The 2010 Grammy Award nominations were announced last night. Eminem scored 10 nods, with singer-songwriter Bruno Mars coming in next with seven. Jay-Z, Lady Antebellum, and Lady Gaga all received six bids each.
The Grammys are notorious for honoring some eyebrow-raising artists and tracks ("Don't Worry, Be Happy" won Record of the Year in 1989; Milli Vanilli was Best New Artist in 1990)—and ignoring some very worth music (The Who and Bob Marley have no awards). After last night's announcement, what's good, bad, and puzzling about this year's nominees?
No one expected Cee-Lo Green's profanely bouncy, un-obnoxiously addictive pop kiss-off anthem "Fuck You" to score any major nods. Those stuffy Grammy voters would surely be too square, and the dirge of bigger-named artists competing in the major categories would ruin his chances. Yet "Fuck You" was recognized in two of the Grammys' most prestigious categories: Record of the Year (which goes to the artist) and Song of the Year (which goes to the songwriters).
"The Big Four" categories—referring to Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best New Artist—counted several of the industry's most critically respected, yet Grammy ignored, as nominees. Arcade Fire's universally praised The Suburbs made it into Album of the Year, the band's first major category nod after years of relegation to the Alternative Music sub-categories. British chanteuse Florence + the Machine, whose joyous "Dog Days Are Over" recently scored the Glee big break, scored a Best New Artist nod. Ray LaMontagne came out of left field to win his first nomination, in Song of the Year for his track "Beg Steal or Borrow," beating out heavy favorites Lady Gaga, Train, Taylor Swift, and Jay-Z for the slot.
It's also a pleasure to see Janelle Monae's clever "Tightrope" recognized in Best Urban/Alternative Performance, Sade receive two nods for its first effort in a decade, and a jazz bassist of all people—Esperanza Spalding—make it into a Best New Artist category typically reserved for the best-selling/most famous New Artists.
Anyone trying to make the argument of how absurd the Grammys are need only look at the Album of the Year category. The Suburbs and Eminem's Recovery are worthwhile nods, but joining them on the list are country artist Lady Antebellum, Lady Gaga, and Katy Perry. Sure, Perry deserves some acknowledgment for producing a steady stream of chart-topping singles, Pop-with-a-capital-"P" songs that clearly resonate with mainstream music consumers. But her album Teenage Dream supplements those singles with bland filler tracks; reviews of the album contain endless plays on the title using the word "Nightmare" instead of "Dream."
As for the Ladies Gaga and Antebellum: Gaga is undeniably the biggest artist out there right now. Her nominated album The Fame Monster, however, is an EP—a collection of just eight songs. It's an interim album, released between last year's The Fame and the upcoming Born This Way—Gaga herself doesn't even consider it her sophomore album. How then, does it deserve to be nominated ahead of Sade's Soldier of Love, James Taylor and Carole King's Live at the Troubadour, or, if they were going to nominate a popular artist, Usher's Raymond vs. Raymond?
Lady Antebellum's crossover hit "Need You Know" is country saccharine at its best, and its Record of the Year nomination is deserved. But for the ritual "country slot" in Album of the Year, Miranda Lambert's Revolution was the better total package.
Last year, Beyonce won Best Pop Female Vocal Performance for her song "Halo." This year, Beyonce is once again nominated for Best Pop Female Vocal Performance for her song "Halo." Sure it's for the Live version of the song that was re-released in this year's eligibility period, but there's plenty of other artists who could have filled out the category (Pink, Colbie Caillat, or Natasha Bedingfield, to name a few).
The Good, Bad, and Puzzling:
The cast of Glee was nominated for Best Group Pop Performance for their version of "Don't Stop Believing." Yes, a cover of an '80s pop song sung on a Fox TV show was recognized in one of the most competitive Grammy categories. On the one hand, the Glee version of the track was a monster hit on the music charts, launched a pop culture sensation, and its intro a capella "da da da"s brought a smile to any listener's face.
Yet at the same time, original tracks by MGMT, The Fray, and OneRepublic were all ignored in favor of the cover song. All this is not to mention that Journey's original "Don't Stop Believing" from 1981 was not even nominated for a Grammy. Say what you want about Glee's version, but it surely is not more award worthy than Steve Perry and company's.
See the full list of nominees here.