Grammy Hits And Misses: Ke$ha Shut Out, Bruno Mars Cleans Up

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

Photo: Kristian Dowling / PictureGroup

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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Ronald Isley, Anita Baker Honored At Soul Train Awards

Rihanna, Eminem, Usher, B.o.B, Alicia Keys among winners at event celebrating 40th anniversary of classic music show.
By Joel Hanek and Gil Kaufman

Anita Baker at the 2010 Soul Train Awards
Photo: Moses Robinson/ Getty Images

Only at the Soul Train Awards could you have a tribute to R&B icons such as Anita Baker and Ronald Isley alongside a segment in which rap legend Doug E. Fresh attempts to teach CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer how to do the Dougie.

It was that kind of night at the 2010 Soul Train Awards, as rookies, veterans and legends came together in Atlanta for the second annual event — which was taped November 10 and aired Sunday night on BET. The show, hosted once again by Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson, featured a night of performances from some of the biggest names in soul and R&B.

Host Howard told MTV News that the show is meant to be an extension of the long-running and legendary ’70s TV series that brought soul, disco, R&B and rap stars into viewers’ living rooms. “It reminds me of the advancement black people have made over the years because ‘Soul Train’ really was the beginning of that Black Power movement when we could actually see ourselves — and to have an awards show based upon that ‘Soul Train’ — it’s headed somewhere,” Howard said. “We have a black president now. The country seems to be more tolerant towards the diversity inside of it so it seems like the train is moving well down the tracks.”

The awards show marked the 40th anniversary of the classic music showcase hosted by Don Cornelius, and celebrated the careers of Baker and Isley, while handing out trophies to such contemporary stars as B.o.B (Song of the Year for “Nothing on You”), Melanie Fiona (Best New Artist), Eminem and Rihanna (Best Hip-Hop Song of the Year for “Love the Way You Lie”), Usher (Album of the Year for Raymond vs. Raymond) and Alicia Keys (Record of the Year for “Unthinkable [I’m Ready]” and Best Female R&B Soul Artist).

Though top winners such as Trey Songz, Usher, Ciara, Eminem and Rihanna were not in the house, Blitzer graciously agreed to accept Slim Shady’s award for him, joking, “Who better to accept this award on behalf of Eminem … I know he’s thrilled.”

Weaving through a series of skits involving magic tricks and jovial bickering by the hosts, the performance-heavy program delivered on talent. R. Kelly opened by teasing the crowd with his classic “Bump n’ Grind,” then diving into his new single “When a Woman Loves” — transforming the song from a slow jam into an all-out ’50s rock-and-roll epic. Ne-Yo kept the show moving with a showcase of his singles from this year, including “Champagne Life” and “One in a Million.”

The tribute to Baker featured an all-star cast, with artists like Chrisette Michele, Goapele, Lalah Hathaway, Dionne Farris, Kem, Tamia, Faith Evans and El DeBarge covering a medley of the singer’s greatest hits. Baker told the crowd that the biggest honor of the night for her was that real musicians were performing live with an actual band. “It’s amazing because you’ve got children behind you singing ‘Rapture’ — it’s lovely,” she said, adding, “Let’s do it again!”

Ronald Isley, co-founder and lead singer of the Isley Brothers, also received a special homage that featured Jeffrey Osborne, Freddy Jackson, DeBarge, Tank, Eric Benet, Bilal and Peabo Bryson. Isley also came out to perform his own medley of hits and was joined onstage by Chanté Moore and R. Kelly for a rendition of “Contagious,” their 2002 single that featured the Isleys. In addition, Cee Lo Green closed the show with a duet on the Isleys’ classic 1959 hit, “Shout.”

Among the event’s other highlights was Cee Lo’s performance of his smash “Forget You,” which took place on a golden stage that resembled a cross between Kanye’s Egyptian fusion and an OK Go video, and found the singer gliding down conveyor belts while belting his number.

Erykah Badu delivered a stripped-down version of her 2010 breakout “Window Seat” that featured the singer perched on the floor over a web of lights while appearing to orchestrate the vibrations of light flickers with her hands.

Soul singer Eric Benet performed “Sometimes a Cry” — a song that Lil Wayne cited as one of his favorites while in prison — bringing down the house with a soaring falsetto that bested his studio rendition of the track.

The evening’s other performers included Bruno Mars, who sang his new hit “Grenade,” and Jazmine Sullivan, who did a medley of “10 Seconds” and “Holding You Down (Goin’ in Circles).”

Did you watch the 2010 Soul Train Awards? Tell us about your favorite highlights in the comments.

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Beyonce Can’t Pick Her Favorite Jay-Z Song

‘I can’t tell you which one is my favorite. It’s just too many,’ singer tells MTV News.
By Jocelyn Vena

Beyoncé arrives at her “I Am … World Tour” DVD screening on Sunday
Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Jay-Z is letting fans into his world with two major releases this month. He just published his book, “Decoded,” in which he takes a closer look at his career, and on Monday (November 22), Hova is releasing a greatest-hits album, The Hits Collection, Volume 1.

