Nominations for the 2012 Grammys were announced on Wednesday night, with Kanye West leading the field with 7 nominations and Adele, Foo Fighters and Bruno Mars following with six apiece.
The nominations contained their fair share of shockers, omissions and surprises which we will count down here, starting with…
1. NO TAYLOR SWIFT? For once, the perennially surprised Taylor Swift may be making an “OMG!” face for a different reason. Her album “Speak Now” was left out of Album of the Year contention, despite being one of the year’s biggest hits and selling more than 1 million copies its first week in stores. Swift isn’t lacking for awards — her album “Fearless” won the Album of the Year trophy in 2010 — but being left out of the Big Dance this time around constitutes a major shocker.
2. NO KANYE WEST?! Music fans hoping for a Taylor Swift/ Kanye West showdown in the Album of the Year category whiffed twice when along with “Speak Now,” West’s much-celebrated masterpiece “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” failed to garner an Album of the Year nod. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway — Adele is poised to walk away with the category — but West is a Grammy fave, having earned three prior Album of the Year nominations, and since “MBDTF” is his biggest and best work to-date it was considered a lock to be in the race for the night’s top prize. No dice, however. We can only guess how Kanye reacted to the news. (His field-leading 7 nominations probably softened the blow, but only slightly. It’s still Kanye we’re talking about here.)
3. RIHANNA??! Pushing aside Swifty and Kanye in the Album of the Year race is another late-2010 release, Rihanna’s “Loud.” It’s Rihanna’s first time being nominated in the Album of the Year category, and somewhat of a surpise considering RiRi is primarily a singles star, not an album artist. In terms of albums, Rihanna’s 2009 set “Rated R” — her first album following The Chris Brown Incident — was more of a full-length statement, while “Loud” is a straightforward singles factory (spawning the No. 1 hits “Only Girl in the World,” “S&M” and “What’s My Name,” the Top 10 hit “Cheers (Drink to That),” etc.). Rihanna herself has already moved on from “Loud,” releasing her new album “Talk That Talk” last week, making her the only artist in the Album of the Year category to have already released another album (unless you count Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” Remix album, which I don’t). Consider “Loud” this year’s answer to Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream,” another single-driven album that found its way into Album of the Year contention at 2011′s Grammys.
4. Bon Iver gets invited to the party, sort of, and in a weird way. Cabin-dwelling indie woodsman Bon Iver is nominated for four Grammys, including surprise nods for Song and Record of the Year (for “Holocene”) and for Best New Artist — despite the fact his debut album “For Emma, Forever Ago” was released in 2008 (following a self-release in 2007). Meanwhile, he was considered to be part of the mix for Album of the Year, but was left out of that race altogether (thanks again, Rihanna).
5. And about those Best New Artists… The Grammys have a long and somewhat embarrassing history of not knowing what, exactly, constitutes a “new artist.” Fountains of Wayne was famously nominated for Best New Artist in 2004, even though the band released its debut album in 1996, one of many examples of Best New Artist nominees being not exactly, well, new. Bon Iver falls in this category, as does Nicki Minaj — the odds-on favorite to win — who has been kicking around for several years, and was even nominated for a Grammy last year (for “My Chick Bad,” her collaboration with Ludacris). So if she’s “new” now, what was she then? Non-existent? Minaj has followed an interesting career path, establishing herself through a multitude of high profile collaborations before releasing her debut album, and technically “Pink Friday” — which was released in Nov. 2010 — qualifies her for the Best New Artist category. But it’s definitely a gray area, and even though she may win the Rookie of the Year award, at this point Minaj hardly feels like a rookie.
6. Speaking of Nicki Minaj: Minaj’s three nominations seemed slight, considering the success of both “Pink Friday” and the summertime smash “Super Bass.” “Pink Friday” earned a Best Rap Album nomination and her duet with Drake, “Moment 4 Life,” is up for Best Rap Performance, but Nicki struck out in the Album, Record and Song of the Year categories. And to add insult to injury, her name was misspelled “Niki” during Wednesday’s televised nomination ceremony. Oops.
7. Ladies and gentlemen, Skrillex! Skrillex, unlike Nicki, is a true freshman, and his Best New Artist nod– one of five overall nominations for the dubstep DJ — came as one of the Grammy’s biggest surprises. With momentous sets at this year’s Coachella, Movement and Lollapalooza festivals, Skrillex became the face of dubstep, the distorted, bass-heavy techno offshoot that has become a genuine movement during the last year. Skrillex’s nomination is unusually forward-thinking for the Grammys, and a huge step forward for the proliferation of electronic music. If Skrillex is given a performance slot on the Grammys show, expect it to be one of the most talked-about — and divisive — moments on the telecast. And then don’t be surprised if Pretty Lights and Deadmau5 are up for Album of the Year honors at next year’s ceremony.
8. Bye-bye, veterans: Tony Bennett seemed to have an outside chance of scoring an Album of the Year nod for his “Duets II” album, but when the nominations came down he was left out in the rain, cold and alone. (Poor guy!) The Grammys seem to be extra-cautious these days about letting veterans into the mix in the show’s top category, following a couple of high profile blunders in recent years. Between 2000 and 2009, veteran artists such as Paul Simon, Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan all earned Album of the Year nominations, while Santana, Herbie Hancock, Ray Charles, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss and — most famously — Steely Dan walked away with wins in the category. But in the last two years, the age and cool quotient of the Album of the Year nominees has shifted dramatically, with the Grammys seemingly going out of their way to reward young artists and distance themselves from veterans to avoid looking like staunch traditionalists. Bennett, 85, wasn’t the only one left out of the mix; 70-year-old Paul Simon — whose “So Beautiful or So What” was released earlier this year — was closed out, too. At 42, Dave Grohl is the old man in this year’s Album of the Year race, with his fellow nominees all aged between 23-26.
9. Beyonce’s near shut-out: Beyonce netted a measly two nominations, one of them for her “I Am… World Tour” video, a far cry from the eight nominations — including an Album of the Year shout-out — she received for her last studio set, 2008′s “I Am… Sasha Fierce.” So what happened? Despite being one of the year’s most acclaimed releases, “4″ hasn’t produced any significant radio hits, with all five singles failing to hit Billboard’s Top 10 (“Best Thing I Never Had” ranked highest, at No. 16). “4″ is likely to figure into a number of year-end Top 10 lists, but those accolades — as well as her baby, which is due soon — will be the biggest awards she receives this time around.
10. LUDACRIS GOES COUNTRY? Ludacris rapped with Jason Aldean and even strapped on a guitar during the Grammy nominations concert on CBS. And you thought his palling around with Justin Bieber was a cred-killer.