By Mesfin Fekadu
Fun. helped break up the sound of dance and electronic music on Top 40 radio with its edgy pop-rock grooves. Frank Ocean made a bold statement in R&B – with an announcement about his sexuality and with his critically revered, multi-genre album, “channel ORANGE.” And Mumford & Sons continued to bring its folk-rock swag and style to the Billboard charts with its sophomore album.
They all were rewarded Wednesday when The Recording Academy announced the nominees for the 2013 Grammy Awards.
Those acts, who scored the most nominations with six each, were joined by typical Grammy contenders like Jay-Z and Kanye West, who also got six nominations. The Black Keys’ drummer, Dan Auerbach, is also up for six awards, thanks to his nomination for producer of the year. His band earned five nods, along with R&B singer Miguel and jazz pianist Chick Corea.
“It feels like alternative music is back,” said fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff. His band’s gold-selling “Some Nights” is up for album of the year, competing with Black Keys’ “El Camino,” Mumford & Sons’ “Babel,” Jack White’s “Blunderbuss” and “channel ORANGE,” the major label debut from Ocean.
Fun. is nominated in all of the major categories, including best new artist, and record and song of the year for its breakthrough anthem “We Are Young.”
Ocean, whose mother attended the nominations special, scored nods in three of the top four categories. His song “Thinkin Bout You” – which he originally wrote for another singer – will compete for record of the year with Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy” and four No. 1 hits: Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “Somebody I Used to Know” by Gotye and Kimbra, Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” and “We Are Young” by fun.
Song of the year, too, features some No. 1 hits, including fun. and Clarkson’s jams, as well as Carly Rae Jepsen’s viral smash “Call Me Maybe.” But then there’s Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team,” a slow groove about a homeless prostitute, and Miguel’s “Adorn,” the R&B singer-songwriter’s crossover hit.
“It’s like one of those songs that wrote itself and I was the vessel,” the 26-year-old said in an phone interview from New York City late Wednesday, where he performed with Trey Songz and Elle Varner.
While Miguel’s excited to compete for song of the year, he’s more thrilled about his sophomore album’s nomination for best urban contemporary album, a new category that recognizes R&B albums with edge and multiple sounds.
“That’s a huge complement to say that your entire body of work was the best of the year,” he said of “Kaleidoscope Dream.” “That’s the one that means the most to me. I’m really hoping maybe, just maybe.”
Miguel, along with Gotye, Alabama Shakes and the Lumineers, is part of the pack of nominees who have showcased individuality and have marched to the beat of their own drum in today’s music industry.
Though nominated albums by The Black Keys and Mumford & Sons are platinum-sellers, their songs are not regularly heard on Top 40 radio. Electronic and dance music, which has dominated radio airplay for a few years, were left out of the top awards this year. Also, One Direction – the boy band that released two top-selling albums this years and sold-out many arenas – was snubbed for best new artist.
Lionel Richie has one of the year’s top-selling albums with his country collaboration collection, “Tuskegee,” but he didn’t earn any nominations. And Nicki Minaj, who released a gold-selling album this year and had a hit with “Starships,” wasn’t nominated for a single award.
Jay-Z and West dominated the rap categories, a familiar refrain at the Grammys. Nas scored four nominations, including best rap album for “Life Is Good.” Jeff Bhasker, the producer behind fun.’s breakthrough album, also scored four nods.
Swift, who released her latest album, “Red,” after the Grammy eligibility date, still scored three nominations, including two for “Safe & Sound” with The Civil Wars. Country acts were mainly left out of the major categories this year, though the genre usually has success at the Grammys. Aside from Swift’s pop song competing for record of the year, there is 21-year-old Hunter Hayes, who is up for best new artist against fun., Ocean, Alabama Shakes and the Lumineers.
“I’m so proud to be, as you say, representing country music in the new artist category,” said Hayes, who is also nominated for best country album and country solo performance. “I don’t even feel worthy of saying that, but it’s so cool for me to be able to say that.”
Swift hosted the CBS special with LL Cool J and it featured performances by The Who and Maroon 5, who received multiple nominations.
The five-year-old nominations show spent its first year outside Los Angeles, making its debut in Nashville, Tenn., at the Bridgestone Arena. It marked the largest venue the show has been held in.
The 55th annual Grammy Awards take place Feb. 10 in Los Angeles.