If I Ran the 2017 Grammys

If I Ran the 2017 Grammys

I’ll always be the first to complain about the Grammy Awards, but the nominees for this year’s show…aren’t that bad? They do have Views up for Album of the Year, so they still suck.

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 that group in bold.

2) We all know the October 1st, 2016-September 30th, 2017 qualifying dates are stupid, but we’re going to keep them in the interest of chaos. I can’t fix everything about the Grammys. So no Alicia Keys, but Adele’s 25 (from 2015, but released after October 1st, 2015) is fair game.

3) For the four major awards (Album, Record, Song, New Artist), I’m realistic. Drive-By Truckers and Terrace Martin made two of my favorite albums in the qualifying year, but they would never be nominated for Album of the Year. However, Chance the Rapper and Justin Bieber also released albums I loved, and they’re plausible options for Album of the Year. But when it comes to the genre awards, anything goes- hence, artists like Parker Millsap, Tedashii, and PUP getting nods over more popular acts in their respective categories.

4) Genre boundaries are fuzzy- Relient K’s album could really fit into pop or rock, Angel Olsen and Mitski could easily be considered rock instead of alternative, NEEDTOBREATHE and Switchfoot are unabashedly Christian bands that make rock music, etc. So I went with my gut. I don’t have your gut, so if you disagree with me on whether or not Justin Bieber belongs in the pop or R&B category, sorry.

5) Forget the 5-nominee limit! Sometimes the Grammys do this; a genre will have enough contenders that they’ll fit 6 nominees into one category because of a tie. I’ve often wondered why more award shows don’t open categories a bit more. If there are enough albums that truly deserve to be in the conversation, why not include them and draw more attention to more great music? Let’s have a little anarchy! Except in the 4 main categories, which will continue to have the rigid 5-nominee rule, because too much anarchy is a bad thing.

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Album of the Year

Real nominees: 25, Adele
Lemonade, Beyoncé
Views, Drake
Purpose, Justin Bieber
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson

My nominees: Lemonade, Beyoncé
Teens of Denial, Car Seat Headrest
Coloring Book, Chance the Rapper
Purpose, Justin Bieber
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson

grammys03Last year I had 3 albums in common with the Recording Academy. This year I have 4, which is either encouraging or disheartening, I haven’t decided which. Personally, I’d give the award to Chance; Coloring Book is the most fun I’ve had with music for as long as I can remember. But after Beyoncé lost to Beck 2 years ago, and considering she’s never won this award (and the last artist of color to win it was 9 years ago and it was Herbie freaking Hancock), it’s hard to imagine this going to anyone but her. Adele is the other frontrunner, and though she has been an unstoppable force in the industry this decade, 25 wasn’t quite the runaway hit that 21 was. Sturgill Simpson could be the dark horse. He seems to be the old guard’s representative here, which I’m sure he would find ludicrous.

It’s fun to see Bieber’s album honored with this nomination, since I felt like I enjoyed this album more than a lot of people did, but maybe the Recording Academy is recognizing his year-long domination of the charts. The inclusion of Views here is probably a similar recognition of all the hit singles on the album, even though everything on that record that’s not a single is pretty much drivel. I’d prefer to recognize the best rock record of the year, Car Seat Headrest’s breakout Teens of Denial, which is both emblematic of where rock is right now as well as its deconstruction.

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Record of the Year

Real nominees: “Hello”, Adele
“Formation”, Beyoncé
“7 Years”, Lukas Graham
“Work (feat. Drake)”, Rihanna
“Stressed Out”, Twenty One Pilots

My nominees: “Formation”, Beyoncé
“No Problem (feat. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz)”, Chance the Rapper (nominated for Best Rap Song)
“Ultralight Beam (feat. Chance the Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin & The-Dream)”, Kanye West (nominated for Best Rap Song)
“Black Beatles (feat. Gucci Mane)”, Rae Sremmurd
“Work (feat. Drake)”, Rihanna

Kanye West Yeezy Season 3 - RunwayI’ve got no problem with “Hello” in this category, I just thought its songwriting was its best asset, so I put it in the Song of the Year category. “Formation” and “Work” were world-beaters this year, so they totally belong. The inclusion of Lukas Graham and Twenty One Pilots is laughable and shows just why the Grammys are out of touch. They think Graham and Twenty One Pilots belong in the same category as Adele and Beyoncé, as if history won’t remember Twenty One Pilots as a less talented Maroon 5 and Graham as a less talented Shawn Mendes.

