Lil Wayne tops Grammy nods amid a British invasion

Chris Martin and his Coldplay bandmates received seven Grammy nominations last night. Chris Martin and his Coldplay bandmates received seven Grammy nominations last night. (Vince Bucci/ Getty Images/file)
By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / December 4, 2008
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It looks like Lil Wayne might want to invest in a big trophy case. The only artist in 2008 to move a million units in one week became the top nominee for the 51st annual Grammy awards. The diminutive rapper received eight nominations, including album of the year for "Tha Carter III," during last night's live primetime concert special on CBS.

British pop-rock band Coldplay followed closely on Wayne's heels with seven nods, including the top three awards: song, record, and album of the year for its single "Viva La Vida" and parent album "Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends."

Also competing in the album of the year category are fellow multiple nominees R&B singer Ne-Yo (6) for his sleek "Year of the Gentleman," Robert Plant and Alison Krauss (5) for their rootsy collaboration "Raising Sand," and Radiohead (5) for its musically ambitious and commercially adventurous "In Rainbows."

While ubiquitous chart-topper Wayne garnered the most nods overall, his friends and collaborators in the hip-hop community scored big as well, with Jay-Z and Kanye West receiving six nominations apiece.

It was also a good night to be either a new artist or British, or both. Fresh faces like country group Lady Antebellum and R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan drew multiple nominations. And in addition to veteran hands Coldplay, Radiohead, and Plant, new recruits from across the pond included pop songstress Leona Lewis and one-named pop-soul sirens Estelle, Duffy, and Adele. The latter two will compete against Lady Antebellum, Sullivan, and the Jonas Brothers in the best new artist showdown.

The record of the year category has a particularly British accent, with Krauss the lone US name alongside fellow nominees Adele, Coldplay, Lewis, the London-based M.I.A., and duet partner Plant.

Burlington-based Rounder records had plenty to celebrate with the nominations for Krauss and Plant, as well as a clutch of nods for, among others, Bela Fleck, Irma Thomas, and the SteelDrivers. Among the numerous artists with local ties receiving recognition were storyteller Bill Harley, rocker Rob Zombie, and singer-songwriter James Taylor, as well as composer Michael Gandolfi, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and the Boston Early Music Festival in the classical catgegories.

There were few legitimately big shockers - although the nod for Jason Mraz's "I'm Yours" in the song of the year contest is a head-scratcher - but there were some curious absences in the top categories, namely Alicia Keys and pop singer Katy Perry. Keys is a Grammy darling, and Perry had if not the best at least one of the biggest songs of the year with "I Kissed A Girl." Both were nominated in other categories.

As for the show itself, held at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles, it made a certain kind of sense for the Recording Academy to turn the nominations into a concert. Hauling night-owl musicians out of bed at 8:30 in the morning for the conventional stiff awards-show press conference isn't nearly as much fun or, I suspect, as lucrative in terms of television advertising dollars.

In between announcing nominees in six categories, artists performed songs that have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. (A new Grammy museum opens this week in LA, hosts Taylor Swift and LL Cool J helpfully informed us.) Mariah Carey kicked off the night channeling Nancy Sinatra fashion-wise in a red mini-dress and white go-go boots for "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)." Foo Fighters rocked up Carly Simon's "You're So Vain." Swift tried to pay tribute to Brenda Lee with "I'm Sorry," which morphed into her own "White Horse."

Celine Dion and Christina Aguilera were particulary impressive, dialing the diva down several notches on Janis Ian's heartbreaker "At Seventeen" and Gershwin's "I Love You Porgy," respectively. And John Mayer and B.B. King - an inspiration at 83 - heated things up with a rollicking take on "Let the Good Times Roll."

Winners will be announced during the 51st annual Grammy awards ceremony Feb. 8, which will be televised at 8 p.m on CBS.

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