NOTE: The Grammys are still 10 days away, but I’m going on vacation next week, so you’re now privy to what must be the earliest Grammys preview on the internet.
When we broke down this year’s Grammy nominations last month, we were aghast at how white and nerdy the field remains after all these years. You can dispense with the “Who cares about the Grammys” buffoonery because for all their distasteful idiocy, they still influence the music business tremendously. The absence of a Grammy is hardly a career-killer, but throw “Grammy-winning” or even “Grammy-nominated” in front of your name, and watch doors open up for you. The name holds sway with people in boardrooms plotting major budgetary decisions and with people on the couch looking to pour their disposable income into Amazon. As with all institutions based on prestige, the Grammys can be a gateway to something bigger. So it’s not silly to genuinely wish that NARAS would shine some light on more deserving musicians.
Instead, we mostly get the same watered-down white-people-doing-black-music that has ruled the charts in recent years. “Fancy,” “All About That Bass,” and “Stay With Me” each have some positive aspects — Charli XCX’s spiked-soda melodies, Meghan Trainor’s clever turn of phrase, Sam Smith’s exultant vocal powers — but they’re still musical McDonald’s, lowest-common-denominator stuff that hits the pleasure centers with minimal nourishment and maximal efficiency. That’s what the Grammys have always celebrated, so it’s not surprising to see these kinds of artists dominating the nominations. But it’s still disappointing. Anyway, let’s predict the biggest and most Stereogum-friendly categories together.
Album Of The Year
Nominees: Beck – Morning Phase, Beyoncé – Beyoncé, Ed Sheeran – x, Sam Smith – In The Lonely Hour, Pharrell Williams – G I R L
Should win: Beyoncé’s self-titled tour de force would have easily swept “best of 2014″ lists had she released it a couple weeks later. A commercially dominant, critically acclaimed work by one of the most famous and talented people in the world should be a shoo-in for Album Of The Year.
Will win: Unfortunately, Bey is not a shoo-in. This appears to be Sam Smith’s year, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his bland In The Lonely Hour take this home.
Record Of The Year
Nominees: Iggy Azalea & Charli XCX – “Fancy,” Sia – “Chandelier,” Sam Smith – “Stay With Me (Darkchild Version),” Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off,” Meghan Trainor – “All About That Bass”
Should win: “Chandelier” and its universe-sized chorus are a cut above the rest of these contenders.
Will win: Again, given the wealth of nominations for Smith, he has to be the favorite here, but given Taylor Swift’s Grammy bona fides, don’t rule her out.
Song Of The Year
Nominees: “All About That Bass,” “Chandelier,” “Shake It Off,” “Stay With Me (Darkchild Version),” “Take Me To Church”
Should win: This award, which honors songwriters rather than performers, should also go to “Chandelier.”
Will win: The fact that they slipped Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” in here along with the four Record Of The Year nominees makes me think they like that song enough to honor it. I’m honestly surprised Hozier isn’t up for more Grammys; he is right in their wheelhouse.
Best New Artist
Nominees: Iggy Azalea, Bastille, Brandy Clark, Haim, Sam Smith
Should win: Haim! Did you forget which website you’re reading right now?
Will win: Sam Smith, obviously.
Best Alternative Music Album
Nominees: Alt-J – This Is All Yours, Arcade Fire – Reflektor, Cage The Elephant – Melophobia, St. Vincent – St. Vincent, Jack White – Lazaretto
Should win: Arcade Fire or St. Vincent — neither album is a masterpiece IMO, but both are satisfying, memorable, creative works by iconic artists.
Will win: Grammy voters love voting for artists they’ve previously honored, so prior Album Of The Year winners Arcade Fire should win this unless Jack White or Cage The Elephant’s roots appeal proves too enticing for NARAS to pass up.
Best Rock Performance
Nominees: Ryan Adams – “Gimme Something Good,” Arctic Monkeys – “Do I Wanna Know?,” Beck – “Blue Moon,” the Black Keys – “Fever,” Jack White – “Lazaretto”
Should win: “Do I Wanna Know?” is such a monster. It absolutely deserves this award.
