Kendrick Lamar amassed 11 Grammy nominations this year, a total matched by just two artists in Grammy history, Michael Jackson and Babyface. They each piled up 12 nominations.

But Grammy categories and rules change over time, which got me to wondering: Under the current Grammy awards structure, who would be the all-time nominations champ? I've crunched the numbers. Jackson's tally would swell to 15. Babyface's tally would probably shrink by one to 11. So Lamar's tally of 11 would put him in a tie for second place.

Let's take these artists one by one.

Michael Jackson

Recap: Jackson received 11 nominations for his work on Thriller and one for narrating and singing on E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, which won for Best Recording for Children.

In 1983, the year of Jackson's sweep, the Grammys didn't have album awards for each major genre. If they had had an award for Best Pop Vocal Album, Thriller would unquestionably have been nominated (and won). They also didn't have a category for Best Rock Song. "Beat It" would have been nominated (and probably won). And they didn't have a category for Best Dance Recording. The title track from "Thriller" (which, surprisingly, wasn't nominated in any category) would probably have been nominated there. This brings Jackson's total to 15.

Also, the Grammys didn't allow videos to compete for Best Video, Short Form (now called Best Music Video) unless they were "commercially released for sale to the home market." If they had, "Beat It" would have won that one in a walk. Now we're at 16.

But I've got to take one away. Jackson shared Producer of the Year, Non-Classical with Quincy Jones for co-producing three tracks on Thriller. Under current rules, artists who merely co-produce their own albums aren't eligible in that category. So he's back to 15.

Notes: The long-form video Making Michael Jackson's Thriller was released in December 1983, too late to qualify for the 1983 awards. (It won the award for Best Video Album the following year.) And, FYI, current Grammy rules limit artists to one nom (as a lead artist) in the Music Video category per year, which is why I show just one nom for Jackson there. (Otherwise, he would have made it with both "Beat It" and "Billie Jean.")


Babyface received seven of his nominations for his work on the Waiting to Exhale soundtrack. He received two noms for his work on Toni Braxton's Secrets, one for producing Eric Clapton's "Change the World" (which won for Record of the Year), one for his guest role on Quincy Jones' "Slow Jams" (which was nominated for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal) and one for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical.

The Grammys didn't have a category that year for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media. Waiting to Exhale would have been a certain nominee (and winner). That bumps Babyface up to 13.

Under current rules, producers don't receive nominations in genre album categories. So his nomination for producing Braxton's album (which was a finalist for Best Pop Album) falls away. This brings him back down to 12.

Under current rules, there is just one award for Best R&B Performance, which combines what were then three categories into one. "Slow Jams," a collaboration with Tamia, Portrait, Barry White and SWV which was featured on Jones' Q's Jook Joint album, probably wouldn't have been potent enough to make the combined category. So Babyface drops to 11.

Kendrick Lamar

Recap: Lamar received seven nominations for his work on his album, To Pimp a Butterfly. He received two noms for his featured role on Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood" single and video. He received one for his featured role on Flying Lotus' "Never Catch Me" and one for co-writing Kanye West's "All Day."

Since these are current nominations, no adjustment is needed to bring them in line with current rules. Lamar's tally of 11 is the relevant one to compare to MJ and Babyface.

Coming soon: Grein's Grammy picks in 34 categories.