It happens nearly every year: The Recording Academy voters, for reasons known only to themselves, give a Grammy nod to an album or song so random, no one could possibly have expected it — or neglect to include something so well-regarded, everybody expected it. Here are the six most surprising things about this year’s Grammy nominations. (And to be clear, we’re not saying any of these are bad things necessarily. Just things we wouldn’t have predicted.)
1. Dave Matthews Band, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King (Album of the Year): It’s a solid album and all, but it hasn’t made close to the cultural dent left by the other nominees in this category (Beyoncé, the Black Eyed Peas, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga). And we would have thought U2’s No Line on the Horizon or Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown would have been a surer bet for the “consensus rock album” spot here.
2. No Kanye: Well, not quite none. Kanye West and Young Jeezy’s “Amazing” was nominated for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, and West got five more nods for work he did on others’ records. But his own album 808s & Heartbreak came out well within the eligibility window, and it didn’t get so much as mentioned in any of the album categories — quite a contrast with the copious Grammys love each of his three previous albums received. Could VMAs backlash have hurt him with the Recording Academy?
3. MGMT, “Kids” (Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals): We weren’t entirely stunned to see these guys get a Best New Artist nod, but their single was a welcome left-field choice in as big a category as this. Will the scrappy psych-rockers be able to take out competitors like Bon Jovi and the Black Eyed Peas (and, uh, Hall & Oates)? We’ll find out next month!
4. The Lonely Island & T-Pain, “I’m On a Boat” (Best Rap/Sung Collaboration): Just seeing Andy Samberg and his buddies’ nautical goof put in the same paragraph as straight-faced hits like Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Kanye West’s “Run This Town” and T.I and Justin Timberlake’s “Dead and Gone” made me LOL — and beam with pride. I love this song.
5. The entire Producer of the Year, Non-Classical category: Okay, Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen, the Bird and the Bee) and Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, AC/DC, etc.) are reasonable choices. But it’s tougher to explain the nods that went to Ethan Johns for producing that one Ray LaMontagne album, or Larry Klein for work with Tracy Chapman, Madeleine Peyroux, and others. Would it have killed the Recording Academy to recognize Christopher “Tricky” Stewart and The-Dream for producing Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” or RedOne for Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face,” or will.i.am for all those Black Eyed Peas singles, or something that someone under age 60 has heard of?
6. Jimmy Sturr, Polka Cola: Music That Refreshes (Best Traditional Folk Album): Earlier this year, perennial Grammy winner Sturr was vocally disappointed by the Recording Academy’s decision to do away with the Best Polka Album category he had so often dominated. Sweet revenge! His supporters just went ahead and got him nominated in another vaguely related category instead.
Were you surprised by those nominations, too? Or were there other surprises for you? Don’t forget to watch the 52nd annual Grammy Awards live on CBS on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
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Photo credit: Danny Clinch