In a reflection of the current state of pop, in which hip-hop and urban music are the dominating forces, artists such as Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino and Bruno Mars are among the top nominees the 60th Grammy Awards, to be held Jan. 28 from Madison Square Garden in New York.
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Given that he routinely fills stadiums and has notched 30 No. 1 hits, it’s a pleasant surprise for Kenny Chesney to still be experiencing firsts in his 20-plus-year career. Tuesday morning he celebrated his first solo Grammy nomination: best country album for “Cosmic Hallelujah.”
“To me, the Grammys represent the best of what all music is,” Chesney exclusively told The Times. “It’s everyone who makes music, who creates and plays, coming together as one big family — and really considering the best of the year.”
The Tennessee native has previously been nominated five times, including nods for duets with Pink (2016’s “Setting the World on Fire”) and Grace Potter (“You and Tequila” from 2011) and group outings with friends like Jimmy Buffett and Alan Jackson. But all of those were either in the duo/group or collaboration categories so this solo recognition was particularly meaningful.
That the album also took risks both creatively and promotionally makes the nomination that much sweeter for the 49-year-old singer-songwriter. While “Cosmic Hallelujah” features its share of good-time party fare, Chesney says, “’[W]e also invested in a larger dialogue about our world. Right now, it seems like that mattered more than a lot of people realized at the time.”
“For ‘Cosmic Hallelujah’ more than any album, we defied conventional wisdom every way possible,” said Chesney, noting that, among other moves, the decision was made to change the first single to the song “Noise” nine days before release because it “felt so topical and urgent.”
That song, a catchy lament for our information overloaded times hit No. 6 and was followed by two No. 1s “Setting the World on Fire” and “All the Pretty Girls.”
“This album, I did what I felt was the right thing to do for the music. People didn’t always understand,” said Chesney, who recently hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200 with “Live in No Shoes Nation,” a compendium of live recordings from the last decade. “But when you can put songs like ‘Noise’ onto country radio, or make videos like ‘Rich & Miserable’ with an actor like John C. McGinley — even though it’s not going to be a single —and get people to think about the world around them, that’s powerful.”