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Grammy nominations: style over substance

Never mind that Coldplay's new album is the Brit-pop band's weakest effort. Or that rapper Lil Wayne is a better salesman than musician. Or that the Jonas Brothers pen power-pop like third-graders scribble Mad Libs.

They are all smart, swaggering and very, very popular, style-over-substance qualities that helped them Wednesday when nominations were announced for the 51st annual Grammy Awards.

Lil Wayne led the pack with eight nominations. His 2008 album Tha Carter III sold more than a million copies its first week of release, a mind-blowing feat considering the crummy state of the music biz. Coldplay, whose Viva la Vida platter was a platinum smash, was next with seven noms. The Jonas Brothers scored a chance for best new artist.

When music's loftiest, and many might say irrelevant, shindig is held Feb. 8 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Coldplay and Lil Wayne will do battle for album of the year. Other nominees for the night's biggest award are Radiohead's groundbreaking In Rainbows, Ne-Yo's R&B melange Year of the Gentleman and Robert Plant and Alison Krauss' folk-rock stunner Raising Sand, which was my pick for the best disc of 2007.

To juice excitement for "music's biggest night," CBS hosted a live nominations telecast, which did feature a few cool performances, including the Foo Fighters' scrummy take on Carly Simon's You're So Vain.

But ultimately, the pre-show show was laughably optimistic seeing as how no one has watched the actual Grammys for years. If that sounds harsh, well, ratings have been tanking for awhile, and they weren't helped by the 50th anniversary event when jazz legend Herbie Hancock somehow beat out Brit soul singer Amy Winehouse and hip-hop king Kanye West for album of the year.

If I'm Plant and Krauss, I'd start working on my acceptance speech.

The Grammys want everyone to get excited — but in the end, they usually wind up frustrating more than thrilling. Governed by the Recording Academy, Grammy voters are dominated by older voters who probably think Kanye West is a discount airline.

Oh well. Besides album of the year, there were some other eyebrow-raising categories. Best new artist, which went to Winehouse last year (and Milli Vanilli in 1990!), will feature those world-turning Disney scamps the Jonas Brothers, retro-soul singer Duffy, British vocalist Adele, country band Lady Antebellum and R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan. Say what you will about the JoBros, but the Grammys are desperate to seduce a younger audience — in this case, 12-year-old girls who will cry for weeks if the boys don't win.

For record of the year (given to the performer and producers), the nominees are Adele's Chasing Pavements, Coldplay's Viva la Vida, Leona Lewis' Bleeding Love, Plant and Krauss' Please Read the Letter and Sri Lanka hip-hopper M.I.A.'s sublime Paper Planes.

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8467. His Pop Life blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.

Fast Facts

Other nominees

Song of the Year: American Boy, William Adams, Keith Harris, Josh Lopez, Caleb Speir, John Stephens, Estelle Swaray & Kanye West, songwriters (Estelle Featuring Kanye West); Chasing Pavements, Adele Adkins & Eg White (Adele); I'm Yours, Jason Mraz; Love Song, Sara Bareilles; Viva La Vida, Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion, & Chris Martin (Coldplay).

Rock Album: Viva La Vida, Coldplay; Rock N Roll Jesus, Kid Rock; Only By The Night, Kings Of Leon; Death Magnetic, Metallica; Consolers Of The Lonely, The Raconteurs.

Country Album: That Lonesome Song, Jamey Johnson; Sleepless Nights, Patty Loveless; Troubadour, George Strait; Around The Bend, Randy Travis; Heaven, Heartache And The Power Of Love, Trisha Yearwood.

Want more?

If you're a country fan, or a polka nut, or a Hawaiian music aficionado, let it be known that the Grammys feature 110 award categories, a sprawling list that was still being studied long after our deadline. To get the full list of nominees and more analysis, go to blogs.tampabay.com/popmusic.

Grammy nominations: style over substance 12/03/08 [Last modified: Friday, December 5, 2008 8:33pm]

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