How did “Black Beatles” not make it on this list? It was the sleeper hit of the year, both virally and on the charts. And the fact that nothing from Coloring Book was singled out is preposterous, though maybe the Academy isn’t ready to embrace a mixtape. So I picked the mixtape’s best single, the joyous “No Problem”. But no song’s production or performance was as perfect as “Ultralight Beam”, which was an open door into hip-hop’s gospel nirvana.

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Song of the Year

Real nominees: “Hello”, Adele
“Formation”, Beyoncé
“Love Yourself”, Justin Bieber
“7 Years”, Lukas Graham
“I Took a Pill in Ibiza”, Mike Posner

My nominees: “Hello”, Adele
“Fill in the Blank”, Car Seat Headrest
“Love Yourself”, Justin Bieber
“Can’t Stop the Feeling!”, Justin Timberlake (nominated for Best Song Written for Visual Media)
“Vice”, Miranda Lambert (nominated for Best Country Song)

grammys07Lukas Graham is back in this category, and I’m still not sure why. Mike Posner makes his first appearance, and I’m not sure why. “Formation” is a great song, and deserving of all kinds of attention, but I think the steak-eaters of the Academy are probably going to stick with “Hello” for this one too. It would have been nice for a rock song or an Americana song to get a nod here, so why not “Fill in the Blank” or “Vice”? And how did the earworm of the year, “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”, get no recognition aside from a nomination related to its video? However, I’ve got a soft spot for Bieber’s “Love Yourself”, a mean, mean song that’s impossible to forget.

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Best New Artist

Real nominees: Anderson .Paak
The Chainsmokers
Chance the Rapper
Kelsea Ballerini
Maren Morris

My nominees: Anderson .Paak
Car Seat Headrest
LUH
Maren Morris
Margo Price

grammys09How nice to see Anderson .Paak and Maren Morris get some Academy love. They’re two artists that released two of the best albums in their respective genres. And they’re actually new! That’s nice in this category. Speaking of which, Chance the Rapper is not new. But he’ll probably win on star power alone. Clearly the Academy isn’t on the Car Seat Headrest train, but if they had been, they’d belong here for sure. God forbid the Chainsmokers win this, even if “Closer” was one of the top-charting songs of the year. We don’t need to encourage all the bad DJ duos in this world. A better option would have been LUH, a boyfriend-girlfriend duo that defy categorization. Not sure who Kelsea Ballerini is, but good for her. I would’ve thrown some love Margo Price’s way, since she was Americana’s other breakout artist.

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Best Alternative Album

Real nominees: 22, a Million, Bon Iver
Blackstar, David Bowie
The Hope Six Demolition Project, PJ Harvey
Post Pop Depression, Iggy Pop
A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead

My nominees: My Woman, Angel Olsen
22, a Million, Bon Iver
Blackstar, David Bowie
Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing, LUH
Puberty 2, Mitski
A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead
Light upon the Lake, Whitney

grammys11I think everyone knows Bowie is winning this category for his final album, if only because everyone is so sad that he’s gone. Blackstar is a great album, but Radiohead’s and Bon Iver’s albums are more impressive. PJ Harvey and Iggy Pop are probably in this race on reputation alone, since you’d hardly place their albums among their best. I can’t understand why the Grammys don’t use this category to celebrate up-and-coming artists like Angel Olsen or Mitski, instead of legacy acts not in need of the attention. LUH and Whitney are a couple of new acts that also deserve attention, though their nominations would have been a pipe dream.

