Grammy nominations: We're shocked! Six huge surprises

It happens nearly every year: The Recording Academy voters, for reasons known only to themselves, give a Grammy nod to an album or song so random, no one could possibly have expected it — or neglect to include something so well-regarded, everybody expected it. Here are the six most surprising things about this year’s Grammy nominations. (And to be clear, we’re not saying any of these are bad things necessarily. Just things we wouldn’t have predicted.)

1. Dave Matthews Band, Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King (Album of the Year): It’s a solid album and all, but it hasn’t made close to the cultural dent left by the other nominees in this category (Beyoncé, the Black Eyed Peas, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga). And we would have thought U2’s No Line on the Horizon or Green Day’s 21st Century Breakdown would have been a surer bet for the “consensus rock album” spot here.

2. No Kanye: Well, not quite none. Kanye West and Young Jeezy’s “Amazing” was nominated for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, and West got five more nods for work he did on others’ records. But his own album 808s & Heartbreak came out well within the eligibility window, and it didn’t get so much as mentioned in any of the album categories — quite a contrast with the copious Grammys love each of his three previous albums received. Could VMAs backlash have hurt him with the Recording Academy?

3. MGMT, “Kids” (Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals): We weren’t entirely stunned to see these guys get a Best New Artist nod, but their single was a welcome left-field choice in as big a category as this. Will the scrappy psych-rockers be able to take out competitors like Bon Jovi and the Black Eyed Peas (and, uh, Hall & Oates)? We’ll find out next month!

4. The Lonely Island & T-Pain, “I’m On a Boat” (Best Rap/Sung Collaboration): Just seeing Andy Samberg and his buddies’ nautical goof put in the same paragraph as straight-faced hits like Jay-Z, Rihanna, and Kanye West’s “Run This Town” and T.I and Justin Timberlake’s “Dead and Gone” made me LOL — and beam with pride. I love this song.

5. The entire Producer of the Year, Non-Classical category: Okay, Greg Kurstin (Lily Allen, the Bird and the Bee) and Brendan O’Brien (Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam, AC/DC, etc.) are reasonable choices. But it’s tougher to explain the nods that went to Ethan Johns for producing that one Ray LaMontagne album, or Larry Klein for work with Tracy Chapman, Madeleine Peyroux, and others. Would it have killed the Recording Academy to recognize Christopher “Tricky” Stewart and The-Dream for producing Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” or RedOne for Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face,” or will.i.am for all those Black Eyed Peas singles, or something that someone under age 60 has heard of?

6. Jimmy Sturr, Polka Cola: Music That Refreshes (Best Traditional Folk Album): Earlier this year, perennial Grammy winner Sturr was vocally disappointed by the Recording Academy’s decision to do away with the Best Polka Album category he had so often dominated. Sweet revenge! His supporters just went ahead and got him nominated in another vaguely related category instead.

Were you surprised by those nominations, too? Or were there other surprises for you? Don’t forget to watch the 52nd annual Grammy Awards live on CBS on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

More from EW.com’s Music Mix:
The Grammy nomination rules: An idiot’s guide
Rihanna talks naked photos leak: “Humiliating and embarrassing”
Susan Boyle scores year’s biggest sales week by far
Wiz Khalifa: Deal or No Deal, his buzz is growing
Nick Jonas leaves the nest for solo tour

Photo credit: Danny Clinch

Comments (202 total) Add your comment
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  • philip john

    i’m not surprised but i’m rooting for the black eyed peas, sugarland and lady gaga. well, i love mainstream pop and country, plain and simple.

    • Kristyn

      Besides Sugarland, you have proved you have bad taste.

      • Ugh

        that comment proves you both have bad taste

      • nikki

        Nope, Sugarland proves it too. Jennifer Nettles voice makes me want to light her and myself on fire.

      • me

        i for one proclaim, I HAVE BAD TASTE, according to you anyway. lady gaga should get something. her music isn’t culturally relevant or deep, but that’s not what i personally want in music, i wanna have fun. i want it to take me away from the problems of the world.

  • deb

    Beyonce and Gaga all the way!

