Beyoncé's "Halo" just got a lot brighter: R&B's reigning diva collected a field-leading 10 Grammy Award nominations including album of the year for her "I Am . . . Sasha Fierce" double CD and record for the single "Halo" on Wednesday.
The live nominations show, which set the stage for the Jan. 31 awards night, generously recognized her and two other young women who had stellar years in the pop world: country-pop singer and songwriter Taylor Swift and New York pop provocateur Lady Gaga. The three combined for 23 nominations. All three showed up in the top Grammy categories of album, record and song.
Swift, whose "Fearless" is the top-selling album of 2009 to date, was recognized for her single "You Belong With Me" as record of the year, which awards vocal performance and production. Also nominated in that category are "Halo," Lady Gaga's "Poker Face," the Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" and Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody."
In yet another year of sales decline for the record industry, voters relied more than ever on artists who still managed to score gold and platinum record sales. Top categories were largely focused on a few artists and albums, with the Black Eyed Peas, R&B singer Maxwell and rapper Kanye West collecting six each.
"Poker Face," "You Belong With Me," Beyoncé's hit "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," Kings of Leon's "Use Somebody" and Maxwell's single "Pretty Wings" got nominations for each of those songs' writers.
In the album of the year competition, "Fearless" and "I Am . . . Sasha Fierce" are vying with the Peas' "The E.N.D.," Lady Gaga's "The Fame" and, in perhaps the biggest surprise at the top, Dave Matthews Band's "Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King." U2, traditionally a favorite in the album field, had to settle for a rock album nomination for the Irish quartet's latest, "No Line on the Horizon."
And after several years in which British acts have figured prominently in top categories, Recording Academy voters went virtually all-American with this year's key nominees.
Acts vying for the title of best new artist are Southern rock group Zac Brown Band, Georgia R&B singer Keri Hilson, New York duo MGMT, L.A. indie rock group Silversun Pickups and British alt-pop duo the Ting Tings.
Other multiple nominees include Black Eyed Peas, Maxwell and West with six apiece, and Lady Gaga, rapper Jay-Z and French DJ and electronic music producer David Guetta with five each.
West, however, appeared in none of the most prestigious categories, collecting most of his nods for rap collaborations.
Still, he fared better than Eminem, whose "Relapse" brought him back into the pop world with an uneven but occasionally brilliant look at the wild swings of his life in the five years since his previous studio collection. He took three nominations, for rap solo, duo or group collaboration and rap album.
The night's multiple nominations were especially sweet for Maxwell, whose last album came out in 2001.
"I'm just beyond," he said backstage. "I've been gone for eight years. I've been throwing out my trash and buying my milk. . . . To come back and make a record based on my own living experience . . . and to have this kind of reception, I feel like I've already won."
Guetta's album "One Love" has sold less than 50,000 copies, but benefited from his teaming with various Western pop acts, among them Black Eyed Peas producer-songwriter will.i.am. "The chemistry," said the Frenchman in halting English, "it's even more crazy than me. We just make music for fun. This guy selling millions of albums, spends time with a guy like me . . . just for fun?
"We're Nashville boys . . . so we'll pull for our locals: Taylor Swift [and] Sugarland," Kings of Leon drummer Nathan Followill said backstage. The group's "Use Somebody" not only gave nominee presenter George Lopez an excuse to drop in a Tiger Woods joke, but more significantly generated four nominations for the hard-hitting Southern alt-rock band. "You always hear the cliché, 'it's an honor to be nominated,' " Followill said. "It really is a good feeling. . . . To get four, that's pretty crazy."
Three of Swift's nominations came in country categories, including the female vocal category alongside more seasoned and technically accomplished singers Martina McBride, Lee Ann Womack, Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert. That's likely to set her up for more barbs like those she was pelted with following her win in that field at the recent Country Music Assn. Awards.
But Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles had nothing but praise for Swift on Wednesday. "Taylor has done a lot for the country genre. She brought a lot of young people to country music. When I was 20 years old, I was playing clubs, learning how to drink Jim Beam and Coke."
The Peas' will.i.am acknowledged the sea change the business is undergoing and how his group has adapted.
"To have a No. 1 song for six months is a big accomplishment," he said of "I Gotta Feeling." "We thank all our fans, our team, our management for going out there and trying new things. You can't just pretend it's 1998, come out with a song and do a video. You have to really collaborate with your fans. . . . It's a new day."
Nominations were announced from Club Nokia in downtown Los Angeles. Awards are determined by more than 12,000 voting members of the Recording Academy from eligible recordings released between Oct. 1, 2008, and Aug. 31, 2009.
Times staff writer Yvonne Villarreal contributed to this report.