Ladies rule Grammy nominations despite Whitney Houston snub
New rock absent, veterans remain: Are there any surprising 52nd annual Grammy Award nominees?
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Oh yes, it’s ladies’ night.
Kool & the Gang may have first sung the song in 1979, but it was truer than ever 30 years later as Beyonce, Taylor Swift and Lady GaGa are among the top contenders for the 52nd annual Grammy Awards.
Beyonce leads all artists with 10 nods, while Swift fields eight and Lady GaGa five.
It’s not a bad night either for the Black Eyed Peas, Kanye West and Maxwell, who grab six nominations, while Kings of Leon, Colbie Caillat and Bruce Springsteen garner four. For a complete list of the nominations, click here.
We’ll be writing a lot more about the Grammys between now and the Jan. 31 awards show, but here are a few quick observations about the nominations and the omissions.
- Overall, this is the most mainstream group of nominations in years. While the Grammys have grown ever more in line with what’s popular on the radio each year—and that is not necessarily a good thing—we could usually count on some dark horse to inspire water cooler conversation, such as Jazmine Sullivan’s nomination for best new artist last year or Ledisi a few year ago. There’s also usually some album of the year contender that has only appealed to the cognoscenti or geezers, such as last year’s winner, Herbie Hancock’s “River: The Joni Letters.” Not this year. The album of the year contenders were all plucked straight from the upper reaches of the Billboard 200. The only album nominated for album of the year that hasn’t topped the chart is Lady GaGa’s “The Fame,” but it’s been in the top 10 practically longer than the rest of the other nominees combined.
Whitney Houston is completely shut out. Her label even moved the release of her album, “I Look to You” up a day to make sure it was eligible and forced poor Houston to perform live in that humiliating “Good Morning America” concert and yet she couldn’t eek out even a best female R&B vocal performance nod. That’s not an omission, my friends, that is a total slap down…Also licking their wounds about now? U2. “No Line on the Horizon” has to settle for best rock album and Green Day, whose “21st Century Breakdown” also gets locked out except for best rock album (both groups also got rock song and rock performance nods).
- It’s a bad year for alternative music when it comes to Grammy nods. The Decemberists, who many folks thought had a real shot at album of the year, much less a number of other nominations, were completely locked out. No alternative music album, no nothing. Similarly, Grizzly Bear received zero nominations as did Animal Collective. Instead, David Byrne & Brian Eno’s “Everything that Happens Will Happen Today” gets a slot for best alternative music album. Grammy voters, buy a clue—or get your grandkid to fill out your ballot. Sheesh.
- I have no idea why “Single Ladies” isn’t nominated for Record of the Year and “Halo” is. When you think “record,” think about the totality of the sound of the song: the performance, the production, etc. That’s why this award doesn’t go to the writer; it goes to everyone who crafted and massaged the song. “Single Ladies” boasts a far more interesting production than “Halo,” which does get the nod for Beyonce here. “You Belong to Me” doesn’t belong here. There is absolutely nothing noteworthy about the production and sound of that song other than Taylor Swift sounds on key (did I really just write that?)
- I give the 10,000 or so Grammy voters credit. They completely get the difference between a record and a song here. For example, I would be writing this through my tears if the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” had been nominated for song of the year. There’s no song there. If we’re going to anoint Swift’s “You Belong to Me,” this was the proper and rightful place to do so. It’s a strong song. Sadly, songs with a traditional verse and chorus, i.e. the kind of songs people will be singing 20 years from now, the don’t get recognized here… they’re all relegated to best country, folk or rock songs. The closest thing here to a real song is “Pretty Wings.” I am a little surprised that Keri Hilson’s “Knock You Down” didn’t get a nod here.
- The Ting Tings for best new artist? Really? Last year would have been more appropriate for them. It almost feels like they’ve peaked already. The Silversun Pickups nomination is nice and well deserved. Zac Brown, Keri Hilson and MGMT are no big surprise. After that trio (and given that Lady GaGa wasn’t eligible), there were a slew of potentials. I would have given the Ting Tings’ spot to including Kevin Rudolf, Diane Birch or Ingrid Michaelson.
- Lady Gaga isn’t nominated for best female pop vocal performance. Was there any female who better represented pop this year than LG? We don’t think so. What’s with that?
- When all else fails and the Grammys want to honor a veteran artist, they take a live selection and treat it as if it’s something special. I personally think there should be a live category and, otherwise, live cuts shouldn’t be eligible. The offenders this year are Daryl Hall & John Oates’ “Sara Smile,” from “Live at the Troubadour” (I was at that show and it was great, but please) and the selections from Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood’s “Live from Madison Square Garden” set. Of course, nothing will ever top Tony Bennett winning the album of the year for his “MTV Unplugged” set. No disrespect to Bennett, but that was a travesty.
What do you think of this year’s slate?