If I Ran the Grammys 2014

It’s well-documented that the Grammys are awfully messed up.  I don’t need to rehash that here.  Instead, let’s take a look at what the Grammys would look like this year if someone smart, capable, and really, really good-looking ran them. Who, me? Why, yes, I’d love to.

A few rules to go over first though.  First of all, I’d like to change the fact that the Grammy cutoff is September 30th every year, meaning that three whole months of 2013 music weren’t considered for this year’s Grammys and that three whole months of 2012 were, so that’s why only two of the Albums of the Year nominees are from 2013.  However, I think I’ll keep it that way just so my Grammys can be a little bit screwy.

Second of all, I’m keeping Song of the Year and Record of the Year separate.  The Grammys’ Song of the Year awards songwriting, while the Record of the Year awards production and performance.  I think that’s a legitimate line of separation for the two.

I won’t include albums or songs in the major categories that I think stand no chance of being nominated for Grammys.  That means the artist and/or album must have had a certain amount of popularity.  So while my personal Album of the Year might be Jason Isbell’s Southeastern, there’s no way it would ever be nominated for Album of the Year.  But it could be nominated for Americana Album of the Year, because, for me, anything goes in those genre awards.

Both who I think will win and who won my vote are in bold:

Album of the Year

grammys1Real nominees: Random Access Memories, Daft Punk
good kid, m.A.A.d city, Kendrick Lamar
The Heist, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
The Blessed Unrest, Sara Bareilles
Red, Taylor Swift

I am terrible at picking this category, but I think Daft Punk has the most momentum since it dominated 2013.  But given the Grammys’ strange track record, I have to root for Sara Bareilles to win this.  How great would it be if she won?  She’s an awesome person, and, while I don’t like the album much, I love upsets and want the Grammys to be as crazy and wacked out as possible.  But in my version, I switched Bareilles out for a folk album that actually makes sense (The Civil Wars’ album hit No. 1 on Billboard and the duo has a lot of support in the industry), replaced Daft Punk’s overblown effort with Justin Timberlake’s somewhat less overblown effort, and replaced Macklemore’s approximation of an album with Kanye’s masterpiece.  I don’t really have a problem with Taylor in the lineup, but I preferred Lorde’s revelatory pop album to Swift’s more straightforward one.  And, in a surprise win, to the joy of music lovers everywhere, Kendrick Lamar wins the big one and good kid is the first rap album to win Album of the Year since- wow, since 10 years ago when OutKast won?  And that’s the only rap album that’s ever won?  I’m about to change my mind- there’s nothing I can do about the Grammys.  They’re unfixable.

grammys2My nominees: The Civil Wars, The Civil Wars
The 20/20 Experience, Justin Timberlake
Yeezus, Kanye West
good kid, m.A.A.d cityKendrick Lamar
Pure Heroine, Lorde

Record of the Year

grammys1Real nominees: “Locked Out of Heaven”, Bruno Mars
“Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams)”, Daft Punk
“Radioactive”, Imagine Dragons
“Royals”, Lorde
“Blurred Lines (feat. T.I. & Pharrell Williams)”, Robin Thicke

“Get Lucky” was the best song of the year, hands down.  “Locked Out” and “Royals” are the only actual nominees that can even compete.  It’s a travesty that “Blurred Lines” was even nominated.  And “Radioactive” may be one of the worst popular “rock” songs in recent history.  Drake, Kendrick, and Taylor make much better bedfellows for Lorde and Daft Punk.

grammys1My nominees: “Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams)”Daft Punk
“Hold On, We’re Going Home (feat. Majid Jordan) ”, Drake
“B***h, Don’t Kill My Vibe [Explicit]”, Kendrick Lamar
“Royals”Lorde
“I Knew You Were Trouble”, Taylor Swift

Song of the Year

grammys3Real nominees: “Locked Out of Heaven”Bruno Mars
“Roar”, Katy Perry
“Royals”Lorde
“Same Love (feat. Mary Lambert)”, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
“Just Give Me a Reason (feat. Nate Ruess)”, P!nk

I hate “Same Love”, but the Grammys like to pretend they’re progressive (I say pretend because they nominated “Blurred Lines” in the previous category), so it’ll probably win.  I’d prefer “Royals” over any of them, but I would be happy with “Locked Out” or even “Just Give Me a Reason”.  But “Mirrors” was the best-written song of the year, music and lyrics.

grammys4My nominees: “Like a Rose”, Ashley Monroe
“The One That Got Away”, The Civil Wars
“Mirrors”, Justin Timberlake
“Royals”Lorde
“I Knew You Were Trouble”Taylor Swift

Best New Artist

grammys3Real nominees: Ed Sheeran
James Blake
Kacey Musgraves
Kendrick Lamar
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Neither Ed Sheeran nor Kacey Musgraves really belongs in this category, since they both released their debut album/single respectively before the voting deadline.  Kendrick deserves it, and in a perfect world (read: my world), he’d win it.  But Macklemore’s going to get it.  Booo.

grammys2My nominees: Ashley Monroe
Jake Bugg
Kendrick Lamar
Lorde
Parquet Courts

Best Pop Album

grammys5Real nominees (Pop Vocal Album): Unorthodox Jukebox, Bruno Mars
The 20/20 Experience – The Complete Experience, Justin Timberlake
Paradise, Lana Del Rey
Pure Heroine, Lorde
Blurred Lines, Robin Thicke

