And the Grammy goes to WHAT?

I feel like I spend a great amount of time writing about film in this column, and with award season starting, it really takes precedent over the other arts for a few weeks.

In fact, the somewhat unqualified and boring National Board of Review kicked off the awards season last week when it named “Up in the Air” the best film of the year. Washington, DC followed by selecting the same film. The groups also agreed on George Clooney and Carey Mulligan. However, they split their supporting prizes between Mo’Nique/Christopher Waltz and Anna Kendrick/Woody Harrelson.

None of this really means anything, as there are much more important precursors coming up. In fact, next week…we will see nominations from the Broadcast Film Critics, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild. We will also know the winners and runner-ups at the LA Film Critics Association and NY Film Critics Association. By then, we should all have a pretty good idea of who is a lock for a nomination for the Oscar. Barring a horrible acceptance speech at the Globes or SAG’s, we will learn a lot about the direction film is going in the next few days.

However, I thought I would take this moment to turn my attention to music. For buried in this last week, were the nominations for the upcoming Grammy Awards. The Grammy is the highest level of achievement that a recording artist can reach. The Grammys reward close to one hundred different categories ranging from pop to polka, and everything in between. However, there are really just a dozen or so categories that really seem to matter. Of those, only four are considered “major,” due to the fact that they spawn all different musical genres. While looking over the nomination list, I had a few thoughts on the list as well as what it says about today’s popular music.

Record of the Year

(Award to the Artist and to the Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s) and/or Mixer(s), if other than the artist.)

Halo”- Beyonce
I Gotta Feeling”- The Black Eyed Peas
Use Somebody”- Kings of Leon
Poker Face”- Lady Gaga
You Belong with Me”- Taylor Swift

I don’t know what the next few months of campaigning will bring, but you have to believe that a few of these songs can be written off immediately. That isn’t to say that the list isn’t good. It actually is a darn good list of songs that have matched the climate of the charts for the past year. That being said, I could have done without that moronic Black Eyed Peas song. Every time it starts on the radio, I can’t get to the dial fast enough. However, the other ones aren’t bad. I doubt Lady Gaga will win here. She will probably have to settle for the pop and dance categories. Grammy voters tend to be a bit older and often nominate up-tempo songs, but they never win.

Beyoncé – “Halo” (I Am…Sasha Fierce)

I actually really like “Halo.” I think it’s an interesting song…and it can’t be easy to drum up something new and interesting for Beyonce. I was surprised that “Halo” was selected over “Single Ladies,” but with ten nominations this year, Grammy voters probably felt the need to spread the wealth.

“Use Somebody” actually sort of feels like something Grammy voters would respond too. It could be taken to mean something inspirational…and they eat that stuff up. I think Leon is a strong contender and their fans are devoted. My friend Jessica named her damn cat after them. That being said, it’s hard to argue against Swift. Yes, the girl can’t hold a note to save her life. Yes, her songs are cheesy (and infectious). Yes, she was involved in one of the biggest (and stupidest) publicity stunts of the year involving big, bad, mean, black Kanye West. Btw, if Kanye West had run up on stage when Beyonce was up there and said anything about the fact that “she” didn’t deserve the award…would we be talking about this? More so, do we all recall that this sort of thing happens every damn year at the MTV Video Music Awards? Taylor Swift wasn’t accepting a Grammy, she was accepting a moonman. Either way, that stunt probably sealed the deal for her to win a slew of awards and for Kanye’s omission of his brilliant “Heartless.”

All in all, it’s a fairly nice list. It seems to have something for everyone. However, how hard would it be to include some of the lesser known artists out there that put out outstanding work this year…like Ray Lamontagne or Paolo Nutuni? Hell, Whitney’s new music was better than the Black Eyed Peas. However, this list should make 105.7 (and their chipmunk speed songs) and 101.9 very happy…because they can continue to play them over and over and over.

Album of the Year

(Award to the Artist(s) and to the Album Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s)/Mixer(s) & Mastering Engineer(s), if other than the artist.)

The Fame”- Lady Gaga
I am…Sasha Fierce”- Beyonce
The E.N.D.”- The Black Eyed Peas
Fearless”- Taylor Swift
Big Whiskey And The Groogrux King”- The Dave Matthews Band

I don’t even know where to begin with this list. Whitney Houston, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and Green Day all put out new material this year. Hell, even Grammy favorite U-2 put out new work. However, the Grammy voters seemed to refuse to actually listen to any of it. Now I agree that Lady Gaga should be there. She did have five singles off that record. The same could be said for Beyonce. I would like to point out that this is Beyonce’s first Album of the Year nomination. I find that very strange. Would people actually argue that “I am…Sasha Fierece” was THAT much better than her previous work. Either way, both of those are fine.

Lady Gaga – “The Fame”

But here we go again with those damn Black Eyed Peas. What are Grammy voters on? Why is this group so damn popular? I like Fergie…don’t get me wrong. I am a self-respecting gay man and therefore have to like her. But this crap that they put out this year is just so tired. I am so sick of hearing them on the radio in Northwest Arkansas. Of course, on the plus side, that allows me to switch over to NPR.

I don’t even really know what to make of the Dave Matthews Band nomination. It came out of nowhere. This wasn’t reviewed that highly and he clearly beat out more popular (Grammy-wise) records from U-2 and Green Day to take the prerequisite “rock spot” in the lineup. This is one of the biggest shockers that I can recall in recent Grammy history. The only time I actually hear this CD is at Starbucks. I was a huge Dave Matthews fan in college, but seriously…now?

Taylor Swift is in this list with a chance to win it. I know that she had two or three popular singles, but is Swift’s complete set of music, REALLY that good? When you compare it to past winners by Allison Krauss, Lauryn Hill, and Outkast, is it really going to stand up for the BEST of the year?

All in all, its not a terrible list. You can check out the whole thing at Beyonce leads the field with ten nominations. Taylor Swift has 8, and Lady Gaga and Maxwell also have a bunch. When reviewing it…remind yourself of one question “Does this list really reflect THE BEST?”

Here are two of the other major categories:

Song Of The Year – A Songwriters Award

(A Songwriter(s) Award. A song is eligible if it was first released or if it first achieved prominence during the Eligibility Year. (Artist names appear in parentheses.) Singles or Tracks only.)

“Poker Face” – Lady Gaga & RedOne, songwriters (Lady Gaga)
“Pretty Wings” – Hod David & Musze, songwriters (Maxwell)
“Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” – Thaddis Harrell, Beyonce Knowles, Terius Nash & Christopher Stewart, songwriters (Beyonce)
“Use Somebody” – Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill & Nathan Followill, songwriters (Kings Of Leon)
“You Belong With Me” – Liz Rose & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)

Best New Artist

(For a new artist who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist.)

Zac Brown Band
Keri Hilson
Silversun Pickups
The Ting Tings

Wayne Bell is a guest contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. He moved to Fayetteville in 2003 for his Masters Degree and you can almost always catch him at Little Bread Co. or Hammontree’s. For more of Wayne’s contributions, visit his author page.