Thoughts on the 56th Annual Grammy Nominations


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The Grammys are like a musician’s Super Bowl, even if the nominations and victorious artists are flawed.  I won’t lie to you, I complain every year that someone won a Grammy that didn’t deserve it while someone else was snubbed. Just last year, during the 55th Annual Grammys, I lobbied hard for Frank Ocean (looking back, I have reservations now) while Mumford & Sons walked out with the Album of the Year trophy.  The year that Taylor Swift won for Fearless, my girl Beyoncé was on a roll until the coveted Album of the Year award was read.  You get my position though! This year,  I find myself the most pleased I’ve been with the Grammy nominations in like forever.  That isn’t to say within my colorful, opinionated commentary that I don’t have my rubs, but I’m onboard more often than not for the 56th Annual Grammys.

The Big Four

Record of the Year

Imagine Dragons land a Record of the Year nomination for "Radioactive"
Imagine Dragons land a Record of the Year nomination for “Radioactive”

“Get Lucky”, Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams

“Radioactive”, Imagine Dragons

“Royals”, Lorde

“Locked Out of Heaven”, Bruno Mars

“Blurred Lines”, Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell

The Record of the Year field for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards is quite strong – I approve of the choices in other words.  I knew that “Get Lucky” and “Blurred Lines” would score nominations here.   I think “Royals” courtesy of Lorde is extremely deserving of the nomination as is “Radioactive”.  “Locked Out of Heaven” was also a big record, though perhaps its sheen has worn off at this point since Unorthodox Jukebox came out in December of 2012.  Ultimately, excellent nominations by all mean.

Album of the Year

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis score big with multiple Grammy nominations.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis score big with multiple Grammy nominations.

The Blessed Unrest, Sara Bareilles

Random Access Memories, Daft Punk

Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, Kendrick Lamar

The Heist, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Red, Taylor Swift

The Album of the year field always sports one curveball.  There’s nothing wrong with a shocker, except that sometimes that oddball nominee ends up being the victor.  This year’s oddball in a strong field is Sara Bareilles’ The Blessed Unrest.  It was a solid album, but if you’d ask me if I thought it had a shot of being nominated, I would’ve said absolutely not – no disrespect Sara.  I had a feeling Daft Punk, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, and Taylor Swift had a shot here.

Snubs? I thought Justin Timberlake and Bruno Mars stood a shot of being nominated for The 20/20 Experience and Unorthodox Jukebox respectively.  I’m not mad about it though (I think there were better albums). Now as for that snub of Vampire Weekend’s Modern City of Vampires… GRRRR!!!

Song of the Year

Katy Perry 'roars' with a Song of the Year nomination for "Roar".
Katy Perry ‘roars’ with a Song of the Year nomination for “Roar”.

“Just Give Me The Reason” (Pink featuring Nate Ruess)

“Locked Out of Heaven” (Bruno Mars)

“Roar” (Katy Perry)

“Royals” (Lorde)

“Same Love” (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert)

This is an interesting list with some solid choices as well.  “Just Give Me The Reason” was a hit and a fine song, though I’m not sure if I’d consider it ‘song of the year’ (it was a no. 1 hit though).  The reprisal of both “Locked Out of Heaven” and “Royals” is a welcome nomination here.  “Same Love” may be the biggest surprise, but feels like a smart unexpected nomination here.  “Roar” is another exceptional choice, though you wonder how it managed to miss out on a Record of the Year nod as well.

Best New Artist

Kendrick Lamar lands multiple Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year and Best New Artist.
Kendrick Lamar lands multiple Grammy nominations, including Album of the Year and Best New Artist.

James Blake

Kendrick Lamar

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Kacey Musgraves

Ed Sheeran

No complaints here.  James Blake is actually on his second album, but 2013 effort Overgrown really elevated the British electronic artist’s stock.  Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were locks with no explanation needed.  Kacey Musgraves, who I personally have not heard, has been getting some buzz, so her nod seems well representative of country.  Ed Sheeran seemed to have a bigger year previously when “The A Team” was nominated for Song of the Year, but whatever.

Snubs? Lorde.  Lorde received plenty of love for “Royals”, so why none in the Best New Artist? You could also argue A$AP Rocky, though rap is well covered here.

Pop

Best Pop Solo Performance

Justin Timberlake snags a few nominations here and there...
Justin Timberlake snags a few nominations here and there…

“Brave”, Sara Bareilles

“Royals”, Lorde

“When I Was Your Man”, Bruno Mars

“Roar”, Katy Perry

“Mirrors”, Justin Timberlake

Sara Bareilles, I gave you grief in the album of the year field, but I do think you deserve a nod in the Best Pop Solo Performance for “Brave”.  Everyone who is nominated in this category deserves the recognition in my opinion.  I won’t make predictions just yet, but notice that two of the songs are nominated in larger categories (“Royals” and “Roar”).

