Friday, February 10, 2012



A Completely Biased and Un-Scientific Guide to Music's Biggest Night

Award shows--as a general rule--are awful. With occasional exception, its a bunch of very wealthy people in a room congratulating each other on how great they are. The religious and politically-laced acceptance speeches, the contrived pairings of 'new' and 'old' artists (Elton John and Eminen come to mind), the overt campaigning by publicity firms and movie/music studios for awards like the Oscars leave so few surprises, that a Kanye West stage rush can be viewed as a welcome diversion.

Ehhhhhh, Thanks?
The Grammys are not terribly different. Winners are decided by the members of the mysterious Recording Academy. Anyone with accredited work on six tracks released via 'traditional retail method' can be  a member (they only need to fill out an application and pay $100.00 in annual dues). The good news? It seems reasonable to assume that at the end of the day, nominees are being judged by their peers. The bad news? There are thousands of recordings submitted every year, and many voters probably have actually listened to only a fraction of them. As such, there has been wide criticism leveled that the Grammy Awards are ACTUALLY decided on the basis of chart/sales performance, or record company loyalty. In 1996, Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder took the stage after winning Best Rock Performance, and famously droned, "I don't know what this means, I don't think it means anything." Get em, Ed!

Still, it is fun to attempt to predict exactly whom will be bestowed with music's highest honor, and to contrast that against my own extremely slanted and opinionated take on who/what deserves the trophy. So, in no particular order, a few of the more interesting categories:


Rolling in the Deep : Rolling in Grammys?

21- Adele
Wasting Light- Foo Fighters
Born This Way- Lady Gaga
Doo-Wops & Hooligans – Bruno Mars
Loud – Rihanna

Who Will Win: Adele
It is widely predicted that 21 will sweep the major album/artist categories

Who Should Win: Adele
One of the rare times that perception meets reality. No album had a larger impact on popular music this year. Everyone--from neo-soul hipsters to top-40 enthusiasts, high-schoolers to housewives--heard Rolling in the Deep  at least once. While there is minimal chance she will be upset in other major categories, this is one she is almost sure to win.
Bon Iver : Best New Beard?


The Band Perry
Bon Iver
Nicki Minaj

Who Will Win: Nicki Minaj

Who Should Win:  Bon Iver / J. Cole
I'd accept the trophy going to either the bearded neo-folksters, or the backpacked Jay-Z prodigy. There's something about Cole's back story--German-born, Carolina-raised, magnum cum laude graduate of St.John's University--that has me thinking he has staying power. That, and the fact that his long-awaited debut album Cole World: The Sideline Story, debuted atop the Billboard 200, Top Rap Albums AND Top R&B Albums chart.


21 -Adele
The Lady Killer – Cee Lo Green
Born This Way – Lady Gaga
Doo-Wops & Hooligans – Bruno Mars
Loud- Rihanna

Who Will Win: Adele

Who Should Win: Cee Lo Green
Actually, Adele probably should win this, but I've always had a soft spot for Cee Lo's soul-drenched solo work. While he has been plying his trade since his early-90's stint with hip-hop's Goodie Mob, and his amazing collaborations with Danger Mouse in the hit-making Gnarls Barkley, he really went macro this year. Consider the evidence:  F**k You / Forget You  being driven into the ground by the likes of commercial / television endorsements ; Green taking a seat alongside Christina Aguilera and that jerk-off from Maroon 5 as a judge on NBC's The Voice ; even notching a soft drink deal with Sprite. My selfish misgivings about my beloved Cee Lo being digested by the mainstream masses aside, The Lady Killer is another brilliant musical journey, an effortless mix of pop, dance, and neo-R&B numbers that seamlessly sprinkles in a Band of Horses cover with missing a soulful step:


Rock ‘N’ Roll Party Honoring Les Paul – Jeff Beck
Wasting Light – Foo Fighters
Come Around Sundown – Kings of Leon
I’m With You – Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Whole Love – Wilco

Who Will Win: Jeff Beck

Who Should Win: Foo Fighters
I'm reading the tea-leaves here, but there are two Rock and Roll Hall of Famers in the first nominee. Kings of Leon managed a nomination even after the predictable critical letdown following 2008's Come Around Sundown, and Wilco and Red Hot Chili Peppers are certainly worthy challengers. But I'm gonna guess that the two guitar legends at the top of the list take this one home.


Watch The Throne – Jay-Z and Kanye West
Tha Carter IV – Lil Wayne
Lasers – Lupe Fiasco
Pink Friday – Nicki Minaj
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

Who Will Win: Watch the Throne

Who Should Win: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
It seems everybody's favorite bum-rusher/fashionista wins either way here. Watch The Throne was one of the most anticipated rap LP's in recent memory, but Kanye's solo Fantasy plays like a rap opera ; several tracks run in the six-to-eight-minute range and are arranged in movements. On Blame Game , sounds move from drum-and-bass-derived expansions on women and watches, to 90-second string-and-piano arrangements, back into guest spots from the likes of John Legend, all without losing the signature Kanye Cool.


Bon Iver - Bon Iver
Codes and Keys - Death Cab For Cutie
Torches - Foster the People
Circuital - My Morning Jacket
The King Of Limbs - Radiohead

Who Will Win: ???

Who Should Win: Torches
Perhaps the most up-for-grabs category on the board, as there are five solid offerings here. Nobody can argue with the efforts put forth by stalwarts Radiohead or Death Cab, or the amazing year had by Wisconsin-bred Bon Iver, and its even more rare for a debut album to capture a Grammy trophy. But the L.A.-based trio's genre-bending mix of pop, rock, and melodic dance on tracks like Call it What you Want, and the obligatory Pumped Up Kicks  had many taking notice this past year. Its a long shot, but here's hoping some fresh blood gets rewarded.

The 54th Annual Grammy Awards will be held on Sunday, February 12th, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and air on CBS at 8pm EST.

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