Monday, February 21, 2011

COLUMN: Grammy Picks

It's a good thing I'm not a gambler by nature -- 2011 is NOT starting out well for my mojo.

I called pretty much ALL the bowl games wrong. I was convinced the Bears were headed to the Super Bowl -- and when they didn't, I could at least take solace in knowing that the Steelers would surely stomp the Packers into the ground. Heck, I even "guaranteed" my friends that last week's evil storm would dump over 20" of snow on us in one day. When it comes to predictions this year, I have NOT been wired in.

But there's one thing I'm known for prediction-wise, and it happens TONIGHT -- the only time of year when I turn from mild-mannered columnist into Shane the Greek. It's the annual showcase for me to demonstrate my knowledge, apply my many years of study, and impress you all with my mighty might. For tonight, dear friends, are the Grammy Awards.

Now, I realize that in some circles, folks don't routinely place heated bets with their friends about the outcome of music award shows. Actually, I realize that most forms of unlicensed gambling are both ethically and legally wrong, so I certainly don't routinely place heated bets with my friends about the outcome of music award shows. But as the fanciful and whimsical storyteller that I am, let me craft for you an entirely fictional Shane who DOES place fictionally heated bets with his fictional friends about the outcome of fictional award shows. And let's just say that fictional Shane is fictionally AWESOME at it -- and netted a sweet pot of $23 fictional bucks for winning last year's Grammy pool.

Every year, fictional Shane goes to an invite-only party on Grammy night. On the guest list, a glittering array of Quad City music nerd illuminati: record store owners, musicians, DJs, entertainment writers, concert venue employees, and a guy who once built an entirely purple room as a shrine to Prince. On the surface, it's an annual get-together of old friends over home-cooked chili and bad jokes. But seething underneath, it's a high-stakes competition, as everyone in attendance has one whole dollar riding on the outcome of the awards. Pick enough winners, and you might be able to afford enough gas to get home that night.

And, while I've only won the sweet $23 pot once, I've come super close on many an occasion. Close enough that I feel confident enough to share my 2011 Grammy picks with you all, just in case YOUR fictional friends want to have a fictional wager over one of the worst award shows of the year. Let's look at the major categories:


Nominees: "Nothin' On You," B.o.B feat. Bruno Mars; "Love the Way You Lie," Eminem feat. Rihanna; "@#$% You," Cee Lo Green; "Empire State of Mind," Jay-Z & Alicia Keys; "Need You Now," Lady Antebellum.

Who Should Win: Cee-Lo all the way. Even if you didn't think it was the best song of the year (which it WAS,) you've got to root for a tune so anti-establishment you can't even say it's name on the radio.

Who Will Win: B.o.B's too unproven and Cee Lo's too controversial. That Jay-Z & Alicia song was the jam, and Lady Antebellum made a heck of a crossover this year, but I always say if it's close, go for the most boring song of the lot -- that's why my money's on Eminem & Rihanna.


Nominees: "Beg Steal or Borrow" (Ray LaMontagne); "@#$% You" (Cee Lo Green); "The House That Built Me" (Miranda Lambert); "Love the Way You Lie" (Eminem feat. Rihanna); "Need You Now" (Lady Antebellum).

Who Should Win: About a million other songs from 2010 that weren't considered. Of THIS list, though? Eminem.

Who Will Win: Record of the Year is given to producers and artists; SONG of the Year is given to songwriters. The first step is to look for any sappy love song that's used in a movie where (a) the world's at war, (b) a boat sinks, or (c) Bette Midler learns an important life lesson (double bonus points if her character dies by the film's end.) Sadly, this year, Bette lived. Ergo, you have to go with the schmaltziest song of the bunch, and that's Lady Antebellum.


Nominees: Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence & The Machine, Mumford & Sons, Esperanza Spalding.

Who Should Win: No one, since this category's the kiss of death. Marc Cohn, Paula Cole, Debby Boone, Milli Vanilli... all once declared by the Grammys to be the great hope for our musical future. In 1976, the world saw debut records from Blondie, The Ramones, Boston, and Tom Petty. Too bad the Grammys didn't. Their Best New Artist that year? The Starland Vocal Band, makers of "Afternoon Delight," perhaps the most hated song in the history of songs. In 1979, The Cars and Elvis Costello were Best New Artist runner-ups to... A Taste of Honey, who, if I'm not mistaken, released upon the world the disco anthem "Boogie Oogie Oogie" before promptly vanishing into a puff of insignifigance. So if we're saying that Best New Artist is thereby Most Likely To Immediately Disappear, the answer is simple: for the sake of saving modern music, don't just stand there - give the award to Justin Bieber as fast as we can hand it to him.

Who Will Win: Drake, who also SHOULD win if we're judging on talent.


Nominees: "The Suburbs," Arcade Fire; "Recovery," Eminem; "Need You Now," Lady Antebellum; "The Fame Monster," Lady Gaga; "Teenage Dream," Katy Perry.

Who Should Win: A tiny band out of Rhode Island called The Brother Kite, who put out an album last year called "Isolation" that had more emotional depth and sonic brilliance than any of these records combined. But since the world's not fair, we've got to pick from these five, and the clear victor is Arcade Fire.

Who Will Win: Easy. Arcade Fire scares the bejeepers out of most mainstreamers, so look for them to take home all the alternative rock awards but not the big prize. Lady Antebellum should sweep the country categories, but their efforts to crossover to the pop world were only marginally successful. Lady Gaga's record was just a teaser for her real album out this year. And Katy Perry? Well, with apologies to Russell Brand, she's just awful. Put your money on Eminem -- Grammy voters will pat themselves on the back and call each other edgy for voting in a rap album despite it being one of Slim Shady's more boring releases.

So there you have it. I'm not saying I've picked a sweep -- indeed, there have been years where I've called every single one of the big categories wrong, so don't come yelling at me if you place fictional high-staked bets of your own by following my advice. But clearly, I'm on a roll this year -- just ask your Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers (umm...)

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