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Best Americana/Country Album

Real nominees: Big Day in a Small Town, Brandy Clark
Ripcord, Keith Urban
Full Circle, Loretta Lynn
HERO, Maren Morris
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson

My nominees: Big Day in a Small Town, Brandy Clark
American Band, Drive-By Truckers
HERO, Maren Morris
Midwest Farmer’s Daughter, Margo Price
The Very Last Day, Parker Millsap,
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson

grammys13The Academy has gotten better and better about recognizing the best in country music. The fact that Sturgill Simpson is nominated for Album of the Year is not only awesome, but a sure sign that he will win this category. Maren Morris and Brandy Clark are deserving nominees. Loretta Lynn is a legend, but Full Circle is a covers album of songs she release years ago, so maybe the Academy could have spread the love a little bit? Drive-By Truckers have  never been nominated, AND they’re a legacy act- wake up, Grammys! Margo Price and Parker Millsap are newcomers worthy of some love for their strong efforts.

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Best Christian Album

Real nominees: Poets & Saints, All Sons & Daughters
American Prodigal, Crowder
Love Remains, Hillary Scott & the Scott Family
Youth Revival [Live], Hillsong Young & Free
Be One, Natalie Grant

My nominees: The Burning Edge of Dawn, Andrew Peterson
American Prodigal, Crowder
Floodplain, Sara Groves

grammys15Yeesh. This wasn’t as bad a year for Christian music as my low number of nominees makes it seem. You could easily make the argument that NEEDTOBREATHE’s, Relient K’s, and Switchfoot’s albums belong here, but I’d argue those albums are less overtly Christian and fit more easily into other genres. Andrew Peterson has been a favorite for a while, and Crowder’s second solo album is just as satisfying as his first. But Sara Groves, who has somehow never even been nominated for a Grammy, released the strongest album in this group in both theme and quality. As far as the actual award? I have no faith that the Academy will actually listen to any of these albums, so let’s assume they give it to Hillary Scott by virtue of her membership in Lady Antebellum, which is a Grammy favorite for some reason.

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Best Pop Album

Real nominees: 25, Adele
Dangerous Woman, Ariana Grande
Confident, Demi Lovato
Purpose, Justin Bieber
This Is Acting, Sia

My nominees: I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it, The 1975
25, Adele
Dangerous Woman, Ariana Grande
Purpose, Justin Bieber
Made in the A.M., One Direction
Air for Free, Relient K

grammys17Not a lot of discrepancies between my nominees and the Academy’s. Can’t argue with the inclusion of Adele, Ariana Grande, or Justin Bieber, though I prefer Bieber’s album of faux-mature soul to Adele’s album of legitimately mature torch songs. Sia and Demi Lovato are fine, but where’s the love for One Direction, who keep churning out great big albums of unabashed boy band music? I wouldn’t expect the Academy to recognize Relient K in this category, though Air for Free is a return to pop-punk form for the classic pop punks. And I love the adolescent ambition of The 1975’s I like it…, which is long and naïve and wonderful.

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Best R&B/Urban Contemporary Album

Real nominees: Malibu, Anderson .Paak
Lemonade, Beyoncé
Ology, Gallant
We Are King, KING
ANTI, Rihanna

My nominees: Malibu, Anderson .Paak
Lemonade, Beyoncé
Freetown Sound, Blood Orange
The Glory Album, Christon Gray
Blonde, Frank Ocean
Unbreakable, Janet Jackson
Love & Hate, Michael Kiwanuka
ANTI, Rihanna
A Seat at the Table, Solange
Velvet Portraits, Terrace Martin (nominated for Best R&B Album)

grammys19Last year’s most stacked category was Americana/Country, but R&B/Urban Contemporary is the clear frontrunner here. Auntie Yoncé will no doubt win here, and she should, but Rihanna and Anderson .Paak may have won in slightly lesser years. KING and Gallant are fine, but Solange deserved recognition here with an album that may be even better than her sister’s. Terrace Martin is nominated in a different category, which was a pleasant surprise, since his Velvet Portraits was one of the most underrated albums of the year. Strangely, Janet Jackson’s Unbreakable (which holds up to her peak) went largely unnoticed. Michael Kiwanuka and Blood Orange would have been more left-field choices, but both of their albums were protest masterpieces. And I’d like to give Christon Gray some love. A lot of Christian R&B is formal or confined to a gospel style, but Gray makes beautiful soul music that would fit in with much of trap soul, catching Christian R&B up to modern times.

