Grammy Awards nominees Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar lead Grammy race

Jay-Z (left) received eight nominations for his album, 4:44, while Kendrick Lamar got seven for D***.
Jay-Z (above) received eight nominations for his album, 4:44, while Kendrick Lamar got seven for D***.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Jay-Z (left) received eight nominations for his album, 4:44, while Kendrick Lamar got seven for D***.
Jay-Z received eight nominations for his album, 4:44, while Kendrick Lamar (above) got seven for D***.PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW YORK • Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar are the top contenders for the 60th annual Grammy Awards, leading a crop of nominations that is heavy on hip-hop and R&B but has shut some mainstream pop stars including Ed Sheeran out of major prizes.

Jay-Z got eight nods for his album 4:44, which mixed dark personal confessions with meditations about race; Lamar had seven for D***., a critical favourite and a smash on streaming services that also addressed racial politics and self-reflection. Bruno Mars had six nominations, and Childish Gambino (a stage name of actor Donald Glover), Khalid, SZA and No I.D. (Jay-Z's producer) each had five.

With all major awards shows under scrutiny for how they incorporate diversity, the Grammy nominations announced on Tuesday are striking, as minority artists dominate the ballot in nearly all of the most prestigious categories.

Contenders for record of the year are Jay-Z for The Story Of O.J.; Lamar for Humble.; Mars for 24K Magic; Childish Gambino for Redbone; and the Latin pop phenomenon Despacito, by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee with Justin Bieber.

For the first time in Grammy history, a white man was not nominated for album of the year. Instead, Jay-Z and Lamar face Mars' 24K Magic, Childish Gambino's Awaken, My Love! and Lorde's Melodrama.

In addition, Jay-Z's much buzzed-about title track 4:44 (which some interpret to be an apology to his wife, pop star Beyonce) is nominated for song of the year, along with Despacito.

They will compete with Mars' mainstream hit That's What I Like, Logic's suicide hotline anthem 1-800-273-8255 and Julia Michaels' debut hit Issues.

  • RECORD OF THE YEAR

  • Redbone - Childish Gambino

    Despacito - Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber

    The Story Of O.J. - Jay-Z

    Humble. - Kendrick Lamar

    24K Magic - Bruno Mars


    ALBUM OF THE YEAR

    Awaken, My Love! - Childish Gambino

    4:44 - Jay-Z

    D***. - Kendrick Lamar

    Melodrama - Lorde

    24K Magic - Bruno Mars


    SONG OF THE YEAR

    Despacito - Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber

    4:44 - Jay-Z

    Issues - Julia Michaels

    1-800-273-8255 - Logic featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid

    That's What I Like - Bruno Mars


    BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE

    Love So Soft - Kelly Clarkson

    Praying - Kesha

    Million Reasons - Lady Gaga

    What About Us - Pink

    Shape Of You - Ed Sheeran

Notably absent is British singer-songwriter Sheeran, whose tropical-tinged song Shape Of You has been one of this year's biggest hits. Last year, he took home song of the year for Thinking Out Loud, but this time, his two nods are outside the top fields: Shape Of You for pop solo performance, and ÷ for pop vocal album.

The best new artist category includes Khalid, a 19-year-old soul singer whose debut album, American Teen, went to No. 3; rapper Lil Uzi Vert, singer Alessia Cara and singer-songwriters SZA and Michaels.

The 60th annual awards will be broadcast from Madison Square Garden on Jan 28, the first time the Grammys will have been held in New York in 15 years.

The nominations this year all but guarantee that a non-white performer will win at least one of the major awards, which would reflect the current pop market but has been far from a given at the Grammys. This year, for example, the awards were criticised when British pop star Adele beat Beyonce for all three top trophies.

The Grammys' mixed record of recognising black artists has also drawn complaints from major artists, including Frank Ocean, who refused to submit his albums Blonde and Endless last year. This year, rap star Drake did not submit More Life, a collection of songs he called a playlist.

In an interview on Tuesday with Variety, Recording Academy president Neil Portnow acknowledged the diversity of this year's nominees and credited it to the large pool of voting members; there are about 13,000 overall. Plus, the Grammys opened up online voting for the first time this year, which led to a wider range of ballots than usual.

In addition to Sheeran, some long-time Grammy favourites have a minimal presence in genre categories down the list of this year's 84 awards. Lady Gaga has two nods: Million Reasons, for pop solo performance; and Joanne, for pop vocal album. Harry Styles, the One Direction heart-throb, was shut out altogether.

Taylor Swift also has two, as a songwriter: Better Man, which she wrote for the group Little Big Town, is up for best country song; and I Don't Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker), for best song written for visual media.

Her recent No.1 hit, Look What You Made Me Do, is nowhere to be found.

NYTIMES, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 30, 2017, with the headline 'Grammy Awards nominees Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar lead Grammy race'. Print Edition | Subscribe