Best Pop Duo / Group Performance

And 'under the radar' Grammy nomination year for Rihanna...
And ‘under the radar’ Grammy nomination year for Rihanna…

“Get Lucky”, Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams

“Just Give Me A Reason”, Pink featuring Nate Ruess

“Stay”, Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko

“Blurred Lines”, Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell

“Suit & Tie”, Justin Timberlake & Jay-Z

Another soundly selected category, the Best Pop Duo/ Group Performance category seems to be a tight one.  Three of the five nominations are nominated for Record or Song of the year.  Perhaps the least heralded nominee is “Stay”.

Best Pop Vocal Album

91zMqP7d2NL._SL1500_Paradise, Lana Del Rey

Pure Heroine, Lorde

Unorthodox Jukebox, Bruno Mars

Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke

The 20/20 Experience – The Complete Experience, Justin Timberlake

Again, I find myself actually in agreement with the Grammy nominations this year, which is surprising.  The Pop Vocal Album category is as tight as ever, though I may have nixed the Lana Del Rey nod for Paradise.  That said, I wouldn’t necessarily consider 2013 the best year that pop has had in recent times, so perhaps Del Rey’s nod is justified (I do enjoy her voice btw).

Best Dance / Electronica Album

41FJb1q2VyL._SL500_AA280_Random Access Memories, Daft Punk

Settle, Disclosure

18 Months, Calvin Harris

Atmosphere, Kaskade

A Color Map of the Sun, Pretty Lights

My interest in dance and electronic music has been growing greater and greater.  I personally have only heard two of these albums, Random Access Memories and Atmosphere.  I definitely am onboard with the nomination of Random Access Memories, while I found Atmosphere to be a bit ‘too soft’ for my tastes.   Still, given what I’ve heard about these nominated artists/albums, seems like a solid list.

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

Cee Lo Green's holiday album gets some Grammy love.
Cee Lo Green’s holiday album gets some Grammy love.

Viva Duets, Tony Bennett

To Be Loved, Michael Bublé

The Standards, Gloria Estefan

Cee Lo’s Magic Moment, Cee Lo Green

Now, Dionne Warwick

What’s nice to see in the Traditional Pop Vocal Album category is five albums (sometimes there’s only three).  Overall, the choices are solid, though I do have to question where Harry Connick, Jr.’s nomination went to (Every Man Should Know).

 

Rock

Best Rock Performance

41HOLOY507L._SL500_AA280_“Always Alright”, Alabama Shakes (Silver Linings Playbook Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

“The Stars (Are Out Tonight)”, David Bowie (The Next Day)

“Radioactive”, Imagine Dragons (Night Visions)

“Kashmir”, Led Zeppelin  (Celebration Day)

“My God Is The Sun”, Queens of the Stone Age (…Like Clockwork)

“I’m Shakin’”, Jack White

Another exceptional category, “Radioactive” definitely stands out since it is also nominated for record of the year.

Best Rock Song

The Rolling Stones represent the 'old guys' in the 'Best Rock Song' category.
The Rolling Stones represent the ‘old guys’ in the ‘Best Rock Song’ category.

“Ain’t Messin ‘Round” (Gary Clark, Jr.)

“Cut Me Some Slack” (Paul McCartney, Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, Pat Smear)

“Doom and Gloom” (The Rolling Stones)

“God is Dead?” (Black Sabbath)

“Panic Station”  (Muse)

I hadn’t planned on including this category, but I can’t go without giving Black Sabbath’s “God Is Dead?” some love.  “God Is Dead?” Was also nominated for Best Metal Performance in addition to this nomination.  13 gets love in the Best Rock Album category.  Other standouts nominated here include “Ain’t Messin ‘Round” (Gary Clark, Jr.) and “Panic Station” (Muse).

Best Rock Album

510gRIX6xfL._SL500_AA280_13, Black Sabbath

The Next Day, David Bowie

Mechanical Bull, Kings of Leon

Celebration Day, Led Zeppelin

…Like Clockwork, Queens of the Stone Age

Psychedelic Pill, Neil Young With Crazy Horse

Six albums huh? Guess the competition just gets tighter – and it is extremely tight.  I’m most pleased to see Black Sabbath, David Bowie, and Queens of the Stone Age on this list.  Kings of Leon’s Mechanical Bull was one of those albums that I sort of forgot about (even though I reviewed it and approved for the most part), but it seems like a worthwhile choice.  Additionally, it is hard to argue with nominations for Led Zeppelin or Neil Young.

Snubbed? Alice in ChainsThe Devil Put Dinosaurs Here tickled my fancy.

