LOS ANGELES — Beyoncé and Adele won't be the only superstars vying for music's most highly coveted trophies at the 65th annual Grammy Awards.
As predicted by many music industry insiders, the two A-list pop divas turned up numerous times in nominations announced Tuesday by the Recording Academy, including in the top categories of album, record and song of the year. Beyoncé, who leads all nominees with nine nods in total, was recognized for her LP "Renaissance" and its No. 1 hit, "Break My Soul," while Adele, who received seven nominations overall, was honored for her album "30" and its chart-topping lead single, "Easy on Me."
But Grammy voters — not a group reliably known to align with a given year's commercial and critical favorites — gave the singers lots of high-powered competition for those major prizes: Other LPs up for album of the year include 2022's most-consumed full-length, "Un Verano Sin Ti" by the Puerto Rican singer and rapper Bad Bunny; Compton-born MC Kendrick Lamar's "Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers"; and former boy-band heartthrob Harry Styles' "Harry's House," all of which dominated streaming services like Spotify on their way to the top of the Billboard 200. Lamar's "The Heart Part 5" and Styles' "As It Was" both made the cut in the record and song categories, where their competition includes inescapable singles such as Steve Lacy's psychedelic-soul hit "Bad Habit," Lizzo's disco-funk "About Damn Time" and the gleefully profane "ABCDEFU" by 18-year-old Gayle.
Among artists with multiple nominations, Lamar follows Beyoncé with eight in all, while folk-rock singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile received seven to tie with Adele; Styles, veteran R&B vocalist Mary J. Blige, DJ Khaled, rapper Future, songwriter-producer The-Dream and mastering engineer Randy Merrill each got six.
Still, Beyoncé vs. Adele — "a heavyweight battle," as Recording Academy CEO Harvey Mason Jr. described it to the Los Angeles Times, between two "once-in-a-lifetime voices" — is likely to be the marquee attraction at the ceremony, set for Feb. 5 at Crypto.com Arena in downtown Los Angeles. The showdown will echo the 59th Grammys in 2017, when the two went head to head in the same categories — and Adele's sweep led the English singer to tearfully proclaim from the stage that she couldn't rightfully accept the album award for her solidly built "25" over Beyoncé's groundbreaking "Lemonade."
Their rivalry captures a key tension of the academy, which seeks to celebrate innovation at the same time that it upholds tradition. Adele's characteristically ballad-heavy "30" is classic Grammy bait, while "Renaissance" — a kaleidoscopic love letter from Beyoncé to the Black and queer pioneers of dance music — represents an edgier choice for voters who at April's Grammys went for the old-fashioned musicianly comforts of Bruno Mars' Silk Sonic (which won record and song of the year with its retro-soul "Leave the Door Open") and Jon Batiste (who took album of the year with his jazzy "We Are").
The matchup also evokes the Grammys' fraught racial dynamics. Beyoncé's defeat in 2017 followed an earlier loss to Beck, whose "Morning Phase" won album of the year in 2015 over Beyoncé's self-titled effort — evidence of a system, according to many, that routinely undervalues work by Black artists steeped in hip-hop. Indeed, beyond Taylor Swift — whose re-recording of her decade-old "Red" wasn't nominated for album of the year (and whose blockbuster "Midnights" came out too late for the 65th Grammys) — the only true superstars with eligible LPs missing from the show's flagship category are Drake and the Weeknd, both of whom declined to submit their work in apparent protest. Eligible recordings had to be released between Oct. 1, 2021, and Sept. 30, 2022.
The academy says it's making efforts to diversify its electorate of more than 11,000 music professionals; nearly half of its latest member class comes from "traditionally underrepresented communities," the group reports. Added Mason: "The diversity and range of genres in these nominations is a sign of where our membership is and where it's going."
To wit: Bad Bunny's "Un Verano Sin Ti" is the first Spanish-language album to receive a nod for album of the year. Lamar's nomination makes him the first rapper to compete for that prize with four consecutive studio albums. Sam Smith and Kim Petras, whose "Unholy" is up for pop duo/group performance, are the first openly nonbinary and transgender artists, respectively, to make that category. And Beyoncé's nine nominations bring her career total to 88 — tied for the most in history, with her husband, rapper Jay-Z.