    • hill

      I love both artists but can somebody tell me how either of the albums from these artists (The Fame or I Am…) were better albums than Maxewell’s Blacksummersnight? We can add The Black Eyed Peas’ The E.N.D. to this question too.

    • NatyNormal

      Totally agree with you…

  • Ross Bonaime

    The DMB nomination was a pretty big surprise. I’d also say I was surprised by Silversun Pickups for best new artist, especially since their first album was more popular, and also the nominations for MGMT and The Ting Tings for best new artists as well. I was very surprised thought by Jay-Z not being nominated for Best Rap Album for The Blueprint 3. I mean I’m pretty sure it came out in time to be up for the award.

    • Simon Vozick-Levinson

      Ross, Jay-Z’s album came out on Sept. 8 — just over a week after the eligibility window closed. (Let the 2011 predictions begin…)

      • Ross Bonaime

        Thanks, I wasn’t sure. I thought that album was mysteriously absent from the lineup. Thanks for clearing that up.

      • hill

        Rap Album 2011 predictions

        Jay-Z Blueprint 3
        Kid Cudi – The Man on the Moon
        The Roots – How I Got Over
        Lupe Fiasco – Lasers
        Eminem – Relapse 2

        done.

    • RK

      I love DMB, but that’s a surprise. As for U2, that’s their worst album since their Discotheque era. And you are right — I’m not sure how the Silversun Pickups are new…

      • craig1

        Yes, the U2 album was way over hyped, it sounded like one song all the way through, very boring!

    • Dana

      I love DMB but was surprised that album was nominated. I bought it when it first came out, listened to it once and hated it. Of all their albums I think it is the worst one made.

  • SMH

    WTF??? Did they just turn on the radio and pick whoever got the most spins? I like Beyonce but Album of the Year?? And on top of this the Black Eyed Peas for Album of the Year? That was the biggest pile of shizza ever. “I Got a Feeling” is insulting to my 6-month nephew’s intelligence. Damn! They act as if music doesn’t exist outside of Top 40 radio.

    • wac91

      AGREED COMPLETELY.

    • Danny

      That is exactly how I feel! I really don’t think I’ll even watch the show, becaus it’s all just mainstream crap

    • underfor5

      Also agree. Black Eyed Peas write catchy hooks, but their lyrics have less depth than a Kleenex. While Kanye may have angered half the world, 808s and Heartbreaks is a great album, and should have been nominated.

      • Limevixen

        Totally agree. The Grammy nominating committee seem to live in a bubble with only Top 40 radio and well known, established artists. So much great, new music goes unrecognized by them each and every year.

    • ks

      Agree!!!

    • Alberto

      THANK YOU!!! I don’t for the life of me understand how such a horrible “band” like the Black Eyed Peas are not being laughed at by the music industry. BEP for BEST album?? NOT!!!

  • steph

    I am now rooting for “I’m on a Boat” LOL

    • Ambient Lite

      Me too…that news completely brightened my entire outlook on life.

    • Megan

      If a rap parody can win a Grammy for Best Rap Collaboration, then Rap as a genre is dead. Having said that, I could not stop quoting that song all summer. (I got a nautical themed pashmina afghan!)

      • Andy F

        Isn’t it more a parody of rap videos? Now, if the bling-on-a-boat genre is dead, I’m all for it.

    • Ambient Lite

      Oh, can you imagine how pi$$ed off Kanye is about this??? I love it!

      • Brad

        Yo hill, I’m really happy for you, Imma let you finish, but T-Pain had of the Best Guest Appearances in a Rap of all time. One of the Best Guest Appearances of all time!!

    • hill

      This is insulting to rap artist that actually worked to create a real songs. Rap has so many “collaborations” and this joke made it to the list…sad.

      • Khristina

        I’m on a Boat

        1. Music track- Check
        2. Singing- Check
        3. Rapping- Check
        4. Famous guy/rapper collaborating-Check
        5. Hill acting like a D-bag- Check

        Yeah, looks like I’m on a Boat has all of the necessary requirements to be nominated for Best Rap Collaboration.

