jason stives gives his thoughts on this years noms…
Oh award season, you have started your unbridled push to piss of the masses once again with last night’s announcement of the nominees for the 55th annual Grammy Awards. We here at Pop-Break have always stayed neutral when it comes to pointing out what we think is the best (see our Year’s end lists) and we uniformly believe that most award shows are a bit daft and ultimately aren’t as important as some people make it to be. The reasons for that belief is for another but as any good pop culture site we cover them nonetheless. We are a country built on competition and we do love to see our favorites duke it out on music’s biggest night only to smash our iPod docks in disgust when they don’t win.
This year’s nominations were a bit surprising and while ultimately most of the awards won’t end up on the broadcast in favor of no less than 20 collaborative performances, there is something to be said about the rather eclectic artists who are up for the coveted golden record players. Since there are far too many categories to discuss I’ll focus this reaction piece to the top four categories that everyone wants to see: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. Remember folks this is one person’s opinion, you are more than welcome to form your own.
RECORD OF THE YEAR:
The Black Keys– “Lonely Boy,” Kelly Clarkson– “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” Fun.– “We Are Young,” Gotye (featuring Kimbra)– “Somebody That I Use to Know,” Frank Ocean– “Thinkin Bout You,” Taylor Swift– “We Are Never Getting Back Together”
Thoughts: Right off the bat this seems far more eclectic than expected although for two of the nominees it almost seemed inevitable. Both Fun. And Gotye had a huge year on the singles chart so their respected nominations were expected which might make some people groan due to how overplayed both ultimately became but they deserve to be here. I’m a big supporter of fun. so it’s nice to see them get some nominations for what was for me one of the best records of 2012. There is also some big praise for Kelly Clarkson once again showing her domination as one of the most successful things to ever come out of American Idol and “Stronger” definitely was a big hit this year. Taylor Swift’s inclusion isn’t shocking either but I can assume some are wondering why this is her only nomination off her new album. Well as someone who really liked this album (yes, I am a converted T Swift fan) this is an easy answer and explains any future snubs: The recording academy has a cut off point for nominations, usually around early to mid October and since her latest album Red didn’t come out till November it didn’t make the cut but rest assured it will probably be prominent in next year’s nominations.
Now for the new comers: Frank Ocean has had a breakout year, partly because of his public outing as bisexual also in part because his latest album Channel Orange was a hit commercially and critically. While it didn’t for me measure up to his superb 2011 mix tape Nostalgia, Ultra, it was still a solid record that deserved its notice and it’s quite an achievement for this young artist. Lastly, we got the Black Keys and for me “Lonely Boy” is one of my favorite rock songs in the past few years thanks to its funky guitar riff and instantly recognizable chorus. So it was quite a shock to see this get nominated for one of the Grammy’s highest honors and needless to say I was very happy. All and all an interesting group of nominees that will be hard to judge the winner come February.
Album of the Year:
Nominees: The Black Keys– El Camino, fun.– Some Nights, Frank Ocean– channelOrange, Jack White– Blunderbuss, Mumford and Sons– Babel
Outside of Frank Ocean it’s quite surprising to see this category dominated mostly by rock and folk artists. It may be the academy making up for countless years of screwing over rock musicians but who knows regardless it’s definitely an interesting group. The trifecta of the Black Keys, fun., and Frank Ocean makes sense when you compare it against their Record of the Year nominations but Jack White and Mumford and Sons seemed a bit shocking. Now don’t get me wrong White’s solo debut Blunderbuss was definitely a highlight of the year but to consider it recording academy worthy seems surprising. I’m not complaining but it seemed to be a record I would have never pegged for an Album of the Year nomination. I can take it or leave it when it comes to Mumford and Sons getting nominated and anyone who knows me knows I have preferred their first record Sigh No More over their latest but to each his own. Their nomination seems a bit odd since they are not nominated in any of the other major categories despite two additional nominations for “I Will Wait” in the Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song categories. All and all another surprising group of nominees but I can’t help but notice a pattern that may create a dull round of wins come awards time unless the academy gets a little clever in choosing the winners.
