A Full Analysis of This Year’s Major Grammy Nominations

(photos: The Wrap)

Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, and the Weeknd dominated the nominations for the 58th annual Grammy Awards. Lamar received 11 nominations, more than any artist has nabbed in one year in this decade. (He surpassed Eminem, who scored 10 five years ago).

Related: 2015 Grammy Snubs & Surprises

Swift is nominated for Album, Record, and Song of the year. It’s the second time she has achieved this sweep. She was nominated in all three categories six years ago.

Let’s take a closer look at the nominees in the “Big Four” categories.

Album of the Year

The nominees are Swift’s 1989, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, the Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness, Chris Stapleton’s Traveller, and Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color.

This is the third nomination in this category for Swift; the second for Lamar; the first for the Weeknd, Stapleton, and Alabama Shakes.

To Pimp… is the highest-rated album so far this year at Metacritic.com, with a 96 score.

Stapleton’s Traveller re-entered the Billboard 200 album chart at #1 last month after it won three CMA Awards, including Album of the Year. It is the first album by a male country artist to receive a nom in this category since Vince Gill’s These Days eight years ago.

Swift, Lamar, and Alabama Shakes are past Grammy nominees for Best New Artist. (None won, interestingly. They lost to Amy Winehouse, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and fun., respectively.)

Record of the Year

The nominees: “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, the Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” and “Really Love” by D'Angelo and The Vanguard.

This is Mars’s fifth nomination in this category (his fourth as an artist); Swift’s fourth. It’s Ronson’s second (his first as an artist). It’s the first for the Weeknd, Sheeran, and D'Angelo.

Swift is now tied with Beyoncé with four career Record of the Year noms. (Beyoncé’s total includes one hit with Destiny’s Child.) Only one female artist, Barbra Streisand, has had more noms in the category. Streisand has had five.

Max Martin and Shellback co-produced both “Blank Space” and “Can’t Feel My Face.” The latter smash is so evocative of Michael Jackson’s sound, it’s practically a tribute.

Two of these records are throwbacks to classic styles of the past. As noted, “Can’t Feel My Face” would have been right at home on a Michael Jackson album. “Uptown Funk” is a nod to the Minneapolis sound of the mid 1980s, typified by Prince and the Time. These records were saluted, but in both cases the songs were not nominated for Song of the Year. This echoes what happened two years ago when Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” which lifted from Marvin Gaye, was nominated for Record of the Year but not Song of the Year.

Song of the Year

People often ask, “What’s the difference between Record and Song of the Year”? Record of the Year is for a specific recording of a song. Song of the Year is for the song itself.

The nominees: “Thinking Out Loud,” “Blank Space,” the Little Big Town hit “Girl Crush,” the Kendrick Lamar hit “Alright,” and “See You Again,” the hip-hop smash by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth.

This is Swift’s third nom in the category and the second for Sheeran, Shellback (who co-wrote “Blank Space”) and Liz Rose and Hillary Lindsey (who co-wrote “Girl Crush”).

“Alright” is also nominated for Best Rap Song. “Girl Crush” is also nominated for Best Country Song. “See You Again” is also nominated for Best Song Written for Visual Media. “See You Again,” from Furious 7, may well be the frontrunner to win the Oscar next year for Best Song. It expressed the audience’s sadness following the death of Paul Walker, one of the stars of The Fast & the Furious franchise.

Best New Artist

The nominees: Meghan Trainor, Sam Hunt, Courtney Barnett, James Bay, and Tori Kelly. (Though Traveller is Stapleton’s solo debut album, he wasn’t entered for Best New Artist. He had previously recorded two albums as a member of the bluegrass group the SteelDrivers.)

At last year’s Grammys, Trainor was nominated for Record and Song of the Year for “All About That Bass.” So what is she doing here? Eligibility in this category is based on the release of full-length albums. (That’s pretty old-school in this song-centered era.)

Hunt is just the fourth male country solo artist to receive a nomination in this category. He follows Billy Ray Cyrus, Brad Paisley, and Hunter Hayes. (None of them won.) Hunt’s debut album, Montevallo, has spawned three #1 hits on the country chart, more than any other album this year. Hunt won New Artist of the Year last month at the American Music Awards, beating Fetty Wap, Tove Lo, Walk the Moon, and the Weeknd. Montevallo is also nominated for Best Country Album.

Looking Ahead

So who is likely to win when the Grammys are presented on Feb. 15?

Swift has such a lock on Album of the Year that the Recording Academy might as well send the trophy to the engravers now. Until Adele’s album was released in November (too late for this year’s eligibility period, to the relief of Swifties everywhere), Swift simply owned the year, not just in sales, but in the confident way she has taken a leadership role in the industry.

“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars is the frontrunner for Record of the Year. The sleek and snazzy single is the year’s biggest hit.

Both Swift and Ronson stand to make Grammy history if they win as expected. Swift would become the first female artist to win Album of the Year twice for her own albums. She first won for her sophomore album, Fearless. Ronson would become the first person to win Record of the Year both as an artist and as a producer for another artist. He won the 2007 award for producing Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.”

Trainor is the frontrunner to win for Best New Artist. She would become the first female pop singer to win in that category since Adele in 2008.