Who Should Win at the 53rd Annual Grammys

Andrew Penkalski

 

The 53rd annual Grammy Awards will be airing this Sunday on CBS. Judging by the psychedelic paisley patterns dominating this year’s promo material, I’d say the industry figureheads that comprise the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences are exceptionally interested in getting the kids to tune into their three-hour plus bout of self-celebratory verbal fellatio. While the youth of America normally don’t latch onto the bait footed by the Man, record execs still have that sneaky way of dictating the top 40 aural trends. While this output is substantially garbage, there is always a grab bag of Billboard staples that warrant respect regardless of their laissez-faire subject matter. So allow me to ignore the likely winners as I put together my two cents on who deserves the trophies…

Album Of The Year
The Suburbs — Arcade Fire
Recovery — Eminem
Need You Now — Lady Antebellum
The Fame Monster — Lady Gaga
Teenage Dream — Katy Perry

Three albums deep, Arcade Fire still have the capacity to put together a sprawling collection of tracks with a necessary scope. “The Suburbs” showed frontman Win Butler penning tracks with a lighter social magnitude when compared to the preceding subject matter of “Neon Bible.” In doing so, the group gained a much-needed relatable pathos. The odds of this winning still likely remain slim. While Warner Bros. does have an investment in the distribution of Arcade Fire’s Merge Records release, the prevalence of Universal Music Group nominees in this category will likely yield the eventual win.

Record Of The Year
“Nothin’ On You” — B.o.B Featuring Bruno Mars
“Love The Way You Lie” — Eminem Featuring Rihanna
“F*** You” — Cee Lo Green
“Empire State Of Mind” — Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
“Need You Now” — Lady Antebellum

The nomination will likely be the award. Regardless, the production masterminds behind this summer kiss-off track are most worthy of the victory. Capturing the dense horns and keys of Motown era output, Cee Lo’s production staff crafted a work that toed the line between homage and modernity.

Best New Artist
Justin Bieber
Drake
Florence & The Machine
Mumford & Sons
Esperanza Spalding

That’s right. I’m picking the Biebs. While my fever for Bieber has subsided since last summer, it still is hard for me to not be somewhat apologetic towards to the teenaged superstar. It largely comes from a “lesser of two evils” mentality. Looking at the way Bieber’s presence has obliterated the profiteering relevance of Disney’s pop-trash preteens, it is hard not at least cope with his presence. Plus, if Haley Joel Osment and that weird kid with glasses from “Jerry Maguire” have taught us anything, it’s that the cutest kids turn into the ugliest adults. So here’s to keeping Justin Bieber in the spotlight as all of his career-ruining teenaged mutations unfold.

Song Of The Year
“Beg Steal Or Borrow” — Ray LaMontagne, songwriter (Ray LaMontagne And The Pariah Dogs)
“F*** You” — Cee Lo Green, Philip Lawrence & Bruno Mars, songwriters (Cee Lo Green)
“The House That Built Me” –Tom Douglas & Allen Shamblin, songwriters (Miranda Lambert)
“Love The Way You Lie” — Alexander Grant, Skylar Grey & Marshall Mathers, songwriters
(Eminem Featuring Rihanna)
“Need You Now” — Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley & Hillary Scott, songwriters (Lady Antebellum)

Cee Lo Green takes it again for the songwriting category. Moreover, it’s important to note how the greatest significance of Bruno Mars’ pop presence stems not from his singles, but for his behinds-the-scenes work with his colleagues.

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
“King Of Anything” — Sara Bareilles
“Halo (Live)” — Beyoncé
“Chasing Pirates” — Norah Jones
“Bad Romance” — Lady Gaga
“Teenage Dream” — Katy Perry

The reasons for Lady Gaga’s success cannot be pinned down to a sole reason. Personally, I think her greatest strength has stemmed from her ability to encourage a wholly inclusive world for pop starlets to live in. She’s managed to chip away at the vanity-centered superficiality of top 40 female artists in away that never sacrifices style or even beauty. Not to mention the fact that the chainsaw electric snarls, pulsing beat and vivid hooks of “Bad Romance” made for the artist’s best single to date.

