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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Grammys Preview & Predictions

Tonight, the 56th annual Grammy awards will be held to look at back at the best in music of 2013. Or, to be more accurate, the best in music from October 2012 through September 2013, due to the September 30th cutoff date for albums to be considered for nomination. This stipulation means that some of the year's most celebrated releases, including Lorde's Heroine and Arcade Fire's Reflektor, won't be eligible until next year's Grammys. This is a pretty big flaw in a system that's already struggling, judging by the confusing nature of and general displeasure with what's been nominated. Today, I will be using the less-than-revolutionary format of "what will win" vs. "what should win" (with an added twist of "who wasn't nominated) to look at how several major categories may pan out this evening. Then, I'll be talking about performances and other parts of the show to look forward to. A list of all nominees & performers can be found here.Without further delay, here's this year's Grammy awards preview.

Album of the Year
The Blessed Unrest - Sara Bareilles
Good Kid, M.A.A.D City - Kendrick Lamar
The Heist - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Random Access Memories - Daft Punk
Red - Taylor Swift
Who should win:
Daft Punk's album was great. A cool fusion of dance, disco, electronic, funk, and pop, it produced some of the year's best singles in "Doin' It Right," "Lose Yourself to Dance," and of course the inescapable "Get Lucky." "Instant Crush" featured Strokes singer Julian Casablancas on vocals and rode a tasty groove, and "Contact" closed out the record in an epic, fiery blaze. Of these five, Daft Punk's album was the most enjoyable. I wouldn't mind if Kendrick won either; it was one of the best-received rap albums of this Grammy cycle, and it'd be nice for the Grammy awards to finally give a hip-hop artist Album of the Year honors for the first time since Outkast won in 2004 for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.
Who will win:
Neither of those two. The Grammys are notorious for playing it safe in this category, as evidenced by past victories by  Herbie Hancock, Eric Clapton, and Christopher Cross over the likes of Kanye West, Amy Winehouse, U2, and Pink Floyd. Macklemore will probably take this, as the voters will think they're giving a hip-hop album some recognition when really The Heist is mostly full of pop songs. Swift has a chance, but I think the amount of time that's passed since the actual release of her record (October 22, 2012) will hurt her cause. If Bareilles wins, it'd shock everyone, as nobody expected her to be nominated at all.
Who wasn't nominated:
My favorite album of 2013, Reflektor, didn't come out in time to be considered for AotY honors. I honestly wouldn't have expected it to be nominated either, though their win for The Suburbs maybe left the door open for a repeat. One record I honestly expected to see, however, was Modern Vampires of the City. That album was superb; it was also pretty universal, as I have trouble imagining anybody who wouldn't be entertained by this record. I even though it had a shot at winning, but unfortunately its not an option. I also think Kanye's Yeezus should be nominated, if not for its merit as a unique rap album then simply for its boldness.

Record of the Year
"Blurred Lines" - Robin Thicke featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams
"Get Lucky" - Daft Punk
"Locked out of Heaven" - Bruno Mars
"Radioactive" - Imagine Dragons
"Royals" - Lorde
Who should win:
"Get Lucky" was THE song of 2013. There's no denying it. You liked it. Your friends liked it. Your grandmother's neighbor's cousin liked it. From the sweet Nile Rodgers-penned guitar riff to double-nominee Pharrell's catchy vocals, everything about that song was pop perfection. "Royals" wasn't on the same level as "Get Lucky", but was and is still a great song with a pretty cool message. I couldn't complain if either of these take the trophy.
Who will win:
For the love of God, please not "Blurred Lines." As if ripping off Marvin Gaye weren't enough, the song had to use lyrics which were at best somewhat misogynistic and worst pretty rapey. "Radioactive" isn't nearly as creepy, but about twice as annoying. I actually think "Get Lucky" will take this one, though "Locked Out Of Heaven" has decent odds and would be a pretty 'meh' choice, which is what I've come to expect out of the Grammys.
Who wasn't nominated:
Not that I'm a fan, but "Mirrors" by Justin Timberlake wouldn't have caught anyone off guard had it been nominated. I'm just glad there's no Miley on here.

Song of the Year
"Just Give Me a Reason" - P!nk and Nate Ruess
"Locked Out of Heaven" - Bruno Mars
"Roar" - Katy Perry
"Royals" - Lorde
"Same Love" - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Mary Lambert
Who should win:
I'm done trying to figure out the distinction between this category and Record of the Year (sound vs. songwriting?), so I'm just gonna go ahead and say "Royals."
Who will win:
Probably "Same Love," thanks to it's pro-LGBT message. Honestly, I won't mind this as I think that 2013 was a big year for songs with real meanings, and I do think Macklemore's song had an impact. Any of the other nominees could swipe this award, though, as Mars is nominated in Record of the Year as well and Katy Perry's song was massively popular. Let's just hope P!nk and the guy from fun.don't get their name called.
Who wasn't nominated:
Weirdly, and probably due to the distinction between 'song' and 'record,' Daft Punk are snubbed here. My other statements about Timberlake and Miley still stand.

