Six artists received six nominations each Wednesday for the 55th Grammy Awards. But none was more notable than rising R&B singer Frank Ocean, who earned nods in three of the top four categories.
Ocean was joined by Kanye West, the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, fun., Mumford & Sons and Jay-Z with a half-dozen nominations in the nationally televised prelude to the Grammys, which will be awarded Feb. 10. But Ocean’s multitude of nominations may have been the most surprising given the story behind his major-label debut, “Channel Orange,” nominated for album of the year along with the the Black Keys (“El Camino”), fun. (“Some Nights”), Mumford & Sons (“Babel”), and Jack White (“Blunderbuss”).
Among those shunned were big-selling releases by hip-hop star Drake, whose “Take Care” album got nods only in the rap categories; veteran Lionel Richie, who had a major comeback with a country album, “Tuskegee”; Bruce Springsteen, who launched a well-received world tour on the heels of his politically charged “Wrecking Ball” album; and teen-pop sensations One Direction.
Instead the top-award nominees featured a handful of relative newcomers: fun., Mumford & Sons, Gotye, Miguel and Ocean. A member of the notorious Odd Future hip-hop collective, Ocean made waves earlier this year by acknowledging that some songs on the album were inspired by an unrequited love affair with another man. Ocean’s dignified openness made him a hero to the gay and bisexual communities, even as other fans voiced their intolerance. Yet Ocean’s prowess as a songwriter and singer transcended the controversy, and “Channel Orange” was hailed as a soul classic by many critics. It has sold more than 300,000 copies after debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200.
Ocean was nominated for three of the four major awards: In addition to his album-of-the-year nod, he is in contention for record of the year (“Thinkin’ Bout You”) and best new artist, which included some heavy competition: Alabama Shakes, fun., Hunter Hayes and the Lumineers.
The other nominees for record of the year, which is awarded for a recording’s overall sound and production, include the Black Keys, Kelly Clarkson, fun., Gotye and Taylor Swift. The latter singer was honored for the single “We are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” but her best-selling “Red” album was released after the Sept. 30 deadline for nominations.
Getting nods for song of the year, which is awarded to songwriters, included Ed Sheeran’s “The A Team,” Miguel’s “Adorn,” Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” and fun.’s “We are Young.”
Five-time nominees included rising R&B star Miguel, the Black Keys and 18-time-winner Chick Corea. The rapper Nas, producer-songwriter Jeff Bhasker and recording engineer Bob Ludwig received four nominations apiece.
The nationally televised event was heavy on country performers such as Luke Bryan, the Band Perry, Dierks Bentley and Hunter Hayes, in tribute to its Nashville location. The show's cohosting duties were split between L.L. Cool J and Taylor Swift, who were notable only for their awkwardness, particularly during a "duet" in which the country-pop singer beat-boxed while the rapper "sang."
Among artists with Chicago connections, West led the way with his six nominations, five of which were in rap categories. Also getting nods were R. Kelly for best R&B album (“Write Me Back”), Lupe Fiasco for best rap album (“Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1”), Kurt Elling for best jazz vocal album (“1619 Broadway: The Brill Building Project") and Shemekia Copeland for best blues album (“33 1/3”). The Chicago contemporary ensemble eighth blackbird received nominations in two categories, best chamber music/small ensemble performance and best classical contemporary composition, for its album "Meanwhile," released on Chicago's Cedille label.
Tribune music critics Howard Reich and John Von Rhein contributed to this report.