GRAMMY PREVIEW: The Biggest Night in Music, or How Grammy Voters Continue to Piss Off Kanye West

The Image Gate/Getty Images
Kanye West | The Image Gate/Getty Images

The Grammy Awards return this Sunday (26 January) on CBS, and the voters behind the self-proclaimed biggest night in music aim to show us just how in-tune they are with today’s most successful musicians. And while the Grammys do sometimes award the best in music (The SuburbsRaising Sand (yeah, I said it)) they oftentimes reserve the top prizes for the least inspired nominees. And, in retrospect, the wins for Arcade Fire and Robert Plant shouldn’t be all that surprising, considering they both fall under the “white people playing guitar” umbrella.

That brings us to this Sunday’s ceremony, in which Taylor Swift, previously awarded the night’s top honor for her sophomore LP Fearless, Macklemore + Ryan Lewis, Daft Punk, Kendrick Lamar, and Sara Bareilles all vie for Album of the Year honors. The nominees range from damn right that’s nominated (good kid, m.A.A.d. cityRandom Access Memories) to of course that’s nominated (The HeistRed) to how is that nominated? (The Blessed Unrest). No one knows exactly what it will mean if any of the five nominees wins (other than, you know, someone won), but it will definitely mean something. Is Taylor Swift about to become the most decorated songwriter since the end of the Bush Jr. era or will Macklemore show that it’s possible for a hip-hop act to win Album of the Year, if you only push the line between rap and pop to border-redefining lengths? To help sort out this year’s biggest awards, I am here with my predictions for this Sunday’s ceremony.

PREDICTIONS (projected winners in red)

Album of the year

Sara Bareilles, The Blessed Unrest

Daft Punk, Random Access Memories

Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d. city

Macklemore + Ryan Lewis, The Heist

Taylor Swift, Red

Why DAFT PUNK will win For all the discussion regarding Grammy voters’ unwillingness to recognize outstanding achievements in hip-hop, not much has been made of the non-existence of electronica in the major fields since, well, ever. Not only was “Get Lucky” one of the year’s runaway global hits, but Random Access Memories is actually really good. The main theme of the album, expressed succinctly on the opening “Give Life Back to Music,” could be just what Grammy voters have been wanting to hear out of an electronica artist. And while good kid, m.A.A.d. city is a decidedly better album than RAM, I fear Lamar’s impeccable work sits too far out of the voters’ memory (good kid was released in October 2012, a solid 15 months before the award ceremony) to make a strong push. Too bad you can’t re-release albums like they do movies, right?

While the two biggest names here, Macklemore and Taylor Swift (sorry, Ryan Lewis!), are drawing the most predicted victories, I don’t think Grammy voters are going to award T-Swift a second AOTY this early into her career. And as for Macklemore + Ryan Lewis, while The Heist spawned some of 2013’s biggest singles, the album is overall quite subpar. If this is truly an award for Album of the Year, as opposed to Best Singles from an Album, then I can’t see The Heist pulling off its very own Italian job.

Record of the year

“Get Lucky,” by Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams & Nile Rogers

“Radioactive,” by Imagine Dragons

“Royals,” by Lorde

“Locked Out of Heaven,” by Bruno Mars

“Blurred Lines,” by Robin Thicke, Pharrell Williams, & T.I.

Why BRUNO MARS will win It’s hard to believe Bruno Mars has only released two albums considering he seems to be responsible for half of the hits in the U.S. since 2010. What might be even harder to believe is that he’s already amassed 12 nominations with Doo-Wops & Hooligans and Unorthodox Jukebox. So, clearly, Grammy voters are rather infatuated with Mars’ inoffensive sound (if you aren’t offended by terrible music, that is). But why “Locked Out of Heaven” over (the much bigger) “Get Lucky,” “Royals,” or “Blurred Lines”? Well, with the exception of the past two years, the Grammys rarely award the year’s actual biggest hits with this honor. For example, in 2007, was it Mary J. Blige who won with “Be Without You,” or was it Gnarls Barkley who took home the honor with “Crazy”? Trick question! It was the Dixie Chicks, with “Not Ready to Make Nice,” that took home that honor. And in 09-10, did “Viva la Vida” (Coldplay), “Paper Planes” (M.I.A.), “I Gotta Feeling” (Black Eyed Peas) or “Poker Face” (Lady Gaga) win? Of course not! Robert Plant & Alison Krauss and Kings of Leon took home the honor those years, respectively.

This all goes to show that sometimes being the most inescapable song of a given year isn’t indicative of Grammy success. Of the three-headed monster of Daft Punk, Lorde, and Robin Thicke, I’d say Lorde would have the best chance of winning. But something’s telling me to go with Bruno Mars and “Locked Out of Heaven,” with its deep desire to be a Police song (it tries so very hard) winning over enough Grammy voters.

Song of the year

“Just Give Me a Reason,” by P!nk and Nate Ruess

“Locked Out of Heaven,” by Bruno Mars

“Roar,” by Katy Perry

“Royals,” by Lorde

“Same Love,” by Macklemore + Ryan Lewis (feat. Mary Lambert)

Why LORDE will win When “Same Love” is announced winner of this award, I will hardly be surprised. But my money is on Lorde, whose hit single “Royals” is about as well-written a pop song as one could reasonably expect. “Same Love” has the advantage of being a hip-hop song brave enough to tackle the issue of homosexuality with a tender sincerity, while “Royals” has no backstory to compete. I’m already questioning my decisions. My only question: if “Roar” wins, does Sara Bareilles get a statuette?

Best new artist

James Blake

Kendrick Lamar

Macklemore + Ryan Lewis

Kacey Musgraves

Ed Sheeran

Why MACKLEMORE + RYAN LEWIS will win They have to win one of these, right? After (possibly) getting shut out of two of the other major categories, I think this is the one the hip-hop duo walks away with. James Blake and Kendrick Lamar might be more deserving (or less, considering both are hardly ‘new’), and Kacey Musgraves and Ed Sheeran seem like the obvious front-runners considering no one knows who they are, but with the adoration Macklemore + Ryan Lewis received with this year’s nominations, I find it difficult to imagine a world where they don’t take home the BNA award.

Best alternative music album

Neko Case, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You

The National, Trouble Will Find Me

Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks

Tame Impala, Lonerism

Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City

Why VAMPIRE WEEKEND will win This is a two-horse race, right? Tame Impala and Vampire Weekend are responsible for two of the past two years best alternative music albums, as labeled by Grammy voters. While I’d be happy with either (or Neko Case, for that matter), Modern Vampires of the City is just a hair above Lonerism from top-to-bottom to take the crown. It’s crystalline production, clear lyrical themes, and playful exuberance should be enough to open Grammy voters’ eyes.

Best rap album

Drake, Nothing Was the Same

Jay Z, Magna Carta … Holy Grail

Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d. city

Macklemore + Ryan Lewis, The Heist

Kanye West, Yeezus

Why MACKLEMORE + RYAN LEWIS will win Because it’s not a Grammy ceremony if Kanye West leaves happy, right?

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