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Best Rap Album

Real nominees: Coloring Book, Chance the Rapper
And the Anonymous Nobody, De La Soul
Major Key, DJ Khaled
Views, Drake
The Life of Pablo, Kanye West
Blank Face LP, ScHoolboy Q

My nominees: Coloring Book, Chance the Rapper
A Good Night in the Ghetto, Kamaiyah
The Life of Pablo, Kanye West
This Time Around, Tedashii
Jeffery, Young Thug

grammys21Somehow the Academy thinks Drake’s Views is worthy of recognition over Coloring Book, since they gave Drake the Album of the Year nod, so it’s safe to assume that he’ll win Best Rap Album. Any of my nominees are twice the album Views is. Tedashii’s EP, This Time Around, is a fourth of Views’s runtime, and is still twice the album Views is. Young Thug’s best release to date, Kamaiyah’s debut mixtape, and West’s mishmash of a record are all more worthy of recognition than Views. But the most worthy of them all, the sign o’ the times, the songs in the key of life, the thriller of the year, was Chance’s Coloring Book.

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Best Rock Album

Real nominees: California, Blink-182
Tell Me I’m Pretty, Cage the Elephant
Magma, Gojira
Death of a Bachelor, Panic! at the Disco
Weezer, Weezer

My nominees: The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us, Beach Slang
Teens of Denial, Car Seat Headrest
H A R D L O V E, NEEDTOBREATHE
Cardinal, Pinegrove
The Dream Is Over, PUP
Where the Light Shines Through, Switchfoot

grammys23No wonder people think rock is dead. You could do worse in 2017 than a lineup of nominees that includes Blink-182, Cage the Elephant, Panic! at the Disco, and Weezer, but you could also not nominate a lineup that sounds like it’s from 10 years ago. And the inclusion of French heavy metal band Gojira is baffling, but at least it’s interesting. Let’s assume Weezer wins the actual award, since the album was a return to what Weezer does best: power pop hooks.

You can tell the Academy doesn’t listen to current rock music, because the year’s best rock band, Car Seat Headrest, didn’t make the cut. People who actually listen to rock music were talking about them all year, as well as breakout bands like Beach Slang, Pinegrove, and PUP. I included 2 of Christian rock’s stalwarts, NEEDTOBREATHE and Switchfoot, because they continue to defy the odds and release great music years into their careers.

The 2016 Grammys and the Morning-After Anger

I wrote over at Thirty-Eight Minutes about how to process Taylor Swift’s Album of the Year win over Kendrick Lamar. Below is an excerpt. Follow this link to read the rest.

You’ll be easily forgiven if you decided to skip watching last night’s 58thGrammy Awards. I’m not going to recap the entire awards show, because recapping something that lasted 810 hours sounds like a lot of work. Instead I’ll focus on the big moment, the one that had Twitter all aflame, the one that perhaps should have had me seething but instead just made me further resigned: Taylor Swift’s 1989 beat out Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly for Album of the Year.

I saw a lot of angry people on Twitter afterwards; chances are, if you’re reading this, you were one of them. I’m not going to tell you how to feel, but allow me to provide a little context, first in favor of what happened and then in condemnation of it…

If I Ran the 2016 Grammys

After a year in which Beyoncé’s best album yet lost to a Beck album that no one will ever listen to again, it was tempting to disregard the Grammys altogether. But doing a “fix the Grammys” post is such a great way to highlight underheard music, since God knows the Grammys aren’t doing that.

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, 2014-September 30th, 2015 qualifying dates are stupid, but we’re going to keep them in the interest of chaos. I can’t fix everything about the Grammys. So no 25, but 1989 (from 2014, but released after October 1st, 2014) is fair game.

3) For the four major awards (Album, Record, Song, New Artist), I’m realistic. Phil Cook and Sufjan Stevens made two of my favorite albums in the qualifying year, but they would never be nominated for Album of the Year. However, Charli XCX and One Direction also released albums I loved, and they’re plausible options for Album of the Year. But when it comes to the genre awards, anything goes- hence, groups like Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors, Diamond District, and Citizens & Saints getting nods over more popular acts in their respective categories..

4) Genre boundaries are fuzzy- Miguel’s album could really fit into rock or R&B, Laura Marling and Kevin Morby could easily be considered Americana instead of alternative, One Direction has a lot of rock songs on their album, etc. So I went with my gut. I don’t have your gut, so if you disagree with me on whether or not Titus Andronicus belongs in the rock or alternative category, sorry.