I don’t particularly like Bruno Mars’s album, but it wouldn’t be a tragedy if it won.  The real tragedy is that the Recording Academy deigned to give Robin Thicke another nomination in the place of really strong work from three newcomers, Ariana Grande, Charli XCX, and Haim.

grammys4My nominees: Yours Truly, Ariana Grande
True Romance, Charli XCX
Days Are Gone, Haim
The 20/20 Experience, Justin Timberlake
Pure HeroineLorde

Best Rock Album

grammys6Real nominees: 13, Black Sabbath
The Next Day, David Bowie
Mechanical Bull, Kings of Leon
Celebration Day, Led Zeppelin
Psychedelic Pill, Neil Young with Crazy Horse
…Like Clockwork, Queens of the Stone Age

The nominees in this category are a joke, but it’s hard not to admit that there’s not much mainstream rock out there to reward.  I’m predicting a win for Queens of the Stone Age, since it’s the only album on the list that really rocks.  But I prefer the lesser heard rhythms of all my nominees, especially the fiery, punk-tinged music of Frank Turner.

Frank TurnerMy nominees: Tape Deck Heart, Frank Turner
Jake Bugg, Jake Bugg
The Sun as It Comes, The Lonely Wild
Untamed Beast, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside
I Hate Music, Superchunk

Best Alternative Album

grammys8Real nominees: Trouble Will Find Me, The National
The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You, Neko Case
Hesitation Marks, Nine Inch Nails
Lonerism, Tame Impala
Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend

I’d be happy with any of these nominees winning, but Vampire Weekend seems to have the most support.  I would’ve liked to have seen Laura Marling get some love for her best album so far in her young career.

grammys9My nominees: Holy Fire, Foals
Heatstroke / The Wind and the War, KaiL Baxley
Harlem River, Kevin Morby
Once I Was an Eagle, Laura Marling
Modern Vampires of the City, Vampire Weekend

Best R&B Album

grammys10Real nominees: Girl on Fire, Alicia Keys
Better, Chrisette Michele
R&B Divas, Faith Evans
Love in the Future, John Legend
Three Kings, TGT

I’ve only listened to the Legend album, but it’s Legend is the biggest name on this list, aside from Keys, who didn’t inspire anyone with Girl on Fire.  I loved Love in the Future, but Goldenheart is more impressive and passionate, and severely underrated.

grammys11My nominees: Anxiety, Autre Ne Veut
Cupid Deluxe, Blood Orange
Goldenheart, Dawn Richard
Love in the Future, John Legend
Woman, Rhye

Best Rap Album

grammys2Real nominees: Nothing Was the Same, Drake
Magna Carta… Holy Grail, Jay-Z
Yeezus, Kanye West
good kid, m.A.A.d city, Kendrick Lamar
The Heist, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

This isn’t a bad group of nominees- except for the fact that they included Jay-Z and Macklemore, but the quality of the other three can’t be denied.  This one should go to Kendrick, and rightfully so.  In my nominees, I’d take out the albums that are bad, and throw in some albums that are good and that would never receive Recording Academy love, since they’re Christian rap albums.

grammys2My nominees: Nothing Was the Same, Drake
Yeezus, Kanye West
good kid, m.A.A.d city, Kendrick Lamar
Talented 10th, Sho Baraka
W.L.A.K., W.L.A.K.

Best Christian Album

grammys12Real nominees (Contemporary Christian Music): We Won’t Be Shaken, Building 429
Burning Lights, Chris Tomlin
All the People Said Amen [Live], Matt Maher
Your Grace Finds Me [Live], Matt Redman
Overcomer, Mandisa

The Recording Academy doesn’t really listen to Christian music, so of course their lineup is generic and not at all representative of what’s going on in Christian music today. But then again, my nominees aren’t either, they’re just personal preferences. However, I included three members of the old guard (Derek Webb, Jars of Clay, and Sandra McCracken), the band that’s ready to take over the Great Christian Band mantle (Gungor), and an up-and-coming indie group (Golden Youth).  Maybe I’m not so bad at this.

grammys13My nominees: I Was Wrong, I’m Sorry & I Love You, Derek Webb
Quiet Frame; Wild Light, Golden Youth
I Am Mountain, Gungor
Inland, Jars of Clay
Desire Like Dynamite, Sandra McCracken

Best Americana Album

grammys14Real nominees: Songbook, Allen Toussaint
Buddy and Jim, Buddy Miller and Jim Lauderdale
Old Yellow Moon, Emmylou Harris & Rodney Crowell
One True Vine, Mavis Staples
Love Has Come for You, Steve Martin & Edie Brickell

Let’s face it: country music doesn’t really deserve a category of its own. The genre has been lackluster for too long; the real vanguard is in folk and Americana music.  Kacey Musgraves and Ashley Monroe could have snuck in here, but these five albums were too strong to give those two the nod just because they’re more traditionally country.  Let’s give Americana the spotlight it deserves for making the quality music that Nashville has been missing.

grammys15My nominees: Dream River, Bill Callahan
The Civil WarsThe Civil Wars
Southeastern, Jason Isbell
American Kid, Patty Griffin
Muchacho, Phosphorescent

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