Doc Zeus sees your cliche about complaining about the Grammy’s and raises you some arsenic.
The Grammy’s are one of the universe’s central mysteries. From 54 years of experience, we know that the Gramophone Awards don’t actually reward anything approaching excellence, merit or achievement in the music industry. At best, they reward a toxic combination of unyielding pop culture ubiquity and clueless, “your dad dancing at your wedding to Akon,” fuddy-duddery. At worst, they’re a conscious rejection of everything that makes music great in the first place. Nobody’s ever happy with them. Yet, they march on, year after year, presenting a truly inexplicable worldview where a Steely Dan record nobody bought, listened, or heard, can beat out Kid Fuckin’ A and The Marshall Mathers LP for Album of the Year. It’s like a Rolling Stone record review of the latest, mediocre U2 album come horrifyingly to life.
We know this, yet the music loving public continues to go through the predictable ritual of shock, dismay and barely contained outrage at this endless farce. Deep in our collective psyche, we obviously love it. We crave the pure schadenfreude of seeing the bad, the mediocre and the galling, collect awards that they don’t deserve. Lord help us if the Grammys actually managed to get things right one of the years. We have become so trained to categorically reject a false nomination that the framework of the entire universe might shatter if Freddie Gibbs ever swaggered on stage to collect an award for Best Rap Performance. Is a music snob a music snob if he doesn’t feel superior over the mindless hordes of Katy Perry fans? It’s unnatural to deny our needs to hate the ever living shit out of the meaningless award ceremonies, so in this context, I present my immediate reactions to the 54th annual Grammy Award nomination:
Album Of The Year
Wasting Light— Foo Fighters
Born This Way— Lady Gaga
Doo-Wops & Hooligans — Bruno Mars
Loud — Rihanna
The big controversy is that the Academy of Record Arts and Sciences’ decision snubbed Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy for Album of the Year. Admittedly, that’s pretty shocking because if anything is true about that record, it’s that MBDTF is pretty much the Grammiest album to ever Grammy. It’s super popular and obvious and juuuust weird and adventurous enough that old white voters don’t have to sit around listening to that Odd Future Wolfgang Puck group the blog keeps prattling on and on about. These are the qualities of a multi-Grammy award winner. I can only attribute it not being nominated being to the music industry’s desire to finally punish Kanye for having the gall to say “Beyonce > Waif Thin Country Singers” in the most public manner possible. This must be eating up Kanye’s gold lamé insides today.
As for the rest of the nominees, 21 and Born This Way were probably shoo-ins and likely deserving, so duh. Rihanna’s album beat the public into submission through sheer force of ubiquity so duh, again. As for the other two nominees, their nominations are a bit more dodgy. It should be written into the by-laws of the universe that no Foo Fighters album in 2011 should be receiving a nomination as the best album of the year by anyone ever. I hardly think anybody who bought and listened to “Wasting Light” sat around and thought to themselves “THIS IS TOTALLY EFFIN’ CLASSIC!” and that probably includes Dave Grohl himself. Meanwhile, Bruno Mars remains the worst thing to happen to music, hip hop and hair in general. If you absolutely insist on seeing tiny cute people sing show tunes, there is a new Muppets movie in the theaters right now.
Record Of The Year
“Rolling In The Deep” — Adele
“Holocene” — Bon Iver
“Grenade” — Bruno Mars
“The Cave” — Mumford & Sons
“Firework” — Katy Perry
Can somebody credibly explain to me why indie acts like Bon Iver and Mumford & Sons can get receive Grammy nominations, yet there’s a dramatically better chance that Herman Cain will be the next President Of The United States than an indie rap act will get nominated for a Grammy? It’s not just because indie rock and all the bullshit that is attached with it is pretty much the fucking worst but the Academy’s voting demographics are so essentially skewed that even an indie rap song as ubiquitous as “Yonkers” can’t even get a lowly “Best Rap Performance” nomination. God, I hope “Rolling In The Deep” wins this.
Best New Artist
The Band Perry
Speaking of indie bullshit, can we please stop pretending that Bon Iver receiving multiple nominations is anywhere close to an earth-shatteringly game changer for genuine independent “artists” everywhere? First off, Bon Iver comes from a genre of music that is the soundtrack to our car commercials. Secondly, no artist that works with Kanye West can credibly call themselves “independent” of anything at this point. If we are going to praise the Grammy’s for being forward thinking, let’s give them a hand for nominating Skrillex, a dubstep artist. I mean dubstep is still terrible but Skrillex getting nominated shows some balls.
Meanwhile, J. Cole is nominated for Best New Artist because I guess… Big Sean is unavailable or something. Jay-Z wins at everything.
