Drake landed four nominations at the Grammy Awards on Friday, putting an end to his lengthy boycott of the awards ceremony and placing him neck-and-neck with roots singer Allison Russell as one of the top Canadian contenders.
It was a comeback for the Toronto rapper, born Aubrey Graham, whose on-again, off-again relationship with the Recording Academy led him to withdraw his name or just not submit at all in recent years. His apparent change of heart put his 2022 album “Her Loss” up for consideration, landing it nominations that included best rap album.
Meanwhile, Montreal singer-songwriter Russell also picked up four nods, including best Americana album for “The Returner.”
Several other musicians with Canadian ties found themselves competing for multiple awards.
Engineer and mixer Serban Ghenea landed seven nominations, including several in the marquee record and album of the year categories for work with Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo and Jon Batiste.
The Romania-born, Canada-raised pop wizard will compete against himself for record of the year, holding nominations for Swift’s “Anti-Hero,” Rodrigo’s “Vampire” and Batiste’s “Worship.” He also scored album of the year nominations for Swift’s “Midnights” and Rodrigo’s “Guts.”
Ghenea also had a fruitful year with DJ and producer David Guetta in the pop dance recording category. He shares separate nominations for two Guetta hits: “Baby Don’t Hurt Me” and “One in a Million.”
Drake’s collaborations were also in the spotlight.
His work with 21 Savage on the song “Rich Flex” was among the year’s picks for rap performance, while their track “Spin Bout U” got a nod for best melodic rap performance. He rounded out the four nominations with his songwriting effort on “Rich Flex” in the best rap song category.
Russell’s four nominations also included recognition for the song “The Returner” in the best Americana performance as well as American roots song categories. The track “Eve Was Black” was among the nominees for best American roots performance.
The dance categories were populated with a number of other notable Canadians.
Joel Zimmerman, better known as Toronto DJ Deadmau5, shared a nomination with U.S. producer Kaskade for their collaborative self-titled project “Kx5,” which is up for best dance or electronic album
Henry Walter, known as producer Cirkut, picked up a nod for the song “Higher Than Ever Before” by Disclosure, which competes for best dance/electronic recording.
“Belinda Says” landed Alvvays their first Grammy nomination. The Prince Edward Island dream pop band’s song is named in the alternative music performance category.
Toronto hip-hop and jazz outfit Badbadnotgood look to extend their two Grammy wins this year with a nomination in the remixed recording category for their version of “Alien Love Call” by hardcore band Turnstile.
Three-time Grammy-winning conductor and pianist Yannick Nezet-Seguin extended his good fortunes at the show by pocketing two more nominations.
The Montreal-born musician will contend for his conducting work on Florence Price’s Symphony No. 4 and William Dawson’s Negro Folk Symphony, which is in the running for best orchestral performance, while his work with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and The Metropolitan Opera Chorus for Terence Blanchard’s “Champion” competes for best opera recording.
Other notable Canadian nominees include Victoria-based metal band Spiritbox, whose “Jaded” contends for best metal performance, and Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, led by the Vancouver-born artist, who are up for best large jazz ensemble album for “Dynamic Maximum Tension.”
Vancouver native Ben Wendel stands among the contemporary instrumental album nominees, while Cuban-Canadian jazz artist Hilario Duran holds a nod in the best arrangement, instrumental or a cappella category.
“Star Trek” actor William Shatner competes with an array of U.S. celebrities in the best audio book category. Readings by Meryl Streep, record producer Rick Rubin, U.S. senator Bernie Sanders and Michelle Obama will vie against the Montreal native’s “Boldly Go: Reflections On A Life Of Awe And Wonder.”
Alongside Russell in the American roots song category is Aaron Allen, a former tattoo artist from London, Ont., whose work co-writing on Billy Strings and Willie Nelson’s “California Sober” earned him his first nomination.
