Last night, the nominees for the 55th Annual Grammy Awards were announced with their usual set of surprises and predictable nods. As I was reading over the list, I became increasingly confused as to what I was looking at. The Grammys have, historically, been a celebration of “good” music, not popular music. The American Music Awards (decided by fan vote) usually takes up that responsibility. Now I’m not saying I always agree with the Grammys, but this year I’m finding myself more puzzled than ever. Let’s just take a look at some of the major nominees:
RECORD OF THE YEAR
- “Lonely Boy” The Black Keys
- “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” Kelly Clarkson
- “We Are Young” fun. featuring Janelle Monáe
- “Somebody That I Used To Know” Gotye featuring Kimbra
- “Thinkin’ Bout You” Frank Ocean
- “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” Taylor Swift
So here lies the first set of head scratchers, but, in my opinion, they got this mostly right. “Lonely Boy,” “We Are Young,” “Somebody That I Used To Know,” and “Thinkin’ Bout You” were all clearly in the running from the beginning. I was a little surprised to see them leave out Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care Of Our Own,” as they’re pretty loyal to those “classic” acts. The biggest surprise lies in the other two nods…TWO…making a total of SIX nominees. I’m all for giving other songs a shot, but looking at the ones they made room for, I’m not convinced. First off is Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger,” which is a decent enough song, but hardly Record of the Year-worthy, and then they’s Taylor Swift’s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Just… why? Out of everything T. Swift has released, this may be one of her catchiest, but it’s easily one of her poorest efforts. The fact that the Grammys felt the need to make room for THAT is a clear sign they’re losing touch. WHAT SHOULD WIN? “Thinkin’ Bout You.” WHAT WILL WIN? “We Are Young.”
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
- “El Camino” The Black Keys
- “Some Nights” fun.
- “Babel” Mumford & Sons
- “Channel ORANGE” Frank Ocean
- “Blunderbuss” Jack White
Now this one they got completely right! Five great albums who all deserve the nomination. I am a little surprised, again, that Springsteen wasn’t in the running, but I’m certainly not complaining. There is a striking lack of diversity in the group, Frank Ocean being the “sore thumb,” but all in all, these probably were the five best albums that came out in the last year. This certainly restores my faith in the Grammys. WHAT SHOULD WIN? Channel ORANGE. WHAT WILL WIN? El Camino.
BEST NEW ARTIST
- Alabama Shakes
- Hunter Hayes
- The Lumineers
- Frank Ocean
And here is another relatively accurate set of nominations. I see five exciting, deserving, and talented acts pinned against each other. Once again, though, I see a striking lack of diversity, Frank Ocean AGAIN sticking out. I’m actually pretty surprised to see Emeli Sandé and/or Lana Del Rey passed up in favor of this kind of alternative/folksy/country cluster they’ve got going on, which is a real shame, if you ask me. All in all, though, it’s a pretty predictable, understandable set of nominees. WHO SHOULD WIN? Frank Ocean. WHO WILL WIN? Frank Ocean.
SONG OF THE YEAR
- “The A Team” (Ed Sheeran)
- “Adorn” (Miguel)
- “Call Me Maybe” (Carly Rae Jepsen)
- “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” (Kelly Clarkson)
- “We Are Young” (fun. featuring Janelle Monáe)
So here is the itchiest head scratcher of them all. WHAT?! Now let me explain why the artists names are in parentheses: Song of the Year is awarded to the songwriter, not the artists. So you have to approach the nominees from that direction. Who wrote the best song, and what was it? So right off the bat, I see “The A Team,” written by Ed Sheeran himself. It’s a good enough song, but it came out of nowhere! If you ask me, this is the Grammy’s attempt at trying to act like they know what’s going on across the pond (they don’t.) How can someone be nominated for Song of the Year… and completely ignored elsewhere? Then there’s “Adorn,” a Grammy-worthy song (written by Miguel himself, as well)… out of the blue shows up here. This then brings my eyes to “Call Me Maybe.” CALL. ME. MAYBE. I’m the first to give credit where credit is due, and this song was a brilliantly crafted pop song… the kind that only comes around every so often. But it isn’t a “good” song. The lyrics are melodic, but dumb and the progression is relatively predictable. The brilliance in the track is the presentation! But this is a songwriters award, not Record of the Year, given to all the people involved in crafting the perfect record (producers, engineers, performers, etc.) I just don’t understand how the Grammys can consider it a well-written song, but not a well-crafted one. So then there’s our returning nominees, “Stronger” (which still doesn’t make much sense to me) and “We Are Young” (which does.) They didn’t seem to want to make a concession for a 6th nominee here, leaving Frank Ocean (heartbreakingly) out of the mix. I would have expected the Lumineers’ “Hey Ho,” Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait,” and even Springsteen’s “We Take Care Of Our Own” to be on the list. WHAT SHOULD WIN? “We Are Young.” WHAT WILL WIN? “We Are Young.”
So elsewhere, outside of the four majors, it seems that the Grammys were playing more “all inclusive” than anything else. Most of the major nominees had modest showings in the fields for their respective genre (Frank Ocean criminally almost completely left out of R&B.) Another completely striking observation… none of the major categories feature any rap at all, and country only makes an appearance in Best New Artist. This past year, “Alternative” (ironically) became a mainstay on the pop charts, and that’s really reflected here. Much of the music has been really good, too, impressively, but it’s those “gap fillers” that absolutely blow my mind. That’s probably the result of this being an “off year,” so to speak. Every other year or so, there’s that act that walks in and just kind of predictably steals the show. In 2000 it was Santana, 2002 was Norah Jones, 2008 was Amy Winehouse, and last year was Adele. This year… there wasn’t really that stand-out, and the Grammys tend to panic on those years. Once again, it seems like they’re trying to appeal to the younger crowd. The past year has been INCREDIBLE for music, and most of it isn’t getting recognized to make room for “Call Me Maybe” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Far superior acts like Lana Del Rey, Emeli Sandé, Azealia Banks, Of Monsters and Men, Passion Pit, etc. etc. etc. have been completely ignored. This isn’t a fair representation of the past year in music, it’s a fair representation of the past year in pop. I think there will be some sort of major musical event in the next 365 days that makes up for this disappointing set of nominees, but if this is what the Grammys have completely turned into… I would say that they’ve lost their touch. This just isn’t acceptable.