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance
“Haven’t Met You Yet” — Michael Bublé
“This Is It” — Michael Jackson
“Whataya Want From Me” — Adam Lambert
“Just The Way You Are” — Bruno Mars
“Half Of My Heart — John Mayer

These nominations are just awful. Let’s just go with Michael Jackson.

Best Pop Vocal Album
“My World 2.0” — Justin Bieber
“I Dreamed A Dream” — Susan Boyle
“The Fame Monster” — Lady Gaga
“Battle Studies” — John Mayer
“Teenage Dream” — Katy Perry

For all of the reasons previously mentioned.

Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals
“Don’t Stop Believin’ (Regionals Version)” — “Glee” Cast
“Misery” — Maroon 5
“The Only Exception” — Paramore
“Babyfather” — Sade
“Hey, Soul Sister (Live)” — Train

Once again, these are some piss poor nominations. While Sade’s 2010 return had its lulls, “Babyfather,” is one of the standout tracks.

Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals
“Airplanes II” — B.o.B, Eminem & Hayley Williams
“Imagine” — Herbie Hancock, Pink, India.Arie, Seal, Konono No. 1, Jeff Beck & Oumou Sangare
“If It Wasn’t For Bad” — Elton John & Leon Russell
“Telephone” — Lady Gaga & Beyoncé
“California Gurls” — Katy Perry & Snoop Dogg

It is still hard to believe that the same artist who broke through with the shallow sexual pandering of “I Kissed a Girl” has become one of the most universally appealing artists on the radio. With a follow-up record that offered greater demonstration of her vocal capacity and a writing staff that churned out hook-laden choruses like nobody’s business, it is hard to side with anyone but Katy Perry’s feel-good hit of the summer. Snoop Dogg’s aged West Coast swagger only enhanced the joyful frivolity of this cheeky track. 

Best Dance Recording
“Rocket” — Goldfrapp
“In For The Kill” — La Roux
“Dance In The Dark” — Lady Gaga
“Only Girl (In The World)” — Rihanna
“Dancing On My Own” – Robyn

It still breaks my heart that Robyn isn’t the biggest pop start in the world. Amidst a busy 2010, a year that was blessed with three releases by the artist, the simplistic structure and flow of “Dancing on My Own” is one of the best tracks the Swedish pop mastermind has ever released. It’s heartbreaking, confident, and danceable all in one.

Best Rock Song
“Angry World” — Neil Young, songwriter (Neil Young)
“Little Lion Man” — Ted Dwane, Ben Lovett, Marcus Mumford & Country Winston, songwriters (Mumford & Sons)
“Radioactive” — Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill & Nathan Followill, songwriters (Kings Of Leon)
“Resistance” — Matthew Bellamy, songwriter (Muse)
“Tighten Up” — Dan Auerbach & Patrick Carney, songwriters (The Black Keys)

Neil Young will get his nod in a bit, but as far as these rock nominees go, The Black Keys’ “Tighten Up” is the most deserving. Continually proving to be the masters of style, the perpetually cool duo crafted a wonderfully soulful single. And singles are what the Grammys are all about at the end of the day anyways right?

Best Rock Album
Emotion & Commotion — Jeff Beck
“The Resistance” — Muse
“Backspacer” — Pearl Jam
“Mojo” — Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
“Le Noise” — Neil Young

“Le Noise” showed Neil Young taking a break from taking on the world (or at least America,) and showed him looking inward. The record was an echo-filled chamber of guitar fuzz and little more. Young’s fragile voice always still managed to climb from beneath the album’s darkness with poignant ruminations concerning his position amidst a world gone mad.

Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance
 “Run Back To Your Side” — Eric Clapton
“Crossroads” — John Mayer
“Helter Skelter” — Paul McCartney
“Silver Rider” — Robert Plant
“Angry World” — Neil Young

I guess when you’re Paul McCartney you can just nab awards based around back catalog. On a similar note, I’m really hoping “The Godfather” wins the Best Picture award this year.

Best Rock Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals
“Ready To Start” — Arcade Fire
“I Put A Spell On You” — Jeff Beck & Joss Stone
“Tighten Up” — The Black Keys
“Radioactive” — Kings Of Leon
“Resistance” — Muse

We’ve been through this one too. Not that it matters. If Kings of Leon doesn’t win, I will eat my keyboard letter by letter.

