When last we delved into Grammy madness, the hot gab was all about one performer: Brit soulstress Adele, who was nominated for six shiny trophies back in February — and who swept every category she was in, including album of the year for 21 and top song for Rolling in the Deep.
The Grammys love a sensation, especially one who single-handedly pumps life into a woeful record biz — and especially one who boosts the oft-ignored show to its best ratings in years, as Adele did at the 54th Grammys when she made her triumphant return to the mic after undergoing career-threatening vocal cord surgery.
But on Wednesday, when the Recording Academy released noms for the upcoming 55th edition of "music's biggest night" — the show is set for Feb. 10 — they didn't have one favorite to ride to glory. So in an effort to get everyone excited about the awards (at least they hope so), they predictably spread the love around, with six artists nabbing six major nods each.
Rappers Kanye West and Jay-Z, guitar-rocker Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, pop newbies fun., R&B rookie Frank Ocean and English roots-rockers Mumford & Sons got their names called the most. The frenzied eclecticism almost reeks of all-together-now desperation. And fans need not worry about their preferred peeps scoring hardware: The Grammys will make sure everyone goes home with some gold in their goodie bag.
Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Kelly Clarkson, Flo Rida, Miranda Lambert — heck, even Carly Rae Jepsen! — were also recognized for their excellence (or, you know, for selling a ton of product).
I'll do full predictions and office-pool handicapping when we get closer to the big show, but for now, here's a quick peek at the four top award categories.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: With the exception of fun.'s radio-friendly LP Some Nights — which could very well win based on its ubiquity — the Grammys (a peer-based awards show) took some real chances here. Mumford & Sons are huge, and Babel is a favorite, but the Brits are clever about their gritty craft. And the other three choices are arguably the hippest best album choices in history: the Black Keys' Akron garage-rocker El Camino, Frank Ocean's Prince-like bisexual diary drama Channel Orange and iconoclast Jack White's neo-blues freakout Blunderbuss. Not sure the offbeat ones have a shot at winning, but it's cool that they're up there.
SONG OF THE YEAR: It's time once again for the annual lesson in Grammy lexicon. Song of the year is for the songwriters of a song; record of the year is for the producers and singers of a song. Got that? Don't worry: I'll remind you again and again. With this group, the Grammys show their appreciation for hitmakers. Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe is the second-most played song of the year. (What, no love for Psy's Gangnam Style?) Kelly Clarkson's Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You) got its share of spins, as well. But both of those hits have myriad songwriters. Ed Sheeran's lovely ballad The A Team, Miguel's Adorn and fun.'s We Are Young were written by the artists themselves. (Psst: Don't worry, I had to look up Miguel, too. He's an avant-garde R&B singer on RCA Records.)
RECORD OF THE YEAR: The Black Keys' Lonely Boy is a swingin' good time, like Buddy Holly on steroids, and Frank Ocean's Thinkin Bout You is pure R&B heat. But they're going up again some mondo radio smashes: Clarkson's Stronger, fun.'s We Are Young, Gotye's Somebody That I Used to Know and Taylor Swift's We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, the latter of which is eligible for Grammy consideration (the single was released in time) even though platinum album Red is not. Gotye has the whiff of one-hit wonder about him. Swift will probably get all her love next year. Clarkson, however, is woefully underappreciated by the Grammys. Just saying...
BEST NEW ARTIST: Sometimes the Grammys load up a category in such a way that it's obvious who the winner will be. Nothing against Alabama Shakes, Hunter Hayes, the Lumineers and Frank Ocean, but this is the one statue that fun. is an absolute shoo-in to win. The NYCers can't be nominated for the biggest awards and then NOT win for rookie of the year. This one's fun. and done.
Sean Daly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.