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:
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:
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.
I have mixed feelings about the last nomination:
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.