Song of the Year categories (it did show up in Best Female Pop Vocal Performance) as well as for B.o.B and Hayley Williams’ mega-hit “Airplanes,” which scored only a Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals acknowledgment.
Greenblatt was also disappointed that Alicia Keys’ The Element of Freedom got blanked, despite the handfuls of Grammys the singer has taken home in the past. And considering its major impact on the pop-culture landscape, “Glee” only got noticed in the Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media category and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals for “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which Greenblatt said may have had something to do with the fact that the songs on the show are covers and not original compositions.
In the end, though, she said this year’s Grammys were mostly devoid of the giant head-smacking omissions and inclusions of past years and with the strong recognition to a new generation of singers, another potential sign that the show might be inching in a new direction.
Which artists or albums do you think got too much (or not enough love) this year? Share your thoughts in the comments!
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