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Break away from the oldies with 2018 Grammy nominees
The slate of Grammy nominees may skew young, but that doesn’t mean boomers clinging to their Beatles and Motown albums won’t find new works to love as much as their oldies. Here are 10 nominated albums that are sure to captivate the 50-plus music buff. And watch the 60th annual awards live on CBS at 7:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Jan. 28.
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Bruno Mars: 24K Magic, nominated for album of the year
The Hawaiian native, 32, draws heavily from soul and funk influences on his third album, a follow-up to hit machine Unorthodox Jukebox and its global smash single "Uptown Funk!" A product of his heroes Elvis Presley, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson, the singer-songwriter wraps his versatile tenor around nine tightly arranged tunes, including such keepers as "Perm," a nod to James Brown’s raw chemistry, and the humorous "Calling All My Lovelies," featuring Halle Berry
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Ed Sheeran: ÷ (Divide), nominated for pop vocal album
The hugely popular British singer-songwriter, 26, built a broad following by binding his sensitive-dude lyrics to a variety of styles: pop, folk, dance, rock
andblue-eyed-soul. The title of his third album continues the mathematical pattern of 2011’s + (Plus) and 2014’s X (Multiply), but there’s nothing by the numbers in this latest album’s lush, bold and personal takes on surviving everyday life. He glides smoothly from airy hit "Shape of You" to the U2-majestic "Castle on the Hill" to contemporary jig "Galway Girl."
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The War on Drugs: A Deeper Understanding, nominated for best rock album
The Philadelphia indie rock band is led by 38-year-old singer, guitarist and songwriter Adam Granduciel, who founded the group in 2005 with Kurt Vile (who soon departed for a solo career). The greatest mystery about the War on Drugs is why it hasn’t hijacked charts the world over, especially in light of rock’s continuing drought. Understanding’s big guitars and synthesized clouds lure listeners into a dreamy soundscape that is both soothing and melancholy.
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Father John Misty: Pure Comedy, nominated for best alternative music album
Misty, aka Josh Tillman (formerly with Fleet Foxes), follows up 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear with this more spare and nuanced collection, steeped in gloom and beauty. The messages of alienation, doom, corruption and societal apathy are delivered with brass and brazen wit, then served up
insumptuous melodies. Think of a morose Elton John circa 1971. Tillman, 36, leans on familiar singer-songwriter structures, but he’s no throwback, thanks to a modern streak of quirks and irony. That eccentricity leaves him pondering his tenuous career footing in the 13-minute "Leaving L.A."
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Ledisi: Let Love Rule, nominated for best R&B album
Ledisi Anibade Young, 45, lives up to her reputation for powerhouse vocals and empowering tunes on her ninth studio album, Let Love Rule. The 15 tracks, ranging from old-school soul to modern R&B, get assists from John Legend, Kirk Franklin and a variety of hotshot producers, especially longtime collaborator Rex Rideout. The album’s core strengths are Ledisi’s strapping voice (which won her the role of Mahalia Jackson in Ava DuVernay’s Selma) and her positive perspective in tunes, from the gospel-tinged "If You Don’t Mind" to the huge ballad "All the Way."
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Chris Stapleton: From a Room: Volume 1, nominated for best country album
Don’t let the shaggy beard — or even the category for which he’s nominated — fool you. Chris Stapleton is a soul man. The Kentucky native, 39, went from penning tunes for Nashville royalty to enjoying his own coronation with his 2015 solo debut Traveller. The nine songs on the first volume of From a Room cement his credibility as a sterling songsmith and potent singer. The foundation is Nashville, but Stapleton takes on
rockin the ferocious "Second One to Know," blues in "Death Row" and soul balladry in "Either Way," which recalls Ray Charles more than Merle Haggard. And hestakes a claim in countryby nailing Willie Nelson’s 1982 hit "Last Thing I Needed First Thing This Morning."
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Jazzmeia Horn: A Social Call, nominated for best jazz vocal album
At 26, the Dallas-born songbird has already wowed the jazz world with an artistic dignity and vocal command that draw comparisons to Sarah Vaughan and Nancy Wilson. Horn won the 2015 Thelonious Monk International Vocal Jazz Competition and lives up to the honor’s promise on this impressive debut, a sophisticated set of standards that showcase her warm, limber voice and plucky personality. While Horn remains loyal to
jazztradition, she has a flair for daring forays, folding "Moanin’ " onto "Lift Every Voice and Sing," an implausibly simpatico hookup. She retools the Stylistics’ "People Make the World Go Round" into an improvisational joy ride, adding a spoken-word lament on racism and other societal ills.
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Bomba Estéreo: Ayo, nominated for best Latin rock, urban or alternative
Founded in Bogotá in 2005 by Simón Mejía, the electro-cumbia band puts a psychedelic spin on tropical music. English for “stereo bomb” and Colombian slang for a "cool party," Bomba Estéreo lives up to its name, cranking out fiery punk-spiked dance music with Colombian and African roots. Mejía's fifth studio album, Ayo, builds on the band’s old-new fusion with abandon. Spanglish lyrics overlay bouncy dance tunes that incorporate indigenous sounds, like the flauta de
millo, a flute, in "Duele." The environment is a chief theme, but the band also urges women to raise their voices against discrimination in "Flower Power" and celebrates diversity in party anthem "Internacionales."
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Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit: The Nashville Sound, nominated for best Americana album
The alt-country sensation, 38, spent six years with the Drive-By Truckers before launching a solo career in 2007. His sixth studio album, and the first with his 400 Unit band since 2011, enhances his track record as a top-drawer songwriter and storyteller who continues to exceed expectations, whether relating a boozy tale about a dying Appalachian coal mining town in rock blast "Cumberland Gap" or vowing eternal love in the poignant "If We Were Vampires," a duet with Amanda Shires, his fiddle player and wife. "White Man’s World" sends a strong warning to society’s patriarchy, and "Last of My Kind" wrestles with isolation and mortality.
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Offa Rex: The Queen of Hearts, nominated for best folk album
Colin Meloy of
indierock band the Decemberists had long wanted to record an album of English folk music. When he found British folk singer Olivia Chaney, the deal was sealed. Their collaboration under the name Offa Rex generated this set of traditional English, Scottish and Irish folk tunes revitalized by the Decemberists’ irreverent zest. Chaney’s bright, soulful voice recalls Sandy Denny on such buffed relics as "Willie O’Winsbury" and "The Old Churchyard." "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face," popularized by Roberta Flack, gets overhauled by guitars and harmonium drones. And "Sheep Crook and Black Dog" flat-out rocks.
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