Ok so we have looked at the nominees for the four General Field categories over the last few weeks, here’s a quick look at the some of the other popular categories ahead of Sunday’s Grammy ceremony.
Best Pop Vocal Album sees the now ubiquitous Sam Smith in one of the six categories in which he’s nominated up against fellow Brits Ed Sheeran and Coldplay and three American pop princesses: Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry and Ariana Grande.
It is a tad strange to see Coldplay in the same category as the likes of Miley and Katy, but their album ‘Ghost Stories’ is certainly, from a production stand point at least, more poppy than their previous releases. Many of the tracks have programmed beats and trancey synths with ‘A Sky Full Of Stars’ crossing over to full-on EDM mode.
The three female artists are all without doubt out and out pop. Sometimes they incorporate hip-hop and R&B elements, other times they deliver anthemic ballads or dance music, but their records are mostly over polished, over produced and lacking in any real substance. Smith and Sheeran’s albums offer more in terms of feel and musical interest with their more organic singer-songwriter approach, although the former’s is disappointingly downbeat.
This category is split very much in two: pop that appeals to adults and that which appeals to kids and teens.
This raises the question, what is pop music supposed to be and can pop aimed at adults truly be defined as such? Coldplay and Sheeran are surely more in the Adult Contemporary group whilst Smith may well cross the divide with audiences in both camps.
If the powers that be decide pop is for kids then I fancy Katy Perry to grab the gong. If they decide to go the more mature route then Ed Sheeran has the best album, although Smith may well get the nod ahead of him.
Looking at the world of Rock, the categories are for Best Performance, Best Song and Best Album. Not surprisingly many of the same names feature in all three.
The Black Keys are nominated in the first two with the song ‘Fever’ and the album from which it’s from, ‘Turn Blue’ in the third. This time round the Black Keys are less muscular than on their last Grammy winning offering ‘El Camino’, with a collection of first-rate retro-tinged indie-pop tunes.
Beck also rightly features in all three categories with his excellent album ‘Morning Phase’ and from it the song ‘Blue Moon’ (no not that ‘Blue Moon’), as does Ryan Adams with his eponymous album and the song ‘Gimme Something Good’, which sees the singer songwriter shift slightly from his scruffy alt-country to a more polished and powerful heartland rock.
Jack White’s psychedelic funk-out ‘Lazaretto’ gets a nod for Song and Performance but not for the album of the same name, those last slots are filled by Tom Petty’s ‘Hypnotic Eye’, and U2’s ‘Songs Of Innocence’.
U2 seems a strange choice as their latest offering was decidedly weak, and Tom Petty’s record, although musically engaging, lacked any true classic material especially when compared to his wonderful back catalog.
‘Do I Wanna Know?’ by the Artic Monkeys filled the last slot in the Best Rock Performance category, and ‘Ain’t It Fun’ by Paramore the final place in Best Rock Song. ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ is a fine stomper of a rock tune with plenty of British attitude and moodiness, whilst Paramore seemed to have gone all Madonna-ish with their track off their self-titled album, swapping their usual up-tempo goth-lite for an unashamedly eighties pop feel.
I expect to see either Beck and the Black Keys win awards here with the Arctic Monkeys possibly to steal Best Performance, but it is a very strong showing all round with the possible exception of U2.
Finally, here are a few points to ponder.
There are 83 categories for the Grammys this year, ranging from Best Album and Best Song about which we all know, to the more obscure: Best Choral Performance and Improvised Jazz Solo, to the downright ludicrous: Best Album Notes (that’s a literary award surely?) and Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media (basically, compilation albums for movies).
Whilst many of the lower interest categories award genuinely important musical genres: jazz, bluegrass, reggae, even musical theater (I suppose), I’m not sure that many would care too much about the distinction between Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album and Best Tropical Latin Album. And why is there a category for Best Regional Mexican Music Album but not for example for Brazil who arguably make better and more far reaching music? What about Korea’s burgeoning K-Pop market? Surely these are categories more suited to the World Music Awards? Why are there two categories for Christian music and non at all for any other religious music? Jews make some wonderful music by the way, sung both in English and Hebrew.
They call it music’s greatest night, but in truth it’s the music business’s greatest night: self-congratulatory, commercially sponsored, and in no way a reflection on the hard work-low reward cottage industry that trying to get noticed in the music industry has become these days.
For me music’s greatest night is every night a band or artist gets on stage and performs with passion and honesty to an audience that is moved and entertained, whether they’re Grammy winners playing to 100,000 or stone broke up-and-comers playing to ten.
The Grammys is on CBS on Sunday at 8/7c.