Breakout star Lizzo tops fledgling field at Grammy noms

by Maggy DONALDSON
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US singer Lizzo -- seen here performing during the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards in August 2019 -- earned eight Grammy nominations to lead the field

Singer and rapper Lizzo scored eight Grammy nominations Wednesday to lead a field packed with newcomers, including pop iconoclast Billie Eilish and overnight sensation Lil Nas X, for music's biggest honors.

The diverse slate of budding talent appeared to reflect the Recording Academy's recent efforts to appease critics who have lambasted the show as too white, too male and too generous to music world mainstays.

Magnetic 31-year-old Lizzo debuted in 2013 but really burst into the public eye with her third studio album "Cuz I Love You," which scored a nomination for the top Album of the Year prize at the January 26 ceremony in Los Angeles.

The classically-trained flutist was nominated in all four of the top categories.

She has an adoring fanbase that favors her sassy, body-positive persona and unflinching messages of feminist empowerment, sexual freedom and black pride.

"THIS HAS BEEN AN INCREDIBLE YEAR FOR MUSIC AND IM JUST SO THANKFUL TO EVEN BE PART OF IT," the artist tweeted upon learning of her nominations.

Eilish also nabbed a shot at best album for "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" to bring her career nomination count to six -- and, at 17, became the youngest person nominated in the top four categories.

Before her album's release, the goth-leaning artist had already won a fervent online following for her bold, often haunting pop sound featuring heavy bass and tinges of trap and electronic dance music.

Her brother and main collaborator Finneas O'Connell, 22, is up for five awards for producing and songwriting contributions.

Saying he was "grateful" for the industry recognition, O'Connell tweeted that "most of all, I'm just grateful to billie for making music with her big brother."

Genre-bending meme king Lil Nas X, 20, rode the fame of his viral smash "Old Town Road" to also snag six chances at Grammy gold.

After grabbing attention on the video-sharing app TikTok, the artist born Montero Lamar Hill won the internet when the thumping bass and banjo twangs of his infectious single knocked Ariana Grande from the Billboard chart's top spot -- and stayed there for a record-breaking 19 weeks.

- Swift snub -

The newbies will square up against some established superstars.

Grande -- whose album "thank u, next" missed last year's Grammy deadline -- bagged five nominations for 2020.

The 26-year-old won her first Grammy last year, but notably skipped the party: just days before the event, she roasted the ceremony's producer for "lying" about her decision not to perform.

On Wednesday she said this year's "acknowledgement is truly enough on its own for me and my heart."

Beyonce earned four nods on the strength of her Netflix concert film about her dazzling 2018 Coachella performance and the album accompanying this year's "Lion King" film remake.

The enigmatic R&B prodigy H.E.R., who won two Grammys last year, also got five nominations, including for Album of the Year.

Once an Academy darling with 10 Grammys to her name, Taylor Swift was, like last year, largely snubbed from the major categories for her album "Lover," except for Song of the Year for her title track.

She is up for just three awards, the two others in the pop categories.

- Nipsey noms -

Last year, the Recording Academy expanded the four major categories from five nominees to eight, a bid to diversify and respond to critics bemoaning the underrepresentation of women.

The top categories also include veteran alt-leaning acts like Lana Del Rey, Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend.

The Best Rap Album category features Meek Mill and 21 Savage, both of whom faced legal battles that drew critiques that the artists were targeted over race.

The late rapper Nipsey Hussle -- who was shot dead earlier this year at age 33 -- received three posthumous nominations, having lost the 2019 prize for Best Rap Album to Cardi B.

Irish band The Cranberries were shortlisted for Best Rock Album, having released their final album "In The End" a year after lead singer Dolores O'Riordan was found dead.

US singer Lizzo -- seen here performing during the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards in August 2019 -- earned eight Grammy nominations to lead the field

US singer-songwriter Billie Eilish -- seen here performing at the Austin City Limits (ACL) Music Festival -- nabbed six Grammy nominations, including one for Album of the Year

US rapper Lil Nas X -- posing with the Song of the Year Award at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards in August 2019 -- is up for six Grammys

Ariana Grande is among the top nominees at the upcoming 2020 Grammys, having snubbed last year's gala

US singer-songwriter Taylor Swift -- seen here performing at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards -- is up for just three Grammys

Bebe Rexha (L) and Alicia Keys presented the top Grammy nominations live on CBS