Will win: The Black Keys. [Makes jerkoff motion.]
Best Rock Song
Nominees: “Ain’t It Fun,” “Blue Moon,” “Fever,” “Gimme Something Good,” “Lazaretto”
Should win: The wonderful “Ain’t It Fun,” even though it’s more of a pop song.
Will win: The Black Keys. [Makes jerkoff motion.]
Best Rock Album
Nominees: Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams, Beck – Morning Phase, the Black Keys – Turn Blue, Tom Petty & The Heartbeakers – Hypnotic Eye, U2 – Songs Of Innocence
Should win: Beck and Ryan Adams both have a strong claim to this, but…
Will win: Beck is nominated for Album Of The Year, so it would be crazy if he didn’t take this home.
Best Rap Performance
Nominees: Childish Gambino – “3005,” Drake – “0 To 100/The Catch Up,” Eminem – “Rap God,” Kendrick Lamar – “i,” Lecrae – “All I Need Is You”
Should win: Drake! I had more fun quoting every lyric and bobbing to “0 To 100″ last year than any other song.
Will win: Either Kendrick Lamar, because “i” seems to have been designed in a laboratory for the specific purpose of correcting last year’s Grammy snub, or Eminem, because he’s white.
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
Nominees: Common & Jhene Aiko – “Black Majik,” Eminem & Rihanna – “The Monster,” iLoveMakonnen & Drake – “Tuesday,” Schoolboy Q & BJ The Chicago Kid – “Studio,” Kanye West & Charlie Wilson – “Bound 2″
Should win: Either “Bound 2″ or “Tuesday”; both are indisputable modern classics. Kanye is the more canonical choice here, but how crazy would it be if Makonnen won a Grammy?
Will win: Eminem and Rihanna seem like a sure bet, but don’t count Common out.
Best Rap Song
Nominees: “Anaconda,” “Bound 2,” “i,” “We Dem Boyz,” “0 To 100/The Catch Up”
Should win: Even though “0 To 100″ was my favorite song of 2014, Nicki Minaj deserves this award for the way she turned “Baby Got Back” on its head.
Will win: This one’s gotta be “i,” right?
Best Rap Album
Nominees: Iggy Azalea – The New Classic, Childish Gambino – Because The Internet, Common – Nobody’s Smiling, Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron, Wiz Khalifa – Blacc Hollywood
Should win: This is a rough category because despite the abundance of nominees, none of these albums is exceptional. Given the selection, I’d have to go with Schoolboy Q, but I’m not enthusiastic about it.
Will win: Do you even have to ask? Iggy Azalea runs away with this. OK, Eminem has a chance too because white people have really taken this hip-hop thing to a new level.
Best R&B Performance
Nominees: Beyonce & Jay Z – “Drunk In Love,” Chris Brown & Usher & Rick Ross – “New Flame,” Jennifer Hudson & R. Kelly – “It’s Your World,” Ledisi – “Like This,” Usher – “Good Kisser”
Should win: “Drunk In Love.”
Will win: “Drunk In Love.”
Best R&B Song
Nominees: “Drunk In Love,” “Good Kisser,” “New Flame,” “Options (Wolfjames Version),” “The Worst”
Should win: “Drunk In Love.”
Will win: “Drunk In Love,” but don’t count out Jhene Aiko’s “The Worst”; the girl nabbed several nominations.
Best Urban Contemporary Album
Nominees: Jhene Aiko – Sail Out, Beyoncé – Beyoncé, Chris Brown – X, Mali Music – Mali Is…, Pharrell Williams – G I R L
Should win: I already made the case for Beyoncé as Album Of The Year, so obviously it should win this too.
Will win: Beyoncé and Pharrell are both nominated for Album Of The Year, so either could feasibly walk away with this.
Best Country Solo Performance
Nominees: Eric Church – “Give Me Back My Hometown,” Hunter Hayes – “Invisible,” Miranda Lambert – “Automatic,” Carrie Underwood – “Something In The Water,” Keith Urban – “Cop Car”
Should win: The sweeping, tender, triumphantly downtrodden “Give Me Back My Hometown” was the best country song of 2014; hopefully the Grammy voters will recognize this.
