Last night, this year's Grammy nominations were announced. Apparently. I flipped to the 10 p.m. "announcement" — CBS's The GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!! — a few times but didn't hear one word about who was nominated. Although the all-star rendition of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five's Hip Hop classic (host LL Cool J called it "the greatest Hip Hop song of all time") was cool to see, the tributes to Nick Ashford and Jerry Leiber (with their songwriting-duo partners Valerie Simpson and Mike Stoller) was a nice touch and the closing Lady Gaga/Sugarland collaboration was at least interesting. Thanks to ye olde internets, I was finally able to see who was nominated this year and, I have to say, once again the list of nominees is more surprising than what we've come to expect from the Grammys. In past years, Paul Simon's latest album, So Beautiful or So What, would have scored nominations in almost every category it was eligible. But this year, it was completely snubbed.
Below are a few random observations about the nominations this year. Click here to view the full list of nominees (or here for a PDF file download). The 54th Grammys ceremony is Feb. 12, airing on CBS.
• Cincinnati native Fred Hersch (pictured) scored two nominations this year. (Click here for Brian Baker's interview with Hersch for CityBeat from earlier this year when he came to town for a two-night stand at the Blue Wisp.) The well-known and respected Jazz pianist (who grew up in North Avondale and attended Walnut Hills High School) is up for Best Jazz Instrumental Album for his Alone at the Vanguard, as well as "Best Improvised Jazz Solo" (which may just be my favorite category, at least in spirit) for his solo on that album's track "Work."
• Eighth Blackbird, the creative Chamber music ensemble, scored three Grammy nominations for their Lonely Motel: Music From Slide album (Best Small Ensemble, Best Contemporary Classical Composition and Best Engineered Album). The group performs in Cincinnati often and always draws huge crowds, thanks in part to the friends some of the members made in the area while attending University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music.
• A pair of MidPoint Music Festival 2011 participants scored nominations — Australian Electronic group Cut Copy scored a "Best Dance/Electronica Album" nomination, while the legendary Booker T. Jones, who won for Best Pop Instrumental Album in 2010 for his Potato Hole, is up for the same award this time around for his most recent effort, The Road From Memphis.
• Between the last two years' unexpected nominations and last year's surprise wins — especially The Arcade Fire's "Album of the Year" score — the Grammy winners are officially harder than they've ever been to predict. The predictions for who would simply be nominated correctly called nods for Adele, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, but nominations for Bon Iver and Mumford & Sons took many (though not all) pundits by surprise.
• Speaking of Bon Iver, Justin Vernon's folksy Indie project fills the "Who the hell is Arcade Fire!?" slot this year. Last year, when Arcade Fire's The Suburbs won the top prize, cyberspace went nuts with a bazillion confused and/or angry Tweets and other comments reflecting the general public's complete ignorance of Canada's best export since Bob and Doug McKenzie. This year, Bon Iver — Eu Claire, Wisconsin's greatest export since … uh … early 20th century character actor Stanley Blystone? — got the "WTF?!?!?" ball rolling early. Bon Iver is up for Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist and Best Alternative Artist.
• Speaking of Best New Artist, many predicted Indie Pop group Foster the People were a lock for a nod, but, while they did receive a couple of nominations, they were left out of this always entertaining category, where "New" appears to be more of a state of mind than anything. Joining Bon Iver in the category are Country group The Band Perry and Hip Hop favorite Nicki Minaj, both predicted widely for New Artist nominations. The "shocker" noms were Hip Hop artist J. Cole and Skrillex, probably the most popular artist in the Dance music field of Dubstep and definitely the most surprising inclusion in the New Artist category this year. Skrillex also scored an impressive five other nominations.
• When Seth MacFarlane, creator of the cartoons Family Guy, The Cleveland Show and American Dad, was on Piers Morgan's CNN show a while back, he talked about how he had a tough time getting girls, saying that nothing had changed in that department since he became famous. Poor fella. Now he can add "multiple Grammy nominee" to his apparently-not-good-enough eHarmony profile, right next to "multi-millionaire," "cartoonishly handsome" and "sings like Sinatra." Hopefully his nominations — for both his album of standards and the Family Guy showtune "Christmastime Is Killing Us" — will help make some nice gal take pity on him.
• There was a lot of hubbub when the Grammys announced rule changes and category shifts, particularly from the Hawaiian music community, who were pissed that all of their categories were eliminated. The Grammys responded with a token nod to Daniel Ho's E Kahe Malie in the Best Pop Instrumental Album category. Yeah, that should calm the storm. And certainly increase Hawaiian TV ratings for the broadcast in February.