GRAMMY PREVIEW: The Biggest (Whitest) Night In Music

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The internet is the worst thing to happen to award shows. There was a time when people could view award shows such as the Oscars and Grammys as the definitive declaration of THE BEST in film and music. The amount of films and music the general public was exposed to was remarkably smaller than what we consume today. Thanks in large part to the internet, we are now able to collect and hoard music and film like we’re prepping for a long hibernation. As we’re allowed more access to the plethora of artistic acts being released, the idea of one institution holding the final say on what is the very best in the arts grows more preposterous. Based on this year’s nominees, it is also abundantly clear what market the Grammys, and its voters, truly represent.

Twenty-five of the thirty nominees in the fields I predict below are white. The only black nominees are Beyoncé, Pharrell, Childish Gambino, Common, and ScHoolboy Q. And of those five, three are nominated in the ‘Best Rap Album’ field. That leaves two of the twenty nominees in the general fields as minorities, a poor reflection of the diversity in music. Sure, the top of the charts this year were predominantly occupied by white artists, and the songs from black artists that dominated airwaves either were dismissed due to the Grammy’s ridiculous cut-off date for nominees (“Happy”, “All of Me”) or were never going to be heavily considered anyway (“Talk Dirty”). While the Grammys do deserve some blame for showing an unwillingness to look outside the top ten of the charts, an even more critical eye should be turned towards our collective inability to view songs and films from black artists as being able to reveal truths about all of humanity, not just a particular subset of people. It’s as if we’re telling young men and women of color that it’s okay to be black, as long as you don’t disrupt the white perception of who you are. It’s okay to be black, as long as you sing about being happy, or in love. It’s okay to be black. But not too black.

Predicted winners in RED.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Morning Phase by Beck

Beyoncé by Beyoncé

X by Ed Sheeran

In the Lonely Hour by Sam Smith

Girl by Pharrell

WHY BEYONCÉ WILL WIN

I know it’s hard to believe, but sometimes the Grammys do get it right. While good kid, m.A.A.d. city was the best album on the ballot a year ago, Random Access Memories was a deserving winner in its own right. If the Grammys went by a more sensical timeframe, good kid would have been a runaway choice two years ago for the honor, but the time between the album’s release (October 2012) and the Grammy ceremony (January 2014) did Kendrick Lamar no favors. So why do I feel so safe predicting a win for Beyoncé, when her album was released in December 2013 and we’re now in February of 2015? The reasoning is simple: no other album nominated holds a candle to Beyoncé in terms of quality of music or album sales. Sure, and In the Lonely Hour charted high at their release and have maintained a spot in the upper echelon of the chart since, but neither was a defining moment in music the way Beyoncé was, and still is. Girl features “Happy” and that’s about it. As for Beck, he’s this year’s Sara Bareilles. There’s a sentence I never thought I’d type. For these reasons, I can’t see how Grammy voters do not award Beyoncé for doing the very thing Daft Punk did a year earlier: give life back to music.

RECORD OF THE YEAR

“Fancy” by Iggy Azealia & Charli XCX

“Chandelier” by Sia

“Stay With Me” by Sam Smith

“Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift

“All About that Bass” by Meghan Trainor

WHY “STAY WITH ME” WILL WIN

The correct answer to this question should be, “it won’t.” “Chandelier” is simply a superior song to the other nominees by a wide margin. But “Stay With Me” has all the hallmarks of a Grammy winner. A tepid ballad? Check. Powerful vocals? Check. A messy love story? Check. Quite frankly, “Stay With Me” sounds as if it were designed in a Grammy laboratory.

SONG OF THE YEAR

“All About That Bass” by Kevin Kadish & Meghan Trainor, songwriters (Meghan Trainor)

“Chandelier” by Sia Furler & Jesse Shatkin, songwriters (Sia)

“Shake It Off” by Max Martin, Shellback & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)

“Stay with Me” by James Napier, William Phillips & Sam Smith, songwriters (Sam Smith)

“Take Me to Church” by Andrew Hozier-Byrne, songwriters, (Hozier)

WHY “TAKE ME TO CHURCH” WILL WIN

The absence of “Fancy” shows that Grammy voters’ ears aren’t completely filled with wax. So, they have that going for them. In Iggy’s place is Hozier, whose “Take Me To Church” was the fall’s breakout hit that, like “We Are Young” before it, people weren’t ashamed to love. While I prefer “Chandelier”‘s intoxicating highs, and even “Shake It Off”‘s refreshing self-awareness, “Take Me To Church” has all the grandiosity the Grammys love, and none of the subtlety they hate.

BEST NEW ARTIST

Iggy Azalea

Bastille

Brandy Clark

Haim

Sam Smith

WHY SAM SMITH WILL WIN

Being nominated for album, song, and record of the year has to be a good omen. It doesn’t seem like this category is much of a competition. Although, if Grammy voters want to get on Taylor Swift’s good side, they’d be better off giving the award to Haim. (Which, honestly, they should).

BEST ALTERNATIVE ALBUM

This Is All Yours by Alt-J

Reflektor by Arcade Fire

Melophobia by Cage The Elephant

St. Vincent by St. Vincent

Lazaretto by Jack White

WHY ST. VINCENT WILL WIN

St. Vincent had her most prolific year in 2014. Not only did her self-titled third album generate an enormous amount of love from audiences, but she hit the late-night TV stage harder than she ever has before. With stints on The Daily Show and Saturday Night Live, Annie Clark was given her biggest platform yet. This Is All Yours and Reflektorwere seen as either gigantic or small steps back from alt-J and Arcade Fire, while Melophobia didn’t make much noise at all. This feels like a two-horse race between St. Vincent and Jack White. When push comes to shove, the better album wins out.

BEST RAP ALBUM

The New Classic by Iggy Azalea

Because The Internet by Childish Gambino

Nobody’s Smiling by Common

The Marshall Mathers LP2 by Eminem

Oxymoron by ScHoolboy Q

WHY THE NEW CLASSIC WILL WIN

I hate this. I would personally give this award to ScHoolboy Q if I were a voting member. Not only was his the best of the five albums nominated, it would somewhat make-up for the huge misfire of a year ago when The Heist stole this award from good kid and Yeezus. But if there is one thing this year’s nominees told us, it’s that the Grammys aren’t as in-tune with what people are listening to as they might think. After all, that’s the only reasonable explanation for albums such as My Krazy Life and Hell Can Wait and Lese Majesty inexplicably getting the cold shoulder. Iggy Azalea and Eminem are the most recognizable names from this group (although Common’s Golden Globe win should bridge that gap), so they’ll most likely be the only serious contenders for this award. MMLP2 sucked, The New Classic featured such dirge as “Black Widow.” When either goes to accept this award Sunday night, it will be a reminder that while the Grammys might not be the biggest night in music, it is certainly the whitest.

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