The nominations were announced in a brand-new format: with a live prime-time CBS concert special.
Coldplay and Plant & Krauss were also nominated in the coveted record of the year category for the respective songs "Viva La Vida" and "Please Read the Letter." Other record of the year nominees were British songstress Leona Lewis for "Bleeding Love"; another British newcomer, Adele, for chasing pavement; and M.I.A. for her breakthrough hit, "Paper Planes."
Some surprising omissions: Katy Perry, who had one of the year's biggest hits with "I Kissed a Girl," was shut out of the top categories, including record of the year and best new artist.
While Lil Wayne'e "Tha Carter III" was not regarded as his greatest CD, it was the album that made the highly regarded veteran a pop superstar, thanks to massive hits like "Lollipop" and "A Milli." The CD was the only record this year to sell 1 million copies in its first week.
Coldplay's "Viva La Vida" was its first album in three years, and was also a huge hit.
Radiohead's "In Rainbows" didn't break sales records, but was as revolutionary as it was critically acclaimed. It was first released last fall - not in stores, but a in a pay-as-you wish format on the band's Web site. It was an instant viral sensation, and also shook up the already beleaguered recording industry, which is struggling with its traditional business model (although Radiohead later released the album traditionally via a record label).
Plant linked up with Grammy darling and bluegrass artist Alison Krauss for a CD that pushed both in different musical directions, while Ne-Yo, who has produced several smashes for other artists, had success with "Year of the Gentleman."
Also nominated were The Jonas Brothers for the best new artist category. While they have already released two CDs, their latest, "A Little Bit Longer," was their biggest yet in their breakthrough year. The teen sensations join Duffy and Adele, both U.K. singers with a soul bent; singer-songwriter Jazmine Sullivan; and breakout country act Lady Antebellum.
The Recording Academy typically has announced nominations like most top awards shows, during a morning news conference. But in an era where awards shows are as commonplace as reality shows, even the top-tier events are finding it hard to stand out.
So they put on the prime-time event, which kicked off with past Grammy winner Mariah Carey singing a song from her classic Christmas album, decked out in a short red minidress to give some holiday cheer.
LL Cool J and Taylor Swift were the shows hosts. Swift, who at just 18 has become one of country and pop's best-selling stars, was a best-new artist nominee last year.
"The Grammy Nominations Concert Live! - Countdown to Music's Biggest Night," held at the Nokia Theatre, also celebrated the Saturday opening of the new Grammy Museum next door.
The Grammy Awards are scheduled for live broadcast on CBS on Feb 8. Last year's show drew 17.2 million viewers, making it one of the least-watched Grammys and continuing the trend of shrinking awards-show audiences.
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AP Music Writer Nekesa Mumbi Moody contributed to this story from New York.