5) New rule this year! Forget the 5-nominee limit! Sometimes the Grammys do this; a genre will have enough contenders that they’ll fit 6 nominees into one category. I’ve often wondered why more award shows don’t open categories a bit more. If there are enough albums that truly deserve the be in the conversation, why not include them and draw more attention to more great music? Let’s have anarchy!

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Album of the Year

Real nominees: Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes
Traveller, Chris Stapleton
To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar
1989, Taylor Swift
Beauty Behind the Madness, The Weeknd

My nominees: Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes
Sucker, Charli XCX
To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar
Four, One Direction
1989, Taylor Swift

grammys02Surprise, surprise, I actually mostly agreed with the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences this year. The past two years I’ve had one album each year in common with the Grammys’ nominees, but this year I have three! It sure seems like Kendrick’s year, but Taylor Swift could easily take this, considering she basically rules the world. And I wouldn’t quite rule out Alabama Shakes, since rock albums have upset the favorite three out of the last five years. I don’t mind that the Grammys recognized The Weeknd and Christ Stapleton; they both received well-received albums that were also popular- they fit the bill, basically. But I’d rather single out a couple of pop records that didn’t have to be as great as they are: Charli XCX’s Sucker and One Direction’s Four.

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Record of the Year

Real nominees: “Really Love”, D’Angelo & the Vanguard
“Thinking Out Loud”, Ed Sheeran
“Uptown Funk (feat. Bruno Mars)”, Mark Ronson
“Blank Space”, Taylor Swift
“Can’t Feel My Face”, The Weeknd

My nominees: “Hotline Bling”, Drake
“Where Are Ü Now (feat. Justin Bieber)”, Jack Ü
“Uptown Funk (feat. Bruno Mars)”, Mark Ronson
“Blank Space”, Taylor Swift
“The Hills”, The Weeknd

grammys04Hard to argue with “Blank Space” or “Uptown Funk”. “Blank Space” is maybe the shiniest eligible song from 1989 with an impressive vocal performance from Swift, while “Uptown Funk” is just all-around unstoppable. It’s also hard to argue with “Can’t Feel My Face”, but I’ll do my best- as catchy as “Face” is, “The Hills” has the more interesting production and The Weeknd’s best singing performance yet. And all due respect to the great D’Angelo and the, uh, not-great Ed Sheeran, but can anyone pretend those songs are better than “Hotline Bling” or Diplo’s & Skrillex’s “Where Are Ü Now”?

Song of the Year

Real nominees: “Thinking Out Loud”, Ed Sheeran
“Alright”, Kendrick Lamar
“Girl Crush”, Little Big Town
“Blank Space”, Taylor Swift
“See You Again (feat. Charlie Puth)”, Wiz Khalifa

My nominees: “Don’t Wanna Fight”, Alabama Shakes
“Here”, Alessia Cara
“Alright”, Kendrick Lamar
“Wildest Dreams”, Taylor Swift
“Can’t Feel My Face”, The Weeknd

grammys06Here’s where the Academy should have put “Can’t Feel My Face”, because it’s an impeccably crafted song, and Song of the Year is supposed to reward songwriting. And I’m okay with them seconding “Blank Space”, because it’s a great song, but “Wildest Dreams” is the best straight-up songwriting on 1989. I like “Thinking Out Loud” and “See You Again” well enough, but I would never argue their songwriting is anything more than average. Cara’s “Here” and Alabama Shakes’s “Don’t Wanna Fight” are far more interesting songs. And while everyone has a different favorite song on To Pimp a Butterfly, “Alright” has had a raw, undeniable impact unlike any other. It will and should win.

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Best New Artist

Real nominees: Courtney Barnett
James Bay
Sam Hunt
Tori Kelly
Meghan Trainor

My nominees: Chance the Rapper
Courtney Barnett
Migos
Samantha Crain
Young Thug

grammys08This is always a weird one, because the Grammys are never clear on the criteria involved. Sure is nice that the Academy is recognizing Courtney Barnett and Meghan Trainor, but they came on the scene before this qualifying period. Anyway, you could say the same for, well, all of my choices, but they all truly reached new peaks of quality and publicity. None more so than Chance, who has risen as an independent from obscurity as a niche Chicago performer to a leading cultural voice. In the real world, expect the white male rocker to win. He’s the only one I haven’t heard of.