Song Of The Year
“All Of The Lights” — Jeff Bhasker, Malik Jones, Warren Trotter & Kanye West, songwriters (Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie)
“The Cave” — Ted Dwane, Ben Lovett, Marcus Mumford & Country Winston, songwriters (Mumford & Sons)
“Grenade” — Brody Brown, Claude Kelly, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Bruno Mars & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Bruno Mars)
“Holocene” — Justin Vernon, songwriter (Bon Iver)
“Rolling In The Deep” — Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth, songwriters (Adele)
I’d like a carefully trained chemist to boil down the Smeezington’s formula for making awful music that continues to be rewarded with millions of dollars, fame and award nominations. Then, I’d then like to use that formula against the Smeezingtons so I can destroy them. Also, evil.
Best Rap Album
Watch The Throne – Jay-Z & Kanye West
Tha Carter IV – Lil Wayne
Lasers – Lupe Fiasco
Pink Friday – Nicki Minaj
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West
Four out of the five albums listed in the “Best” Rap Album category are brutal train wrecks of the most horrific and banal fashion. The fifth is My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. There are lessons here.
Best R&B Album
F.A.M.E.— Chris Brown
Second Chance — El DeBarge
Love Letter — R. Kelly
Pieces Of Me— Ledisi
Kelly— Kelly Price
Normally, I don’t care about this category at all because the only thing worse than indie rock is quite possibly modern R&B, but I just wanted to point out that forgotten 80s R&B footnote (and totally not dead), El DeBarge, is nominated for Best R&B Album this year. Oh yeah, motherfucker. That’s right, El DeBarge!
This might be the most Grammiest thing the Grammys have ever done. I find this genuinely amazing. I want El DeBarge to win this category. I want him to win this category so effin’ hard. I want him to stride across the stage, whispy mustache and 80s mullet flowing triumphantly, and collect his award like the boss that he is. Fuck yeah, DeBarge! Fuck… Yeah.
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
“Party” — Beyoncé & André 3000
“I’m On One” — DJ Khaled, Drake, Rick Ross & Lil Wayne
“I Need A Doctor” — Dr. Dre, Eminem & Skylar Grey
“What’s My Name?” — Rihanna & Drake
“Motivation” — Kelly Rowland & Lil Wayne
“All Of The Lights” — Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie
I don’t know why this category continues to exist because it continues to assure that artists will keep making music that is almost usually 95% awful by rewarding them for that bad choices. That said, this year’s field is especially apocalyptic. Dr. Dre and Eminem’s “I Need A Doctor,” is now Grammy nominated. Soak that in for a moment. I don’t know a single, solitary person who enjoyed that song. Not one. Not even ironically. It’s too depressing. The record is the literal manifestation that the crushing weight of irrelevancy comes for all of us. I don’t even want to hear “Detox” now because of this songs existence. And now, it’s nominated for a Grammy Award. I hate everything.
Best Rap Performance
“Look At Me Now” — Chris Brown, Lil Wayne & Busta Rhymes
“Otis” — Jay-Z & Kanye West
“The Show Goes On” — Lupe Fiasco
“Moment 4 Life” — Nicki Minaj & Drake
“Black And Yellow” — Wiz Khalifa
As a rap fan and true believer of its superiority to nearly everything, I refuse to live in a world that “The Show Goes On” is one of the five best rap songs of the year. Nobody likes that song beyond radio programming directors, advertising executives and people with a vested interest in Modest Mouse’s bank account. Nobody. It’s objectively and uniformly terrible. That nomination just reeks of industry favoritism and intellectual laziness. Same goes for pretty much everything else.
This brings me to my final point; the Grammys’ fatal problem is that the entire enterprise is transparently and unforgivably lazy. In the age of the internet, thousands of songs are released each year and with the advent of technology, it’s incredibly easy to browse a larger selection of material to truly award “outstanding achievement” in the music industry. It’s really not that difficult to take a sampling of obscure but critically acclaimed, independent or underground artists to determine if Lupe Fiasco really did have one of the five best rap songs of 2011. Yet this never seems to happen. This happens in genre after genre and category after category. Does anybody really believe that Jeff Beck’s “Rock And Roll Party Honoring Les Paul” is really one of the finest offerings that rock music has to offer this year. Does Jeff Beck?
“The Show Goes On” is a morbidly awful song, but because it has the right promotional heft behind it, it manages to weasel its way into people believing its one of the five best songs of 2011. For an enterprise that presents itself with the pomp and circumstance to be the Academy Awards of music, it ends up presenting a historical worldview that is at best terminally biased, at worst, patently false. If the Grammys are ever going to matter beyond a smug celebration of the music industry’s gigantic sense of entitlement, its going to have find a way to change.
I’m not saying you can do better. I’m saying you have to do better.