The frontrunner stumbled. Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience—The Complete Experience seemed to be the album to beat for Album of the Year at the upcoming 56th annual Grammy Awards. But when the nominations were announced on a live TV special Friday night, the man whose current hit is "TKO" was M.I.A. in the marquee categories.
JT's big hit "Mirrors" was also passed over for Record and Song of the Year. Timberlake wasn't entirely shut out: 20/20 is nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album, and he picked up six other nominations, but his failure to show up in the Album of the Year contest was a jaw-dropping surprise.
The Timberlake no-show was hardly the only surprise or snub in this year's nominations. Here are some others, along with some artists who "scored" just by virtue of being nominated.
Snub: Miley Cyrus. Few expected Cyrus's smash "Wrecking Ball" to be nominated for Record or Song of the Year, but she was also passed over for Best Pop Solo Performance, a nom that seemed within reach. In 2013, Cyrus went from being a fading former Disney star to the most buzzed-about pop celeb of the year. She'll have another chance at Grammy recognition next year when her album Bangerz becomes eligible.
Snub and Score: Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines," the best-selling song of 2013, was nominated for Record of the Year, but was passed over for Song of the Year. The song's similarity to Marvin Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give It Up" has stirred debate and even legal action. Gaye's family has sued for copyright infringement. With this "split decision," the Grammys seemed to be saying: "The song is derivative, but there's no denying the record is catchy."
Snub: Lady Gaga's "Applause" was passed over for Best Pop Solo Performance. Katy Perry's "Roar," which was released one week earlier (and which became a far bigger hit), was nominated in the category. ("Roar" was also nominated for Song of the Year, despite its cliché-ridden lyric.)
Surprise: Sara Bareilles's The Blessed Unrest took Timberlake's place on the Album of the Year ballot. The album spawned the top 30 hit "Brave," which is up for Best Pop Solo Performance. Bareilles received a Song of the Year nom for her 2008 breakthrough hit "Love Song," so this wasn't totally out of the blue, but it was a big surprise.
Snub: One Direction. Teen and tween girls love 'em, but Grammy voters aren't so sure. The boy band's sophomore album, Take Me Home, was passed over for Best Pop Vocal Album.
Score: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. The hip-hop duo was nominated in three of the top four categories (more than any other artist this year): Best New Artist, Album of the Year for The Heist, and Song of the Year for "Same Love," which they co-wrote with Mary Lambert. They were prevented from making a clean sweep of the "Big Four" categories when their smash "Thrift Shop" was surprisingly passed over for a Record of the Year nomination.
Score and Snub: Lorde. The 17-year old breakout star from New Zealand was nominated for both Record and Song of the Year for her smash "Royals." She's the youngest solo artist ever to receive a Record of the Year nom. (She seizes that title from R&B singer Monica, who was 18 when she was nominated for "The Girl Is Mine," her chart-topping collabo with Brandy.) But, oddly, Lorde was passed over for a Best New Artist nom.
Double Score: Pharrell Williams. The 40-year old singer/songwriter/producer is this year's Grammy MVP. He is featured on two hits that are nominated for Record of the Year: Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky." No one has ever had two entries nominated in this category in the same year. Williams scored seven noms in all, including Producer of the Year, an award he shared in 2003.
Surprise: James Blake. The English alternative music artist is the biggest surprise in the Best New Artist category. All of the other nominees in the category — Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Kacey Musgraves, and Ed Sheeran — have had top five albums on The Billboard 200. Blake's Overgrown peaked #32.
Score: Taylor Swift. The megastar made it back to the Album of the Year finals with her latest, Red. Her 2008 album Fearless won the award, but her 2010 follow-up, Speak Now, wasn't even nominated.
Score: Daft Punk. The dance/electronica duo is this year's only act to be nominated for both Album of the Year (for Random Access Memories) and Record of the Year (for "Get Lucky"). Neat trick.
Surprise: Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d. city was nominated for Album of the Year, edging out Drake's Nothing Was the Same. One of the hits on Lamar's album is "Poetic Justice," which featured none other than Drake. Both of their albums are nominated for Best Rap Album. Lamar, 26, is up for seven awards in all, including Best New Artist.
Snubs: Luke Bryan's Crash My Party and Florida Georgia Line's Here's to the Good Times are the two best-selling country albums so far in 2013, but were passed over for nominations for Best Country Album. Florida Georgia Line also came up short in the balloting for Best New Artist.
Score: Kacey Musgraves. The 25-year old singer/songwriter is up for Best New Artist and Best Country Album. She won the CMA Award as New Artist of the Year and was nominated for their Album of the Year prize.
Score: "The Voice." Two of the show's coaches are nominated for Grammys. Blake Shelton is up for Best Country Album for Based On a True Story. CeeLo Green is up for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for CeeLo's Magic Moment.
Score: Tamar Braxton, who had a big, breakout year, is nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album for Love and War and Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance for the album's title track. Her older sister, six-time Grammy-winner Toni Braxton, was passed over for a nom for Best Traditional R&B Performance for "Hurt You," a collabo with Babyface.
Score: Lana Del Rey. The pop star's second album, Paradise, was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album. This marks a convincing recovery from a wobbly debut. Her performance on "Saturday Night Live" in February 2012 (shortly before the release of her first album) was widely panned.
Score and snub: Bruno Mars. Mars's #1 smash "Locked Out of Heaven" is nominated for both Record and Song of the Year. It's his third nom in both categories. But Mars's sophomore album Unorthodox Jukebox was passed over for Album of the Year (though it is up for Best Pop Vocal Album.)
Snub: Lady Antebellum. The trio's last two studio albums, Need You Now and Own the Night, both won for Best Country Album. Their latest, Golden, wasn't even nominated in the category.
Snub (or so he'll say): Kanye West. West's latest album Yeezus was nominated for Best Rap Album, but he has been vocal about complaining that he has yet to win in one of the "Big Four" categories (though he has been nominated in all four of those categories over the years). Does West have a point or should he just be glad he's nominated?
Not Snubbed: Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2. The rapper's blockbuster came out after Sept. 30, the last day of this year's eligibility period. That also explains the absence of such albums as Arcade Fire's Reflektor, Katy Perry's Prism, Miley Cyrus's Bangerz, Lady Gaga's ARTPOP, and Paul McCartney's New. There's always next year…
Click here for the full list of nominees.