Best Pop Album

Real nominees: How Big How Blue How Beautiful, Florence + the Machine
Before This World, James Taylor
Piece by Piece, Kelly Clarkson
Uptown Special, Mark Ronson
1989, Taylor Swift

My nominees: Brand New, Ben Rector
Sucker, Charli XCX
Honeymoon, Lana Del Rey
Four, One Direction
1989, Taylor Swift

grammys10I feel like Swift not winning this award may signify the apocalypse, so ink her in. Florence, Clarkson, and Ronson are all fine, but the fact that James Taylor is nominated for this on an album that includes an ode to Fenway Park’s storied history is just one more piece of evidence of the Grammys’ lunacy. Obviously I’d put XCX and 1D here, since I nominated them for Album of the Year. Lana Del Rey continues to turn out great work with little industry recognition; maybe she’s still paying for that one awful SNL performance? And though Ben Rector would probably never achieve the kind of popularity necessary for a Grammy nod, he deserves one in my book.

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Best Rock Album

Real nominees: Kintsugi, Death Cab for Cutie
Mister Asylum, Highly Suspect
Chaos and the Calm, James Bay
Drones, Muse
.5: The Gray Chapter, Slipknot

My nominees: Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes
Medicine, Drew Holcomb & the Neighbors
Strange Trails, Lord Huron
Runners in the Nerved World, The Sidekicks
Currents, Tame Impala
The Most Lamentable Tragedy, Titus Andronicus

grammys12Okay, what on earth is going on in this category? I don’t really enjoy Muse, but, okay, fine. But the washed up Death Cab and Slipknot, and two artists I’ve never heard of? I suppose this may mean I’m not tuned in to the rock world, but it seems more likely that the Grammys are just stupid. Let’s be real, Sound & Color is a rock album- it belongs here, not in the Alternative Album category below, which it will win. Tame Impala also belongs here, but it’s weird enough that its Alternative status is understandable. The rest of the category could be filled out by some light rock (Holcomb), folk rock (Huron), emo revival (Sidekicks), and a 29-track rock opera (Titus).

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Best Alternative Album

Real nominees: Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes
Vulnicura, Björk
The Waterfall, My Morning Jacket
Currents, Tame Impala
Star Wars, Wilco

My nominees: Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit, Courtney Barnett
Poison Season, Destroyer
Why Make Sense?, Hot Chip
Still Life, Kevin Morby
Short Movie, Laura Marling
Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, Panda Bear
Carrie & Lowell, Sufjan Stevens
Loyalty, The Weather Station

grammys14This is one of the least offensive categories; there are strong contenders each year, because alternative rock is less affected by the industry’s troubles and continues to churn out great content. I don’t personally like the albums by Björk, My Morning Jacket, or Wilco, but I’m also not personally opposed to them. Strange that they’re recognizing Barnett in Best New Artist, but she failed to secure the nod here. She deserves it, and she’d deserve to win too, if it weren’t for Sufjan’s incredible ode to his parents following the death of his mother. You could make good cases for the rest of the contenders- the Springsteen-like sweep of Destroyer, the electronic ambivalence of Hot Chip, the Dylan-channeling poetry of Morby, the gothic folk of Marling, the indie-rock throwback of Panda Bear, or the chanteuse warbling of The Weather Station- but Carrie & Lowell eclipses them all.

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Best R&B Album

Real nominees: Cheers to the Fall, Andra Day
Forever Charlie, Charlie Wilson
Black Messiah, D’Angelo & the Vanguard
Reality Show, Jazmine Sullivan
Coming Home, Leon Bridges

My nominees: Black Messiah, D’Angelo & the Vanguard
Blackheart, Dawn Richard
Reality Show, Jazmine Sullivan
The London Sessions, Mary J. Blige
Wildheart, Miguel
Aquarius, Tinashe

grammys16D’Angelo probably has this locked up, but Leon Bridges (whose album I still haven’t gotten around to…whoops) and Jazmine Sullivan (whose album I just got around to and is excellent) stand a fair chance of upsetting the famous recluse. Strangely, though he has some popular cache, Miguel has been completely ignored this year, even though Wildheart was one of the more ambitious records of the year. And how the Grammys passed up a chance to acknowledge one of their favorite honorees from years past, Mary J. Blige, I’ll never understand. The rest of the roster is filled out by a couple of women just beginning to find some traction in the industry, Dawn Richard and Tinashe.

