Grammy Whammies

Nov. 30-Dec. 6: Grammy Whammies & Runner-Up Rebounds

The 52 annual Grammy nominations were announced this week on a Wednesday night TV special hosted by LL Cool J, and it was definitely ladies night, with Beyonce (10 nominations), Taylor Swift (eight), and Lady Gaga (five) leading the pack.

But one diva who was somewhat surprisingly shut out was onetime Grammy sweetheart Whitney Houston.

The Grammy committee usually loves comeback stories. Whether it’s artists who left the spotlight for a while and then returned with a vengeance (Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Cole, Tina Turner), veterans who reinvented their careers by collaborating with other musicians (Carlos Santana, Herbie Hancock, Robert Plant), or artists who struggled with their demons and made great music as a result (Dixie Chicks, Amy Winehouse), such rising-from-ashes back stories usually strongly resonate with industry voters. In this regard, Whitney Houston’s “comeback” album I Look To You–released after the singer’s long hiatus, divorce from Bobby Brown, and infamous battles with drugs–seemed a shoo-in for multiple nominations.

Her record label Arista seemed so sure of Whitney’s chances, in fact, that it moved her album release date up in order for it to qualify for this year’s voting window. But Whitney was actually completely shut out, with NO nominations whatsoever–not only was she snubbed in the major categories like Album Of The Year, but even in the secondary Pop and R&B categories. This was a shock considering her Grammy history of 24 nominations and six wins, including winning Album Of The Year and Record Of The Year in 1994.

Many industry people and fans alike are wondering why Whitney was overlooked this time. Some say it might have been all the hype. From the moment it was announced that Whitney would be releasing her first original studio album in seven years, the Arista promo machine went into overdrive–with Whitney hosting a star-studded listening party with her longtime mentor, Arista honcho Clive Davis (at which Clive reminded everyone of Whitney’s millions and millions of albums sold), and doing a headline-garnering Oprah interview about her struggles. And it seemed many were rooting for her, with I Look To You debuting at #1 with more than 300,000 units sold in its first week (it has sold about 800,000 as of this writing), but the hype was still a little overwhelming.

But then there was Whitney’s series of disappointing, poorly received performances on Good Morning America, The X Factor, and Dancing With The Stars, on which her now-hoarse voice was a mere shadow of its former glory, and many started to doubt that this was much of a comeback at all. Perhaps the Grammy voters doubted it as well. Guess Whitney will just have to settle for the lifetime-achievement “International Artist” trophy she picked up at last month’s American Music Awards.

The other big surprise snub of the 52nd Grammys was Kanye West‘s shutout in all of the major categories. While he did receive seven nominations, they were all in the Rap category, while his previous three albums (The College Dropout, Late Registration, and Graduation) had all been up for Album Of The Year. His latest, 808s & Heartbreak, despite being a huge hit that garnered much critical praise (and certainly had a weepy comeback story behind it, since much of it was inspired by Kanye’s mother’s death), did not get an Album Of The Year nod. Additionally, its biggest track, “Heartless” (which was even popularly covered by both Kris Allen and the Fray), received no nominations at all.

There are many industry theories surrounding this snub as well, but of course the biggest one is that his bumrushing of Taylor Swift’s acceptance speech at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards generated a massive amount of ill will among Grammy voters. Now the bright side for Taylor is, when she inevitably accepts some of her possible eight Grammys at next month’s ceremony, she won’t have to worry about Kanye interrupting her. There’s a good chance he won’t even be there.

In other news about multiple Grammy nominee Lady Gaga…the Grammy committee may love her, but a teen panel working with the Boston Public Health Commission just declared her “Bad Romance” to be one of the year’s top 10 songs featuring “unhealthy relationship ingredients.” But Gaga’s ode to twisted love only came in at #10 on this worst-of list. She was the only artist to make the list twice (her “Paparazzi” came in at #3), but other bad-influence relationship songs on the commission’s list included Jamie Foxx‘s “Blame It,” Pitbull‘s “Hotel Room Service,” 50 Cent‘s “Baby By Me,” and the New Boyz‘ “You’re A Jerk.” Mario‘s “Break Up” had the dubious honor of being #1. Not quite sure why Drake‘s love song “Best I Ever Had” was at #6 on that list, but the panel also came up with a list of approved “healthy relationship” songs that included Michael Franti‘s “Say Hey,” Keri Hilson‘s “Knock You Down,” Jason Mraz‘s “I’m Yours,” Ne-Yo‘s “Miss Independent,” and the Black Eyed Peas‘ “Meet Me Halfway.” All-American boy Justin Bieber‘s “One Time” topped that positive list.

FYI, it’s unclear what the panel thinks of Kanye’s “Heartless” and “Love Lockdown” or Whitney’s “Million Dollar Bill.”

And who can even imagine what the panel would think of Adam Lambert nowadays? Back on the subject of awards shows, the fallout from the notorious American Music Awards performance by Lady Gaga’s pal Adam continued this week. Although his album For Your Entertainment made a strong debut on the Billboard chart this week at #3, indicating that the controversy didn’t hurt his sales (and in fact may have helped), ABC, the network that aired the AMAs, seemed mighty unimpressed. After cancelling the American Idol runner-up’s Good Morning America appearance last week, this week ABC also pulled the plug on two more Adam performances: His Jimmy Kimmel Show concert, scheduled for December 17, and Ryan Seacrest‘s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve special on December 31. Adam tweeted the disappointing news himself, urging fans not to blame ABC and saying that the cancellations were due to “FCC heat.” (Adam’s fellow Idol Allison Iraheta, whose album Just Like You came out this week, will play the Kimmel concert on December 17 instead.) If the old adage that any publicity is good publicity is true, then For Your Entertainment stands to have a great second sales week. But we shall see.

One other reality-show first-runner-up who had a banner first sales week was Britain’s Got Talent sensation Susan Boyle. Her debut, I Dreamed A Dream, debuted at #1 this week with sales of 701,000, the biggest one-week sales total for all of 2009 (beating the ’09 record of 608,000 first-week units sold of Eminem‘s Relapse back in May). Susan set other records as well. She racked up the biggest first-week sales tally in Nielsen/SoundScan history for a debut album by a female artist (besting Ashanti‘s 2002 record); she had the biggest one-week sales tally for an album by a female artist since Alicia KeysAs I Am debuted with sales of 742,000 in 2007; and she had the highest album sales tally for a British artist since Coldplay‘s Viva La Vida last year. (Her album also debuted at #1 in the U.K.) In fact, only one debut album has EVER sold more copies in its first week: Snoop Dogg‘s first album Doggystyle, which had first-week sales of 803,000 back in 1993.

Guess Susan Boyle and Adam Lambert are living proof that sometimes coming in second isn’t always such a bad thing.

And on that positive note, thus concludes another week in music news. See you next Friday, when we’ll be back for your edutainment.

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