The nominees for the four marquee awards are split between the hip-hop streaming juggernauts and more niche artists. “Scorpion,” “Black Panther: The Album,” “Beerbongs & Bentleys” and Cardi B’s “Invasion of Privacy” all topped the chart and have been fixtures on streaming services.
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Carlile, who has been nominated just once before (in the best Americana album category), sold only 43,000 copies of her nominated album, “By the Way, I Forgive You,” in its debut week, when it reached No. 5 on the Billboard chart. The self-titled debut from H.E.R. peaked at No. 47 and does not feature a hit single, while Musgraves — who was also nominated for best solo country performance (“Butterflies”), best country album and best country song (“Space Cowboy”) — has sold barely 100,000 copies of her album of the year contender, “Golden Hour.” Monáe’s “Dirty Computer,” another best album nominee, was also a modest seller.
In recent years, hip-hop and R&B, genres that dominate commercially, have been more prevalent in the major Grammy categories, but that has not always translated to wins: Jay-Z, the most nominated artist at the ceremony in January, came up empty in eight categories this time, and Lamar, who has now been nominated 37 times and won 12, has lost album of the year three times. (Most recently, the pop/R&B singer Bruno Mars took home the big award for his album “24K Magic.”)
“Black Panther: The Album,” which also features the Weeknd and a smattering of West Coast rap, plus elements of African music, could prove a roundabout contender for best album. In the last 40 years, three soundtracks have won in that category — “Saturday Night Fever” in 1979, “The Bodyguard” in 1994 and “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” in 2002. (The first-ever Grammy Award for album of the year went to a TV soundtrack: Henry Mancini’s “The Music From Peter Gunn.”)