Grammy voters were as moved by Sam Smith's gospel-tinged ballad “Stay With Me” as fans have been this year. The English singer/songwriter, 22, received six nominations for the 57th annual Grammy Awards, including a clean sweep of the “Big Four” categories. Beyoncé and Pharrell Williams were also nominated in six categories, but, in each case, only one of the marquee categories: Album of the Year.
Smith’s “Stay With Me” was nominated for Record and Song of the Year. His debut album, In the Lonely Hour, was nominated for Album of the Year. And Smith is a finalist for Best New Artist. Smith is only the second male solo artist in Grammy history to receive a nomination in each of these “Big Four” categories (following Christopher Cross in 1980) and only the second British artist to achieve the sweep (following Amy Winehouse in 2007).
With the notable exception of Smith, it was a big year for women in the Grammy nominations (as it has been on the best-seller charts). Female artists accounted for four of the five Record of the Year nominees for only the fourth time in Grammy history. (This previously happened in 1974, 1977, and 1998.) “Stay With Me” is squaring off against Sia's “Chandelier,” Taylor Swift's “Shake It Off,” Meghan Trainor's “All About That Bass,” and Iggy Azalea's “Fancy” (featuring Charli XCX).
"Fancy," which blends elements of pop and hip-hop, is just the second all-female collaboration in Grammy history to receive a Record of the Year nomination. The first was "The Boy is Mine" by Brandy & Monica 16 years ago.
All five Record of the Year nominees were top 10 hits on Billboard's Hot 100.
All of the artists involved in these hits are first-time Record of the Year nominees, except for Swift. It’s her third nomination in this category, following “You Belong With Me” in 2009 and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” in 2012.
Reflecting the global nature of contemporary pop music, three of the five Record of the Year candidates are by artists from outside the U.S. Sia and Azalea are both Australian. Smith is English (as is Charli XCX , the featured artist on Azalea’s smash). The only Americans in the field are Swift and Trainor.
Four of the five Record of the Year finalists were also nominated for Song of the Year. The sole exception: “Fancy” was passed over for Song of the Year in favor of Hozier's ballad hit “Take Me to Church.” (Record of the Year, which goes to the artist and producer, recognizes a specific recording of a song. Song of the Year, which goes to the songwriter, recognizes the song itself.)
For Album of the Year, Smith’s album is competing with Beyoncé's Beyoncé; Pharrell Williams's GIRL, Beck's Morning Phase, and Ed Sheeran's x. This is the third nomination in the category (as a lead artist) for Beck; the second for Beyoncé; the first for the other nominees.
Among the albums that were passed over for Album of the Year: Miranda Lambert's Platinum, Ariana Grande's My Everything, the Frozen soundtrack, U2's Songs of Innocence, the Black Keys' Turn Blue, Coldplay's Ghost Stories, Katy Perry's PRISM, and Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP 2.
Smith and Azalea were also nominated for Best New Artist. Azalea is just the third female hip-hop artist to be nominated in this category, following Lauryn Hill, the 1998 winner, and Nicki Minaj. Also nominated for Best New Artist: Bastille, an English band which scored with the top five hit “Pompeii,” country singer Brandy Clark, and the sister group HAIM.
Both Smith and Clark are openly gay. Either would become the first openly gay artist ever to win for Best New Artist. Few were surprised when Boy George later came out, but he played it coy in interviews at height of his success with Culture Club (the 1983 Best New Artist winner). Tracy Chapman (the 1988 winner) has always kept her private life private.
Among the notable acts that were passed over for Best New Artist: Pentatonix, an a cappella group which has a current smash Christmas album; the Aussie teen pop group 5 Seconds Of Summer; the South African brother quartet KONGOS; singer-songwriter Aloe Blacc; and the Canadian pop-reggae group MAGIC!, which had the #1 smash “Rude.”
(Pentatonix really exploded in the past month, just after nominating ballots were due at the accounting firm. If the voting had been conducted just a little later, the quintet probably would have made it.)
Trainor and Hozier weren’t eligible for Best New Artist. Per Grammy rules, artists have to have released an album or at least a five-song EP to qualify in that category. Trainor’s EP, Title, consists of just four songs. Hozier’s eponymous full-length album was released after the close of the eligibility year on Sept. 30. (Neither will be able to compete for Best New Artist next year either. Rules also disallow artists who have received previous nominations.)
Among the records that were passed over for Record of the Year: Ariana Grande's “Problem” (featuring Azalea), KONGOS' “Come With Me Now,” Idina Menzel's “Let It Go” from Frozen, Coldplay's “A Sky Full of Stars,” Hozier's “Take Me to Church,” and Eminem's “The Monster” (featuring Rihanna).
Among the songs that were passed over for Song of the Year: “Let It Go,” “A Sky Full of Stars,” and “Say Something,” the ballad which became a hit for A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera.
Female artists also came on strong in several of the genre album categories. Females account for three of the nominations for Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Country Album and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. Ariana Grande, Katy Perry,and Miley Cyrus are competing in the pop album category. Miranda Lambert, Lee Ann Womack,and Brandy Clark are vying the country album category. Barbra Streisand, Annie Lennox, and Lady Gaga (in tandem with Tony Bennett) are competing in the Trad Pop category.
Taylor Swift’s chart-topping album, 1989, was released too late to be eligible this year.
Go here to see the full list of this year’s Grammy nominees.
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