The Grammy Award nominations were announced this morning, and following Beyonce’s critically-acclaimed Lemonade album in 2016 — in which she basically spent 46 minutes implying what a low-down dirty cheater Jay-Z was — which dominated last year’s Grammys (though it lost album of the year to Adele), Jay-Z’s counter-argument, aka 4:44, has become the major player this year, racking up eight nominations, including album, record and song of the year nominations.
It’s not a surprise, of course. Lemonade was great, but did any of us not see the marketing genius behind it? When 4:44 came out in June, 14 months after Beyonce’s first volley, we all kinda knew both albums had left the realm of music and entered the realm of cultural discourse. Awards and academies love to telegraph how “in” they are about the Zeitgeist; if Jay-Z hadn’t swept the major categories, we’d all have been amazed.
But as with the immovable object that was Adele, Jay-Z’s irresistible force has its own hill to climb. He’ll compete for best album again two predicable frontrunners — Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN., and Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic — as well as Lorde’s Melodrama and Awaken, My Love! from Childish Gambino. (My money’s on Lamar.)
Lamar (“HUMBLE.”) and Jay-Z (“The Story of O.J.”) will both have to overcome the runaway hit of the year, though — say it with me: “Despacito” — for record of the year. That typically goes to the best earworm, as opposed to song of the year (also one “Despacito” is competing for; it’s a songwriting award and has less of a shot).
Pop solo performance — no longer divided into male and female categories — is dominated by women, who got four of the five spots: Kelly Clarkson (“Love So Soft”), Kesha (“Praying”), Lady Gaga (“Million Reasons”) and P!nk (“What About Us”). The lone male singer: Ed Sheeran (“Shape of You”). I’m torn between Gaga and P!nk, but we have an interview with North Texas girl Kelly Clarkson this week, so check it out starting on Friday.
Best pop duo/group performance will come down to “Something Just Like This” (The Chainsmokers and Coldplay), “Thunder” (Imagine Dragons), “Feel It Still” (Portugal. The Man), “Stay” (Zedd and Alessia Cara) and of course “Despacito” (Lusi Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Beiber). Best rock performance includes two dead nominees — Chris Cornell for “The Promise” and Leonard Cohen for “You Want It Darker” — as well as Foo Fighters (“Run”), Kaleo (“No Good”) and Nothing More (“Go To War”).
Best song written for visual media (i.e., movie or TV show) comes down to “City of Stars” from La La Land; “How Far I’ll Go” from Moana; “I Don’t Want to Live Forever” from Fifty Shades Darker; “Never Give Up” from Lion; and “Stand Up for Something” from Marshall. Best score/soundtrack nominees are Arrival, Dunkirk, Hidden Figures, La La Land and Game of Thrones (Season 7). Nominees for best musical theater cast recording are Dear Evan Hansen, Come from Away and the revival of Hello Dolly!
The ceremony will take place on Jan. 28.
— Arnold Wayne Jones