        Idiot

    • Brad

      So with you on this one!!! *never thought he’d be on a boat*

    • Mavis

      Having “I’m on a boat” nominated for this category equates to when Jethro Tull was nominated for Best Heavy Metal Song for “Aqualung”. Since Jethro won, I am also pulling for Andy Samberg & co!

      • Hans

        Jethro Tull won the Grammy for “Crest of a Knave” 18 years after Aqualung was released, they never won a Grammy for Aqualung

  • ann

    I’m shocked that Taylor Swift was nominated for Best Female VOCAL performance. Have they HEARD her? She’s a talented performer and writer, but come on? There wasn’t ONE other female performance that was vocally better than hers? This ***-kissing, it is getting to be a bit much…

    • Cheerianna

      Agreed! She should be nominated for other awards. But not vocals! What does that say about the credibility of the people voting? What a slap in the face to all the true female vocalists that she is nominated.

    • bootsycolumbia

      Yeah, I agree. I like Taylor Swift; I like that she writes a lot of her own material and that she’s relatable to her fan base without being sleazy or b!tchy (i.e. Miley Cyrus), but I don’t like her voice.

      • G-Mom

        She’s a cute, sweet girl, but her voice is not all that good. Sorry…

    • maiv

      I think people are just getting caught up in her sweet demeanor and the fact that Kanye dissed her at the VMAs.

      • hill

        Beyonce and Taylor benefited from Kanye’s VMA outburst.

      • hill

        Beyonce and Taylor both benefited from Kanye’s VMA outburst.

      • hobokenMTV

        I agree. If there is one category to give to Whitney, this was it.

    • steve

      Madonna was nominated here and there for best female vocals and can’t see. Taylor Swift is a better singer than Madonna and it’s appropriate to put Swift in the ‘best female vocalist’ category because there are alot worse that have been nominated too, like Madonna.

      • steve

        meant to type ‘can’t sing’!

      • Khristina

        Madonna can’t sing??? LMAO Yeah, right. And Michael Jackson can’t dance…Jay-Z can’t rap…etc.

        Just because YOU don’t like her doesn’t mean she “can’t sing”. Get a clue

    • GGG

      I agree totally! I’m afraid to say the same thing in public or I’ll be shot be a tween. She is so overrated. She’s sweet and pretty but does not have a very strong voice.

      • Angelica

        Strength & conditioning this monnrig. Push Press 75lbs. Way below percentage, but I wanted to go fast. Linda 255lb Deadlift, 140lb. Bench Press, 100lb. Clean- 17:56 minutes. Scaled quite a bit. First time ever gettin’ through that. Tough .

  • Duffi

    I’m a bit p*ssed off that David Cook wasn’t recognized with a nom for Best New Artist. Otherwise, the Academy did what it usually does: recognize sales.

    • me

      not in best new artist. none of the five are HUGE sellers. i guess there was nobody to pick from. i must say though “that’s not my name” by the ting tings is quite a song. makes me groove

  • brooke

    Obviously the writer/critic hasn’t heard the Ray Lamontagne album, and comes off seeming a little out of the loop–or at least, of anything outside of the incredibly narrow Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga pop mainstream. Does anyone OVER 60 listen to Ray Lamontagne’s dark, brooding songs? Everyone I know listens to a little bit of “dessert” music like the Peas and Lady Gaga from time to time, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. We all love “Single Ladies, and of course, “I’m on a Boat.” But most people typically opt for something a teensy bit more complex or sophisticated as their main musical course. It seems misplaced to criticize offering nominations for excellent, remarkable work to critically acclaimed albums.

    Ethan Johns deserves this nod for producing the latest in a string of critically acclaimed and timeless albums (Heartbreaker, Trouble, etc etc). Hopefully the nomination will steer more people toward checking out albums not quite in the limelight until now.

    • wac91

      Thank you! When they said “Someone that people have actually heard of” I thought “people that listen to pop music like the BEPs, Beyonce, and Taylor Swift don’t know ANYTHING about ANY producer, under or over 60. And his awesome talents are one of the few actually good nominations in this mess of top 40 crap.

