Although Burna Boy’s “African Giant” is nominated for best world music album, he’s not staying in any niche. His understated, insinuating rhythms — mixing percussion and electronics — connect to Jamaica, Puerto Rico and American R&B and trap as well as to the Nigerian Afrobeat of Fela Kuti (Burna Boy is from Lagos, Nigeria). Since his debut album in 2013, Burna Boy has recorded alongside Drake, Ed Sheeran, Lily Allen, Stormzy and others. His lyrics, like Fela’s, juggle English and Nigerian languages and patois, as he offers African pride and straightforward history lessons along with tales of night life and romance.
Lil Nas X
Lil Nas X was nominated for record of the year for the remix of “Old Town Road” (which features the country star Billy Ray Cyrus) and album of the year for “7,” an eight-song EP. He is also up for best new artist, in what may be seen as a challenge to the academy’s more conservative voting ranks, who have often been reluctant to reward artists they view as untested.
The Icelandic composer Hildur Gudnadottir, nominated for best score soundtrack for visual media for the HBO mini-series “Chernobyl,” came to music as a cellist before studying composition and collaborating — as cellist or composer — with musicians on the borders of Minimalism, classical music, electronic music, indie rock and film music, among them Mum, Animal Collective, the Knife, Pan Sonic, Nico Muhly, Johann Johannsson and the chamber ensemble she co-founded, Nordic Affect. Her cello, sustained and somberly emotive, has been at the center of much of her music, like her Golden Globe-winning score for “Joker.” But her grim, harrowing score for “Chernobyl” blurs boundaries between orchestral and synthetic; it deploys eerie, implacable sustained tones that shade into electronic noise.
Christone ‘Kingfish’ Ingram
When Christone Ingram — known widely as Kingfish — plays the guitar, the sound is rollicking, throaty, sinewy, stinky. Born and raised in Clarksdale, Miss., Kingfish took to the blues early, and became something of a teen guitar prodigy. Last year, he released his debut album, “Kingfish,” which is both deeply reverent of tradition and yet not stodgy in any way; it’s nominated for best traditional blues album. The vitality in Kingfish’s music has put him in high demand — he’s performed alongside Vampire Weekend, Rakim and, naturally, Buddy Guy. But he’s no sideman.
Eilish’s “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” is up for album of the year; “Bad Guy” is up for record and song of the year; and Eilish is a contender for best new artist. She is the youngest person to be nominated for all four top categories. Finneas O’Connell, her brother and primary collaborator, received five nods for his work with her as a producer and songwriter.
In 2015, Koryn Hawthorne, then a teenager, placed fourth on “The Voice.” Now she’s one of the most jolting new talents in gospel music, with a wonderfully husky voice and an emerging appetite for risk. She’s nominated in best gospel performance/song for “Speak the Name,” a startling duet with Natalie Grant. The song is a howling success, a praise annihilation. But Hawthorne has other modes, too. The title track of her 2018 debut album, “Unstoppable,” is pointedly effective, jaunty and feisty R&B — there’s a version with the long-running gospel rapper Lecrae, but also one with the secular Dallas rapper Yella Beezy.
Ms. Grande’s song is an extended reinterpretation of “My Favorite Things” from “The Sound of Music,” with Ms. Grande changing the original’s lyrics about innocent joys — “raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens” — to an anthem of empowerment through conspicuous consumption. “Breakfast at Tiffany’s and bottles of bubbles,” she sings, over a bass-heavy beat. “Buy myself all of my favorite things.”
The song is credited to a total of 10 writers. But two of them — Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II — control 90 percent of the songwriting royalties, a remarkable split that reflects the value of evergreen song catalogs, and of the negotiating leverage their owners have when pop stars come seeking permission.
Terraza Big Band
A big band can seem an old, clunky thing, but at its best, the 18-piece jazz orchestra can still synthesize a hectic swarm of ideas, linking the old with the new. For five years the Terraza Big Band has enjoyed a residency at Terraza 7, a Latin jazz club attuned to the diversity of its neighborhood (Jackson Heights, Queens). And on its debut, “One Day Wonder” — nominated for best large jazz ensemble album — the group corrals a plurality of Pan-American influences into an organic identity. Its nine tracks bear the stamp of the current jazz generation, but their clipped and dilating rhythms give a hint of the vast cultural inheritance that flows through the band when it’s at home in Queens.