Will win: It’s anybody’s ballgame, but if I had to guess, I’d guess Miranda Lambert.
Best Country Album
Nominees: Dierks Bentley – Riser, Eric Church – The Outsiders, Brandy Clark – 12 Stories, Miranda Lambert – Platinum, Lee Ann Womack – The Way I’m Livin’
Should win: You could make a strong case for Eric Church or Miranda Lambert here. Personally I favor Church, but I’m not gonna be mad if Lambert wins this.
Will win: Brandy Clark’s Best New Artist nomination makes her a viable candidate here, and honestly that wouldn’t be such a bad choice either.
Best Americana Album
Nominees: Roseanne Cash – The River & The Thread, John Hiatt – The Terms Of My Surrender, Keb’ Mo’ – Bluesamericana, Nickel Creek – A Dotted Line,
Should win: Sturgill Simpson all the way down.
Will win: Keb’ Mo’. Could the Grammys possibly resist an album called Bluesamericana?
Best Metal Performance
Nominees: Anthrax – “Neon Knights,” Mastodon – “High Road,” Motörhead – “Heartbreaker,” Slipknot – “The Negative One,” Tenacious D – “The Last In Line”
Should win: Mastodon, I guess?
Will win: Who the fuck even knows. This category is a disgrace.
Best Dance Recording
Nominees: Basement Jaxx & ETML – “Never Say Never,” Clean Bandit & Jess Glynne – “Rather Be,” Disclosure & Mary J. Blige – “F For You,” Duke Dumont & Jax Jones – “I Got U,” Zhu – “Faded”
Should win: As great as that Disclosure/Mary J track was, “Rather Be” had me car-dancing like a maniac last year, and it’s so melodically rich.
Will win: “Rather Be” is my best guess.
Best Dance/Electronic Album
Nominees: Aphex Twin – Syro, Deadmau5 – While (1<2), Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband, Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again, Mat Zo – Damage Control
Should win: A-phex! A-phex! Röyksopp & Robyn would also be acceptable. Also, it’s kind of weird to see Little Dragon in this category, right?
Will win: Deadmau5, gah.
Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical
Nominees: Paul Epworth, John Hill, Jay Joyce, Greg Kurstin, Max Martin
Should win: DJ Mustard, but he’s not nominated.
Will win: Paul Epworth is my best guess, despite a somewhat down year for him. Don’t rule out Greg Kurstin or Max Martin either.
Best Music Video
Nominees: Arcade Fire – “We Exist,” DJ Snake & Lil Jon – “Turn Down For What,” Sia – “Chandelier,” Pharrell Williams – “Happy,” Woodkid & Max Richter – “The Golden Age”
Should win: Other than Woodkid, these are all instantly iconic videos that have a legitimate claim to the prize. “Turn Down For What” is my personal choice, though.
Will win: “Chandelier.”
Best Spoken Word Album
Nominees: James Franco – Actors Anonymous, Jimmy Carter – A Call To Action, John Waters – Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America, Joan Rivers – Diary Of A Mad Diva, Elizabeth Warren – A Fighting Chance
Should win: I don’t have a horse in this race, and I have no idea who will win, but wow, what a field!
Fall Out Boy are the biggest chart stars of the week. Not only did they score their third #1 album, they also landed a single in the top 10 for the first time in eight years. But first, the album: American Beauty/American Psycho tops the Billboard 200 with a strong 218,000 equivalent units (192,000 in sales), good enough to beat a dense field of contenders. As Billboard notes, it’s significantly better than the 154,000 first-week sales for 2013’s Save Rock And Roll. It’s also the second largest debut sales week for a rock band in the past two years, bested only by Coldplay’s 383,000 for Ghost Stories.
