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Grammy spreads the love among diverse nominees: Frank Ocean, fun., Kanye West, Mumford & Sons, more

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Singer Nate Ruess of fun. performs during the Grammy nominations concert broadcast Wednesday night from Nashville. (Christopher Polk/Getty Images)


It's been a nail-biting year for Grammy handicappers. Leading up to Wednesday night's revelation of the nominations, there was no clear frontrunner -- and the best-selling album of 2012 was also the best-seller of 2011, Adele's "21," which already gobbled up six Grammys.

Now the nominations are in -- and still no one leads the pack.

Six artists top the list with six nominations each: Chicago rapper Kanye West, hip-hop titan Jay-Z, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys (five for the duo, plus a producer nod for Auerbach), British folk-rock phenoms Mumford & Sons, and the night's two biggest success stories: R&B singer Frank Ocean and pop-rock band fun.

Lacking a single headliner like Adele, 2012's crop of honorees for the 55th annual Grammy Awards -- announced during Wednesday's hourlong TV special, "The Grammy Nominations Concert Live!! Countdown to Music's Biggest Night" -- is a welcome mash-up reflecting a singles-driven, online-dominated music market and a corresponding younger and more diverse talent pool.

Finally, the Grammys aren't so much a bunch of grannies.

New York's fun. swept the top four categories, receiving nods for best new artist, song and record of the year for "We Are Young" and album of the year for "Some Nights."

grammyO.JPGOcean, 25, who preceded his acclaimed "Channel Orange" album with a stirring revelation of a same-sex relationship, earned three of those top slots: best new artist, record for "Thinkin Bout You" and album of the year.

West, as usual, is mixed up in all of it. His six nominations include two for "N****s in Paris" and two for "No Church in the Wild" (which features Ocean), both from his collaboration with Jay-Z, "Watch the Throne," plus two more for "Mercy," the lead single from his "Cruel Summer" mixtape. He competes against himself in two categories: rap performance and rap song.

Last year, West swept the rap categories on the strength of his 2010 album "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy."

Scoring five nominations Wednesday was Miguel, another R&B sleeper who woke this year, and jazz icon Chick Corea.

Grammy's usual play-it-safe choices abound -- like the requisite nods to Grammy's favorite young muses: Taylor Swift, Pink, Florence + the Machine and ever-reliable Kelly Clarkson -- but this year's list contains many pleasant surprises, such as retro-soul band Alabama Shakes for best new artist, Jack White's rambling solo debut "Blunderbuss" for album of the year, even a top-level record of the year nod for Carly Rae Jepsen's omnipresent "Call Me Maybe."

Like this week's online posting of Dan Deacon's "Pop Danthology," a mash-up of more than 50 leading pop songs from 2012, Wednesday's annual TV ratings grab attempted to cram a lot of performances into a little time.

Frenetic R&B wunderkind Janelle Monae contributed a subdued assist to fun. for its required run-through of the band's chart-dominating anthem, "We Are Young," performed as an acoustic trio backed by strings. (Monae is at work on her next album, "The Electric Lady," the follow-up to her phenomenal debut, 2010's "The ArchAndroid.")

Two sides of pop-R&B were showcased. First came the wallpaper of Maroon 5, the L.A. band enjoying a mid-career heyday this year and showing off three songs in a medley: the Police-reggae wannabe "One More Night," "Daylight" and "Moves Like Jagger" (which for singer Adam Levine consists of pacing back and forth ramrod straight like a palace guard). Later came the shag swag of Ne-Yo, crooning and then leading an over-the-top dancefloor jam through "Let Me Love You," the second single from his new album, "R.E.D."

Fresh from last week's two Chicago concerts, veteran rockers the Who appeared on the show to trundle through "We Won't Get Fooled Again," though the telecast joined them in progress and cut them off to go to commercial. No old people here, you saw nothing.

The concert, hosted by the perpetually incredulous Swift and the perennial LL Cool J, was broadcast live from Nashville's Bridgestone Arena -- the first outside Los Angeles since the televised show began five years ago, as well as the first Grammy event to be held in Music City since Johnny Cash kicked off the awards ceremony there in 1973 (video of which launched Wednesday's show, too).

As a nod to that history, the Band Perry and Dierks Bentley performed a tribute to the man in black running through "Jackson," an interesting selection. Bentley fit right into the Band Perry's strong shuffle; finally, a forced Grammy gimmick that works!

Nashville's influence can be seen throughout the nominees list -- not only populating the top categories with country contributions but in the presence of indie-rock transplants like the Black Keys' Auerbach and Jack White.

