Don't let the Grammy nominations fool you.
Just because critically acclaimed and popular rapper Kendrick Lamar garnered the most nominations by far, with 11, that doesn't necessarily suggest he'll be the big winner when the Grammys are given on Feb. 15 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The nominations, which were announced Monday morning, also recognized Taylor Swift and the Weeknd with seven each.
Lamar ("To Pimp a Butterfly"), Swift ("1989") and the Weeknd ("Beauty Behind the Madness") are vying for album of the year along with indie rock adventurers Alabama Shakes ("Sound & Color") and country singer-songwriter Chris Stapleton ("Traveler").
Sales don't necessarily determine who will win the year's most prestigious prize. Swift is the runaway sales winner, but isn't the Grammy world as tired of her as it is of Kanye West's outbursts? (Adele's "25," the biggest seller in 2015, was not eligible because it was released after the Sept. 30 cutoff date.)
While Lamar won two Grammys in rap categories at the 2015 ceremony, his "To Pimp a Butterfly" may be too dizzyingly adventurous and profane for the mass of Grammy voters. Plus, hip-hop has historically not fared well for album of the year, except for OutKast's "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" in 2004. While "Beauty Behind the Madness" is overtly sexual, R&B singer the Weeknd performs with an artful smoothness reminiscent of Michael Jackson, and his album included two No. 1 singles.
Stapleton's "Traveler," the slowest seller in this category, was something of a surprise winner for album of the year in last month's Country Music Association Awards. The well-crafted album is as good as country music got in 2015.
Alabama Shakes, the hippest nominee in this category, threw a curveball with "Sound & Color," a rock exploration far removed from the band's beloved retro-soul debut. But in recent years, the Grammy for album of the year has gone to admired but hardly blockbuster alt-rock records by the likes of Beck, Mumford & Sons and Arcade Fire.
Competing for record of the year are Swift's blockbuster "Blank Space"; the ubiquitous dance smash "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars; Ed Sheeran's No. 1 pop hit "Thinking Out Loud"; the Weeknd's huge "Can't Feel My Face," and, surprisingly, R&B star D'Angelo's "Really Love." It seemed more likely that D'Angelo would be included in album of the year for the striking comeback, the bold and politicized "Black Messiah," which is a candidate for best R&B album.
Finalists for the "big four" categories — album, record and song of the year plus best new artist — are chosen by a blue-ribbon committee. The candidates in the other 79 categories are voted on by members of the Recording Academy.
Song of the year nominees are Swift's "Blank Space," Lamar's "Alright," country quartet Little Big Town's same-sex "Girl Crush," Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud" and Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's "See You Again," a tribute to the late actor Paul Walker.
The best new artist category finds five singer-songwriters of different stripes competing: Aussie alt-rocker Courtney Barnett, British pop star James Bay, country hunk Sam Hunt, R&B/pop siren Tori Kelly and pop star Meghan Trainor, who had two nominations last year but had not released her debut album yet so she was eligible for this category.
Some other familiar names collected multiple nominations, including songwriter/producer Max Martin with six, R&B/hip-hop fave Drake with five, and John Legend, Florence Welch (of Florence & the Machine), Kanye West and Pharrell Williams with four each.
But lots of nominations in one night don't necessarily lead to lots of Grammys. Just ask India.Arie, Mariah Carey or 50 Cent.