Yet the vast majority of Beyoncé's nods (as well as Jay-Z's, for that matter) have come in the Grammys' various genre categories, which critics say demonstrates the academy's tendency to marginalize Black creativity.
Album of the year also includes "In These Silent Days" by Carlile, an established Grammy darling especially visible this year thanks to her repeated collaborations with Joni Mitchell; Coldplay's "Music of the Spheres"; Lizzo's "Special"; and "Good Morning Gorgeous" by Blige, who also scored a record nod with the LP's title track — one benefit, perhaps, of her appearance in this year's celebrated Super Bowl halftime show.
Other nominees for record of the year (which recognizes performers and producers) include Carlile's "You and Me on the Rock" and "Woman" by singer and rapper Doja Cat; song of the year (which goes to songwriters) has DJ Khaled's all-star hip-hop team-up "God Did" and Swift's 10-minute version of the fan-fave "Red" cut "All Too Well," which became a pop-culture sensation last fall when she released it along with a cinematic music video.
The proliferation of stars promises to be a boon for the Grammys telecast, which like all awards shows has seen its ratings plummet in recent years. (This year's edition registered a slight uptick from 2021's worst-of-all-time viewership.) "Seeing the names on the list definitely made me think, Wow — this could potentially be one of our best shows," Mason said. "We want to make sure we have a show that a lot of people watch."
Because it's the Grammys, the major categories include some surprising choices, among them ABBA's nomination for album of the year with the little-heard "Voyage" and record of the year with "Don't Shut Me Down." Few predicted a song of the year nod for Bonnie Raitt's "Just Like That," though Grammy voters have had a soft spot for Raitt since 1990, when her "Nick of Time" was named album of the year.
In a shift from the 64th Grammys, when Olivia Rodrigo was the undisputed front-runner, the best new artist category feels wide open, with a mix of rappers (Latto and Tobe Nwigwe), rockers (Wet Leg and Maneskin), jazz artists (Samara Joy and Domi & JD Beck) and Latin pop up-and-comers (Anitta and Omar Apollo), along with R&B singer Muni Long and bluegrass performer Molly Tuttle. About the only thing that connects these disparate acts? An emphasis on musical virtuosity.
One conspicuous omission from best new artist is Zach Bryan, the young roots-rock singer-songwriter whose "American Heartbreak" album has been a streaming goliath this year. Another notable snub: the smash soundtrack to Disney's "Encanto," which was expected by many to compete for major prizes, thanks in part to its chart-topping single "We Don't Talk About Bruno," but which scored nominations only in the music for visual media categories.
Bryan did pick up a nod for country solo performance for his song "Something in the Orange." Elsewhere in the country categories, voters showed no reservations about Maren Morris' outspoken political comments this year — she's up for country solo performance and country song with "Circles Around This Town" and country album with "Humble Quest" — while making clear they're not quite ready to reembrace Morgan Wallen after he was caught on video last year drunkenly using the N-word. Though he was nominated for Nashville's highest honor, entertainer of the year, at this month's Country Music Association Awards, Wallen received no Grammy nominations for the second year in a row.
In the rap album category, Lamar's "Mr. Morale" is up against DJ Khaled's "God Did," Future's "I Never Liked You," Jack Harlow's "Come Home the Kids Miss You" and Pusha T's "It's Almost Dry." Rock performance is among the Grammys' more all-over-the-place awards this year, with nominees including Carlile, Ozzy Osbourne, Bryan Adams and the mosh-pit-inducing hardcore band Turnstile.
A newly created prize for songwriter of the year recognizes The-Dream, who worked closely with Beyoncé on "Renaissance," and Tobias Jesso Jr., one of Adele's collaborators on "30," along with Amy Allen, Nija Charles and Laura Veltz. The academy plans to give out another new award, song for social change, though Mason said that will be decided by a "blue-ribbon committee" of academy insiders rather than voted on by members.
Asked if he planned to screen his calls on Tuesday to avoid any complaints — either from specifically aggrieved artists or more generally about the Grammys as an institution — Mason laughed. "Heck no," he said. "I pick up every call. I want people to understand what's going on — why this happened, why that happened. These are the people we represent."