Best New Artist
James Blake
Kendrick Lamar
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Kacey Musgraves
Ed Sheeran
Who should win:
Ignoring the fact that he's been around for a few years now, James Blake would be a nice choice. Sheeran is tolerable, and Lamar is talented. I'm in no way a country fan so I won't say Musgraves, and I've made my feelings towards Macklemore clear already.
Who will win:
Macklemore's pretty much a lock here.
Who wasn't nominated:
The Grammys continued their annual tradition of nominating people for best new artist who have already been around a long time. In that sense, any breakthrough artist from 2013 could've been nominated; Deafheaven would've been my choice as a "breakthrough" artist, and I would expect HAIM and Lorde to be here, but their albums came out after the deadline.

Best Rock Album
13 - Black Sabbath
Celebration Day - Led Zeppelin
...Like Clockwork - Queens of the Stone Age
Mechanical Bull - Kings of Leon
The Next Day - David Bowie
Psychedelic Pill - Neil Young & Crazy Horse
Who should win:
Without a doubt, Queens of the Stone Age. ...Like Clockwork was excellent all the way through, and those first five tracks were blistering, well-crafted tunes. That album is an example of how you can still make "rock" music without sounding cheesy and/or outdated. (Looking at you, Nickelback) I'm also hoping ...Like Clockwork's single "My God Is the Sun" comes out of the Best Rock Performance category victorious.
Who will win: 
The name Led Zeppelin will garner some votes based on recognition, which is too bad because there's no new music here. Still, I expect Bowie to take the crown on the strength of his legacy and the decency of his new album.
Who wasn't nominated:
There's no separate category for metal albums, so I'd throw Deafheaven's Sunbather in here. Though I shouldn't expect anything of the sort from the ultra-safe Grammys.

Best Alternative Music Album
Hesitation Marks - Nine Inch Nails
Lonerism - Tame Impala
Modern Vampires of the City - Vampire Weekend
Trouble Will Find Me - The National
The Worse Things Get... - Neko Case
Who should win:
What's that I see? A sensible Grammy nominations list? All five of these albums are at least pretty good, but I'm pulling for either Vampire Weekend or Tame Impala to win. I've already talked about how much I loved Vampire Weekend's new stuff above, and Lonerism was one of my favorite records of 2012.
Who will win:
It's almost a toss up, but I'm gonna go with The National purely based on gut feelings.
Who wasn't nominated:
I'm pretty happy with this list, but if I had my way Wavves would be up there in place of Neko Case. Strong cases can be made for Kurt Vile, Local Natives, Mikal Cronin, Washed Out, and Savages as well.

Best Rap Album
Good Kid, M.A.A.D City - Kendrick Lamar
The Heist - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Magna Carta... - Jay-Z
Nothing Was the Same - Drake
Yeezus - Kanye West
Who should win:
Yeezus. Plain and simple.
Who will win:
The Grammys might (hopefully) do that weird thing where they give somebody album of the year but not the award in their respective genre. They did it with Arcade Fire and the Black Keys a few years back, and could do it again with Macklemore and Kanye. However, anybody could win this. Jay-Z has the name recognition, as does Drake to some degree, and Kendrick was nominated for AotY alongside Macklemore.
Who wasn't nominated:
I'm no rap expert, but people really liked the new albums from Run the Jewels, Chance the Rapper, and Danny Brown, so I guess I'll say those.

Performances to Watch
There's a long list of performances that will be happening tonight. Some are head-scratching collaborations: Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong will sing with country superstar Miranda Lambert; pop-rock nuisances Imagine Dragons join Kendrick Lamar; the soulful John Legend and country star and American Idol judge Keith Urban perform together; and Robin Thicke will be backed by '70's rockers Chicago.

Still, there are some performances that are bound to be great. Lorde and Taylor Swift are both playing, and while I'm not huge on Swift's music she tends to put on a spectacle at these award shows. Macklemore and Madonna are doing "Same Love" together, as Queen Latifah will be officiating several dozen weddings onstage as they perform. As weird as that sounds, it's bound to be a unique experience and is a pretty cool concept. Daft Punk will finally be playing something from Random Access Memories live, with Stevie Wonder, no less. Married couple Jay-Z and Beyonce will be fine, I guess. Metallica are also performing, and will have help from Chinese pianist Lang Lang.

But there are two performances I'm looking forward to more so than any others. First, surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr will play together, assumedly in acceptance of the band's Lifetime Achievement award. Then, the show will close with a pretty epic star-studded rock finale; Dave Grohl of Nirvana and Foo Fighters, Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham, Queens of the Stone Age, and Nine Inch Nails will all be performing together. In all honesty, this one part of the show should make the other three-and-a-half hours worth it.

Well, that's it. I hope everyone enjoys the show! If you want to get my thoughts on the show as it happens, I will be live tweeting the event on my personal account, @radiotoffee. Drop me a follow here and be prepared for a barrage of tweets tonight, then probably none for two weeks. Don't say I didn't warn you.

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