The Grammy Awards are a bit of a punchline in music nerd circles, a place where, say, MGMT battles Hall & Oates for a trophy that will inevitably be won, and then dropped on the ground, by the more telegenic and industry-saving Taylor Swift. The Grammy voters hate rap and r&b–or at least, they hate The-Dream, which amounts to the same thing–and they will not hesitate to put the Jonas Brothers and Stevie Wonder together on the same stage. Two years ago Herbie Hancock beat out both Kanye West and Amy Winehouse for Album of the Year. Nuff said. However, here they come, as they do every year, forcing us to care, or at least forcing the artists we care about to care, which amount to the same thing. Last night, they announced the 2010 Nominations. We have some thoughts.
Remember When We Said There Is No Such Thing As Indie Rock Anymore? Well, There Is No Such Thing As Indie Rock Anymore. Much will be made today of the fact that Arcade Fire garnered an Album of the Year nomination, alongside Eminem, Katy Perry, Lady Antebellum, and Lady Gaga. Be careful about this. Leaving aside the fact that Arcade Fire are definitely going to lose, let’s acknowledge once more that there is effectively no big difference between what Arcade Fire are doing, as far as stadium-level bombast, midlife-crisis-level ennui, and ambition go, and what U2 or Springsteen were doing in the three decades prior to now. (“Maybe it’s time to combine the Best Rock Album and Best Alternative Music Album,” Vulture wrote today. We totally agree.) We grew up as an audience, and now alt-rock is just rock, period. Arcade Fire would probably actually have a shot at winning this award if they’d sold even half of what Eminem, Lady Antebellum, and Lady Gaga did, but they didn’t, so better luck next time.
Rap Music Is Ever More Synonymous With Pop Music. This has been true forever, of course, but the Grammys have been loathe to acknowledge it. But the Record of the Year nominations tell the tale in 2010:
B.o.B feat. Bruno Mars, “Nothin’ on You”
Eminem feat. Rihanna, “Love the Way You Lie”
Cee Lo Green, “F– You”/”Forget You”
Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, “Empire State of Mind”
Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now”
Obviously these are not what Cocaine Blunts would have chosen. But at least records aren’t actively being disqualified for having rapping on them anymore. (Forget we said any of this when “Need You Now” wins.)
But Man Do The Grammys Remain Clueless About Rap. In the Best Rap Solo Performance category, we have a T.I. comeback single (“I’m Back”) that didn’t even make the T.I. comeback album, an execrable Ludacris song (“How Low”) that wasn’t even his biggest or best single this year, Kanye’s “Power,” which just snuck in under the September 2010 cutoff (leaving the rest of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy out in the cold), Drake’s “Over,” and Eminem’s “Not Afraid,” which we might as well just hand the trophy to now and all go home. Meanwhile Rick Ross and Big Boi got shut out of the Best Rap Album category, while B.o.B’s sincere attempt to give up any kind of rapping at all, The Adventures Of Bobby Ray, made it in. Plus “Empire State of Mind” is all over this thing, and even Jay-Z knows that’s the least rap track he’s ever written. Ah well.
And They’re Not So Good On Pop Music Either. So Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream gets nominated for Album of the Year but her singles are shut out of both Record of the Year and Song of the Year? That’s exactly backwards.
But Pity Them, Because Rock Music Really Is Dead. Ladies and Gentlemen, your nominees for Rock Album of the Year:
Jeff Beck: Emotion & Commotion
Muse: The Resistance
Pearl Jam: Backspacer
Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers: Mojo
Neil Young: Le Noise
Yikes. But at least there’s some new talent coming up from behind, right? Like, in the Best New Artist Category? Who’s in that one? Well:
Florence & The Machine
Mumford & Sons
Good luck, Mumford & Sons! The future of music rests on your narrow shoulders.
The 2010 Nominees [Grammy.com]