Song of the Year:
Nominees: Miguel– “Adorn,” fun.– “We Are Young,” Kelly Clarkson– “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” Carly Rae Jepsen– “Call Me Maybe,” Ed Sheeran– “The A-Team”
Once again, two nominees that are unsurprising and furthering the pattern worries but we will see. Up until 10 minutes before writing this part I had never heard Miguel’s “Adorn,” (I avoid Top 40 radio stations for the most part) but having heard it it’s a solid song but getting the dubious honor of Song of the Year might be pushing it a bit. Now, onto “Call Me Maybe.” Look despite its infectious chorus and nonsensical lyrics, repetition doesn’t really make a song great let alone award worthy and Carly Rae Jepsen’s break out hit personally doesn’t deserve to be here. Of all the songs that could’ve been here I don’t know why that’s in here. Mind you it’s not the only overplayed song featured in this category but at least “We Are Young” has two feet to stand on as a solid song. “Call Me Maybe” was entertaining only when most of those parody videos hit the web and now it’s outplayed in favor of her collaboration with Owl City which also is starting to grate. The real standout here and one that I can say with all honesty that I’m glad to see honored here is Ed Sheeran’s “A-Team.” I tried foolishly a few months back to get an interview with this popular ginger haired Brit before this song cracked the Top 40 over here (stupid me) and his nomination is surprising as well as welcomed for me. The song about a drug addicted prostitute surprised the hell out of me first time I heard it when it broke in the UK early this year and its honest melody coupled with Sheeran’s soulful voice and tragic lyrics definitely made this song stand out. Not trying to project but I hope this ultimately takes this prize.
Best New Artist:
Nominees: fun., Alabama Shakes, The Lumineers, Hunter Hayes, Frank Ocean
This is a rather 50/50 category for me and it always has been. Last year the nominees failed to impress me although I did agree with Mr. Bill Bodkin that despite a dislike for Bon Iver he was the only one in that category with a unique and original sound. This year is a bit scatterbrained as we have two obvious hold overs from the major categories in fun. and Frank Ocean, which I could easily see either one of them taking home this prize. You also have Alabama Shakes who were definitely critical darlings that deserved their acclaim thanks to their soulful rock sound. Their debut Boys and Girls was a very refreshing release this year and I’m surprised they didn’t receive more nominations in the bigger categories considering their placement in this one. Hunter Hayes I know very little about other than he is a very popular country singer. That’s not ignorance I just don’t follow country as well as I should but I feel like his nomination was more for diversity sake musically than anything else. In a category like this that features the above mentioned he is more or less the underdog here. Finally, we have the Lumineers who have had a pretty busy year thanks to their forever rising single “Ho Hey” but I’m not sure if they stand out as one of the best new artists of this year. In fairness I can’t really pinpoint who gets the honor of being the best new artist because there are so many talented musicians who break out each year but I don’t know if I would these guys the next big thing to get this title.
SIDE NOTES FOR OTHER CATEGORIES:
Kanye’s GOOD Music project got nominated for Best Rap Song with “Mercy” and I couldn’t’ be any happier. Any song that claims to build a house on an ass as an “asstate” gets my vote hands down.
When did Gotye become Alternative? When you think about past nominees for Best Alternative Album you think of Radiohead, Death Cab for Cutie, Bon Iver, but Gotye seems far from being alternative. Why you confuse us academy!?
Somehow Best Metal Album always seems to have more logical nominees than Best Rock album even if they are always standard metal acts.
Muse’s “The 2nd Law” is up for Best Rock Album? That album kind of sucked, but I’ll take their nomination for Best Rock song with “Madness.”
Coldplay should be barred from Grammy nominations until they make music that doesn’t have albums named Mylo Xyloto or songs named “Charlie Brown.”