Frank Ocean, FUN. are front-runners heading into Sunday's Grammys

LOS ANGELES Thu Feb 7, 2013 6:30pm IST

U.S. singer Frank Ocean performs at the Oya music festival in Oslo, August 9, 2012. REUTERS/Vegard Grott/NTB Scanpix/Files

U.S. singer Frank Ocean performs at the Oya music festival in Oslo, August 9, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Vegard Grott/NTB Scanpix/Files

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - R&B artist Frank Ocean and indie-pop group FUN. go into Sunday's Grammy Awards ceremony as front-runners for the music industry's top accolades in a year where new talent and male artists have attracted most of the attention.

After last year's Grammy ceremony was dominated by British singer Adele, and her best-selling album "21," this year's awards show will be all about men.

FUN., Ocean, British folk band Mumford & Sons, rocker Dan Auerbach, Jay-Z and Kanye West each received six nominations, while Auerbach's band, The Black Keys, got five.

"It will be a very exciting night because it's so much the antithesis of last year, which was a once-in-a-lifetime show with Adele and her moment," Jim Donio, president of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers, told Reuters.

With the absence of new music from many major pop artists in the past year, emerging talent features prominently at the Grammys.

Pop chart staples Kelly Clarkson, Katy Perry, Adele and Rihanna all picked up nominations for the 55th annual Grammy Awards, but only Clarkson and Taylor Swift received Record of the Year nods.

In the Album of the Year category, one style of music is making a comeback.

"This year seems very different ... we're seeing rock music and guitar music coming back to the Grammys and being appreciated this year," said Patrick Doyle, assistant editor of Rolling Stone magazine.

New York-based FUN., made up of Nate Ruess, Andrew Dost and Jack Antonoff, stormed the charts in 2012 and are back this year. They are the only artists going into Sunday's awards with nominations in the top four categories - Album, Record and Song of the Year as well as Best New Artist.

But unlike last year, where Adele was a clear favorite and went home with six Grammys, this year's big winners are less predictable. Experts said the chances are slim of one person or band winning the coveted trifecta of Song, Record and Album of the Year.

"I think voters went out of their way almost to assure that you're not going to see the photo of one person clutching six Grammy awards. There won't be one unified winner," said James Montgomery, senior writer at MTV News.

OCEAN MAKING WAVES

FUN. had one of the biggest-selling singles of 2012 with their infectious hit "We Are Young" featuring Janelle Monae, which is up for three Grammy awards. Both Doyle and Montgomery think they may take both the Song and Record of the Year titles.

"They're taking a classic sound and putting hip hop productions and fresh sounding beats on top of anthem-like melodies," Doyle said.

The trio face strong competition from Ocean, who is nominated in six categories, including Best New Artist, Album of the Year and Record of the Year.

Ocean, 25, has paved an unconventional path to the Grammys after emerging on the music scene a few years ago as part of the Odd Future hip hop collective.

His debut album "Channel Orange," released in July, has been both a commercial and critical success.

The singer made waves after revealing that his first love was another man, an admission of same-sex attraction that was seen as groundbreaking in the hip hop community, which is often criticized for hostility towards homosexuals.

Ocean and FUN. will be competing with blues-rockers Alabama Shakes, folk-indie group The Lumineers and country singer Hunter Hayes for Best New Artist.

"Alabama Shakes, The Lumineers and Hunter Hayes may all draw from the some basic vote group, which leaves the race between FUN. and Frank Ocean. And due to his album success and story, I think it may be Frank Ocean," Montgomery said.

Both Montgomery and Doyle said Ocean may be also win the night for Album of the Year.

"His album was so soulful and new, and it sounds really like nothing else. It's a completely honest record that people can really relate to, something that hasn't been seen or heard in a long time," Doyle said.

"He's going to be a huge presence at the Grammys because there's no one like him."

The Grammys Awards will be presented in Los Angeles and shown live on CBS television on Sunday.

(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy, editing by Jill Serjeant and Stacey Joyce)

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