Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I do not normally weigh in on the Grammys but seeing that I mentioned it yesterday then I might as well put in my two cents worth for the nominations (to be announced tomorrow). Now, going through the prevoius years in this decade, one realises that the nomination process is one of circuitry but every now and then a surprise sneaks in. my main grouse with the Grammys is the process. It allows music execs to push rather forcibly the mainstream acts they want to be highlighted in major categories while shutting out/restricting everyone else in minor categories (if they land a nomination). It is not for anything that some of the great innovators of modern music have not won in deserved categories.

That said, once you have been annointed with Grammy gold --think U2, Sheryl Crow, Norah Jones---it is equally difficult for you not to be nominated. This is called playing it safe and all award shows are notorious for it but it just seems like the Grammys, per capita, suffer from this nepotism to its own detriment.

This year marks a low in terms of album sales in North America and it's very ironic that in a year when the collective creativity bug hit, the financial rewards have been thinly rewarded. What accounts for this? Beats me but I think a new, dynamic way to market all viable artists could help. Music can encompass us all, not segregate into skewered categories aimed merely to forever divide.

I won't wade too deep here...just the four main categories and a smattering of others.

Record of the Year

This is the popularity contest that best shows Grammy voters trying to be hip with what sold well as well as to compromise with sentimentality. With music lovers choosing to buy/download singles instead of albums, this is tricky. Nonetheless, Coldplay's Viva la Vida has been enormously popular (not on my year-end song list, so I'm not heavily for it) and Grammy loves them to an extent so don't be surprised to hear it announced. Katy Perry's I Kissed a Girl had shock value and in this post-Prop 8 vote could be seen as a controversial choice, one that would play out nicely for the cameras. Rihanna will be hard to ignore as her chart domination continued with Disturbia or even Take a Bow. Then there is Duffy's infectious Mercy, a sunny throw away to a Motown past that seems destined for a nomination. Leona Lewis has a lot behind her too so Bleeding Heart could force someone else out. I wouldn't be surprised if the sentiment is will a B.B King track ends up here or sap like I Apologize by OneRepublic.

Song of the Year

Snag one and you're almost guaranteed to land the other so all the above information applies but as that would be too predictable, the Grammys also tends to give singer-songwriters great consideration here. So, Jack Johnson could get a track here. Jon Mayer, your nomination is here. Maybe Adele, Snow Patrol, Alicia Keys and all the usual suspects.

Album of the Year

The biggest question here is if the nominating body (NARAS) feels it can avoid Tha Carter III. It's among the best selling albums of the year, as ambitious as albums come and critically loved. If Weezie doesn't get nominated then a lot of potential viewers will not tune in so I think his may be a lock. There may be room, gulp, for clunkers like E=Mc2 or Hard Candy because they sold fairly well but it seems unlikely this time around. I'm not sure if Key's As I Am is eligible or if U2 put out anything but Grammy loves them so expect anything. B.B. King could be in the runnings as well as Jack Johnson. There is Kanye West on a album-nomination roll...there is Ne-Yo consistently improving and looking to get nominated. Coldplay surely will land a nomination but which of the women will?

Best New Artist

Fairly straight-forward: Duffy seems the favourite but while Estelle, Adele and Leona Lewis could complete a quadruple sweep for British talend, word is rife whether former AR rep Santi White will have enough clout to land a nod for her outfit, Santogold. If she gets it then surely we can have hope for the year's most blogged band Vampire Weekend. Or it could be Katy Perry edging out some country act like Taylor Swift.

Now, you may read this and say gee, Neil isn't being very specific and I'm not. I have my reasons but chief among them is that I don't really care for the nomins. Now, a big 'x' factor is Radiohead's brilliant In Rainbows album as, technically, it was released this year. Given the overwhelming praise the album garnered (no.8 on my year end list for '07) it will be the perfect weather vane for Grammy change this year. Here is the biggest rock band in the world releasing arguably the best album of the year and freely distributing it online. This challenges the comfy pace NARAS treads on but here here comes a stubborn test. Last year great albums by M.I.A and Animal Collective among others were ignored for comfy artists but I suspect the time is ripe for a change. We will see in less than 24 hours.