Grammy Nominations Surprises and Snubs: Beyonce, Bon Iver, Chris Brown and... Skrillex?

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It seems the unexpected triumphed and the veterans fell short at this year's Grammy nominations. Will that make for a slightly less predictable show come Feb. 12?

The Grammy Awards have narrowed down this year’s categories to a far more manageable 78 categories, but that’s not to say that Wednesday’s nominations didn’t have their share of surprises -- and snubs.


Bon Iver personifies indie might: Perhaps Kanye West deserves some credit for introducing Justin Vernon to the masses when he collaborated with the singer on his My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album, and indie rockers Arcade Fire, too, for winning Album of the Year last February, but it’s Bon Iver’s self-titled second album that made listeners, critics, industry players and fellow artists swoon. Epic soundscapes coupled with Vernon’s genteel singing style hit all the sweet spots as the Wisconsin native racked up four Grammy awards including Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best New Artist and Best Alternative Artist.

PHOTOS: Grammy Award Nominees

Chris Brown dominates rap categories? Think back to “Forever,” “Yeah 3x” and “With You” -- all songs that harken a distinctly different image of Chris Brown, the R&B singer. But thanks to “Look At Me Now,” his collaboration with Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne, Brown has earned himself a spot in the rap race. He’s getting paper, all right, in the form of three Grammy nods including Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. Now the question remains: will he perform on the show or are memories of Grammy weekend 2009 still too fresh in the minds of industry players?

STORY: Grammy Nominations By the Numbers

Skrillex makes his presence known: It’s not everyday that an electronic music producer is named as a Best New Artist contender. Actually, as DJs go, it’s never happened, which make Los Angeles native Skrillex’s five (!) Grammy nods all the more unexpected. Pundits point to name recognition among the elder Recording Academy membership. Could be, or maybe those voters’ kids are to thank.


Beyonce gets the Grammy brush-off: For all the videos she’s released this year along with multiple singles, awards show performances and a four-night stand at New York City's Roseland Ballroom, Beyonce only manage to squeak out two nominations, one for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for “Party” with Andre 3000, the other for Best Long Form Video. To be fair, B’s 4 was a late arrival, hitting stores in June, but the fact that it failed to gain momentum after untold millions were spent promoting and marketing the album is hard to ignore. 

STORY: Complete List of Grammy Nominees

Tony Bennett is no Herbie Hancock: With the high-profile collaborators he recruited  for his Duets II album (Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Willie Nelson and the late Amy Winehouse, among them) many expected legendary crooner Tony Bennett to be this year’s Herbie Hancock and sweep multiple categories. Alas, the geriatric set is apparently a less influential block than it was in 2008 as Bennett received two nominations, one for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance for “Body and Soul” (with Winehouse) and Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.

Where for are thou, Foster the People? Maybe Skrillex snatched the Best New Artist spot from L.A. band Foster the People, whose omnipresent “Pumped Up Kicks” was a staple of radio stations both terrestrial and satellite across multiple genres. The newcomers didn’t go entirely unrecognized, however. They’re up for Best Alternative Album against Death Cab for Cutie, Bon Iver, My Morning Jacket and Radiohead. 

As for the most expected moment of nominations night? It's name was Adele, who was all but a shoo-in coming into the voting process, and, predictably, gathered the most nods for a female artist -- six in total, including Album, Song and Record of the Year. Beating the 21-year-old to the trophy will be an uphill climb for any artist, but crazier things have happened. Lest we forget last year when Katy Perry got shut out of all her nominated categories, Eminem was relegated to the rap category after releasing the biggest seller of the year, Arcade Fire took the top prize and one hip hop marketer threw a fit in the New York Times.

Update: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Adele had 7 nods and that Bon Iver was nominated for Album of the Year.

Twitter: @shirleyhalperin