Best Hard Rock Performance
“A Looking In View” — Alice In Chains
“Let Me Hear You Scream” — Ozzy Osbourne
“Black Rain” — Soundgarden
“Between The Lines” — Stone Temple Pilots
“New Fang” — Them Crooked Vultures

They Rock the Hardest.

Best Metal Performance
“El Dorado” — Iron Maiden
“Let The Guilt Go” — Korn
“In Your Words” — Lamb Of God
“Sudden Death” — Megadeth
“World Painted Blood” – Slayer

Same reasoning behind this one as the Alice in Chains pick.

Best Alternative Music Album
The Suburbs — Arcade Fire
Infinite Arms — Band Of Horses
Brothers — The Black Keys
Broken Bells — Broken Bells
Contra — Vampire Weekend

Once again, we’ve been through this Arcade Fire schtick.

Best Rap Solo Performance
“Over” — Drake
“Not Afraid” — Eminem
“How Low” — Ludacris
“I’m Back” — T.I.
“Power” — Kanye West

While West’s 2010 landmark “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” did not make this year’s submission deadline, his first single did. By now, plenty has been said about this record, and you can even read my two-cents here. Still, a loss for West would be the ceremony’s biggest injustice.

Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group
“Shutterbugg” — Big Boi & Cutty
“Fancy” — Drake, T.I. & Swizz Beatz
“On To The Next One” — Jay-Z & Swizz Beatz
“My Chick Bad” — Ludacris & Nicki Minaj
“Lose My Mind” — Young Jeezy & Plies

The ATL styling’s of Big Boi’s 2010 release, “Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty” offered some massive gratification to Outkast fans of the world. “Shutterbug” is the one track on the record that feels deliberately crafted as a single — so much to the extent that it seems Big Boi did so mockingly. The track’s deep bass and parade of synths come off as tongue and cheek, but the artist’s impeccable eye for composition and structure let’s the track reiterate the concept that Big Boi could be crafting radio romps in his sleep.

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
“Nothin’ On You” — B.o.B Featuring Bruno Mars
“Deuces” — Chris Brown, Tyga & Kevin McCall
“Love The Way You Lie” — Eminem & Rihanna
“Empire State Of Mind” — Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
“Wake Up! Everybody” — John Legend, The Roots, Melanie Fiona & Common

Jay-Z is getting old. Moreover, he is at a point of success where very little seems to be lyrically or emotionally at stake. Between having Kanye West as a best-bro and Beyonce as a wife, it’s understandable why Jay-Z may be struggling with offering any sort of conflict within his tracks. That’s why the best moment on 2009’s underwhelming “The Blueprint III” comes from this sublime ode to NYC.

Best Rap Song

“Empire State Of Mind” — Shawn Carter, Angela Hunte, Burt Keyes, Alicia Keys, Jane’t “Jnay” Sewell-Ulepic & Alexander Shuckburgh, songwriters (Sylvia Robinson, songwriter) (Jay-Z & Alicia Keys)

“Love The Way You Lie” — Alexander Grant, Skylar Grey & Marshall Mathers, songwriters
(Eminem & Rihanna)
“Not Afraid” — M. Burnett, J. Evans, Marshall Mathers, L. Resto & M. Samuels, songwriters (Eminem)
“Nothin’ On You” — Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Bruno Mars & Bobby Simmons Jr., songwriters (B.o.B Featuring Bruno Mars)
“On To The Next One” — Shawn Carter, J. Chaton & K. Dean, songwriters (G. Auge & X. De Rosnay, songwriters) (Jay-Z & Swizz Beatz)

Same as above

Best Rap Album

The Adventures Of Bobby Ray — B.o.B

Thank Me Later — Drake
Recovery — Eminem
The Blueprint 3 — Jay-Z
How I Got Over — The Roots

The Roots won’t win. In a category dominated by rap’s collaborative giants, the industry’s voters will largely be eyeing those most likely to offer moneymaking guest spots or protégés. However, The Roots’ 2010 album, with its neo-soul styling’s, furthers their chaotic and innovate demonstration of how differently rap can resonate when backed by an actual band.