Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, The Weeknd lead Grammy nominations – USA TODAY
The Grammy nominations are out, and they reflect a year in which critical acclaim and commercial muscle were often not mutually exclusive.
The leading contenders â Kendrick Lamar, with 11 Â nominations, and Taylor Swift and The Weeknd, with seven each â have all enjoyed positive reviews and wide popularity. Pop queen and previous seven-time winner Swift may be the most ubiquitous presence, and received nods in three of the Big Four categories: album, record and song of the year (1989 for the first, Blank Space for the latter two).
But two-time Grammy winner Lamar, who competed against Swift for album of the year in 2014 â and actually shares two nominations with her this year, for best pop duo/group performance and best music video, both for Swiftâs Bad Blood â has emerged as a major force in hip-hop and pop culture. Heâs up for album and song of the year â for To Pimp A Butterfly and Alright, respectively â and received five nominations in the rap field, with two nods each in the categories of rap song and music video.
R&B singer/songwriter The Weeknd was tapped for record (Canât Feel My Face) and album of the year, the latter for Beauty Behind The Madness, which entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1. Three of Weekndâs nominations are for Earned It, a song featured on the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack.
Veteran R&B star DâAngelo, who returned with his first album in 14 years last December, will also compete for record of the year; DâAngelo and the Vanguardâs Really Love earned him an additional nod for R&B song, with DâAngelo and the Vanguardâs Black Messiah up for R&B album. Fellow triple nominee Marc Ronsonâs Uptown Funk, featuring Bruno Mars, and Ed Sheeranâs Thinking Out Loud round out the record nominees. Thinking is also nominated for song of the year, and Sheeran is a featured artist on Weekndâs Beauty.
Two quadruple nominees, the rock band Alabama Shakes and the red-hot Country Music Awards champ Chris Stapleton, are also contenders for album of the year, for Shakesâ Sound & Color and Stapletonâs Traveller; while the Little Big Town single Girl Crush and the Wiz Khalifa hit See You Again (featuring Charlie Puth) complete the candidates for best song. Singer/songwriters will vie in the high-profile category of best new artist: Courtney Barnett, James Bay, Sam Hunt, Tori Kelly and Meghan Trainor.
Other multiple nominees include veteran tunesmith Max Martin, with six; Drake, with five, and John Legend, Florence Welch, Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, with four each. (Welchâs band, Florence + the Machine, is up for three awards.) Recent high-profile albums by stars from Adele to Justin Bieber were released after the cutoff date for the 2016 awards, and wonât be eligible until next year.
Neil Portnow, president of the Recording Academy, said the nominations reflect a year of âstrongly creative, thoughtful and in some cases genre-bending artistry. What emerges more than ever is that artists are feeling more liberated to do what comes from their heart, as opposed to trying to fit inside a nice little box.â
Portnow notes that this was a particularly competitive year for rap, with a 30 percent increase in entries in the field. A number of starry team outings emerged as candidates, such as Common and John Legendâs Glory and triple nominee Nicki Minajâs Only, featuring Drake, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown; both are up for best rap/sung collaboration. Legend received two nods in that category, while Drake received two in the category of rap performance.
Other categories to watch include best musical-theater album, which pits the phenom Hamilton against cast recordings of other acclaimed new Broadway musicals and revivals; Â and spoken-word album, for which nominees include Amy Poehler, Patti Smith, Dick Cavett and former president Jimmy Carter.
The list of competitors for traditional pop vocal album is similarly eclectic: Tony Bennett and Bill Charlap, Bob Dylan, Josh Groban, Seth MacFarlane and Barry Manilow (with various duet partners).