Topping the list of multiple nominations for the 52nd annual Grammy Awards, announced Wednesday night in Los Angeles, is dance diva Beyonce Knowles, who garnered 10 nods for her third solo album, "I Am... Sasha Fierce," released in November 2008.
Other multiple honorees include the young country-pop singer Taylor Swift, who got eight nominations, and the Black Eyed Peas, Maxwell and superstar Chicago producer and rapper Kanye West, who got six each.
As is often the case, the Grammys' "big four" categories seem to acknowledge commercial accomplishments--and old-school music industry corporate hype--much more than the awards' stated goal of recognizing musical excellence and innovation.
For the top prize of album of the year, the contenders are Beyonce; the Black Eyed Peas, "The E.N.D."; Lady Gaga, "The Fame"; the Dave Matthews Band, "Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King" and Swift, "Fearless."
Vying for record of the year are Beyonce, "Halo"; the Black Eyed Peas, "I Gotta Feeling"; Lady Gaga, "Pokerface"; Kings of Leon, "Use Somebody" and Swift, "You Belong with Me."
The nods for song of the year, which honors the songwriters, are Lady Gaga, "Pokerface"; Maxwell, "Pretty Wings"; Beyonce, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)"; Kings of Leon, "Use Somebody" and Swift, "You Belong with Me."
And for best new artist, the roster is country bumpkins the Zac Brown Band; R&B singer Keri Hilson; mopey synth-pop duo MGMT; grunge throwback Silversun Pickups and the English dance-pop group the Ting Tings.
Hometown hero West's nominations came for best rap performance by a duo or group ("Make Her Say" with fellow Chicagoan Common and Kid Cudi and "Amazing" with Young Jeezy), best rap/sung collaboration ("Ego" with Beyonce, "Knock You Down" with Keri Hilson and Ne-Yo and "Run This Town" with Jay-Z and Rihanna), and best rap song ("Run This Town"). Unfortunately, his incredible fourth album "808s and Heartbreak," released late in 2008, was shut out of all of the key album categories.
For the second year in a row, in a vain attempt to expand the television presence of the Grammy franchise and compete with the "American Idol" ratings juggernaut, awards sponsors the Recording Academy announced the nominations for a handful of the top pop categories during an hour-long live broadcast from L.A., delaying the release of the much longer master list of honorees until after the show finished airing on CBS.
Notorious for its odd definition of the calendar year, the Grammy eligibility period for 2009 is even shorter and stranger than usual--covering only 11 months, from Oct. 1, 2008, to Aug. 31, 2009--because the Recording Academy will air its televised awards presentation earlier than usual, on Jan. 31. These dates eliminate from consideration some of the most successful and acclaimed releases of the year, including albums from Jay-Z, Mariah Carey and Pearl Jam.
Also a real head-scratcher among this year's nominees was a nod for best pop performance by duo or group with vocals to Hall & Oates for "Sara Smile," a song originally released in 1976, but surfacing again in November 2008 on the almost universally ignored "Daryl Hall & John Oates Live at the Troubadour" album.
In addition to West and Common, who also was nominated for best rap album with "Universal Mind Control," the worst album of his career, other Chicago nominees include Ministry (best metal performance, "Senor Peligro"); Kurt Elling (best jazz vocal album, "Dedicated To You: Kurt Elling Sings the Music of Coltrane and Hartman"); Ann Nesby (the Joliet artist got nods for best R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals and best traditional R&B performance); the Chicago Symphony Chorus (best classical album); Donald Lawrence & Company (best traditional gospel album) and Kathy Griffin (the Oak Park native was acknowledged for best comedy album).
Also: Lalah Hathaway (best female R&B vocal performance); Larry Skoller (best traditional blues album); Lawrence Hobgood (best instrumental arrangement); Smokie Norful (best gospel performance and best contemporary R&B gospel album); Neko Case (best contemporary folk album and best recording package, "Middle Cyclone"); Wilco (best Americana album, "Wilco: The Album") and the incomparable Mavis Staples (best contemporary blues album, "Live: Hope at the Hideout").
UPDATE: Overlooked in my first pass attempting to chart all the local honorees: Liz Carroll was nominated for best traditional world music album for her disc with John Doyle, "Double Play"; Mavis Staples got a second nod for her contribution of 'Waiting for My Child to Come Home' with Patty Griffin on the album "O Happy Day," nominated for best traditional gospel album, and Kathleen Judge received a nomination for her work with Neko Case in designing the artwork for "Middle Cyclone," nominated for best recording package.
Among the visually glitzy but musically bland performances on Wednesday's TV special were a rapped medley by host LL Cool J, who did his thing in front of a scantily clad dancer rubbing cake frosting all over herself; a heavily auto-tuned Black Eyed Peas; a bit of holiday schmaltz from Sugarland and a flat tribute to Michael Jackson by Maxwell via a lite-jazz version of "The Lady in My Life."
The absolute nadir, however, came courtesy of the Administration, the new side project by Nick Jonas. What could be worse than the sugary sweet teen-pop of his other group, the Jonas Brothers, you ask? Try Nick getting funky with backing from veterans of Prince's New Power Generation. And yes, it was even worse than you might imagine.