I miss the days when there were only two kinds of music: country and rock ‘n’ roll (Just ask Donnie and Marie). Oh sure, there was blues and jazz and classical, but they were only listened to by east coast liberal elites.
Today, there are more categories of music than there are people auditioning for “American Idol.” The Grammy Awards will hand out statues in 83 categories tonight. By my reckoning, if you work in the music business, at some point you should win a Grammy.
I am not a follower of popular music and haven’t been for some time. I’m even less well versed in unpopular music, or whatever you want to call the 81 categories that aren’t country and rock ‘n’ roll. My nephew tries to keep me up to date by giving me a pile of CDs every Thanksgiving. I usually have reviewed some of them by now but I’ve been lazy and distracted lately.
So let’s just combine the usual record review post with a pre-Grammy post and then I can go out and enjoy this beautiful February day.
Sam appears to be this year’s favored son, having netted six nominations. I first encountered Smith while watching “Late Night with David Letterman.” I usually fast-forward through the musical guest but I didn’t this night. I was intrigued by his unusual, haunting voice. I didn’t even notice it sounded like a Tom Petty song. It’s a pretty good debut album. He certainly deserves the Best New Artist award. He can also have Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Pop Solo Performance and Pop Vocal Album for all I care, since I haven’t heard any of his competitors. (That’s right, I have not heard “All About The Bass” — I’m that out of touch with popular music).
Sam can’t have Album of the Year ’cause I’m giving it to Beck. The first Beck album I ever heard was “Sea Change.” It was dark and melancholy and boy, did I love it. The second Beck album I ever heard was “Morning Phase,” which is pretty much a sequel to “Sea Change.” It’s every bit as dark and melancholy as its predecessor and it feels like it must’ve been a series of outtakes from the original session. I don’t know why I love dark and depressing Beck. Some days you want bright and happy rock, some days you want to turn on the stereo and lie in a fetal position for an hour.
The Keys are up for Best Rock Album and Best Rock Song. I don’t care for this album as much as “El Camino,” their previous work. But I just started listening to it a couple weeks ago and it’s growing on me. I got no problem with them winning Best Rock Song because “Fever” is pretty catchy and I don’t know any of the other nominees. They’re also competing with Beck and U2 (and others I’m unfamiliar with) in the Best Rock Album category. While I like both albums (Becks’ more), I’d give the Rock Album award to U2 for “Songs of Innocence.” I had written off U2 on my “must buy on date of release” list after “No Line on the Horizon,” but they came back in fine form with “Innocence.” It’s the best record they’ve made in the modern era.
The fact that John Hiatt has never won a Grammy is one of the great crimes against music. He’s up for two this year — Best American Roots Song and Best Americana Album. (Best American Roots Song — this is what I’m talking about when I say the Grammys have gotten out of hand. I can only assume the Grammy committee puts a bunch of random words on a dartboard and that’s where they get their categories.) Hiatt probably won’t win again this year because he’s up against Roseanne Cash in both categories. I don’t consider “Terms of My Surrender” one of his great albums anyway, and I certainly don’t think “Terms” is one of his greatest songs. “Old People Are Pushy” — now there’s a song that should’ve been nominated.
Arcade Fire’s “Reflektor” has been nominated for Best Alternative Music Album but I don’t know why. I’m pretty sure this was in last year’s pile of CDs, so how is it eligible for this year’s awards? (This complaint will come up a few more times before I’m done.) It’s an OK album, I wasn’t blown away by it. It might as well win since I don’t know any of its competitors.
Everything will not be awesome if “Let It Go” wins Best Song Written for Visual Media over “The LEGO Movie” song. “Let It Go” is probably a better song than “Everything Is Awesome!” but aren’t we all sick and tired of the “Frozen” song by now? Furthermore, the movie came out in 2013 so again, why is it up for consideration now?
In the Best Music Film category I would give the award to “20 Feet From Stardom” despite the fact that, once again, it shouldn’t be in contention for 2014 when it came out in 2013. You can’t even argue that it came out late in 2013 — it opened at Sundance in January and wide in June.
Finally, in the Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media, I’m kicking out “Frozen” and “American Hustle” for being too old (although kudos to AH for bringing back to prominence the classic and forgotten ELO song “10538 Overture”) which means the winner is “Awesome Mix Vol. 1” from “The Guardians of the Galaxy” movie. Taking a dozen really bad ’70s hits and turning them into a kick-ass science-fiction/fantasy soundtrack is so brilliant it deserves some kind of award. Although the thought that “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)” could win a Grammy before John Hiatt is just all kinds of wrong.