Sunday, December 8, 2013

Burning Questions: The 2014 Grammy Nominations Edition

Is Sara Bareilles a belated winner in the war of the pop divas with one-word song titles? "Brave," released at roughly the same time as Katy Perry's "Roar" and Lady Gaga's "Applause" and quickly eclipsed by both, hasn't climbed higher than No. 26 on Billboard's Hot 100, while "Roar" soared to the top, and "Applause" clapped its way to No. 4. But here's the 11th-hour twist: With a surprise Album of the Year nod for The Blessed Unrest and a Best Pop Solo Performance nomination for "Brave," Bareilles should easily score a front-row seat at the January 26 Grammy ceremony. Six years after her breakthrough (and biggest) hit, though, I still want her to sing me a "Love Song."

Does this mean Lady Gaga is kind of over? Once a Grammy darling, Gaga, who earned Album of the Year nominations for her 2008 debut album (The Fame), her 2009 EP (The Fame Monster) and her proper 2011 sophomore effort (Born This Way), didn't score a single nod for "Applause," which is a shame since it was easily one of the best pop singles of 2013.

Was "Roar" really such a triumph of the artistry of singing and songwriting? A Record of the Year nomination wouldn't have been so surprising, considering what a huge 2013-defining hit Katy Perry scored with the first single from Prism, but on what planet was it one of the five best pop solo performances of 2013? Of course, now that pop is so narrowly defined (see the relegation of Rihanna's Unapologetic to Best Contemporary Urban Album) and dominated by collaborations, there's very little competition. Don't get me wrong, I like "Roar," but it's fun fluff. As pop poetry goes, it hardly holds up to fellow Song of the Year nominee "Same Love," the pro-gay anthem by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert.

When did the definition of soul become so convoluted? What is the difference between "Urban Contemporary" and "R&B," and why do Tamar Braxton, Fantasia and Rihanna belong to one (Urban Contemporary) and Faith Evans and Alicia Keys to another (R&B)? Further muddying things, Fantasia is also nominated for Best Traditional R&B Album for "Get It Right," a track on her Best Urban Contemporary Album contender Side Effects of You. So which is she? Meanwhile, Braxton pulled a reverse: a Best R&B Performance nod for "Love and War," the title track from her Best Urban Contemporary Album nominee. Can we just call it all "Soul" and call it a day? 

Can I pretend that Ariel Rechtshaid's Producer of the Year, Non-Classical nomination is belated recognition for his creative contributions to two of the best overlooked singles of 2012: "Losing You" by Solange Knowles and "Push and Shove" by No Doubt? Too bad he doesn't stand a chance against Pharrell Williams, 2013's MVP (most valuable producer) and the voice behind Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" (from future Album of the Year Random Access Memories) and the voice behind Robin Thicke's on "Blurred Lines."

Where is Lorde's Best New Artist nomination? You would think that scoring Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance nods for her No. 1 smash "Royals" as well as a Best Pop Vocal Album citation for Pure Heroine would have qualified her as shoo-in. At least New Zealand's first U.S. pop star since Neil Finn of Crowded House won't have to worry about that dreaded Best New Artist Grammy curse. (Uh oh, look out, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis!)

When did "rock" music become dominated by senior citizens? We expect Best Traditional Pop Album (featuring nominees Tony Bennett, Gloria Estefan and Dionne Warwick) to skew a bit on the older side, but anyone who still thinks rock & roll is a young man's game might want to consider the Best Rock Album nominees. This year the category is dominated by acts that are 60 and older: Black Sabbath (13), David Bowie (The Next Day), Led Zeppelin (Celebration Day) and Neil Young with Crazy Horse (Psychedelic Pill). Elsewhere, Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards also scored "Rock" nods. Does this mean I'll be getting a second wind in about 40 years?

No Miley Cyrus? Yes, there is a Grammy God!

No comments: