|Photo by: Cajunfrenchblog.com|
Three songs dominate the 53rd Annual Grammy nominations: Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie,” Cee Lo Green and co-writer Bruno Mars’s “F*** You” and Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.” Eminem, Bruno Mars and Lady Antebellum have received the greatest recognition, while several artists have surprisingly been passed over.
The first question that we must ask ourselves is this: What would Kanye West say about these nominations? Always a very vocal awards show commentator, West challenged the Recording Academy’s judgment during an interview with Access Hollywood last October.
“Where’s our instant replay clock? Why are the last four Albums of the Year: Taylor Swift, Dixie Chicks, Ray Charles and Herbie Hancock? Like, you know, with all due respect… that’s inaccurate,” he said. “These people, whoever run them [the Grammy Awards]… they have to take some responsibility to say what really happened in culture.”
Whether you’d call Kanye’s comments a championing of musical justice or a distasteful rant, he does bring up an interesting question. Are the Grammy Awards fair?
The awards are set up to be a systematic approach to allow artists to be recognized by their peers, rather than the public who help decide other honors like the American Music Awards.
According to Grammy.com, Recording Academy members--artists, composers, producers, technicians, industry professionals, etc.--and registered labels submit recordings for consideration. Only certain Academy members--professionals with creative or technical credits on six commercially released tracks--choose the nominees and, ultimately, the winners.
So West, with more than enough credits as an artist and producer, could very well have a say in who takes home the prize (there isn’t a public record of the artists who actually access their voting rights).
Still, no voting body is free from accusations of snubbing, playing favorites and having agendas. Normally a Grammy Awards favorite, West received only one nod for his critically acclaimed 808s & Heartbreak during last year’s nominations, which were announced three months after he interrupted Taylor Swift at the VMAs. Additionally, Whitney Houston’s comeback album, I Look to You, was absent from the ballot.
Back at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards, the Dixie Chicks swept the show in what could be perceived as either a calculated vindication after the fallout from their anti-George Bush comment, or a simple embrace from their industry peers. Whatever the case, “Not Ready to Make Nice,” which was about the Bush incident, won “Record of the Year” and “Song of the Year.” Their album, Taking the Long Way, won Album of the Year.
The Grammy Awards pledge to honor “artistic or technical achievement, not sales or chart positions,” but sometimes without considering what West would describe as cultural impact. For example, at the 50th Annual Grammy Awards, Herbie Hancock’s Letters to Joni Mitchell won Album of the Year when Kanye’s Graduation and Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black were arguably bigger staples in pop culture. Similarly, at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards, Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss won the top prize over Tha Carter III by Lil’ Wayne and Viva la Vida or Death and All his Friends by Coldplay.
Last year’s winner, Taylor Swift’s Fearless, was the top-selling album of 2009 according to Billboard.com, but perhaps Lady Gaga’s The Fame--artistically unique in its own right--made more of an impact with four number one singles.
All of the artists made great albums, and it was wonderful to see Hancock’s Letters become the first jazz album to win Album of the Year since 1964. However, the selection of winners seems arbitrary at times.
So, did the Recording Academy get it right this year?
Country group Lady Antebellum is poised to have a Dixie Chick-like year as their “Not Ready to Make Nice” equivalent “Need You Now” is similarly nominated for Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group. Their album of the same title is also a contender for Album of the Year. Their success does not stem from a powerful social/political statement, but a catchy song that was played everywhere this year, including pop radio.
Is Lady Antebellum’s recognition based solely on one popular song, and if so, is that sufficient enough to earn Album of the Year? Billboard called the entire album “refreshing,” Entertainment Weekly gave the album a B+ rating and the Los Angeles Times was impressed with the group’s “craftsmanship and flair.”
Similarly, at the 49th Annual Grammy Awards, Gnarls Barkley was most known for the popular single “Crazy,” but St. Elsewhere was nominated for Album of the Year. Several publications gave the entire album positive reviews. Perhaps the Recording Academy does not reward an entire album based on the popularity of one song after all.
