The US music industry will recognise its biggest stars on Sunday night at the annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.

But don’t expect greying rock legends like U2 to dominate the festivities. After years, in which the Grammy’s showered love on old school artists like Herbie Hancock, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, most of this year’s top contenders represent a long-overdue generational shift.

The top nominee is Beyonce, already a pop legend and cinema star at the ripe old age of 28. She has 10 nominations including album of the year for I Am ... Sasha Fierce, song of the year for Single Ladies and record of the year for Halo.

But the universally popular diva will not have things all her own way, thanks to young pop country star Taylor Swift, among others. The 20-year-old singer-songwriter of hits like Love Story is up for eight awards, including album, song and record of the year.

Other nominees for album of the year include sensational newcomer Lady Gaga, who got five nominations in total, the veteran Dave Matthews Band and R&B icons the Black Eyed Peas, who grabbed six nominations. Crooner Maxwell and rapper Kanye West got six nominations apiece, while there were five for hip-hop kingpin Jay-Z, who happens to be married to Beyonce.

Kings of Leon could also have a big say in the proceedings. Their powerful song Use Somebody is up for record of the year, best rock song and best rock performance.

It’s no coincidence that almost all the major contenders skew to a younger audience than the one typically favoured by the Recording Academy’s industry professionals.

The Academy is making a concerted effort this year to reach out to the Twitter generation, with moves including a new Grammy website that showcases fan-created content generated on YouTube, Twitter and Flickr. It is also debuting something called the FanBuzz Visualizer, which will supposedly monitor fandom on the web in real-time.

There’s also the obligatory Grammy App for the iPhone.

“It’s about time,” said record producer and academy member Daniel Thomas.

“The music industry has had its head stuck in a hole for the past decade and looked at the internet as a threat rather than an opportunity. Youngsters have always been the lifeblood of pop music, and we have to reflect that if we want the Grammies to still be relevant.”

Mary J Blige and Andrea Bocelli will perform a duet of the Simon & Garfunkel classic Bridge Over Troubled Water to raise money for earthquake relief in Haiti.

There will be the obligatory posthumous lifetime achievement award to Michael Jackson. Even he will be pushing the boundaries of technology, featured in a new 3-D clip that viewers can watch at home with free 3-D glasses, supposedly a first on US television.