If I Ran the Grammys 2015

Last year, I ran the first of what will hopefully be an annual feature about what the Grammy Awards would look like if I ran them. All systems are broken, but this year it’s more evident than ever that the Grammy system is a knot with no chance of being untangled anytime soon. We know this, because there’s only one worthy Album of the Year candidate (last year saw at least three- okay, at most three), and because there’s a legitimate chance Sam Smith might sweep the four major awards. This would be awful. I’m holding out hope that the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences has come to their senses, so you’ll see below that I’ve bet against him in every category. Seriously, Academy- for the sake of all our brains overloaded with thinkpieces about race, do not give Sam Smith all the awards. Please.

A few ground rules:

1) I’ll give the real nominees with my prediction for the winner in bold. Then I’ll give you who I would have nominated with my choice for the best in the group in bold.

2) We all know the October 1st, 2013-September 30th, 2014 qualifying dates are stupid, but we’re going to keep them in the interest of chaos. So no 1989, but Reflektor (from 2013, but released after October 1st, 2013) is fair game.

3) For the four major awards (Album, Record, Song, New Artist), I’m realistic. The War on Drugs made my favorite album in the qualifying year, but they would never be nominated for Album of the Year. Lana Del Rey’s album isn’t even my favorite pop album of the year, but it’s the likeliest of that group to be nominated for Album of the Year. You get the idea. But when it comes to the genre awards, anything goes- hence, bands like Slow Club, Twin Peaks, and Kye Kye getting nods over more popular bands in their respective categories..

4) Genre boundaries are fuzzy- Beyoncé could really fit into pop or R&B, Arcade Fire could fit into rock or alternative, Drive-By Truckers could be rock or Americana, etc. So I went with my gut. I don’t have your gut, so if you disagree with me on whether or not Lecrae belongs in the rap or Christian category, sorry.


Album of the Year

Real nominees: Morning Phase, Beck
Beyoncé, Beyoncé
X, Ed Sheeran
In the Lonely Hour, Sam Smith
Girl, Pharrell Williams

My nominees: Reflektor, Arcade Fire
Beyoncé, Beyoncé
Turn Blue, The Black Keys
Ultraviolence, Lana Del Rey
Platinum, Miranda Lambert

grammys2If anyone but Beyoncé wins, the Grammys will have returned to their stupid ways. Daft Punk last year was fine; even if you liked Kendrick Lamar’s album better, it was hard to argue against Random Access Memories as a quality choice. But there is nothing else in this category that even comes close to being a worthy Album of the Year. And that’s not for lack of quality albums either! Why not Arcade Fire’s bold Reflektor, or The Black Keys’ solid Turn Blue, or Lana Del Rey’s legitimately and surprisingly great Ultraviolence? Are we really convince that Beck’s Morning Phase was anything but a rehash of Sea Change? And the other three nominees seem like votes for mediocrity and the status quo rather than quality. It’s a shame Miranda Lambert, who is a bona fide star, couldn’t get some love over Ed Sheeran, of all people. There’s only one right choice here, and the Academy better make it, or the Internet’s shit is gonna hit the fan.


Record of the Year

Real nominees: “Fancy (feat. Charli XCX)”, Iggy Azalea
“All About That Bass”, Meghan Trainor
“Stay with Me (Darkchild Version)”, Sam Smith
“Chandelier”, Sia
“Shake It Off”, Taylor Swift

My nominees: “Problem (feat. Iggy Azalea)”, Ariana Grande
“Drunk in Love (feat. Jay Z)”, Beyoncé
“Boom Clap”, Charli XCX
“Chandelier”, Sia
“Shake It Off”, Taylor Swift

IGGY AZALEA, ARIANA GRANDE“Fancy” is nice and all that, but everything Iggy in that song gets on my nerves. Regardless of how I feel, though, it was the biggest song of the year, and the Grammys will likely reward it for its success (though I prefer Charli XCX’s “Boom Clap”). For everything I said about Sam Smith, “Stay with Me” is actually a really great song. Still, if I had to choose, I’d choose the remaining three. And where is “Problem”? There was a point over last summer where we didn’t know whether “Fancy” or “Problem” was the song of the summer, and just because “Fancy” won doesn’t make it the better song. I would’ve liked to have seen some love for “Drunk in Love” too, but “Problem” was the coolest record of the year.