The next three titles are familiar to the upper reaches of the chart — Taylor Swift’s 1989 at #2 with 119,000 units, Meghan Trainor’s Title at #3 with 86,000, and Ed Sheeran’s x at #4 with 76,000 — then some more debuts come into the picture. Joey Bada$$ enters at #5 with 58,000 units for B4.Da.$$. Nicki Minaj’s The Pinkprint stays at #6 with 54,000. The Decemberists debut at #7 with What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World, which moved 51,000 units almost entirely based on sales; that would seem more impressive if The King Is Dead hadn’t debuted at #1 four years ago. The final top-10 debut belongs to Marilyn Manson, whose The Pale Emperor starts at #8 on the strength of 51,000 units. Rounding out the top 10 are Sam Smith’s #9 In The Lonely Hour (50,000) and Mark Ronson’s #10 Uptown Special (49,000). Note: Sleater-Kinney’s much-heralded comeback LP No Cities To Love debuts at #13, their highest chart position ever.
As for the Hot 100, Ronson and Bruno Mars maintain the top spot for a fourth straight week with “Uptown Funk!” and Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” stays at #2. Hozier’s “Take Me To Church” is back up to #3, while Swift holds the #4 and #5 spots with “Blank Space” and “Shake It Off,” respectively. Maroon 5’s “Sugar” climbs to #6, a new peak, followed by Trainor’s “Lips Are Movin,” Smith’s “I’m Not The Only One,” and Nick Jonas’ “Jealous.” The biggest news in the top 10, though, is Fall Out Boy’s “Centuries” rising two spots to #10. The last time they charted a song in the top 10, with “This Ain’t A Scene, It’s An Arms Race,” Barack Obama had yet to announce his presidential campaign.
Fifth Harmony – “Like Mariah” (Feat. Tyga)
I love Fifth Harmony, but when it comes to repurposing mid-’90s megahits for modern pop-R&B, this pales in comparison to Ariana Grande and Childish Gambino’s “Break Your Heart Right Back.” Speaking of which, Grande should really release “Break Your Heart Right Back” as a single. As for “Like Mariah,” it just makes me wish I was listening to “Always Be My Baby.”
Apl de ap – “Be” (Feat. Honey Cocaine & Jessica Reynoso)
If the Black Eyed Peas were the new millennial Fugees — and God help us, they might have been — then I guess Apl de ap is the Pras to will.i.am’s Wyclef and Fergie’s Lauryn Hill, and poor Taboo has no corollary. (I hate and love and hate this analogy.) He just doesn’t have the same public imprint as his group-mates. Anyway, this new single “Be” is not exactly “Ghetto Superstar,” but it’s more respectable than anything Apl’s fellow Peas have delivered lately and/or ever. (P.S. Honey Cocaine?)
Imagine Dragons – “Shots”
I am at least a little fascinated by the way this band is changing its sound the second time around. I really figured they would release an entire album of “Radioactive” rehashes, but none of the singles have come close to that sound. Instead, “Shots” reminds me of a neutered U2, which is weird considering U2’s well-documented struggles to get on the radio anymore.
Lifehouse – “Hurricane”
Lifehouse are back, and they still sound like Lifehouse.
AWOLNATION – “Hollow Moon (Bad Wolf)”
This is what “indie rock” has become. :(
NEWS IN BRIEF
- Meghan Trainor says she hasn’t made any money off of “All About That Bass” yet. [Daily Star]
- You can stop comparing Sam Smith to Adele now, OK? [Rolling Stone]
- Fall Out Boy wrote some songs for One Direction that were deemed “too odd.” [Daily Star]
- American Idol winner Phillip Phillips is suing to get out of his record deal with 19 Entertainment after claiming he was manipulated. [THR]
- Sarah Palin is walking on stage to “Shake It Off” at her campaign events. [HuffPo]
- Nick Jonas is starring in Scream Queens, a new horror comedy from American Horror Story/Glee creator Ryan Murphy. [Idolator]
- Calvin Harris confirmed a three-year residency at a trio of Las Vegas clubs. [MTV]
HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME
PS any hackers saying they have 'nudes'? Psssh you'd love that wouldn't you! Have fun photoshopping cause you got NOTHING.
— Taylor Swift (@taylorswift13) January 27, 2015