The nominations are officially out for the 61st Grammy Awards. But with 84 categories — including eight nominees in each of the top four categories — it’s a lot to digest.
Thankfully, Times music reporters Gerrick Kennedy and Randy Lewis are here to offer their instant takes on the major takeaways from the 2019 nominations. How far can “A Star Is Born” breakout tune “Shallow” go? Just why isn’t Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” up for album of the year? And will this finally be Kendrick Lamar’s year?
Watch video below for analysis on all that and more.
Los Angeles Times music critics Gerrick D. Kennedy and Randy Lewis react to the 2019 Grammy nominations.
Few in 2018 besides perhaps Kendrick Lamar can be virtually assured a Grammy nomination after releasing a recording, but followers of the spoken word category know better than to bet against former President Jimmy Carter after he drops an album.
The 39th president earned his ninth nod in 21 years in the category, this time for his reading of “Faith: A Journey for All.”
The recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize and a pair of Grammy Awards already, Carter will compete with a fever-dream field of fellow nominees: comedic actress Tiffany Haddish for her book “The Last Black Unicorn,” actor Courtney B. Vance for his reading of Neil deGrasse Tyson and Avis Lang’s book “Accessory to War,” humor writer David Sedaris for his “Calypso” and drummer and “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” bandleader Questlove for his “Creative Quest.”
A cursory glance at a list of artists with multiple nominations for the 2019 Grammy Awards looks promising in the wake of last year’s #GrammysSoMale complaints that erupted after male performers overwhelmingly dominated the statuettes handed out, especially those distributed during the national telecast of the annual ceremony.
This year, among 11 people with five or more nominations, six are men, five are women.
Nods for album of the year are particularly wide-ranging. The Kendrick Lamar-led soundtrack to “Black Panther,” which features contributions from a plethora of major artists, is joined by Brandi Carlile’s “By the Way, I Forgive You,” Drake’s “Scorpion,” Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy,” H.E.R.’s “H.E.R.,” Post Malone’s “Beerbongs & Bentleys,” Janelle Monáe’s “Dirty Computer” and Kacey Musgraves’ “Golden Hour.”
R&B star and actress Janelle Monáe teared up live on air when she heard that her empowering latest album, “Dirty Computer,” was nominated for the Grammy Award for album of the year.
Monáe was on the set of “CBS This Morning” on Friday to assist the anchors in presenting the 2019 Grammy nominees, and co-host Norah O’Donnell caught the performer’s emotional reaction when she heard her name announced.
"Being a young, black, queer woman in America, there was something I had to say .. a group of people I wanted to celebrate, and I’m happy to be representing them. I hope they feel seen, I hope they feel heard. I hope they feel loved. & I hope they feel celebrated" -@JanelleMonaepic.twitter.com/eXPZXyIgWe
The Recording Academy may have expanded the field in the four general categories from five to eight nominees, but considering that thousands of eligible albums came out last year, snubs are not only inevitable but also guaranteed.
Take, for example, former best new artist winner Sam Smith.
The platinum singer performed “Pray” at January’s ceremony and was the king of the proceedings in 2015, when he received best new artist and his smash ballad “Stay With Me” took home honors for record and song of the year.
Despite the push toward streaming services and the race to the bottom of the sales charts for CDs and DVDs, there is still an awful lot of classical product being released on shiny discs. So much so that it’s really impossible for Grammy committees to fairly judge all that’s out there. But select they do anyway.
American orchestras monopolized the best orchestral performance category in nominations announced Friday. Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony, who won two Grammys last year, are back with Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony (also nominated for best engineering). Perennial contenders Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony scored with their smoothly played set of all four Schumann symphonies, and David Alan Miller’s enterprising survey of American composers Carl Ruggles, Steven Stucky and John Harbison deserves attention.
The Seattle Symphony leads all orchestras with three nominations — two for its present music director, Ludovic Morlot, in Aaron Jay Kernis’ traditionally shaped Violin Concerto with soloist James Ehnes (in the classical instrumental solo and contemporary composition categories), and one for its future music director, Thomas Dausgaard, in Nielsen’s Symphonies Nos. 3 and 4 (orchestral performance), a strong opening entry for a complete Nielsen cycle. There were no nominations for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, which has recorded little lately.
A surprise challenger infiltrated the musical theater album category when the Grammy nominees were announced Friday: The television special “Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert,” starring Sara Bareilles, Alice Cooper and John Legend, landed a nomination next to Tony Award winners “The Band’s Visit,” “Carousel,” “My Fair Lady” and “Once on This Island.”
Long considered Broadway’s Grammy category, the winner is often a cast album for whichever show won the best musical or best musical revival Tony Award. “Dear Evan Hansen” won last year. In 2016, “Hamilton” took the Grammy.
Thanks to this year’s twist, the Tonys’ best musical, “The Band’s Visit,” and musical revival, “Once on This Island,” are not exactly shoo-ins for a Grammy win.
Recording Academy voters were most impressed this year with the sound of Wakanda, the fictional African country from the film “Black Panther.”
The music assembled by Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar to accompany the Marvel Studios blockbuster received a field-leading eight nominations for its album and singles, including the hat trick of recognition in the top three categories of record, album and song of the year.
This is the second time in Lamar’s career that he has led the Grammy nominees. Lamar went into the 2016 ceremony with 11 nominations tied to his “To Pimp a Butterfly" and last year, his “Damn” competed for album of the year, ultimately losing to Bruno Mars.