Song of the Year

Real nominees: “Take Me to Church”, Hozier
“All About That Bass”, Meghan Trainor
“Stay with Me (Darkchild Version)”, Sam Smith
“Chandelier”, Sia
“Shake It Off”, Taylor Swift

My nominees: “Afterlife”, Arcade Fire
“Drunk in Love (feat. Jay Z)”, Beyoncé
“West Coast”, Lana Del Rey
“Chandelier”, Sia
“Shake It Off”, Taylor Swift

grammys6Song of the Year is a songwriting award, and there wasn’t a better-written song this year than “Chandelier”. I’m not a fan of “Take Me to Church” at all, so I’ll gladly replace it with Arcade Fire’s best song of Reflektor. As much as I love “All About That Bass”, “Drunk in Love” beats it out by a mile. And “Stay with Me” isn’t a well-written song at all (especially considering the Tom Petty controversy); its charm is in its performance. I’d rather include one of the most interesting songs of the year, Lana Del Rey’s “West Coast”.


Best New Artist

Real nominees: Bastille
Brandy Clark
Iggy Azalea
Sam Smith

My nominees: 5 Seconds of Summer
Charli XCX
Meghan Trainor
Sky Ferreira
Sturgill Simpson

grammys8If I’m honest with myself, Sam Smith is probably going to win this award. In an ideal world, either Brandy Clark or especially Haim would get it. But if any award is Sam Smith’s to lose, it’s this one. Even if the Academy realizes in the other categories that Smith isn’t the most deserving, it would be hard for them to ignore him in this one. But I’m kind of leaning toward a full-on Sam Smith fatigue having set in for the industry, so I’ll bet on Azalea’s monster year to push her into the lead. As far as my Grammys go, where are 5 Seconds of Summer, Charli XCX, and Meghan Trainor? Any of them would be better than Bastille, for goodness’ sake. I’d pick Charli XCX over Iggy Azalea even, since “Fancy” is largely successful because of its hook and not because of Iggy’s verses. And, just to make myself happy, I included two stars in the underground, the pop savant Sky Ferreira and the country up-and-comer Sturgill Simpson.


Best Pop Album

Real nominees (Pop Vocal Album): My Everything, Ariana Grande
Ghost Stories, Coldplay
X, Ed Sheeran
Prism, Katy Perry
Bangerz, Miley Cyrus

My nominees: 5 Seconds of Summer, 5 Seconds of Summer
My Everything, Ariana Grande
Ultraviolence, Lana Del Rey
Midnight Memories, One Direction
Night Time, My Time, Sky Ferreira

grammys10I promise I don’t have anything against Ed Sheeran or Sam Smith. I just find them bland. That said, Sheeran has the inside track on this category, since he obviously had enough support to secure an Album of the Year nominee. The best album actually nominated, though, is My Everything. The best pop album not nominated was Sky Ferreira’s brilliant Night Time, My TimeUltraviolence got my vote for one of the more realistic Albums of the Year, so she’s obviously in here as well, taking Coldplay’s more alternative pop slot. And I’d replace Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus with a couple of other hit generators who were more on target: One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer.


Best Rock Album

Real nominees: Morning Phase, Beck
Turn Blue, The Black Keys
Ryan Adams
, Ryan Adams
Hypnotic Eye, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers
Songs of Innocence, U2

My nominees: Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Against Me!
Reflektor, Arcade Fire
Turn Blue, The Black Keys
English Oceans, Drive-By Truckers
Wild Onion, Twin Peaks

grammys12Why do people think Beck is good? He hasn’t made an authentic album since Sea Change. Every album since then has been an effort to appease rather than challenge. That wouldn’t be a problem if the attempts were interesting, but he’s always boring. I’d choose any other album on that list over his. But on my personal list, I’d shoehorn Arcade Fire in on this ballot rather than the alternative genre, and give some love to some of the more underrated artists of the year: Against Me!’s brash punk, Drive-By Truckers rootsy epic, and Twin Peak’s blast of indie rock.


Best Alternative Album

Real nominees (Alternative Music Album): This Is All Yours, alt-J
Reflektor, Arcade Fire
Melophobia, Cage the Elephant
Lazaretto, Jack White
St. Vincent, St. Vincent

My nominees: Electric Ursa, Joan Shelley
Fantasize, Kye Kye
Sunbathing Animal, Parquet Courts
Are We There, Sharon Van Etten
Lost in the Dream, The War on Drugs

grammys14St. Vincent has the edge, since she was the critical darling of the last year on this list. I love Reflektor, but it belongs in the rock category, as does Lazaretto. In what world is Jack White not considered rock? I don’t care about alt-J or Cage the Elephant- they belong in the bland category with Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith. I’m surprised The War on Drugs didn’t make it onto the Grammy’s list, since they received just as much if not more critical attention than St. Vincent. The same goes for Parquet Courts, thought they surely couldn’t care less. I enjoyed the albums by Sharon Van Etten, Joan Shelley, and Kye Kye far more than I liked St. Vincent’s. But that’s just my personal taste.