While Lady Antebellum has a total of six nominations, Eminem is the frontrunner with 10. “Love the Way You Lie” is up for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Rap Song. Eminem’s Recovery is up for Album of the Year and Best Rap Album. Both Recovery and last year’s Relapse debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. Recovery moved a massive 741,000 units, according to Billboard, and received four out of five stars from Rolling Stone.
The past two years have marked the rapper’s return to music after a long hiatus. While Eminem won Best Rap Album and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group last year, he was nominated for Album of the Year 10 years ago.
Everyone loves a comeback story. Mariah Carey’s effort, The Emancipation of Mimi, was similarly celebrated with eight nominations at the 48th Annual Grammy Awards. However, she only won three awards, none of them top honors. It will be interesting to see how Eminem’s night pans out.
The top-selling artist of the last decade, according to Nielsen SoundScan, will face off against newcomer Bruno Mars, who has seven nominations. He helped pen Cee Lo’s “F*** You” which is also up for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Urban/Alternative Performance. The song was released close to the Grammy eligibility cut-off (September 1, 2010 through September 30, 2010), but its popularity with the Billboard chart and media probably made it hard to pass up.
Bruno is featured on another Record of the Year-nominated song, “Nothing on You” by B.O.B. “Nothing on You” is also nominated for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. His own “Just the Way You Are” is nominated for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance.
So, who was left out?
From a solely commercial standpoint, it was surprising to see Ke$ha, who had a big year with her number one album Animal and number one single “Tik Tok,” left completely off the ballot. Also, Train’s infectious, number three single “Hey Soul Sister” was passed over for Song of the Year, which recognizes outstanding songwriting.
Noticeably absent from the Record of the Year category, which honors artists, producers, engineers and mixers, is Lady Gaga’s creative and huge number two hit “Bad Romance,” though her album The Fame Monster is up for Album of the Year. Last year arguably belonged to Gaga as “Poker Face” was nominated for the major song categories, and The Fame for Album of the Year. However, she didn’t win any of those honors.
Another missing Record of the Year nominee is Usher’s tirelessly played number one hit “OMG.”
The R&B categories do not include Alicia Keys’ haunting “Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart” and the popular “Unthinkable (I’m Ready)" which was written with Drake.
In terms of the Pop categories, it’s no surprise that Christina Aguilera’s Bionic was not recognized; the album was a commercial disappointment. However, her performance on the ballad “You Lost Me” was expected by many to receive a Best Female Pop Vocal Performance nomination. Instead, the Recording Academy made room for yet another Beyoncé song--a live version of “Halo.” The album version of the song, written for 2008’s I Am… Sasha Fierce, received the award last year.
The rap categories only include one nod for Nicki Minaj, the new superstar who was featured on countless songs in the past year. “My Chick Bad” is up for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. Technically, the 54th Annual Grammy Awards should be her year since she released her debut album after this year’s eligibility cut-off.
She should also be a contender for Best New Artist. After Lady Gaga’s ineligibility in the category last year due to her previous Grammy nomination, the Recording Academy changed the rules. Also, if the Academy does not re-install the Female Rap Category, she will likely battle the boys.
This year’s Best New Artist counts teen superstar Justin Bieber among its contestants, but passed over Ke$ha, along with Bruno Mars and B.O.B., who are heavily nominated elsewhere. The Recording Academy also nominated Drake, who has three other nominations.
West would probably co-sign Drake’s recognition. “If Drake is having an awesome year and his year is better than mine, I’m not gonna say I should win,” he told Access Hollywood. “I’m gonna say Drake should win.”
West’s “Power” will compete against Drake’s “Over” for Best Rap Solo Performance. Otherwise, his latest work is not eligible for the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards. Next year, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which received a perfect five-star rating from Rolling Stone, will likely be his third Album of the Year nomination.
“Music’s Biggest Night” will be celebrated on February 13, 2010 and broadcast live on CBS. For a complete list of nominees, see Grammy.com
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