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All eyes on Frank Ocean as Grammy Awards approach
LOS ANGELES (AP) - Everybody’s thinkin’ about Frank Ocean.
Ocean is a cause celebre and the man with the momentum as Sunday’s Grammy Awards kicked off with pre-telecast wins by Rihanna and Mumford & Sons. One of six top nominees with six nominations apiece, the 25-year-old R&B singer turned cultural talking point will have the music world’s attention.
It remains to be seen if it will be the “Thinkin Bout You” singer’s night, but there’s no question he’s dominated the discussion so far. Already a budding star with a gift for building buzz as well as crafting songs, Ocean was swept up by something more profound when he told fans his first love was a man last fall as he prepared to release his major-label debut, “channel ORANGE.”
It was a bold move and one that could have submarined his career before it really even got started. Instead, everyone from Beyonce to the often-homophobic R&B and rap communities showed public support. It was a remarkable moment.
“It speaks to the advancements of our culture,” renowned producer Rick Rubin said. “It feels like the culture’s moving forward and he’s a representative of the new acceptance in the world for different ideas, which just broadens (our experience), makes the world a better place.”
A recent altercation in a parking lot with Chris Brown only focused more attention on Ocean. Ocean says Brown was the aggressor; both are competing against each other in one of the Grammy categories.
Ocean is up for the major awards best new artist, album of the year and record of the year when the show airs live on CBS at 8 p.m. EST from the Staples Center, sharing top-nominee billing with fun., Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, Mumford & Sons, Jay-Z and Kanye West.
The Grammy pre-telecast awards show got under way Sunday afternoon at the Nokia Theatre with 70 trophies up for grabs, including rock, pop, rap and country categories. Rihanna’s “We Found Love,” featuring Calvin Harris, won the day’s first award, short form music video. Mumford & Sons took their first Grammy, winning along with Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros for their long form video documentary “Big Easy Express.”
Celebrities also began rolling down the red carpet in the early afternoon, but it remained to be seen if any would try to skirt CBS’s mandate that stars dress appropriately with butts, breasts and other sensitive areas covered adequately.
“”I think it’s just, you know, we should always stay classy and dress according to the event that’s being held,” Ashanti said on the red carpet. “So I don’t think people should be limited so much and told what you can and cannot do. But, you know, you do have to have a certain class and prestige about yourself.”
Ocean might be riding a wave toward some of the night’s biggest honors, but R&B and hip-hop performers have had a spotty history at the Grammys recently when it comes to major awards.
Only one R&B act has won album of the year this century, and it’s hard to even call him just an R&B act given his legend, artistic scope and material: Ray Charles for his “Genius & Friends,” an all-star collaboration that was honored posthumously.
Also limiting Ocean’s chances for a clean sweep are his fellow top nominees. Fun. became just the second act to sweep nominations in all four major categories with a debut album, equaling Christopher Cross’ 1981 feat. Like Cross’ “Sailing,” the New York-based pop-rock band has ridden along on the crest of an inescapable song: “We Are Young,” featuring Janelle Monae.
Cross won five Grammys, sweeping the major awards. Fun. likely will have a much harder time piling up that number of victories because of the buzz surrounding the group’s competitors. It’s not just Ocean who has people talking.
London-based folk-rockers Mumford & Sons had one of the top-selling albums of the year with “Babel” and already has a history with The Recording Academy’s thousands of voters, having been nominated for major awards the year prior. Also, The Black Keys have a winning track record at the Grammys.
By John R. Bolton
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