NEW YORK: Rapper Kendrick Lamar on Monday received a near-record number of Grammy Award nominations, with pop superstar Taylor Swift leading for the most prestigious categories.
Lamar -- who has won wide critical acclaim for his politically charged album To Pimp a Butterfly -- earned 11 nominations for the music industry's biggest awards, the highest number in a single night other than Michael Jackson's 12 nods in 1984 during the King of Pop's Thriller days.
To Pimp a Butterfly, Lamar's first album in nearly three years, is unusually innovative for such a commercially anticipated album, with long sections of unaccompanied spoken word, frequent historical allusions and jazzy interludes.
Lamar -- who hails from the gangsta rap capital of Compton in southern California but unlike many stars has had few personal controversies -- examines the state of US race relations on To Pimp a Butterfly, with mockery of Washington politicians and explorations of his search for inner strength.
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Lamar's heavy haul comes in part due to his collaborations with other artists; he was also nominated for work with the DJ Flying Lotus and with Swift herself.
Lamar also won acclaim for his last album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City,and was nominated in seven categories in the 2014 awards.
But he did not win any awards, leading some critics to allege a double-standard against African American artists.
- Swift tapped in leading categories -
Swift and The Weeknd, the rising Canadian R&B star, followed Lamar with seven nominations each for the Grammys, which will be announced at a gala ceremony in Los Angeles on February 15.
But Swift was ahead in the four most-watched categories, with nominations in all of them except Best New Artist.
She enjoyed nods for Album of the Year for 1989 -- which marked her transition from country to pop -- as well as Record of the Year and Song of the Year for her hit Blank Space.
1989 was the fastest-selling album in more than a decade although it was recently surpassed by 25, the latest blockbuster by English ballad singer Adele. 25 was not eligible for the Grammys, which cover releases in the year to September 30.
To Pimp a Butterfly and Beauty Behind the Madness, The Weeknd's sophomore work, were also in contention for Album of the Year.
English singer and guitarist Ed Sheeran's viral ballad Thinking Out Loud was also nominated for both Record of the Year, which considers overall performance, and Song of the Year, which recognizes songwriting.
- Surprise recognition for rising artists -
The Recording Academy, the music industry body that determines the nominations, also had surprising choices for Album of the Year, generally considered the most prestigious category.
Chris Stapleton, a country artist who long worked in the shadows as a songwriter for Nashville's big stars, was nominated for Album of the Year for his first full-length work, Traveller.
Stapleton has seen a sudden surge in his career since becoming the unexpected winner last month at the Country Music Association Awards in Nashville.
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Along with rap and country, the Recording Academy also branched out by recognizing indie rockers.
Alabama Shakes, the bluesy rock band defined by frontwoman Brittany Howard's overpowering voice, was nominated for Album of the Year for the group's second album, Sound and Color.
"We are at a loss for words. Thanks to all who made this happen," Alabama Shakes, nominated in six categories, wrote on Twitter.
-Diverse new contenders-
Australian indie rocker Courtney Barnett was nominated for Best New Artist, another category closely watched by the music industry.
Barnett, who until a couple of years ago was working as a bartender in Melbourne, has won over a wide audience for her ironic lyricism that reflects on issues ranging from urban gentrification to masturbation.
✈️✈️✈️ Paris > Abu Dhabi > Melbourne > turn on phone > nominated for Grammy!!!! ❤️✌🏼️ pic.twitter.com/FwVGAuR0ED— courtney barnett (@courtneymelba) December 7, 2015
Also among nominees for Best New Artist were English singer-songwriter James Bay and Meghan Trainor, a pop star who speaks forthrightly about her struggles with body image.
THREE GRAMMY NOMINATIONS. THREE!!! 😑😐😵😵😵 pic.twitter.com/Xe8y3XGy0s— James Bay (@JamesBayMusic) December 7, 2015
Other prominent Grammy nominees included D'Angelo, the R&B singer who returned to the scene after a 14-year gap by releasing his album Black Messiah with little prior publicity.
His song Really Love was nominated for Record of the Year, although he was passed over for Album of the Year.
Uptown Funk, the party anthem by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, was also in contention for Record of the Year.
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