The album features Jay’s most memorable tunes, including “Big Pimpin’,” “Hard Knock Life,” “99 Problems” and his collabo with his superstar wife, Beyoncé, “03′ Bonnie & Clyde.”

But when MTV News caught up with Bey Sunday at a New York screening for her DVD concert special, “I Am … World Tour,” she admitted that “Bonnie & Clyde” isn’t her favorite Jay-Z track.

“God, that’s not my favorite, even though I like it,” she laughed. “I can’t tell you which one is my favorite. It’s just too many. You’re putting me on the spot!”

While the pair may be releasing fresh products at the same time, the singer insists there is no competition in the Carter-Knowles household.

“No absolutely not, [there is no competition],” she told reporters at the DVD event, going on to praise “Decoded.” “That book is unbelievable, and I think we’re all really proud of it. And this DVD [out this] Thanksgiving — it’s the holiday season of everyone’s [material] coming out.”

The DVD shows a new, more intimate side of the usually private Beyoncé, and Jay-Z admits that his book also sheds new light on his persona and career. “A lot of people listen to music, but they don’t really listen to it,” he explained. “You may know the words and you may bop your head to it, but you don’t really understand what you’re singing.”

Open the floodgates! It’s Mega-Release Week, with Kanye West, Nicki Minaj, Jay-Z, Ne-Yo, Ke$ha, My Chemical Romance and Lloyd Banks all dropping new albums. Stick with MTV News for everything you need to know about the brand-new music.

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‘The Chronicles Of Narnia: The Voyage Of The Dawn Treader’: The Reviews Are In!

‘A voyage on the ‘Dawn Treader’ is a trip hardly worth taking,’ Claudia Puig of USA Today writes.
By Eric Ditzian

Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes and Ben Barnes in “The Chronicles of Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader”
Photo: 20th Century Fox

The winner of the award for the 2010 major theatrical release with the longest title goes to “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.” It wasn’t even close.

Sorry, “Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief”! Try again next year, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1.” Simply embarrassing, “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.” If only there were some correlation between title size and critical consensus: the longer the title, the better the reviews.

Alas, that’s simply not the case. While “Deathly Hallows” wowed most critics, those scribes were less impressed with “Percy Jackson,” “Legend of the Guardians” and “Dawn Treader,” which arrived in theaters Friday (December 10). Here’s what they had to say about the third film in the “Chronicles of Narnia” franchise.

The Story
“The story opens in World War II-era London as Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes), living in their uncle’s home, yearn for old friends and adventure in the otherworldly kingdom. Who can blame them, with their snotty younger cousin (Will Poulter) spying and snitching on them? … Returning to Narnia through the portal of an enchanted painting, the three find themselves aboard the royal galleon Dawn Treader, with King Caspian (swoony Ben Barnes, now with a regal goatee and without his odd exotic accent) and the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep. Their expedition to rescue missing lords and collect mystic swords will lead to encounters with a book that conjures magic spells, a shining star in human form, a titanic sea monster and the dread White Witch (the always-extraterrestrial Tilda Swinton in a brief, scary cameo).” — Colin Covert, Star-Tribune

The Comparison To “Harry Potter”
“[T]his is a rip-snorting adventure fantasy for families, especially the younger members who are not insistent on continuity. Director Michael Apted may be too good for this material, but he attacks [it] with gusto. Nor are the young actors overly impressed by how nobly archetypal they are; Lucy (who is really the lead) could give lessons to Harry Potter about how to dial down the self-importance. A universe may hang in the balance, but hey, it’s only a movie.” — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

The Religious Subtext
“There is, as anyone who has read the books knows, a powerful Christian subtext that runs throughout these tales. It’s one that the films have never shied away from. The wise and powerful Aslan the lion, for instance — a beautifully rendered computer-generated character (voiced by Liam Neeson), who died and was resurrected in the first film and who reappears here — is an obvious Christ figure. Don’t worry. There’s nothing quite as heavy-handed as martyrdom here.” — Michael O’Sullivan, The Washington Post

The Dissenters
“The mission is haphazard. The fate of Narnia is threatened, but the reasons are vague, gaining little clarity as the movie progresses. While all three must confront their greatest temptations, these challenges are easily faced down, since a parade of scenes presents a revolving door of perilous situations without the appropriate mounting tension. It’s not surprising that Disney dropped the Narnia franchise after box-office sales for the second movie, ‘Prince Caspian,’ dropped dramatically. The first, 2005’s ‘Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ was the most enthralling, capturing Lewis’ whimsy and transporting viewers to a visually arresting fantasy world. In contrast, a voyage on the ‘Dawn Treader’ is a trip hardly worth taking.” — Claudia Puig, USA Today

The Final Word
“So Aslan says to Hogwarts: I’ll see your Harry Potter and raise you a ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’ The eye-popping and entertaining ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader’ offers a merry seafaring jaunt together with plenty of adventures led by magically empowered kids. Director Michael Apted brings back a sense of the old-fashioned fun of the low-tech 1960s myths-and-monsters matinees, when no roiling sea ever failed to harbor a giant serpent — and men stood in the bows of ships facing peril with chins of iron.” — Kyle Smith, New York Post

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”

For breaking news, celebrity columns, humor and more — updated around the clock — visit


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