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THE GRAMMY WHISPERER REFLECTS ON THE NOMINATIONS

Paul Grein went 13 for 20 in the Big Four categories. Here’s his initial reaction to the Grammy noms.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Paul
got four of the five, missing out only on Alabama Shakes' Sound & Color (which he listed as one of eight strong possibilities for that fifth slot). Egged on by Lenny, he went with the Hamilton Broadway cast album instead. What he says now: That fifth slot was wide open. Hamilton wasn't a bad guess, but I should have kept two things in mind. This was Alabama Shakes' first #1 album. It's a female-fronted band—and one that is fronted by a gloriously talented woman who doesn't look like a standard-issue pop or rock star. As for Hamilton, only two Broadway cast albums in Grammy history have received Album of the Year noms (Funny Girl and Jesus Christ Superstar). I guess Alexander Hamilton just isn't in the same league as Fanny Brice and Jesus Christ. It was a longshot.

RECORD OF THE YEAR
Paul got four of the five, missing D'Angelo and the Vanguard's "Really Love." He went instead with Little Big Town's "Girl Crush." What he says now: This is a genuine shocker. I thought the album had a reasonably good shot (it was one of my eight aforementioned strong possibilities). But the single is a huge surprise.

SONG OF THE YEAR
Paul got three of the five, missing Kendrick Lamar's "Alright" and "See You Again" by Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth. He went with "Uptown Funk!" and "Can't Feel My Face" instead. What he says now: I had "See You Again" as my sixth choice for both Record and Song of the Year. I'm glad it got a nomination. It's a really nice song. I listed "Alright" in pieces earlier in the year, but dropped it as we got closer to the noms. (Darn.) Both "Uptown Funk!" and "Can't Feel My Face" are throwbacks to classic styles from the past—the Minneapolis sound of Prince and The Time in the case of "Uptown Funk!" and peak-period Michael Jackson in the case of "Can't Feel My Face." Obviously, the Grammy committee admired the records (both of which were nominated for Record of the Year), but docked the songs for being derivative.

BEST NEW ARTIST
Paul got just two of the five, missing Courtney Barnett, James Bay and Tori Kelly. He went instead with Leon Bridges, Hozier and Elle King. He had both Bay and Kelly in the mix in his final discussion with Lenny (though not in his top five), but never seriously considered Barnett. What he says now: Props to Lenny, who had both Bay and Kelly in his final six. I'm really surprised they didn't nominate Bridges. A gospel-ish singer who connects in a big way in the R&B world doesn’t come along every day. Lenny made a good point that Hozier's lack of follow-up hits would likely doom his chances. As it turns out, it did. You gotta keep those hits coming.

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