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Best Rap Album

Real nominees: Compton, Dr. Dre
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Drake
2014 Forest Hills Drive, J. Cole
To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar
The Pinkprint, Nicki Minaj

My nominees: March on Washington, Diamond District
If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late, Drake
The Art of Joy, Jackie Hill Perry
To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar
Run the Jewels 2, Run the Jewels
Rise, Trip Lee
Barter 6, Young Thug

It was a strong year for rap, though you can feel 2016 beginning to flex its muscles. Kendrick obviously has this wrapped up, but Drake is a worthy second in the real award’s race. Run the Jewels and Young Thug are critically acclaimed enough that it wouldn’t be surprising to see them in this category at some point in the future. Diamond District is pretty off the Academy’s radar, but their March on Washington was one of the most immediate albums I heard last year. But Perry’s Art of Joy and Lee’s Rise were great late additions to 2014, and either of them could have stolen my vote if Kendrick hadn’t released the best album of the past few years.

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Best Christian Album

Real nominees (Contemporary Christian Music Album): Love Ran Red, Chris Tomlin
Whatever the Road, Jason Crabb
How Can It Be, Lauren Daigle
Saints and Sinners, Matt Maher
This Is Not a Test, Tobymac

My nominees: Join the Triumph, Citizens & Saints
Carry the Fire, Dustin Kensrue
One Wild Life: Soul, Gungor
Vice & Virtue, Jimmy Needham
Home, Josh Garrels

grammys20Like I said last year, “Christian” isn’t really a genre, but it’s a handy categorization to help me recognize a few more great artists. Tobymac will probably win this on name recognition alone, which is sad since his best years are behind him, but it’s not like the Grammys should be the arbiter for Christian culture anyway. Citizens & Saints released perhaps the best worship album of the year. Former Thrash frontman continues a quality solo career with Carry the Fire. Home is a nice expansion of Josh Garrels’s already unique talent. One Wild Life: Soul was a great return to form for Gungor. But Vice & Virtue gets this one for perhaps the most perfect distillation of Needham’s brand of Christian funk-rock yet.

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Best Americana Album

Real nominees (Country Album): The Blade, Ashley Monroe
Traveller, Chris Stapleton
Pageant Material, Kacey Musgraves
Pain Killer, Little Big Town
Montevallo, Sam Hunt

My nominees: Fables, David Ramirez
High on Tulsa Heat, John Moreland
Pageant Material, Kacey Musgraves
A Light That Never Dies, KaiL Baxley
Southland Mission, Phil Cook
Under Branch and Thorn and Tree, Samantha Crain
Dark Bird Is Home, The Tallest Man on Earth
Love and the Death of Damnation, The White Buffalo

grammys22Here’s the richest category of the year, and the Grammys actually did a pretty good job with it. Little Big Town and Sam Hunt are fine, Chris Stapleton is exceptional, and Monroe and Musgraves are both bringing new blood to the country genre. But look at all those names under my nominees! Crain and Moreland are leading voices in the Oklahoma music scene, telling stories that get under your skin in ways both uplifting and infuriating. Ramirez, Tallest Man, and Buffalo are all talented songwriters who solidified both their musical signatures and lyrical voices with their most recent albums. And Cook went from helping make Bon Iver a household (ish?) name to synthesizing New Orleans blues and folk into a life-affirming gift of an album. Give the Grammy to Chris Stapleton, but someone get Phil Cook a major label deal.

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.

AP BEYONCE AND JAY Z - ON THE RUN TOUR - PARIS - NIGHT 2 A ENT CPA FRA

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.

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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.

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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”.

grammys7

Best New Artist

Real nominees: Bastille
Brandy Clark
Haim
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.

grammys9

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.

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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.

grammys13

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.

grammys15

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.

grammys17

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.

grammys19

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.

rosanne-cash

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.

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