It's hardly a surprise that conductor Osmo Vanska, at right, and the Minnesota Orchestra, hailed in recent years as one of the world's top orchestras, are nominated for best orchestral performance, for "Sibelius: Symphonies Nos. 2 & 5." Vanska and the orchestra were nominated in the same category in 2008 for a recording of Beethoven's ninth symphony.
But the totally obscure Okee Dokee Brothers, a Minneapolis bluegrass duo that specializes in kids music, landed a nomination for best children's album for "Can You Canoe?" Who'd thunk it? Joe Mailander, 27, and Justin Lansing, 28, childhood buddies from Denver who moved to Minneapolis in 2008, canoed down the Mississippi River and wrote an album about it. They perform at parks, day-care centers and libraries.
"It was kind of unexpected," Mailander said of the nomination. "We're happy with the company on the list, especially Elizabeth Mitchell; she's featured on our record and she's one of our heroes. There is clever, quality children's music that isn't cheesy. And the nominations reflect that."
Most of the nominees for the major Grammy awards are not exactly household names -- unless your household has teens and 20-somethings. Newcomers fun., the New York City pop trio that scored with the infectious "We Are Young," and Frank Ocean, one of the first male R&B singers to admit that he fell in love with a man, each received six nominations, including best album, record and new artist.
Mumford & Sons, the English folk-rock group, and Dan Auerbach of the alt-rock Grammy-winning Black Keys also garned six nominations, including album and record of the year. Hip-hop kingpins Jay-Z and Kanye West each earned six nods, in mostly rap categories.
Jack White is one of the more familiar names vying for album of the year (for "Blunderbuss"). The two household heros competing for record of the year are Kelly Clarkson ("Stronger") and Taylor Swift ("We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"). Swift co-hosted Wednesday's "Grammy Nominations Concert Live" special with LL Cool J in Nashville. The show featured performances by Maroon 5, fun., Hunter Hayes, Ne-Yo, the Who and LL Cool J singing Swift's "Mean" as she provided a human beatbox.
A blue-ribbon panel chooses finalists for the big four categories -- album, record, song and new artist -- while nominees in the other 77 categories are chosen by the 12,000 members of the Recording Academy.
Winners will be announced Feb. 10 in a televised ceremony.