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Did the Grammys get it right this year? The nominations for the 55th Annual Grammy Awards were announced tonight and, as is the annual sport, the dissecting has begun.
By and large, the answer is yes, they did get it right. There are always critics who want the Grammys to be edgier and to take more risks, but when the lead nominees include exciting developing talents like fun., Frank Ocean, and Miguel, roots-loving rockers The Black Keys and Mumford & Sons, and hip-hop leading lights Kanye West and Jay Z, it’s hard to mount much of a protest.
A few observations:
*The Grammy voters are loving acts that embrace acoustic traditions and a folksy sensibility. Whether represented by Alabama Shakes and the Lumineers’ nods for best new artist or the Black Keys and Mumford & Sons’ multiple nominations, they fulfill the Grammy’s need for authenticity and a respect for the music that came before it.
*For the first time in several years, there is little overlap between the nominees for record of the year and song of the year: In some years the lists have been largely identical, but this year only fun.’s “We Are Young” and Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” is on both. We’re not sure the voters really understand the difference since Carly Rae Jepsen’s should clearly be up for record of the year instead of song of the year.
*Fun. and Frank Ocean are the new standard bearers. Fun represents just the sort of pop that the Grammy voters love: it’s wildly commercial, but it’s also smart, fun, well crafted and well presented, and it appeals to alternative fans as much as popsters. Frank Ocean is a voice that demands to be heard. “Channel Orange” is filled with songs that are achingly vulnerable.
*The Grammy voters went for perceived substance over flash: How else do you explain the exclusion of Carly Rae Jepsen and One Direction from the best new artist category?
*In what world does Beyonce’s “Love On Top” count as a best traditional R&B performance instead of best R&B performance? Such a move once again shows how labels are eager to shoe horn an artist into a category where he/she stands the best chance of winning, not the category that necessarily best represents the work. On the same note, it may be time to wave goodbye to the best traditional pop vocal album when two of the three (!!) nominations are for Christmas albums. Maybe Beyonce can squeeze in there somehow...
*Once again, the Grammy voters embrace a much broader range of country artists than the CMA or ACM voters ever would. Grammy voters love to take non-commercial acts like the Time Jumpers or great Don Williams and give them nods. They are wildly out of step with the much more commercial leaning country awards shows, but that might not be a bad thing.
What do you think of this year’s nominations?