Grammy Snubs and Surprises

Beyonce and Paul Simon are both Grammy royalty. They have each won 16 awards through the years. But they probably woke up this morning feeling like they had been royally snubbed. When the 54th annual Grammy nominations were announced last night, Beyonce's 4 and Simon's So Beautiful Or So What weren't in the running for Album of the Year, or even for Best Album in those artists' "home genres," R&B and pop, respectively. (Beyonce's shut-out in the R&B Album category is surprising because her first three solo albums all won as Best Contemporary R&B Album.) Other artists who did worse than expected include rapper Nicki Minaj, who was passed over for Record, Album and Song of the Year (though she is in the running for Best New Artist); and Foster The People and Christina Perri, who seemed likely to be in the running for Best New Artist.

Also missing from the marquee categories: the Maroon5/Christina Aguilera collabo "Moves Like Jagger," which had seemed a lock for a Record of the Year nomination (especially since both artists are past winners of the Grammy for Best New Artist.)

Adele dominated the nominations, as we all knew she would. Lady Gaga also lived up to expectations, becoming the first artist since the Beatles to receive an Album of the Year nomination in three consecutive years. Artists who did better than expected include Bruno Mars, who, like Adele, is nominated for Record, Album and Song of the Year, and alternative group Bon Iver, which is up for Record and Song of the Year as well as Best New Artist.

Artists who did worse than expected include rapper Nicki Minaj, who was passed over for Record, Album and Song of the Year (though she is nominated for Best New Artist).

Also missing from the marquee categories: the Maroon5/Christina Aguilera collabo "Moves Like Jagger," which had seemed a lock for a Record of the Year nomination (especially since both artists are past winners of the Grammy for Best New Artist.)

So what was nominated? For Album of the Year, Adele's sophomore album 21 (far and away the year's best-selling album) will square off against Lady Gaga's third major release, Born This Way; Foo Fighters' seventh studio album, Wasting Light; Bruno Mars' debut, Doo-Wops & Hooligans; and Rihanna's fifth album, Loud. This is the third straight year that Gaga has made the Album of the Year finals. She scored two years ago with The Fame and last year with her EP The Fame Monster. Nobody has achieved that feat since the Beatles were nominated five years in a row from 1965 through 1969.

Wasting Light is Foo Fighters' second album in a row to make the finals. They were nominated in this category with 2007's Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace.

Four of these five albums are also nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album, which makes this an unusually pop-dominated field. There is no country representation (bad news for both Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party and Taylor Swift's Speak Now, which were so evenly matched they probably split the country vote). There's also no rap representation (bad news for Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV and for Kanye West, who had two eligible albums, one solo and one in tandem with Jay-Z).

Swift's previous album, Fearless, was voted Album of the Year two years ago. So was Swift "snubbed" (as pundits love to say) this time around? Not really. It's very hard to make the finals with the follow-up to an Album of the Year winner. Nobody has done it since Bob Dylan 10 years ago. When you're coming off an Album of the Year winner, expectations are so high it's almost impossible to meet them.

Also left out: Tony Bennett's Duets II, the first #1 album of star's 60-year career. The 85-year old pop legend was vying to become the oldest artist ever to gain an Album of the Year nom.

Three of the five Record of the Year finalists were #1 smashes that pop radio listeners have heard countless times: Adele's "Rolling In The Deep," Katy Perry's "Firework" and Bruno Mars' "Grenade." Also nominated: Mumford & Sons' jaunty folk-pop song "The Cave," which cracked the top 30, and Bon Iver's "Holocene," spare, folkish ballad which didn't even hit the Hot 100. The panelists who decide the final nominations like to show that they're not unduly influenced by popularity, so they usually look for a mix of big and lesser hits.

There's a high degree of overlap between the Record and Song of the Year nominees this year. Four works are nominated for both awards: "Rolling In The Deep" (which Adele co-wrote with Paul Epworth), "Grenade" (which Bruno Mars co-wrote with Brody Brown, Claude Kelly, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine and Andrew Wyatt), "Holocene" (written by Bon Iver's Justin Vernon) and "The Cave" (written by the members of Mumford & Sons). The fifth nominee for Song of the Year is "All Of The Lights," a spirited hip-hop collabo which Kanye West co-wrote with Jeff Bhasker, Malik Jones and Warren Trotter.

Passed over for both Record and Song of the Year: "Moves Like Jagger," Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass," Lady Gaga's "You And I," Paul Simon's "So Beautiful Or So What," Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" and Christina Perri's "Jar Of Hearts."

Nicki Minaj and Bon Iver are the leading candidates for Best New Artist. Though Minaj's Pink Friday was passed over for Album of the Year, it is nominated for Best Rap Album. Bon Iver is nominated for Best Alternative Music Album. The band's noms for Record and Song of the Year promise to make the New Artist race competitive after all. Minaj had seemed to be the front-runner all year long. Also nominated: country trio The Band Perry, rapper J. Cole and, surprisingly, Skrillex, which is nominated for Best Dance/Electronica Album for Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites.

