The GRAMMY Awards honor recordings in 108 categories across 32 fields, from rap to rock to classical. To help readers get a better sense of the breadth of the nominees and the wealth of recordings they've created over the last year, GRAMMY.com has prepared these field Roundups, which provide quick but insightful comments on the nominees in an easy-to-read format.
Four Rock and Roll Hall of Famers compete against a relative newcomer in this year's BEST SOLO ROCK VOCAL PERFORMANCE category. Eric Clapton adds yet another poignant chapter to his career with the insinuating "Revolution" from his Back Home album, hoping to add to his previous 16 GRAMMY wins. Former winner Robert Plant goes for his first solo award with the avant-blues of "Shine It All Around," a track from his Mighty ReArranger album after nabbing a Best Hard Rock Performance award at the 41st Annual GRAMMY Awards with Led Zeppelin partner Jimmy Page for "Most High." Perennial GRAMMY fave and 12-time winner Bruce Springsteen, who won this category last year, returns with the somber title track from his Grapes Of Wrath-inspired Devils & Dust, while fellow legend Neil Young is up for the autobiographical "The Painter" from his acclaimed Prairie Wind album. Matchbox Twenty's Rob Thomas follows up his three 1999 GRAMMYs for his contributions to Santana's "Smooth" with his first solo nod on "This Is How A Heart Breaks" from his hit album …Something To Be.
This year's BEST ROCK PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP WITH VOCAL category pits bands from across the pond in London, Dublin and Glasgow against a pair of America's finest. Both Scottish new wave sensation Franz Ferdinand, with "Do You Want To" from their sophomore album, You Could Have It So Much Better, and Las Vegas-bred the Killers, with "All These Things That I've Done" from their multi-platinum debut, Hot Fuss, were nominated in this category last year, which was won by U2. The Irish rockers are up again this year for "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own," Bono's moving homage to his late father from the band's best-selling How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. England's newest hitmakers Coldplay, who won in this category in 2002 for "In My Place," are once again in the hunt with "Speed Of Sound," the first single from their chart-topping X&Y album, while four-time GRAMMY winners the Foo Fighters are nominated for the fierce "Best Of You" from the double-CD In Your Honor.
The BEST HARD ROCK PERFORMANCE category offers an eclectic mix of a supergroup, an industrial-rock pioneer, a wily veteran and a pair of Los Angeles outsiders from the exurbs of Glendale and the Inland Empire. Audioslave, made up of ex-Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell and former members of Rage Against The Machine, make their mark with "Doesn't Remind Me" from their smash Out Of Exile album, along with Queens Of The Stone Age, whose parched brand of desert rock earns them a nom for "Little Sister" from their Lullabies To Paralyze album. Armenian rock rabble rousers System Of A Down chalk up a GRAMMY nomination with the profane art-metal of "B.Y.O.B." from Mezmerize, one of two albums the band released this year. Metal masterdomo Trent Reznor, winner of two previous GRAMMYs with his nom de band Nine Inch Nails, is nominated in this category with the radio-friendly "The Hand That Feeds," the first single from his comeback album, With Teeth. Hard rock godfather Robert Plant earns his second nomination this year with "Tin Pan Valley," another track from his critically kudo'ed solo work, Mighty ReArranger.
Call it hardcore, thrash, shock-rock or simply noise, the BEST METAL PERFORMANCE category is certain to create a din at this year's GRAMMY ceremony. One thing that can be said: Whoever wins this category will take home their first GRAMMY, though masked men Slipknot earn their fifth nomination for "Before I Forget," a track from their epic Vol. 3: (The Subliminal Verses) album. Al Jourgensen's groundbreaking Ministry get their long-deserved props with a nod for "The Great Satan," a devilishly subversive song from their Rantology album, while another group of costumed marauders, Mudvayne, earn their initial nom for "Determined," a fiery blast from Lost And Found. Flame-shooting German metalmeisters Rammstein earn their stripes for the sturm und drang of "Mein Teil" from their Reise, Reise album, while metal newbies Shadows Fall make an impressive bow with "What Drives The Weak" from their indie release The War Within.
The BEST ROCK INSTRUMENTAL PERFORMANCE category includes a living legend that practically invented the electric guitar, three of its most adept modern practitioners and a drummer…in fact, everything but a vocalist! Previous GRAMMY winner and still-active axeman Les Paul earns a nod for "69 Freedom Special," from his Les Paul & Friends album American Made World Played, a tribute to the guitar to which he lent his name. Guitar-slinger Joe Perry, winner of four GRAMMYs as a member of Aerosmith, gets his first solo nod for "Mercy," a track from his self-titled album, while King Crimson member and David Bowie collaborator Adrian Belew earns his debut nom for "Beat Box Guitar" from his solo effort, Side One. Percussionist extraordinaire Stewart Copeland, who won in this category twice with his previous band the Police, earns the honor himself this time for "Birds Of Prey" from his Orchestralli album, an extension of his work scoring movie soundtracks. Finally, major fretman Steve Vai looks for his second GRAMMY Award in this category on the typically nimble "Lotus Feet," taken off his Real Illusions: Reflections album.
This year's BEST ROCK SONG offers a variety of anthems for every taste: tributes to New York City, Beverly Hills and points in between, as well as a pair of cathartic odes to affirmation through music. U2's post-Sept. 11 valentine to the "City Of Blinding Lights" leads the way for the East Coast. Just as surely Weezer's tongue-in-chic homage to the plastic, vacuous lifestyle of "Beverly Hills" — penned by Rivers Cuomo — pitches in for the West Coast and Bruce Springsteen's double-nominated "Devils & Dust" pays tribute to the heartland. Rounding out the category is a pair of heartfelt rockers who deal with the symbiotic relationship between artist and audience, with Coldplay's "Speed Of Sound" — written by bandmates Guy Berryman, Jon Buckland, Will Champion and Chris Martin — and Foo Fighters' "Best Of You" each earning their second nominations apiece.
The BEST ROCK ALBUM category promises a spirited competition between a pair of grizzled legends, a group that has willingly taken the torch and two bands well on their way to that lofty status. This year the Rolling Stones’s A Bigger Bang, their best-reviewed album in a decade, goes head-to-head with Neil Young‘s Prairie Wind, a return to his Harvest Moon country roots, which had critics similarly swooning. With four nominations this year and having won four GRAMMYs already, the Foo Fighters enter this category with In Your Honor. U2, who won this category in 2001, is eligible this year for their smash album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb, while Coldplay look for their first GRAMMY in this category for the Beatlesque pop melodies of X&Y.
The BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM category is always filled with the most progressive, genre-bending takes on pop-rock, and this year is no exception. Beck — nominated for the multi-cult stew of Guero — and The White Stripes — up for the left-field marimba beat of Get Behind Me Satan — are on familiar turf here, with the far-sighted L.A. Gen X poster boy having won three GRAMMYs before and the Detroit neo-garage duo taking home this award two years ago. Add to the mix Canadian sensation the Arcade Fire's Funeral, emo-folk forerunners Death Cab For Cutie's plaintive Plans and Scottish sensations Franz Ferdinand's sophomore effort, You Could Have It So Much Better, and the result is a multifaceted overview of the mutations in the ever-robust alt-rock universe.