Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Grammys: Winners and Final Thoughts

By now, most of you probably know how Sunday night's ceremony went, and whether you're one of the Beliebers that are venomously calling for Esperanza Spalding's violent death or were excited to see an unusually diverse group of winners this year, I've got a list of winners here, along with my personal thoughts.

RECORD OF THE YEAR
"Need You Now," Lady Antebellum

  • Believe it or not, this is only the second/third country song to when this prize, depending on how you classify Alison Krauss' and Robert Plant's "Please Read the Letter" (I, for one, consider it country). It was easily the safest, most traditional choice, which probably helped it win in the end. Hip-hop has yet to succeed here; better luck next year. Lady Antebellum ended up being the night's biggest winner, taking home five Grammys overall.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
The Suburbs, Arcade Fire
  • How awesome was it to see the genuinely surprised Win Butler accept this award, which most people (myself included) didn't think the Arcade Fire stood a chance at winning. As such, its a huge victory for indie rock, which prevailed over four much higher-profile bands. I'm sure a lot of people are now discovering the band for the first time, which, despite the forthcoming dismissal from the hipsters, I couldn't be more excited about: this is a terrific band that deserves to be heard (if you are just discovering them, listen to the band's debut, Funeral, first, then Neon Bible, then check out The Suburbs). And, on a local note, the band's label, Merge Records, in based in Durham, North Carolina, having been founded by the Chapel Hill band Superchunk. So yay NC!
SONG OF THE YEAR
"Need You Now," Lady Antebellum
  • Again, it was a safer choice, and was written by some of Nashville's more prominent songwriters. It was also co-written by the members of the band, which is really unusual in country music nowadays. So that makes it respectable to me, at least.
BEST NEW ARTIST
Esperanza Spalding
  • The startlingly hateful antics that Justin Bieber fans have been up to since their idol lost this prize to the jazz singer, including a barrage of tweets, editing her Wikipedia page, even sending death threats, are genuinely disturbing to me (for the record, Bieber himself has stated that he is at peace with his lost, and does not condone his fans' extreme reactions). For one, Bieber was unlikely to win in the first place, since the Grammys don't usually honor teenyboppers in this category (see: Jonas Brothers, 2008; Britney Spears, 1999). But for those of you who don't know who Spalding is, she's a jazz bassist (the album she was nominated for, Chamber Music Society, is her third) who is only 24 years old and helps design the music curriculum at the Berklee School of Music while teaching music in Washington. So she's actually very accomplished and, if you check out her music, a very talented musician. I, for one, am happy to see the Grammys recognize an artist based on merit than popularity, and though my vote went to Florence + the Machine, I'm glad she won. Give her a chance, guys: she's good.
BEST MALE POP PERFORMANCE
"Just the Way You Are," Bruno Mars
  • It ended up being his only win of the night, but he did beat out the late Michael Jackson, who seemed to be the guaranteed sympathy win. But he did rock his performance, didn't he? His soulful doo-wop rendition of "Grenade," coupled with B.o.B.'s monocle-wearing acoustic "Nothin' On You" and Janelle Monae's energetic "Cold War" was easily one of the night's best performances.
BEST FEMALE POP PERFORMACE
"Bad Romance," Lady Gaga
  • I'm still shocked that this song wasn't even nominated for Record or Song of the Year, but she fully deserved this win. I'm curious to know what everyone thinks of "Born This Way," both the song and her Grammy performance. The latter was vintage Gaga in design, and she performed with an energy that proved that she really likes this song. The song itself, though...I'm still trying to decide if its brilliantly or tragically straightforward. She'd definitely moving in a new direction in her music, which I am always in favor of, but does this new direction suit her? I suppose we'll really know the answer to that question in May, won't we?
BEST POP PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP
"Hey, Soul Sister (Live)," Train
  • You're either with this song or against it. I won't say anything further.
BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM
The Fame Monster, Lady Gaga
  • I don't think this was ever really a question, but her win was a deserving one. Plus, we now that "Born This Way" was inspired by Whitney Houston, so there's....that....I guess.....
BEST DANCE RECORDING
"Only Girl in the World," Rihanna
  • Rihanna's marginal song prevailed over Lady Gaga ("Dance in the Dark," her best song to date), Goldfrapp ("Rocket") and Robyn ("Dancing on My Own")? This. Is. Unacceptable.
BEST SOLO ROCK PERFORMANCE
"Helter Skelter," Paul McCartney
  • This is from his live CD Good Evening New York City. I would love to go to one of his concerts one day.
BEST ROCK PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP
"Tighten Up," The Black Keys
  • If you haven't heard this song before, check it out below. These guys are more or less the new White Stripes, now that the latter band has broken up for good. 

