Thursday, December 6, 2007

It's Grammy Season! (I Guess)

So when I went online today and saw a headline about the Grammy nominations being announced, my first reaction was, "Oh, so they're having the Grammys again this year?" There are many reasons why the annual music awards hover somewhere between an afterthought and a joke. The deadline for eligibility is at the end of September, meaning that most of the high-profile fall releases won't have a chance to be nominated until a year from now. The ceremony is filled with god-awful banter between award presenters who seem to be matched up by pulling names out of a hat (I recall one year when, after a terrible one-liner fell flat, Macy Gray [I think] said something to the effect of "Sorry, folks, we don't write this stuff."). And while there are over 100 categories, all but a dozen or so are handed out at a sparsely attended, untelevised ceremony ahead of time.

On the other hand, with so many categories, there's usually something amusing/interesting/infuriating/baffling to be found amidst all of the polka albums and rap-sung collaborations. Some of the highlights this year:

  • The nominees for Album of the Year are pretty much what you'd expect: perennial bridesmaid Kanye West, the increasingly sad Amy Winehouse, token country artist Vince Gill, token rock act Foo Fighters (I almost forgot that they put out a CD this year; this band has completely fallen off my radar), and Herbie Hancock. Wait, Herbie Hancock? How'd he wind up on this list? I'm going to go out on a limb right now and say that Hancock will win this one, making him the Steely Dan to Kanye's Eminem.
  • This year continues the proud tradition of nominating non-new artists for Best New Artist. Hey, has anyone heard of this Feist person?
  • You should note that a vocal album must contain at least 51% playing time of vocal tracks, whereas an instrumental album must contain at least 51% playing time of instrumental tracks. There must be some poor sap in a basement office who has to listen to every new release with a stopwatch in his hand.
  • The lines between Rock and Alternative Rock are never clearly drawn, and this year Wilco was nominated for best Rock album with Sky Blue Sky, the least rocking album of their career.
  • Jay-Z got a bunch of of nominations for last year's letdown of a comeback, Kingdom Come. That would be be embarrassing enough by itself, but then Jay went and released the much more highly-praised American Gangster, which is, of course, too recent to have been nominated. If middling Jay-Z is worth a nomination, then back-on-his-game Jay-Z should be a lock to win next year, assuming logic prevails (it probably won't).
  • The Spoken Word category, which should just go ahead and change its name to Best Audiobook, is once again heavy on the politicos: Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Jimmy Carter are all nominated. So remember: if you want to win a Grammy but have no musical talent, just run for public office and you can get a statuette for sitting down in a studio and reading from your book.
  • Was "Falling Slowly" really composed for the soundtrack to Once? The song appears on
    the Frames' album The Cost, but I guess that's not indicative of anything, as the nomination criteria for these types of awards are always insanely complicated. Then again, I'd prefer to believe that the nominating committee just got it wrong.
  • I'm always interested in the awards for packaging and liner notes. In theory, you could put out an album that consisted of a nicely-designed sleeve and a blank CD and still win a Grammy for it. Bright Eyes seems to put a lot of thought into their album artwork, so it was nice to see a nomination for Cassadega, and the White Stripes are probably the first band to get a nomination for a flash drive.
  • I'm fairly sure that the category for Best Surround Sound Album exists solely to let the Flaming Lips accumulate trophies.
  • The nominees for Short Form Music Video mostly consist of clips that were heavily embedded in various blogs over the past year ("1234," "D.A.N.C.E."), but also include "Gone Daddy Gone" by Gnarls Barkley. To refresh your memory, that was the one where they were all cartoon fleas. Yeah, that one.
That's about all I have to say right now. Be sure to tune into the broadcast on February 10th to see Kanye throw another fit.

No comments: