Midnight Rec: Give the Grammys Another Try I hear your frustration. There are too many categories you just don't care about. The nominees are awful and make no sense. You haven't heard the album and can only assume it's awful. It looks like NARAS has been taking these issues to heart. Compared to prior years, this list is streamlined, for better or worse. There is now only one award for Rock Vocal Performance, so good luck seeing a woman nominated ever again (same with the sad removal of the Female Rap Performance category two years ago). Some of the Country categories got the axe as well, and there are less categories devoted to package design and production. The nominees always seem strange at first because there is so much music released every year. Let's analyze Best New Artist, for example. Duffy was a give in. Her label has been pushing her for BNA on the strength of Mercy alone. It's a fine catchy tune with an interesting voice performing it in a unique way. She's a throwback act on the cusp of being progressive. Being so cute doesn't hurt, either. Adele wasn't viewed as a give in for one simple reason: she's not a waif. If I had a nickel for every blog, message board, article, video, and rant on the street where I noticed someone call her a cow, I could probably afford any graduate school in the country and still have enough left over for a year of living in NYC in a decent apartment. She is why this category exists: provide recognition to an emerging artist who might otherwise go on ignored AND has the potential to have a long and successful career. One listen to her debut album should be enough to silence any hater. She's not a belter: she's a soulful soprano, an oddity in the music industry today. She has writing chops and knows how to sell the emotion behind the song. But she's not a throwback, and she's certainly not derivative. Yes, I myself have said the labels were setting Duffy and Adele into competition solely to have a back-up for when Wineho croaks, and her success may have helped them receive deals; however, both are very different musicians from Winehouse. So far, we have a pop act, and a folk/soul act. Next is Jazmine Sullivan, the act that I was shocked to see nominated. This is the first time in years that an urban act with limited mainstream/crossover appeal was nominated. Bust Your Windows is hip-hop's answer to Before He Cheats, featuring a beat pulled straight from Carmen and sultry vocals that would make any guy risk their car to be with Jazmine Sullivan. Then, she's capable of pulling off traditional R&B, urban alternative, and modern straight R&B. Everyone in the world of hip-hop is clamoring to work with her for a damn good reason: she's actually talented, vocally and in performance. So that makes pop, folk/soul, and R&B. Which leads us to Lady Antebellum, about the best new country artist I've heard since Brad Paisley. It's a modern country trio with two guys and a girl (just like Nickel Creek, only more mainstream and less newgrass). Charles Kelley, the male vocalist, has the whiskey tinged tones and deep bass voice that make the fans swoon, and he actually has the vocal skills and training to keep it up without losing everything. Hillary Scott, female vocalist, is an equally talented belter capable of anything from sugar to sass even within a single line of the song. Their harmonies are as close to perfection as contemporary music gets, and their lyrics are thoughtful and heartfelt. Pop, folk/soul, R&B, Country. That leaves the token Rock act. Or, barring that, The Jonas Brothers. I'm not saying NARAS is perfect. Every year an act that has been around for quite some time gets nominated. Last year it was Feist. The year before that, Imogen Heap. Previous old timers were David Gray, Susan Tedeschi, and, yes, Lauryn Hill. It bothers me to a certain extent, but not as much as you would think. Yes, this is the third (ugh) Jonas Brothers album. But look at what happened this past year. SOS received Top 40 play for a few months, followed by Burnin' Up. Their concert film was released and did well at the box office. They began to secure televised performance opportunities on non-Disney channels. And their new album sold very well. While they aren't the newest nominees, they most certainly are the most commercial, and that's another guarantee in this category. So, five acts from five completely different genres of music get nominated, and people are pissed that their artist didn't get in. My favorite group is the Perry fans who are outraged she wasn't nominated for Best New Artist. Hello? She very well may win Best Female Pop Vocal performance, because how well known the songs are impacts that category almost more than any other. Maybe Pink could beat her. Maybe. The Grammys are about recognizing the best across all fields of music as determined by the industry that produces it. Are they political in their manueverings? No more than the Oscars, and certainly less than the Golden Globes. Are there acts that will get nominated no matter what? Yes. And for the most part, they earned it. The Grammys do not deserve the poor reputation they have. Every few years, one artist will sweep the awards. Most of the time, they split every possible way you can imagine. Someone who loses Best New Artist will beat the winner for Pop Album or Record/Song of the year. Last year's biggest loser winds up picking up the top prize and nothing else. If anything, they are too fair in genuinely evaluating the nominations and picking the best nominee in each category as an isolated division. Too bad people just assume if they haven't heard the act, they aren't any good. I'm not suggesting you watch the Grammys if you don't want to. I'm just suggesting you think carefully before you start bashing the awards ceremony. If film can have two televised awards ceremonies by the industry encompassing the entire industry, then surely music, with far more releases in broader categories that are even harder to compare collectively than film, deserves one.
Labels: Midnight Rec