Young country bucks Luke Bryan and Hunter Hayes also appeared on the show, with Hayes on the spot to sing snatches of the songs nominated for pop vocal album (members of fun. clearly enjoyed his romp through "Some Nights") and Luke Bryan jumpstarting the crowd with his lusty, rocking single "I Don't Want This Night to End."

Technicalities prevented or limited nomination prospects for some stars. A few of the year's biggest sellers are albums released after the Sept. 30 eligibility cut-off, such as Swift's "Red," One Direction's "Take Me Home" and Jason Aldean's "Night Train." Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know," a hit on radio and in online parodies, was prevented from competing for in the song of the year category, a writing award, because it contains a sample (from Luiz Bonfá's "Seville").

The Recording Academy eliminated 31 Grammy Award categories last year, causing grumbling among fans and even a class-action lawsuit. This year, three new awards were added for classical compendium, Latin jazz album and urban contemporary album.

The Grammy Awards will be presented Feb. 10, also on CBS but back in L.A.


Chicago nominees

In addition to West, Chicago-native artists receiving Grammy nods Wednesday night include:

R. Kelly for R&B album ("Write Me Back"), Lupe Fiasco for rap album ("Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1"), Shemekia Copeland ("33 1/3") and the Heritage Blues Orchestra ("And Still I Rise") for blues album and Kurt Elling for jazz vocal album ("1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project").

Comedian Kathy Griffin is once again up for comedy album ("Seaman 1st Class"); Kaskade's "Fire and Ice" is up for dance album; Special Consensus and Noam Pikelny were each nominated in bluegrass album; Donald Lawrence is in for gospel song ("Released"); Anita Wilson for gospel song ("Worship Soul"); writer Stephen Wade was nominated for liner notes ("Banjo Diary: Lessons From Tradition").

Contemporary music sextet eighth blackbird's album "Meanwhile" received two nominations: for chamber music/small ensemble performance and classical contemporary composition. Jory Vinokur is listed for classical instrumental solo.

And, of course, Michelle Obama's "American Grown" got a nod for spoken word album.


Top categories

Nominees announced Wednesday in top categories for the 55th annual Grammy Awards:

Record of the Year: "Lonely Boy," The Black Keys; "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," Kelly Clarkson; "We Are Young," fun. featuring Janelle Monae; "Somebody That I Used To Know," Gotye Featuring Kimbra; "Thinkin Bout You," Frank Ocean; "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," Taylor Swift.

Album of the Year: "El Camino," The Black Keys; "Some Nights," fun.; "Babel," Mumford & Sons; "Channel Orange," Frank Ocean; "Blunderbuss," Jack White.

Song of the Year: "The A Team," Ed Sheeran, songwriter (performed by Ed Sheeran); "Adorn," Miguel Pimentel, songwriter (Miguel); "Call Me Maybe" Tavish Crowe, Carly Rae Jepsen & Josh Ramsay, songwriters (Carly Rae Jepsen); "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," Jorgen Elofsson, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin & Ali Tamposi, songwriters (Kelly Clarkson); "We Are Young," Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost & Nate Ruess, songwriters (fun. featuring Janelle Monáe).

New Artist: Alabama Shakes, fun., Hunter Hayes, The Lumineers, Frank Ocean.

Pop Vocal Album: "Stronger," Kelly Clarkson; "Ceremonials," Florence & The Machine; "Some Nights," fun.; "Overexposed," Maroon 5; "The Truth About Love," Pink.

Rock Album: "El Camino," The Black Keys; "Mylo Xyloto," Coldplay; "The 2nd Law," Muse; "Wrecking Ball," Bruce Springsteen; "Blunderbuss," Jack White.

R&B Album: "Black Radio," Robert Glasper Experiment; "Back To Love," Anthony Hamilton; "Write Me Back," R. Kelly; "Beautiful Surprise," Tamia; "Open Invitation," Tyrese.

Rap Album: "Take Care," Drake; "Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1," Lupe Fiasco; "Life Is Good," Nas; "Undun," The Roots; "God Forgives, I Don't," Rick Ross; "Based on a T.R.U. Story," Chainz.

Country Album: "Uncaged," Zac Brown Band; "Hunter Hayes," Hunter Hayes; "Living For A Song: A Tribute To Hank Cochran," Jamey Johnson; "Four The Record," Miranda Lambert; "The Time Jumpers," The Time Jumpers.

The complete list is here.

Contributing: AP



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Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.

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