Best Alternative Music Album

41pNHSnGAYL._SL500_AA280_The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, Neko Case

Trouble Will Find Me, The National

Hesitation Marks, Nine Inch Nails

Lonerism, Tame Impala

Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend

The alternative music category is one of the most difficult to be victorious in if you ask me.  There are so many standout albums, something always seems to be omitted.  The triumphant nominee here is Vampire Weekend, a band who hasn’t received Grammy love – it’s past due.  I have heard about Tame Impala and nearly bought the album, but have yet to partake.  I am a fan of Nine Inch Nails, but I slept on Hesitation Marks (sorry Trent).  That National are definitely worthy of their nomination for Trouble Will Find Me while Neko Case is hard to argue against.

Snubs? Phoenix (Bankrupt!), Depeche Mode (Delta Machine), and The Flaming Lips (The Terror).

R&B

Best R&B Performance

Anthony Hamilton scores a nomination for Best R&B Performance.
Anthony Hamilton scores a nomination for Best R&B Performance.

“Love And War”, Tamar Braxton

“Best of Me”, Anthony Hamilton (Back to Love)

“Nakamarra”, Hiatus Kaiyote featuring Q-Tip (Tawk Tomahawk)

“How Many Drinks”, Miguel featuring Kendrick Lamar

“Something”, Snarky Puppy with Lalah Hathaway (Family Dinner Volume One)

I always take issue with the R&B nominations.  I consider myself well versed in the genre, but apparently, I need to step up my game for a couple of these.  The best two nominations here are “Love and War” (Tamar Braxton) and “How Many Drinks” (Miguel featuring Kendrick Lamar).  The Anthony Hamilton nomination isn’t shabby either, though parent album Back To Love was released in December 2011.   I’m at a loss for Hiatus Kiayote or Snarky Puppy, but I’ll definitely do my research!

Snubs? Chrisette Michele is missing in action for the brilliant “A Couple of Forevers.  Fantasia usually receives a nomination within this category when she releases an album, so the exclusion of “Lose To Win” is somewhat surprising.  What about a John Legend track (“Who Do We Think We Are?” or “All of Me”)?  This category always puzzles me.

Best Traditional R&B Performance

Fantasia has scored Grammy nomination for all four of her albums, including winning for Best R&B Performance for "Bittersweet".
Fantasia has scored Grammy nomination for all four of her albums, including winning for Best R&B Performance for “Bittersweet”.

“Please Come Home”, Gary Clark, Jr. (Blak And Blu)

“Get It Right”, Fantasia (Side Effects of You)

“Quiet Fire”, Maysa

“Hey Laura”, Gregory Porter (Liquid Spirit)

“Yesterday”, Ryan Shaw (Real Love)

So Gary Clark, Jr. is getting some Grammy nomination love? Alright! Fantasia receives a nod, which is a common occurrence when she releases a new album.  Gregory Porter has been receiving plenty of buzz, while Ryan Shaw rocks out his cover of “Yesterday”.   I’m unfamiliar with Maysa’s “Quiet Fire”.  I do have to ask again, where is John Legend’s nod here?

Best R&B Song

61yONCH4jQL“Best of Me”, Anthony Hamilton

“Love and War”, Tamar Braxton

“Only One”, PJ Morton

“Pusher Lover Girl”, Justin Timberlake

“Without Me”, Fantasia featuring Kelly Rowland & Missy Elliott

So they finally consider Justin Timberlake an R&B artist to an extent, huh?  Only two of the nominations here match up with nominations for performances, which is a bit odd.  That said, nominations for “Without Me” and “Pusher Lover Girl” are welcome choices.  I have heard about PJ Morton, but know little about him, his album, or the song “Only One”.  Guess that’s on me though.

Best Urban Contemporary Album

51o5EH7hZsL._SS500_Love And War, Tamar Braxton

Side Effects of You, Fantasia

One: In The Chamber, Salaam Remi

Unapologetic, Rihanna

New York: A Love Story, Mack Wilds

Well, I can speak for three of the five nominations on this list.  Tamar Braxton broke out with Love and War, though I’d hardly call it Grammy-worthy.  Fantasia once again is in the mix for an album award, something she has yet to win after three previous tries.  Rihanna is being recognized as an ‘urban’ artist, which is a bit surprising considering previously she’s been labeled as more  ‘pop’ – blurred lines? I know Salaam Remi for his production, but am unfamiliar with the album.  I’m completely unfamiliar with Mack Wilds.