    • Mag

      Seriously, Gossip in the Grain is an awesome album that deserves actual nominations for Ray Lamontagne’s vocal abilities. The people nominated for album of the year and the like don’t come anywhere near him. They are there over him because they are more well known and have sold more but that doesn’t indicate that they are more talented. By the way, this is coming from someone who is 22 (ie under 60).

      • bondfool

        The world needs more Ray Lamontagnes and less Black Eyed Peases.

      • Lynny

        I actually enjoy the BEP’s but Ray LaMontagne is the voice of God as far as I am concerned and the producer deserves any praise he can get. Great album.

      • Diane

        Agree with bondfool and Mag. I could listen to Gossip in the Grain and all of Ray’s albums over and over and over again. Oh wait… I already do that. Love Ray. And if you like Ray you all should check out Amos Lee, if you haven’t already. Another fabulous artist.

    • Alisha

      I agree with you all. I never comment on these articles, but that comment about that people that produce popular songs should garner awards over produces that produce excellent movie makes me sick to my stomach. Gossip In The Grain is a great album, and deserves any praise that can be given towards it!

  • Stephanie

    I like Beyonce and Gaga as much as the next girl, but I was really happily surprised with DMB’s nominee. I thought this album was their best in years, and it really deserved to get recognized.

    • Momo

      While I don’t think that this new DMB album was the best (my fav is the earlier stuff) I am pleased to see them nominated. To the author of this article, it seems you only want Lady Gaga, Black Eyed Peas, and Beyonce nominated. You may want to turn off your radio and see that there is much much better music out there.

  • dave

    Maybe 808s & Heartbreak wasn’t nominated because it’s a crappy album. And this is coming from a fan of Kanye’s previous three albums.

    • Little Timmy

      Correct! 808s was horrible. Other 3 albums – gold

  • Heather

    Yeah… Kids isn’t really a new song. It is pretty old but hey not gonna argue.

    I am SO hoping for I’m on a Boat to win.

  • Caitlin

    The same thing happened to The Neptunes in the Best Producer category in 2001. Ends up their label “overlooked” submitting their work for nomination. Unreal and pathetic.

  • Greg

    …that is just it….there is not much to listen to recorded by anyone under sixty. Rock and Roll is dead.

    • Cheerianna

      There is plenty of new Rock out there besides Kings of Leon, such as Shinedown, David Cook, Muse, Airborne Toxic Event, Carolina Liar, DMB, The Killers, Blue October, Foo Fighters, Collective Soul, just to name a few. But as someone else pointed out, the nominees seem to have been chosen by someone turning on Top 40 radio for a couple hours, and nominating whatever they heard. Then for the Rock categories n order to fill out 5 names, I guess they had to supplement the list with any older bands they knew had won awards before.
      Makes me wonder who is voting.

      • Luciana

        Agreed, except for MUSE – they’ve been together for 15 years, put out 5 albums and a DVD, and have won all kinds of awards in their home country, so I don’t think they can qualify as new under Grammy rules. (Though they are amazing – saw them in concert 3 years ago and it was the best live show I’ve ever seen)

      • Diane

        Collective Soul has been around since at least the early 90’s. No way they could be a New group.

      • Diane

        And Foo Fighters isn’t new either. They’ve been around almost as long as Collective Soul.

      • nunnya

        The Killers aren’t new either. Hot Fuss was circa 2004. I love them though…wish they were nominated for something. Happy that Depeche Mode got a couple of nods.

  • john

    Zac Brown band for best new artist

  • dj1960

    Reality Shows and Award Shows are a joke. It’s just an excuse to waste 3 hours of your night watching nothing.

    • Cheerianna

      Yeah. The problem is I am sorry I wasted an hour half-watching the nomination show. I can’t imagine bothering to watch the actual awards show this year. There are so few nominees I am impressed with, I have to presume they will not be the winners.

    • Shurly

      Well I intend to watch it thank you very much. I don’t watch reality shows, but I’m a sucker for award shows (well except country: meh)

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