Kendrick Lamar Leads Grammy Nominees, Beating Taylor Swift

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  • Lamar's 11 nominations is most since Michael Jackson in 1984
  • Swift, The Weeknd tie for second most nominations with 7

Kendrick Lamar earned 11 nominations for next year’s Grammy Awards, the most for any artist except Michael Jackson in 1984, as the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences announced the contenders for the music industry’s top awards.

Lamar, a rapper from Compton, California, will compete in two of the four principal categories: album of the year and song of the year. He also received a pair of nominations for a collaboration with Taylor Swift, his closest rival. Swift, a country singer turned pop star, earned seven nominations, including album, song and record of the year. She tied for the second most with The Weeknd, a Canadian crooner whose real name is Abel Tesfaye.

Due to the Recording Academy’s calendar, Swift’s album “1989,” released in October 2014, is eligible for the 2016 awards while Adele’s “25,” which broke the record for most sales in a single week in November, is not. The award show will be held Feb. 15 in Los Angeles, and air on CBS, which Monday announced nominees in the four major categories during its morning show.

The nominations for Swift, Lamar and The Weeknd reflect the Recording Academy’s efforts to select a more diverse group of acts, especially younger, popular artists spanning different genres. Swift’s “1989” is one of the year’s best-selling albums. Both Lamar and The Weeknd’s albums opened atop the Billboard charts. All three are younger than 30.

The academy has been criticized in the past for nominees that suggest a body of old, white, male voters, a lack of diversity president Neil Portnow has attempted to improve since taking over in 2002.

Billboard 200

“Commerciality isn’t mutually exclusive of artistry,’’ Portnow said. “We’ve put a lot of attention and focus on who our members are -- what they want, what they need, what they represent. It’s an ongoing process. If we were predominantly 50-plus white male voters out of touch with what’s happening in music, you wouldn’t possibly see Kendrick Lamar get the most nominations.’’

Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly’’ debuted in the top spot on the Billboard 200 when it was released in March, giving one of the most respected lyricists in the music business his first No. 1 album. Lamar’s previous record, “good kid, m.A.A.d city,’’ peaked at No. 2.

“good kid, m.A.A.d city’’ was nominated for album of the year in 2014, when Lamar didn’t win a single award despite being up for seven, the most any artist has received without a win. He shares that bit of ignominy with India.Arie. Lamar’s fortunes reversed last year, when he won a pair of Grammys for his song “i.”

Hip-hop artists Jay-Z, Kanye West and Eminem rank among the most-nominated artists in the history of the Grammys, yet none of them has won song or record of the year. One hip-hop act — OutKast — has won album of the year.

Developmental Fashion

“Kendrick has been well nominated, but very early in his career,’’ Portnow said. “Sometimes our voters might look at artistry in a developmental fashion and over time recognize the maturity and development.’’

Lamar didn’t make the cut for record of the year, where nominees include Swift, The Weeknd, Ed Sheeran, Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,’’ and D’Angelo, the soulful singer who this year released his first album in 14 years. The nominees for best new artist are Courtney Barnett, James Bay, Sam Hunt, Tori Kelly and Meghan Trainor.

Bay, Hunt and Kelly all record for subsidiaries of Universal Music Group, which earned more nominations in the major categories than its peers combined. Universal works with nominees for the four main categories, including four of the five albums — Lamar, Swift and Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller.”

The five nominees for album of the year span five different genres — country (Stapleton), rap (Lamar), pop (Swift), rhythm and blues (The Weeknd) and rock (Alabama Shakes).

Artist Collaborations

The first meeting to discuss potential performers will take place tomorrow, Portnow said. The former Jive Records executive wouldn’t comment on whether Adele would end up in the show despite not being up for the major awards, though he did say the focus would be on nominees. Swift invites collaboration with her song “Bad Blood,’’ which features a litany of young actors and musicians, including Lamar. Lamar performed with Imagine Dragons at the 2014 show, one of its best-received moments.

“There’s not any lack of opportunity to see the biggest artists in music, either in concert or on television,’’ Portnow said. “What makes it interesting for people to see them on our show is what we do with them and for them; we create these unique opportunities.”

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