Lizzo, a charismatic new pop and R&B star, has been nominated for eight prizes at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards, leading a class dominated by fresh faces like Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X.
Lizzo spent much of the last decade as a struggling rapper and singer, but broke through this year with hits like “Juice” and “Truth Hurts,” and a bold, body-positive persona. Little known to mainstream audiences a year ago, she is now up for every major award at the Grammys, including album of the year for the deluxe version of “Cuz I Love You,” record and song of the year for “Truth Hurts,” and best new artist, the Recording Academy announced on Wednesday.
Not so long ago, the Grammys were routinely criticized for rewarding journeyman stars and rock elders at the expense of pop’s younger and more vital ranks. No longer. Continuing a trend that has been building for several years, the latest crop of nominees are young, diverse and largely reflective of the forefront of pop.
Lizzo’s competition includes two artists with six nominations each: Eilish, a 17-year-old alternative auteur who has built a wildly devoted following, and Lil Nas X, a 20-year-old rapper and master of internet memes whose “country-trap” hybrid “Old Town Road” became an all-pervasive cultural phenomenon this year, breaking Billboard’s singles chart record with 19 weeks at No. 1.
Eilish’s “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” is up for album of the year; “Bad Guy” is up for record and song of the year; and Eilish is a contender for best new artist. She is the youngest person to be nominated for all four top categories. Finneas O’Connell, her brother and primary collaborator, received five nods for his work with her as a producer and songwriter.
Lil Nas X was nominated for record of the year for the remix of “Old Town Road” (which features the country star Billy Ray Cyrus) and album of the year for “7,” an eight-song EP. He is also up for best new artist, in what may be seen as a challenge to the academy’s more conservative voting ranks, who have often been reluctant to reward artists they view as untested.
The awards ceremony will be held on Jan. 26 in Los Angeles, and broadcast by CBS.
Among this year’s other top nominees, Ariana Grande received five nods, including record of the year for “7 Rings” — a recasting of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “My Favorite Things” — and album of the year for “Thank U, Next.” The young R&B singer H.E.R., who took home two awards at the most recent Grammys, is also up for five, including album of the year for “I Used to Know Her” and record and song of the year for “Hard Place.” (Record of the year is for performers and producers, while the song category recognizes songwriters.)
In a conspicuous rebuffing of a major star, Taylor Swift — a 10-time winner and onetime darling of the academy — received three nods, but only one in a major category: “Lover,” the title track of her latest album, is up for song of the year. Swift’s song “You Need to Calm Down” is up for best pop solo performance, and “Lover” for best pop vocal album.
Last year, the Grammys expanded the top categories to eight nominees, from five. That has helped the academy put forth a more diverse group, after it came under sharp criticism for an underrepresentation of women among the winners.
In the most prestigious categories, the nominations largely went to a mixture of new faces in pop and R&B, and midcareer, alt-leaning rock artists. For album of the year, the contestants also include “i,i” by Bon Iver, the project of the experimental singer-songwriter Justin Vernon; Vampire Weekend’s “Father of the Bride”; and Lana Del Rey’s “Norman ____ Rockwell!”
The crop for record of the year also includes Bon Iver’s “Hey, Ma”; “Talk,” a radio hit by the young R&B-pop singer Khalid; and “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee. Song of the year includes “Always Remember Us This Way,” as performed by Lady Gaga in the film “A Star Is Born”; “Bring My Flowers Now,” as performed by Tucker; “Norman ____ Rockwell” by Del Rey; and “Someone You Loved,” a breakout hit by the 23-year-old Scottish crooner Lewis Capaldi.
Among the rest of this year’s 84 categories, Michelle Obama is up for best spoken word album for “Becoming” — she will compete against the Beastie Boys and John Waters — and “Homecoming,” Beyoncé’s Coachella concert movie, is up for best music film. Beyoncé also received three nominations connected to her music for the remake of “The Lion King.”
As news of the nominations spread, artists took to social media with displays of surprise and gratitude. “Thank u for acknowledging this music my beautiful best friends and i created in just a few weeks together,” Grande wrote. Khalid said: “Woke up to Talk being a Grammy nominated song wow.”
But while the nominations are usually a moment for the music industry to bask in attention from the major news media, on Wednesday they seemed largely overshadowed by the presidential impeachment hearings. Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, began his highly anticipated testimony barely half an hour after the nominations were announced.
The awards are not without some industry drama. Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” has been the subject of a harsh dispute over songwriting credits — two writers said their work in an early writing session was used without their permission; Lizzo sued them and another songwriter last month, asking a judge to deny their claims. The song was released two years ago but is eligible for the 2020 Grammys because it was included on the expanded version of Lizzo’s new album and had not been submitted before.
And there was much grumbling behind the scenes over this year’s eligibility window. To avoid competing with the Academy Awards, which will be on Feb. 9, the Grammys are being held a few weeks earlier than usual, which shortened the period for new music that could be submitted. Only music released between Oct. 1, 2018 and Aug. 31, 2019 — an 11-month stretch — is eligible this year. Swift and Del Rey’s albums came in right under the wire.
The awards are also being viewed as a coming-out for a new management era at the Recording Academy after several years of complaints and controversies over its treatment of women and artists of color.
The academy’s former chief executive, Neil Portnow, had helped stabilize the institution but came under fire when he said after the 2018 awards that women should “step up” to advance their careers and be recognized at the Grammys. Under pressure, Portnow approved a task force to evaluate the academy and its procedures.
A new chief, Deborah Dugan, took over this summer after leading Bono’s Red charity campaign. So far she has said little of her plans, but suggested that more changes for the institution are in store.
“Today’s announcement reflects a new era for the Recording Academy,” Dugan said in a statement, “an army of engaged members that welcomes diversity, embraces creativity and champions young musicians on the rise.”
Winners will be chosen by the academy’s 11,000 voting members.