It's been years since I've watched a Grammy telecast in its entirety, partly because it's harder to do when you're living abroad, but mostly because a few highlights aside -- like Pink's acrobatic performance of "Glitter in the Air" at the 2010 ceremony, the best of recent years, they're no longer worth the effort. That said, I'm slightly tempted to watch on February 10 because Don Williams, one of my all-time favorite country singers, and Alison Krauss are nominated for Best Country Duo/Group Performance for "I Just Come Here for the Music." But who am I kidding? They don't have a snowball's chance in Nashville in June of beating Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars' "Safe & Sound." And no way is this minor category getting televised anyway.
Which will leave us with a night of fun. (nominated in six categories) that still won't be much fun. Here's why...
1. Album of the Year: Guys Only! What the testosterone overload is this? Not one single white (or black) female? The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences couldn't promote Fiona Apple's The Idler Wheel..., one of the most rapturously reviewed albums of 2012 and a Top 10 hit that sold as much in its first week as Christina Aguilera's Lotus did, from the Best Alternative Music Album ghetto into the biggest Grammy category? At the very least, she would have had us wondering what nonsense she might have come up with for an acceptance speech in the unlikely event of a win.
2. Best New Artist Once my favorite Grammy category, this one has taken a turn for the tasteful in recent years by emphasizing best over best-selling. In fact, the last two winners -- Esperanza Spalding in 2011, Bon Iver in 2012 -- were arguably the least successful of the nominees, which bodes well for Alabama Shakes. One suspects that Starland Vocal Band, the one-hit wonder who took the prize in 1977 on the strength of "Afternoon Delight," wouldn't stand a chance today. That makes for a more credible competition, but not a particularly interesting one. fun. and Hunter Hayes are legitimate 2013 successes; Frank Ocean and The Lumineers are legitimate critical favorites; and Alabama Shakes is a legitimate wild card, but just writing that line-up makes me want to yawn again. Like Album of the Year, what this competition needs is one good woman (not just a girl who's with the band): Maybe Carly Rae Jepsen for a little middle-of-the-road glamor, or Lana Del Rey to stir up controversy, or Emeli Sandé to reward this past year's actual best new artist and the woman who, by this time in 2016, is most likely to be towering over everyone else, much like 2009's Best New Artist Adele is doing now.
3. Best Pop Solo Performance Single women may have been shut out of Best New Artist and Album of the Year, but they dominate this category, which is now in its second year of combining male and female performers. I won't complain about Justin Bieber being shut out -- though Bruno Mars aside, he's pretty much the only male straight-up pop singer consistently selling records these days -- but in a year that's given us so much extraordinary British talent (from the aforementioned Sandé to Ellie Goulding, Alex Clare and Paloma Faith) and a great single from former Grammy favorite Norah Jones ("Happy Pills"), the Academy couldn't find any pop solo vocal performances superior to Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe," Katy Perry's "Wide Awake" and Rihanna's "Where Have You Been." Surely Adele will take the prize for the second year in a row for her live Royal Albert Hall performance of "Set Fire to the Rain," an outcome which will be as boring as the song.
Norah Jones "Happy Pills"
4. LMFAO That the Academy could even list 2011's biggest inescapable joke, last year's PSY (also invited onstage in 2012 by Madonna, who wouldn't let a good publicity op pass her by), in the same category -- Best Pop Duo/Group Performance -- with Florence + the Machine, fun., Maroon 5 and Gotye featuring Kimbra -- makes me want to laugh my fucking ass off. If I were "Ho Hey" by The Lumineers, I'd demand a recount!
The Lumineers "Ho Hey"
5. Those interchangeable R&B categories The Academy won't honor pop, country and R&B male and female vocalists separately, yet it deems it necessary to distinguish between Best R&B Performance and Best Traditional R&B Performance and Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best R&B Album. What, exactly, are the differences? What is an "Urban Contemporary Album" anyway -- a modern album recorded by a black artist that's popular in the big city? And is "Love on Top" by Beyoncé, a contemporary R&B singer if ever there was one, despite the song's tinge of retro, considered a Traditional R&B Performance only because the woman singing it is now over 30?
Beyoncé "Love on Top"