BEST ROCK SONG
"Angry World," Neil Young
  • This songwriters' award tends to go to legends, and this year proved no exception as Neil Young beat out songs from Mumford & Sons, Kings of Leon, Muse, and The Black Keys. But Young did write a great song, which was part of his feedback-heavy experimental album Le Noise, and if you ask me, to see someone with a career as long and illustrious as Young's continuing to push himself creatively is always great to see. And he's reuniting Buffalo Springfield this year!
BEST ROCK ALBUM
The Resistance, Muse
  • Muse is the most modern band nominated in this category this year, and their album is a terrific slice of paranoid glam rock. Their performance at the ceremony wasn't memorable, but they did well, and they deserved this win.
BEST ALTERNATIVE ALBUM
Brothers, The Black Keys
  • The Black Keys actually beat the Arcade Fire here; maybe the voters were saving their Arcade Fire love for the big one and decided to honor another deserving act here?
BEST FEMALE R&B PERFORMANCE
"Bittersweet," Fantasia
  • I personally preferred Kelly Price's "Tired," but I'm glad the American Idol winner/North Carolina native is still finding success.
BEST MALE R&B PERFORMANCE
"There Goes My Baby," Usher
  • Usher had a really good year last year, and seems to be back at the forefront of pop music after several years off. His performance in the show was decent, but all the touching between him and Justin Bieber was really icky; get a room, guys. Plus, I kind of liked all the reaction shots to the two of them during the show, which mostly seemed to be Usher explaining jokes/performers to Bieber (my particular favorite: Bieber's confused look during Bob Dylan's performance, as if he was trying to figure out who this guy was and why everyone was really into it).
BEST R&B PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP
"Soldier of Love," Sade
  • Before Sunday, I had no idea their name was pronounced "Sha-day." You learn something new every day. 
BEST URBAN/ALTERNATIVE PERFORMANCE
"Fuck You," Cee-Lo Green
  • Well, it had to win somewhere, right? Its a very deserving win, though. Now about that performance: I think that the puppets were tragically underused, and that Cee-Lo's costume (a peacock in a suit of armor?) was much too distracting. But despite being off-key, Gwyneth Paltrow was a fun addition, and the performance was energetic enough to keep it going.
BEST R&B SONG
"Shine," John Legend & The Roots
  • This is a really good song, and I'm surprised it missed out on an Oscar nomination this year (the song was originally written for and plays over the end credits of Waiting for "Superman"). I also really like Legend and The Roots, so I'm happy to see them win.
BEST R&B ALBUM
Wake Up!, John Legend & The Roots
  • This collection of protest songs and political anthems was a joy to listen to, coming from one of R&B's smoothest voices and hip-hop's most political and enjoyable live acts. Its a great album that earned its win.
BEST CONTEMPORARY R&B ALBUM
Raymond V. Raymond, Usher
  • The bad news: the Grammy committee tragically overlooked Janelle Monae's beyond-brilliant The Archandroid, which every one of you should go out and hear right now. The good news: Chris Brown, who for some reason is making a comeback (boo!), didn't win.
BEST SOLO RAP PERFORMANCE
"Not Afraid," Eminem
  • Despite coming into the night with the highest nomination tally (10 overall), Eminem only took home two prizes, including this one where he topped Kanye West's "Power." I'm glad Eminem won, though his song wasn't as deserving as West's, but the latter will be a much bigger player at next year's ceremony, where, if there's any justice in the world, his masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy will win Album of the Year.
BEST RAP PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP
"On to the Next One," Jay-Z & Swizz Beatz
  • Have you ever seen the video for this song? I always feel like I'm being overloaded with subliminal messages, and I flashback to the video that Karl was being forced to watch in Room 23 during the third season of Lost. (Don't look at me like that.)




BEST RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION
"Empire State of Mind," Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
  • This really was a great song. I can't listen to it without wanting to go back to New York City again.
BEST RAP SONG
"Empire State of Mind," Jay-Z & Alicia Keys
  • Jay-Z and Eminem had two songs apiece in this category, so odds were one of them would end up victorious. That just left poor B.o.B. to sit in the corner and watch them duke it out.
BEST RAP ALBUM
Recovery, Eminem
  • I've said it before and I'll say it again: Eminem's music is so much better now that he's off drugs. Keep the good work up, Eminem.
BEST MALE COUNTRY PERFORMANCE
"'Til Summer Comes Around," Keith Urban
  • The only thing better than Urban's wife Nicole Kidman being present at the ceremony? Discovering that she knows the words to Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream." 
BEST FEMALE COUNTRY PERFORMANCE
"The House That Built Me," Miranda Lambert
  • I did not realize that this was Lambert's first Grammy win. She's a terrific performer; I enjoyed her low-key set at the ceremony.
BEST COUNTRY PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP/BEST COUNTRY SONG
"Need You Now," Lady Antebellum
  • This song won both categories, so to save time and space I'm combining the two here. I don't really have much else to say about this musical booty call.
BEST COUNTRY ALBUM
Need You Now, Lady Antebellum
  • Like I've said before, this album represents everything that's wrong with modern mainstream country. So way to go, Grammys, for reinforcing the notion that this is a positive direction for the genre. I wasn't really impressed by their performance; it had the elements of a great performance, but the whole thing seemed off, as if they were distracted by something. Maybe next time they'll do better.
BEST SHORT-FORM MUSIC VIDEO
"Bad Romance," Lady Gaga
  • Because, honestly, did any of the other four videos really stand a chance against this one, which reminded us that music videos can (and should) be artistically challenging and engaging. Lady Gaga has reinvented music videos, mainly by making them matter again. And that's rewarding enough as it is.
So, there you have it. What did you think?

2 comments:

Simon said...

Would the Bieber fans have been throwing such a fit if Katy Perry had won?

I love how you described Muse. I just think of them as painfully epic, or at least trying to be.

Jason H. said...

Exactly! Every year people complain about how the Grammys only honor popular acts, and then when they don't, everyone loses their collective shit over it. There's just no winning with this award.