Best R&B Album

41o5xUIKO+L._SL500_AA280_R&B Divas, Faith Evans

Girl On Fire, Alicia Keys

Love in the Future, John Legend

Better, Chrisette Michele

Three Kings, TGT

Where I’m unfamiliar with some performances and artists in other R&B categories, I’m familiar with all five albums selected as nominees for Best R&B Album.  With the exception of R&B Divas, I’m onboard.  That said, R&B Divas does sport my jam “Tears of Joy”… Faith tears that one up! J

Who was snubbed? Janelle Monáe, like big time.  The Electric Lady was an freakin’ awesome album.

Rap

Best Rap Performance

Eminem2-20130809-33“Started From the Bottom”, Drake

“Bezerk”, Eminem

“Tom Ford”, Jay-Z (Magna Carta…Holy Grail)

“Swimming Pools (Drank)”, Kendrick Lamar (Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City)

“Thrift Shop”, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Overall, the Rap Performance choices are sound.  “Tom Ford” was definitely one of the better moments from an average Magna Carta…Holy Grail.  “Started From the Bottom” is no “Over”, but it was the first statement from Drake’s Nothing Was The Same (it’s not credited to that album as far as the nomination).  “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and “Thrift Shop” are no-brainers while “Bezerk” also seems logical as the eligible single from Eminem’s ineligible The Marshall Mathers LP2, which was released after the eligibility date for the 56th Annual Grammys.

Snubbed? Kanye West’s brilliant “Blood on the Leaves”, arguably the best track from Yeezus.  Also, where’s “F***in’ Problems”?

Best Rap / Sung Collaboration

J. Cole was highly underrated where Grammy nominations were concerned.
J. Cole was highly underrated where Grammy nominations were concerned.

“Power Trip”, J. Cole featuring Miguel (Born Sinner)

“Part II (On The Run)”, Jay-Z featuring Beyoncé (Magna Carta…Holy Grail)

“Holy Grail”, Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake (Magna Carta…Holy Grail)

“Now or Never”, Kendrick Lamar featuring Mary J. Blige (Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City)

“Remember You”, Wiz Khalifa featuring The Weeknd (O.N.I.F.C.)

Well, there’s three I’m onboard with here – “Power Trip”, “Holy Grail”, and “Now or Never”.  “Remember You” was one of the better moments from Wiz’s underwhelming sophomore album, while “Part II (On The Run)” wasn’t among my favorite or memorable moments from Magna Carta…Holy Grail.

Best Rap Song

Drake-AES-089760“F***in’ Problems”, ASAP Rocky featuring Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar (Long.Live.ASAP)

“Holy Grail”, Jay-Z featuring Justin Timberlake (Magna Carta…Holy Grail)

“New Slaves”, Kanye West (Yeezus)

“Started From the Bottom”, Drake

“Thrift Shop”, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (The Heist)

No complaints here, really – glad to see “F***in’ Problems” on this list where it missed the performance category. “Thrift Shop” and “Started From the Bottom” are chief amongst no brainers.

Best Rap Album

51xNTn2L83L._SL500_AA280_Nothing Was the Same, Drake

Magna Carta…Holy Grail, Jay-Z

Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, Kendrick Lamar

The Heist, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Yeezus, Kanye West

Fine list, save for Magna Carta…Holy Grail, which doesn’t match up with the exceptionalness of its colleagues.   The biggest snub belongs to the absence of J. Cole’s Born Sinner.  Otherwise, I concur.

Country, Gospel, Blues, etc. 

Best Country Album

41j7-7yboXLNight Train, Jason Aldean

Two Lanes of Freedom, Tim McGraw

Same Trailer Different Park, Kacey Musgraves

Based On A True Story, Blake Shelton

Red, Taylor Swift

I slept on country in 2013.  However, I did manage to review a little album on this list entitled Red, which I’m not a bit surprised to see nominated for country album or album of the year.  Based on what I’ve heard and read about throughout the year in country circles, these nominations seem representative.

Best Gospel Album

51kqE-YogAL._SL500_AA280_Grace, Tasha Cobbs

Best For Last: 20 Year Celebration Vol. 1, Donald Lawrence

Best Days Yet, Bishop Paul S. Morton

God Chaser, William Murphy

Greater Than, Tye Tribbett

Best Blues Album

51dp0nxPTmL._SL500_AA280_Remembering Little Walter, Billy Boy Arnold, Charlie Musselwhite, Mark Hummel, Sugar Ray Norcia & James Harman

Cotton Mouth Man, James Cotton

Get Up!, Ben Harper with Charlie Musselwhite

Seesaw, Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa

Down in Louisiana, Bobby Rush

Yay Bishop Morton and Ben Harper!

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical

Pharrell Williams-AES-115157Rob Cavallo

Dr. Luke

Ariel Rechtshaid

Jeff Tweedy

Pharrell Williams

If Pharrell hadn’t been nominated this year, y’all would’ve heard about it!

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