Monday, February 11, 2013

2013 Grammy Round-Up

Well, the Grammy Awards were tonight... and, of course, once again they got everything all wrong.  Let's have a look-see at the major awards:

Album of the year
El Camino,The Black Keys
Some Nights, fun.
WINNER: Babel, Mumford & Sons
Channel Orange, Frank Ocean
Blunderbuss, Jack White

A horrible choice... but not unexpected. Mumford & Sons have been the darlings of the Grammy community for a couple years now, so heaping praise on them wasn't a big shock.  But let's be honest:  Babel is NOT as good as its predecessor... and, while they're a solid group, at the end of the day Mumford & Sons are a one-trick pony.  Eventually this "let's-bring-back-Americana" trend will fall out of fashion and, unless a serious artistic rethink occurs, likely take Mumford & Sons with it.  Meanwhile, you have two albums in this mix -- fun. and Frank Ocean -- that were far better candidates.  The fun. record is a perfect blend of over-the-top, Queen-inspired epics AND easy-to-digest Maroon 5-esque singalongs -- a Top 40 record that still manages to push boundaries.  Then there's the sparse R&B grooves of Frank Ocean, who can take a minimal instrumental line and fill it with more emotion and swagger than anything else heard all year. Bad call.

Lonely Boy, The Black Keys
Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You), Kelly Clarkson
We Are Young, fun. featuring Janelle Monáe
WINNER: Somebody That I Used to Know, Gotye featuring Kimbra
Thinkin Bout You, Frank Ocean
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, Taylor Swift

Once again, bad call.  Every year, one record gets released that, by accident or fortitude, pushes its way out of the indie world and into the Top 40.  We've seen it before from bands like White Town, James, Love & Rockets, etc.  This year's example was Gotye -- a record that kinda sounded like the bastard offspring of The Talking Heads and Bon Iver.  A decent tune, sure, but the best produced record of the year? Pshh. Not when "We Are Young" is in that mix. Without production, a song is just a song.  "We Are Young," however, is nothing less than an epic anthem for our times, and it wouldn't have been diddly-squat without the over-the-top production that made it soar.

Song (goes to writer)
The A Team (performed by Ed Sheeran)
Adorn (Miguel)
Call Me Maybe (Carly Rae Jepsen)
Stronger (Kelly Clarkson)
WINNER: We Are Young (fun.)

Clap clap clap. They got this one right.

Best new artist
Alabama Shakes
WINNER: fun.
Hunter Hayes
The Lumineers
Frank Ocean

Sigh.  Look, it's no secret that I'm a fan of fun., right?  There's just one problem:  They've been a touring band since 2008 and this is their second album, not to mention Nate Ruess' previous band, The Format, who  had a major label release of their own.  The REAL best new artist here is clearly Frank Ocean.

Pop vocal album
WINNER: Stronger, Kelly Clarkson
Ceremonials, Florence + The Machine
Some Nights, fun.
Overexposed, Maroon 5
The Truth About Love, Pink

Really?  Kelly Clarkson?  Over fun.?  Then again, Clarkson absolutely KILLED it with her Carole King cover at the awards tonight.

Dance/electronica album
Wonderland, Steve Aoki
Don't Think, The Chemical Brothers
> Album Title Goes Here <, Deadmau5
Fire & Ice, Kaskade
WINNER: Bangarang, Skrillex

I don't especially want to admit that they were right here, given my intense hatred of Skrillex and dubstep music as a concept.  But only one of these artists made a crazy impact on 2012, and it was our boy Skrillz.  That said, "Bangarang" was just an EP and it shouldn't have counted so neener-neener.

Rock album
WINNER: El Camino, The Black Keys
Mylo Xyloto, Coldplay
The 2nd Law, Muse
Wrecking Ball, Bruce Springsteen
Blunderbuss, Jack White

Ooh, they got it one perfectly right.  Nothing on this list rocks as hard or passionately as the Black Keys (even though El Camino is NOT one of their best records.)

Alternative album
The Idler Wheel Is Wiser …, Fiona Apple
Biophilia, Björk
WINNER: Making Mirrors, Gotye
Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, M83
Bad As Me, Tom Waits

Anybody heard anything else off the Gotye album?  Yeah, me neither -- because he's gonna be a flash in the pan.  Fiona Apple, meanwhile, releases gorgeous albums that constantly push emotional barriers.  Personally, though, I'd have given it to M83, who've single-handedly made 80s synthpop fun again.

R&B album
WINNER: Black Radio, Robert Glasper Experiment
Back to Love, Anthony Hamilton
Write Me Back, R. Kelly
Beautiful Surprise, Tamia
Open Invitation, Tyrese

Umm... who?  Maybe they got it right here, maybe they didn't.  I have to be honest -- I like to consider myself somewhat of a music nerd, and I've never heard of Bob Glasper or his experiment.  If nothing else, maybe the Grammies will help me learn something.

Rap album
WINNER: Take Care, Drake
Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1, Lupe Fiasco
Life Is Good, Nas
Undun, The Roots
God Forgives, I Don't, Rick Ross
Based On A T.r.u. Story, 2 Chainz

This was a good pick, given the nominees -- though I would have personally given it to Nas, who is a master at his craft.  Actually, what I would have done is nominated Odd Future for the OF Tape Vol. 2 and given it to them.  But it was cool to see Earl Sweatshirt and Tyler the Creator sitting with Frank Ocean in the crowd, and even more fun to read Tyler's tweets throughout the show...