The Grammys love Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You, but are not so hot on Taylor Swift’s Lover.
The singer and rapper born Melissa Jefferson leads the way for this year’s awards, announced Wednesday. She garnered eight nominations and nods in all four major categories, including best new artist, even though her debut album came out in 2013.
Close behind Lizzo are teen-goth Billie Eilish and country-rapper Lil Nas X, each of whom nabbed six nominations. The most-snubbed big name is the Wyomissing, Pa.-raised Swift, a two-time winner of the prestigious album of the year award. She didn’t manage a nod for her acclaimed Lover, receiving just three nominations.
Philadelphia is strongly represented by Meek Mill, the street rapper-turned-criminal-justice-reform advocate up for best rap album with Championships. His hard-hitting fourth album was issued after his 2018 release from prison. His main competition is Tyler, the Creator’s Igor, and 21 Savage’s I Am > I Was.
Also in the running is a Philadelphia movie star. Bradley Cooper’s collaboration with Lady Gaga on A Star Is Born has a shot at two awards. The pair are up for best compilation soundtrack for visual media for the A Star Is Born soundtrack, as well as the movie song “I’ll Never Love Again.”
West Philly-raised bassist Christian McBride is a six-time Grammy winner — now with a chance at three more. He’s up for instrumental composition for “Walkin’ Funny,” from his 2018 album New Jawn, and best improvised solo for “Sightseeing.” The album is also competing in the jazz instrumental album category, in a field including Philly organist Joey DeFrancesco, McBride’s classmate at the High School for the Creative and Performing Arts in the 1980s.
Speaking of Philadelphia schooling, University of Pennsylvania grad (and People’s Sexiest Man Alive) John Legend is up for two awards. His A Legendary Christmas album is vying for traditional pop vocal album, a category that includes Barbra Streisand’s Walls, Andrea Bocelli’s Si, and Elvis Costello’s deserving Look Now.
Legend is also nominated for rap/sung performance for “Higher,” a collaboration with rapper Nipsey Hussle — who was shot to death in Los Angeles in March — on DJ Khaled’s Father of Asahd.
In the classical categories, the Philadelphia-based Crossing choir and director Donald Nally scored big with two nominations for best choral performance for albums including works by Philadelphia composers Benjamin C.S. Boyle and Kile Smith (and Curtis Institute-trained composer Robert Convery). Other Philadelphians among the nominees are Curtis-trained pianist Yuja Wang and Curtis professor Jennifer Higdon.
Temple University made its mark for the track “Love, A Beautiful Force,” featuring director of jazz studies Terell Stafford, professor Dick Oatts, and the Temple University Studio Orchestra. The movement drew a best arrangement nomination for Vince Mendoza, along with a nomination for best instrumental composition.
Among the pop nominees, Eilish scored in the top four categories, making the 17-year-old the youngest artist in the history of the Grammys to do so. Lil Nas X, 20, is up for three of the top four awards, including album and record of the year for “Old Town Road,” featuring Billy Ray Cyrus.
The Georgia country-rapper, born Montero Hill, deserves to be celebrated. “Old Town Road” took the industry by surprise and exposed racial bias when the banjo-sampling song was disqualified from the Billboard country charts for allegedly not sounding country enough. It then spent a record 19 weeks on top of the pop charts.
But 7, the 8-track EP that Lil Nas released in June, was a singularly unimpressive endeavor that did nothing to convince anyone that he’s anything more than a one-hit wonder.
Its inclusion on the album of the year nominee list — alongside Cuz I Love You, Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? and Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next, Bon Iver’s I,I, Vampire Weekend’s Father of the Bride, H.E.R.’s I Used to Know Her, and Lana Del Rey’s Norman (Expletive) Rockwell! — is a farce. Del Rey is the deserving winner in that category.
More big-name artists who were snubbed: Bruce Springsteen, who got not a single nod for his California country album Western Stars, and Solange, shut out for her alt-R&B When I Get Home.
Nominees for record of the year include “Old Town Road,” “Truth Hurts,” Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” Grande’s “7 Rings,” Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower,” H.E.R.’s “Hard Place,” Bon Iver’s “Hey, Ma,” and Khalid’s “Talk."
The title track to Swift’s Lover is up for song of the year, a songwriter’s award. It’s competing against Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts,” Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” H.E.R.'s “Hard Place,” Gaga’s “Always Remember Us This Way," Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved,” Del Rey’s “Norman (Expletive) Rockwell,” and Tanya Tucker’s “Bring My Flowers Now,” cowritten by Brandi Carlile.
Along with Lizzo, Eilish and Lil Nas X, the best artist nominees are: Austin, Texas, neo-soul band Black Pumas, Maryland singer-songwriter Maggie Rogers, Spanish flamenco-pop singer Rosalia, New Orleans hip-hop-R&B-bounce music band Tank & the Bangas, and black British country singer Yola.
Tucker’s four nominations, including song of the year for “Bring Me My Flowers," make her the big legacy artist winner for her While I’m Livin’ album. She plays the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City on Nov. 30.
It was also a good day for Yola, the Bristol, England, singer born Yolanda Quartey. She grabbed four nominations, including two in Americana categories, for her album Walk Though Fire, produced by the Black Keys Dan Auerbach. His band was shut out, but he’s up for producer of the year, which he’s likely to lose to Jack Antonoff, who worked on Swift and Del Rey’s albums, among many others.
Five of the eight album-of-the-year contenders are women, and seven of the eight song-of-the-year nominees are by women. Female musicians also rule in the best new artist category, although record of the year is evenly split.
Several acts picked up four nominations, including J. Cole, Gary Clark Jr., Lucky Daye, Thom Yorke, and engineer Bob Ludwig.
The inclusion of Lizzo’s song “Truth Hurts” among the nominees is an example of the Grammys’ willingness to play loose with eligibility rules. The song by the twerking flautist was originally released in 2017, but became a hit after it was used this year in the Netflix movie Someone Great.
The 2020 Grammys will hand out awards in its 84 categories on Jan. 26 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and will be telecast on CBS.