The Philly artists up for Grammys
Is it Beyoncé's year?
Of course it is, one would logically conclude. The pop superwoman's album Lemonade is the most highly acclaimed and commercially successful blockbuster of 2016, and that combination of prestige and popularity gets the Grammy awards very excited.
So it's hardly a big surprise that Beyoncé nabbed the most Grammy nominations when they were announced Tuesday morning. The awards will be given out in Los Angeles on Feb. 12.
See the full list of Grammy nominees here.
Lemonade garnered nine, including nods in all three of the major categories for which she was eligible -- album, song, and record of the year, the latter two for "Formation." And its wide-ranging ambition was acknowledged with nods for rock performance (for "Don't Hurt Yourself," with Jack White), rap/sung performance ("Freedom," with Kendrick Lamar) and pop "(Hold Up," cowritten and produced with former Philadelphia DJ Diplo).
But does that mean that there's no one standing in the way of Queen Bey's total Grammy domination? Hardly. Canadian rapper Drake and Barbadian pop star Rihanna, who together are up for record of the year for "Work," have eight chances to win. (Drake's Views, which has streamed a mere 2.45 billion times and counting on Spotify this year, is also up for album of the year.)
Along with the troubled rapper, the big loser in the major categories was a dead rock star. A name you will find on many 2016 best-of lists is David Bowie, who released his mournful and gorgeous album Blackstar just days before his death in January.
But the music world's deeply felt loss of the Thin White Duke was not enough to make the Grammys sentimental, apparently. Bowie, who was lamely paid tribute by Lady Gaga at the Grammys telecast this year, is up for five awards — with 84 total categories, there's plenty of Grammy to go around — but is shut out in the big categories.
Four classical nominations involve at least five Philly-linked artists. One standout nomination is for best choral performance for Bonhoeffer, a 2013 choral work written by Thomas Lloyd, known mainly as a choir director at Haverford College, the Episcopal Cathedral, and the Bucks County Choral Society. Premiered and recorded by the Crossing, the Germantown chorale group directed by Donald Nally, the piece memorializes Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian who died in a concentration camp in 1945.
Jennifer Higdon's opera Cold Mountain, a live Santa Fe Opera recording issued on Pentatone, is nominated for best opera recording and best contemporary classical composition. The lead is sung by Nathan Gunn, connected with the Academy of Vocal Arts here; he was not in the Opera Philadelphia production. For best opera, Cold Mountain competes with Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro with an all-star cast led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin, music director of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
One acclaimed and eligible album not included is Frank Ocean's Blonde. Ocean, who also released the not-as-well-liked Endless visual album this year, did not enter either in competition. Last month, he told the New York Times the omission was intentional, saying: "I'd rather this be my Colin Kaepernick moment for the Grammy than sit there in the audience."
Expecting the Grammys to get it right in rewarding worthy talent that hasn't rung mainstream bells is folly. One could easily get up in arms, for instance, that Car Seat Headrest, the nom de rock of indie wunderkind Will Toledo, didn't get a new-artist or alternative-music nod. Those blind spots are to be expected.
There are some worthies that got attention, however, such as the seductively smooth R&B trio KING, who are going head to head with Beyoncé and Rihanna for urban contemporary album for We Are King.
In the best album category, along with Adele, Drake, Beyoncé, and Justin Bieber's Purpose -- don't sleep on the Biebs; his "Love Yourself" is also up for song of the year -- the dark horse is country rebel Sturgill Simpson.
Staff writer David Patrick Stearns contributed to this article.