Sunday, December 4, 2011

Grammys - Album of the Year NomNomNoms


Did any of you watch the Grammy nominations show on CBS? I did! (Obvi.) I want to talk about my fave category: Album of the Year. This post will focus on my thoughts regarding the nominees.

In my opinion, an Album of the Year nominee should meet at least one of the following two requirements:
1. The album should be innovative / ahead of the curve.
2. The artist has taken risks, trying out musical/production/vocal/lyrical styles that are completely different from what's out there (and/or what's expected of him/her).

With that said, I totally agree with the following two nominations:

1. 21 by Adele: This record has been the best-selling album of the past year, and I think one of the many reasons why is because it's so refreshing. As I've mentioned previously, Adele's music is emotionally forceful and confessional. Girlfriend is obviously one of the most vocally talented artists, but she's also a solid songwriter (Adele has said that she may write and produce her third album without any outside help, which would be QUITE a challenge. I hope she goes through with it. I'd love to hear what it will sound like). Furthermore, 21's songs contain an eclectic mix of soul, blues, and POP, which contrasts with the current electro-POP landscape. Many people may disagree with the following statement, but 21 is an album full of indie/alternative spirit. As JT's FutureSex/LoveSounds album kicked off the dance craze, creating a space for albums like Britney's Blackout and Lady GaGa's The Fame, Adele's 21 will be the catalyst for the return of the indie/alternative genre, which reigned most powerfully during the early '90s with Nirvana's Nevermind and Alanis Moorisette's Jagged Little Pill, among other albums. 21 meets requirements #1 and #2. Adele and her writing/production/engineering team deserve the hardware on Grammy night more than any other artist.

2. Born This Way by Lady GaGa: As the Lady has said herself, she's talked the talk, but never incorporated her fight for the outsider and LGBTQ community into her music until now. While the Born This Way album hasn't penetrated pop-culture as deeply (hehe!) as The Fame or The Fame Monster, its lyrical content is far superior. GaGa sings about being yourself, no matter your sexual orientation or ethnicity on Born This Way, claiming your identity on Hair, and illegal immigration on Americano. This is a POP album with a strong emphasis on social justice, which we haven't seen since Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation 1814 in 1989. With the song Born This Way, Gaga doesn't beat around the bush as Katy on Firework, Ke$ha on We R Who We R, or P!nk on Raise Your Glass. Those are all great songs, but none of those artists had the chutzpah to address the LGBTQ community directly. GaGa's Born This Way is the first Billboard Hot 100 #1 with the word "transgender," so kudos to her.

While sonically, I prefer GaGa's first two albums, I can't deny that she's taken musical risks on this record, completely unlike her co-reigning POP divas Katy, RiRi or Ke$ha. She's fused industrial electro, rock, and POP in completely unexpected ways. This album is what Bruce Springsteen would sound like if he made a record for the gay clubs. Only GaGa would come up with such a concept. The Born This Way album meets requirement #2. While it's definitely more sonically risky and experimental then her first two, those records were ahead of the curve, influencing the dance tracks that came after (from other POPsters). This album's production and sound won't strongly influence other artists' future work. It's too experimental. In this regard, GaGa's creativity works against her.

The following albums should have gone without the nomination:

3. Loud by Rihanna: This album is one of my favorites of the year, but it doesn't deserve a nomination for the top prize. It's a great record, but it's not innovative or experimental/risky. Let's be real for a sec. Rihanna may be fly, and we love her for that, but she's not super-creative. Her music is composed by others. That wouldn't be an issue if those songwriters and producers tried to make music that was outside of the box, like Beyoncé's did on 4. I didn't like 4 very much - it was a bit too out there for me, and apparently for others too - none of the singles charted in the Top 15 of the Billboard Hot 100. In other words, none of the songs were hits. However, the album was gutsy. Beyoncé may not be a songwriter or producer (even though she unfairly manages to get her name into the credits, according to Ne-Yo and others who've worked with her - a story for another day), but she is willing to take musical risks with the help of others. Bey and her songwriting/production team deserve some props for that.

By contrast, Rihanna's songwriters and producers aimed to create radio hits for Loud. Yes, some of the songs feature cool synths and bits of West-Indian spice, but on the whole, there was no out-of-the-box thinking during the writing, recording, and production of Loud.

4. Wasting Light by the Foo Fighters: I don't mean to be rude, but who cares? I'll admit that I haven't listened to any of the album, so I can't offer a fair assessment, but does anyone seriously think the Foo Fighters are still relevant? If yes, you can stick yourself back into a time machine and press 1995. It seems as though some of the Grammy voters just woke up from their decade and a half hibernation period. I know relevance isn't everything. I like my fair share of indie artists, but the Foo Fighters never set out to be a nice little indie project like Bon Iver. Dave Grohl consciously cashed in on his Nirvana fame by forming his own group, except the plan isn't working anymore (because no one cares), so go away. This spot belongs to everyone, and anyone, else.

I have mixed feelings about the last nomination:

5. Doo-Wops & Hooligans by Bruno Mars: Bruno is so talented. His voice is smooth, and despite some calling him a baby face, I'd do him in a second. He drips sex. However, I don't like that he was stupid enough to get caught with a bag of blow in the bathroom of the Vegas Hard Rock, and cocky enough to think he'd get away with it. The whole situation smells of douche bag. This all went down after a performance before his album even came out. Does he know anything about publicity? Establish who you are before looking like a mess - your audience is middle America. If you're going to powder your nose, that's your business, but go do it in your hotel room where you won't get caught. I think of Bruno as the new John Mayer - so, so talented; so, so, charming; and so, so douchey. Ugh, almost everyone in music is an a$$-hole. Whadaya gonna do?

Anyhow, all of this is irrelevant to his album nomie. Grenade is a fantastic, catchy, and beautifully produced song. Just The Way You Are has grown on me with time, and now, I love it. I haven't listened to the whole album, but I'm sure the vocals are heavenly, because as I said, he's a great singer. He's also a proper musician, having composed all the melodies and produced them with Phillip Lawrence and Ari Levine, who together make up the songwriting and production trio known as The Smeezingtons. With all of that said, I don't think his music is particularly risky or experimental. I'm not sure if it's innovative and ahead of the curve. I don't think it is, but time shall tell. Hence my mixed feelings.

Check out tomorrow's entry, "Grammy Album Of Year - What SHOULD Have Been Nominated?" to see which albums we would nominate in place of Loud, Wasting Light, and Doo-Wops & Hooligans.



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