For the past few years, the people behind the Grammys have been switching things up in an attempt to push the 52-year-old awards show in a more contemporary direction. Those moves have resulted in multiple wins and nominations in major categories in the past two go-rounds by [artist id="510062"]Lil Wayne[/artist], [artist id="1742872"]Amy Winehouse[/artist], the [artist id="610526"]White Stripes[/artist], [artist id="1230523"]Kanye West[/artist], [artist id="1111141"]Coldplay[/artist], [artist id="1803648"]M.I.A.[/artist] and [artist id="2476941"]Adele[/artist].
And while the major categories still seem to typically break for heritage artists (Herbie Hancock, Robert Plant), this year’s nominations are further proof that a youth movement may finally be taking hold at the Grammys.
The top vote-getters in the three major categories are almost all contemporary artists whose work has had its biggest impact in the past decade and, in some cases, just the past year. Beyoncé leads with 10 nods, followed by 19-year-old country phenom Taylor Swift with eight; the Black Eyed Peas, Maxwell and West with six each; Lady Gaga, David Guetta and Jay-Z with five; and Colbie Caillat, Kings of Leon, Lady Gaga producer RedOne and T-Pain with four each.
With no heritage artists in sight, the top three categories for the awards, which will be handed out January 31, guarantee that a new generation will announce its arrival, with Album of the Year pitting veteran Beyoncé against Gaga, the Black Eyed Peas and Swift, with one possible spoiler in the Dave Matthews Band, whose Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King was nominated despite having less commercial and radio impact than the other albums.
The same scenario is in place for Record of the Year, a fight between Beyoncé (“Halo”), BEP (“I Gotta Feeling”), Kings of Leon (“Use Somebody”), Gaga (“Poker Face”) and Swift (“You Belong With Me”). The Song of the Year category (which awards songwriters) is a similar scenario, with Gaga and RedOne’s “Poker Face” up against Maxwell’s “Pretty Wings,” Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” the Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody” and Swift’s “You Belong With Me.”
In total, Beyoncé, Swift — whose Fearless is 2009′s best-selling album so far — and Gaga grabbed 23 nominations between them, which could also help make it a ladies night this time around. Curiously, though West swept up six nominations, all but one for his guest appearances on other people’s songs, the awards-show bad boy was completely shut out in the major categories for his critically lauded, experimental album 808s & Heartbreak, which was released well within the window for eligibility.
Also shut out in the majors was Eminem, but Relapse did garner three nominations in the rap categories (Best Rap Solo Performance, Best Duo or Group Collaboration and Best Rap Album), as well as Green Day, whose 21st Century Breakdown nabbed bids for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals, Best Rock Song for “21 Guns” and Best Rock Album. Irish icons U2 also didn’t make the big-four cut, but they got a nomination for No Line on the Horizon for Best Rock Album and two for “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight” for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals and Best Rock Song.
After winning a Grammy for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals for their hit “Sex on Fire” at February’s Grammys, Kings of Leon also appear poised to cap a breakthrough year in their native U.S. after years of wild popularity in England and Europe thanks to their four-pack of noms.