Passed over for Best New Artist: Foster the People, Christina Perri, gospel singer Le'Andria Johnson, alternative duo the Civil Wars, rapper Wiz Khalifa and child prodigy Jackie Evancho. (The 11-year old phenom has been a commercial powerhouse, but voters often steer clear of young talent.)

Bruno Mars would have been a formidable Best New Artist contender, but he was ruled ineligible because he won a Grammy last year for "Just The Way You Are." (Yet Mars wasn't allowed to compete for Best New Artist last year because his debut album wasn't released in that eligibility year. So he's one of those artists (Lady Gaga is another) who were never allowed to compete for the New Artist award. It's the Grammys' loss because these names would have brightened the roster of Best New Artist winners.)

Looking at other key races, Seth MacFarlane, the creator of the Fox TV show Family Guy, received a nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for his album Music Is Better Than Words. It received more votes than albums by such stars of the genre as Michael Feinstein, Barbara Cook and Jack Jones, not to mention the first Glee Christmas album.

R.E.M.'s recent announcement that they are disbanding didn't help their final studio album, Collapse Into Now, land a nomination for Best Rock Album.

Here are some other noteworthy albums that were passed over in their "home genre" categories. Kid Rock's Born Free (Rock Album), Ne-Yo's Libra Scale (R&B Album) and Sugarland's The Incredible Machine (Country Album).

Chris Brown's F.A.M.E. was nominated for Best R&B Album, which suggests that he has made headway in rehabilitating his image after his 2009 assault of former girlfriend Rihanna.

Here's some instant handicapping of other key categories.

Best Pop Vocal Album

The academy can send this statuette off to the engravers today: Adele's 21 is certain to win this award. Three other Album of the Year finalists are nominated here: Lady Gaga's Born This Way, Rihanna's Loud and Bruno Mars' Doo-Wops & Hooligans. The final nominee: Cee Lo Green's The Lady Killer. Passed over: Paul Simon's So Beautiful Or So What.

Best Dance/Electronica Album

David Guetta's "Without You" (featuring Usher) is the French DJ's highest-charting hit on the Hot 100. That's bound to boost the chances of his album Nothing But The Beat. The other nominees: Deadmau5's 4X4=12, Robyn's Body Talk Pt. 3, Skrillex's Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites and Cut/Copy's Zonoscope.

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

Tony Bennett's Duets II will give the pop legend his 11th win in this category. The big surprise was the nomination for Seth MacFarlane's Music Is Better Than Words. Barbra Streisand, who has yet to win in this category, is nominated with What Matters Most-Barbra Streisand Sings The Lyrics of Alan & Marilyn Bergman. The other nominees are Harry Connick Jr.'s In Concert On Broadway and Susan Boyle's holiday album The Gift.

Best Rock Album

Foo Fighters won this award with three of their last four studio albums. That makes Wasting Light, which was their first #1 album, the front-runner. The fact that it's also up for Album of the Year seals the deal. The other nominees: Red Hot Chili Peppers' I'm With You, Kings Of Leon's Come Around Sundown, Wilco's The Whole Love and Jeff Beck's Rock'n'Roll Party Honoring Les Paul. Passed over: R.E.M.'s Collapse Into Now and Kid Rock's Born Free.

Best Alternative Music Album

Foster The People's Torches and Bon Iver's Bon Iver are the front-runners. Torches became a big hit thanks to its insanely catchy pop smash "Pumped Up Kicks." Bon Iver has the boost of Record and Song of the Year nominations for "Holocene." Radiohead, which won in this category with three of its last five studio albums, is nominated for The King Of Limbs. The other nominees: Death Cab for Cutie's Codes And Keys and My Morning Jacket's Circuital.

Best R&B Album

Chris Brown's F.A.M.E. leads this surprise-studded field, which also includes El DeBarge's Second Chance, R. Kelly's Love Letter, Ledisi's Pieces Of Me and Kelly Price's Kelly. Passed over: Beyonce's 4, Jill Scott's The Light Of The Sun, Jennifer Hudson's I Remember Me and Ne-Yo's Libra Scale.

Best Rap Album

With her debut album Pink Friday, Nicki Minaj will become the first female solo artist to win in this category. Lil Wayne, who won here three years ago for Tha Carter III, is back with Tha Carter IV. Jay-Z and Kanye West, who are also past winners in this category, made finals with their smash collabo, Watch The Throne. West has a second album in the running: his solo release My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Lupe Fiasco's Lasers rounds out this strong field.

Best Country Album

This will be a showdown between Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party and Taylor Swift's Speak Now. Swift won in this category with her last album, Fearless. Lady Antebellum, which won this award last year with Need You Now, is back in the finals with Own The Night. Blake Shelton's Red River Blue, Eric Church's Chief and George Strait's Here For A Good Time round out the field. Passed over: Sugarland's The Incredible Machine.

Producer Of The Year

Danger Mouse, who won here last year, is nominated for the fifth time in this category. He faces the Smeezingtons (Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine), who were also nominated last year, and three first-time nominees: Paul Epworth, Ryan Tedder and Butch Vig.