Ryan Gosling, although not a nominee himself, got some love. The songwriters behind “I’m Just Ken,” performed by the London, Ont.-raised actor in the blockbuster “Barbie,” are in the running for best song written for visual media.
SZA is the lead contender for the 66th Grammy Awards, with nine nominations announced Friday.
“Kill Bill,” her revenge anthem cloaked in an R&B ballad, earned her nods for record of the year, song of the year, and best R&B performance. “SOS” is also up for album of the year and best progressive R&B album. The 2024 ceremony will mark the second time SZA has been nominated for record, album, and song of the year in the same year.
And just like at the box office, “Barbie” will be seen – and heard – at the Grammys. Music from the hit film’s soundtrack earned 11 nominations, including nabbing four of the five slots in the visual media song category.
If there is an overall trend in the 2024 nominations, it’s that female acts outperformed their male counterparts. The majority of leading nominees are women and include superstars like Swift, Billie Eilish, Miley Cyrus and Rodrigo. In both the record and album of the year categories, the only man represented is Batiste.
“Seeing the women nominees this year, and the number of them, was not a surprise but it was something that made me happy,” the Recording Academy CEO and President Harvey Mason jr. told The Associated Press. He believes that representation allows the next group of creators to look at the nominees and say: “Maybe somebody will love what I do one day, or maybe I have an opportunity to express myself or voice my thoughts like that person.”
SZA, of course, leads the charge, also picking up nominations for best traditional R&B performance (“Love Language”), best R&B song (“Snooze”), best melodic rap performance (“Low”), and best pop duo/group performance (“Ghost in the Machine”). The last features Phoebe Bridgers, who – alongside Victoria Monet, the only leading nominee also up for best new artist – boasts the second-most nominations with seven.
Six of Bridgers’ nods are with her band boygenius, nominated for the first time for record of the year, album of the year, best rock performance, best rock song, best alternative music performance, and best alternative music album.
Also earning six nominations: Swift, Rodrigo, Cyrus, Eilish, Brandy Clark, Batiste and producer Jack Antonoff.
Only recordings released between Oct. 1, 2022, through Sept. 15, 2023 were eligible.
In addition to Monet, the best new artist category is rounded out by Gracie Abrams, Fred again.., Ice Spice, Jelly Roll, Coco Jones, Noah Kahan and The War and Treaty.
For album of the year, it’s again Batiste, boygenius, Cyrus, Rodrigo, Swift, and SZA, but with the addition of Lana Del Rey’s “Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd” and Janelle Monae’s “The Age of Pleasure.”
The song of the year category features Del Rey’s “A&W,” Swift’s “Anti-Hero,” Batiste’s “Butterfly,” Cyrus’ “Flowers,” SZA’s “Kill Bill,” Rodrigo’s “vampire,” and two tracks from the “Barbie” soundtrack: Dua Lipa’s “Dance The Night” and Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?”
Some fans may notice a dearth of Latin and country musicians in the main categories.
“We need to do more work with our country voters and continue to invite more country voters to the process,” says Mason jr. “Another thing that surprised me was, as big of a year that Latin had this year, (that) we didn’t have more Latin representation in some of the general fields.”
“We want to make sure that our membership is representative of the music that’s being created and concerned,” he added. “So, these nominations always inform us on what we’re going to do over the next few years. And these nominations in particular have told us we need to continue to reach out and communicate with the voting groups within country and Latin.”
There are three new categories at the 2024 Grammys: best pop dance recording, best African music performance and best alternative jazz album. Four of the five acts in the best African music performance category are nominated for the first time: ASAKE & Olamide for “Amapiano,” Davido featuring Musa Keys for “UNAVAILABLE,” Ayra Starr for “Rush,” and Tyla for “Water.” The fifth is the already Grammy-winning Burna Boy for “City Boys.”
The 2024 Grammy Awards will air Feb. 4 live on CBS and Paramount+ from the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles.
– with files from The Associated Press