Best R&B Album

Real nominees: Lift Your Spirit, Aloe Blacc
Islander, Bernhoft
Black Radio 2, Robert Glasper Experiment
Give the People What They Want, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings
Love, Marriage & Divorce, Toni Braxton & Babyface

My nominees: Beyoncé, Beyoncé
Cupid Deluxe, Blood Orange
Food, Kelis
There’s a Light, Liz Vice
Complete Surrender, Slow Club

grammys16Aloe Blacc is probably the only one the Academy has actually heard of on their own list. For my list, this is the category Beyoncé belongs in. She would fit just as well into pop music, but Beyoncé is way more D’Angelo than Katy Perry. Kelis also deserves some love for her sexy album, Food, but it went by this summer without anyone really noticing. Blood Orange and Slow Club received a little more attention in the indie world. And Liz Vice is the outlier of the group, a little-known Christian artist who has nailed how to pull worship R&B off.


Best Rap Album

Real nominees: Because the Internet, Childish Gambino
Nobody’s Smiling, Common
The Marshall Mathers LP2, Eminem
The New Classic, Iggy Azalea
Oxymoron, Schoolboy Q

My nominees: Instruments of Mercy, Beautiful Eulogy
Old, Danny Brown
Anomaly, Lecrae
Crimson Cord, Propaganda
Sinema, Swoope

grammys18I don’t like Iggy’s style at all, but there’s no doubting she has all the momentum here, especially in such a down year for mainstream rap. I wish Danny Brown would get some love, but he’s the lone winner in a year full of rap losers. That wasn’t the case in the Christian rap scene though, with Beautiful Eulogy, Lecrae, and Swoope all releasing stellar versions of the genre. None was better than Prop though; he’d never win it in real life, but since I’m running things, Prop’s Crimson Cord would get the love it deserves.


Best Christian Album

Real nominees (Contemporary Christian Music): Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong., for KING & COUNTRY
If We’re Honest
, Francesca Battistelli
Welcome to the New, MercyMe
Hurricane, Natalie Grant
Royal Tailor, Royal Tailor

My nominees: Devotion, Anberlin
Neon Steeple, Crowder
As Sure as the Sun, Ellie Holcomb
Borderland, John Mark McMillan
Rivers in the Wasteland, NEEDTOBREATHE

grammys20“Christian” is hardly a genre, but it’s a useful denomination for music that doesn’t really belong anywhere else. You could make the argument that Anberlin, Crowder, and NEEDTOBREATHE all make rock music, but they’re undeniably pigeonholed into the Christian category. Nothing on the Grammy list belongs in the conversation, though Francesca Battistelli probably has the most industry pull. I’d rather listen to Ellie Holcomb’s full-length debut any day. And the most overlooked of all will always be John Mark McMillan, always on the outskirts of even the Christian mainstream, forever going to be ignored by the Academy. He gets my vote though.


Best Americana Album

Real nominees: Terms of My Surrender, John Hiatt
Bluesamericana, Keb’ Mo’
A Dotted Line, Nickel Creek
The River & the Thread, Roseanne Cash
Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Sturgill Simpson

My nominees: Stay Gold, First Aid Kit
Lateness of Dancers, Hiss Golden Messenger
Small Town Heroes, Hurray for the Riff Raff
Platinum, Miranda Lambert
Metamodern Sounds in Country Music, Sturgill Simpson

grammys22Sturgill Simpson’s album was a wonderful breath of fresh air in the country genre. There are plenty of artists like him out there, injecting a stale genre with modern ideas, but he’s received the most attention for it, and deservedly so. But Roseanne Cash is the daughter of Johnny Cash, so she’s going to win. One of those other artists like Simpson is Hurray for the Riff Raff, and her Small Town Heroes was maybe the second most acclaimed album of its kind behind Metamodern Sounds. Hiss Golden Messenger and First Aid Kit both released my favorite folk albums of the past year, but the award should really go to Miranda Lambert. She’s nominated in the Best Country genre, and she’s the best example of mainstream country in years. Literally years. She may lose her real Grammy to Eric Church (another for the bland pile), but she would win my Grammy.

I’m aware I didn’t include all the nominees for these categories. I blame the layout of the Grammys’ website.


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