This year’s Grammy nominations were announced yesterday and- damn. If even the middle-aged, almost entirely white music academy gives the majority of Grammy nominations to hip-hop and R&B artists, I think we can finally safely declare rock ‘n’ roll dead, or at the very least in semi-retirement. The four most-nominated artists (Beyonce, Outkast, Missy Elliott, and Jay-Z) are all African-American, while two others with multiple nods (Eminem and Justin Timberlake) are white but produce “black” music- which, from an academy that gave Best Album two years ago to the worst record of Steely Dan’s career, can only be called progress.
Which isn’t to say the Academy’s traditional old-white-guy bias is a thing of the past- it can’t be good for the plight of males in popular music that the Best Male Pop Vocal Performance category consists of two guys who are old (Sting, Michael McDonald), two guys who are dead (George Harrison, Warren Zevon), and one guy who was in ‘N Sync (Justin Timberlake). Had Johnny Cash been deservedly nominated instead of Sting, we’d have had the first majority-dead category in Grammy history, although Cash is nominated in several categories, as is the comatose Luther Vandross.
I’m going to shock you: my prediction for Best Album is Timberlake’s “Justified”- and it’s deserved. After years of producing some of the worst pop music of the decade with ‘N Sync, Timberlake somehow put together a great record, showing that he’ll still be around long after we’ve forgotten Britney, Christina, and all the rest. So what if “Justified,” up against Norah Jones, Bruce Springsteen, and others, likely would not have even been nominated last year.
Record of Year? It’s between “Crazy in Love” and “Hey Ya.” Either one’s fine by me.
Here, the various absurdities:
-With about 100 categories per year, it’s next to impossible for anyone to have a pop music career of any length without winning or been nominated for a Grammy at least once. Which is no excuse for the some of the mediocrities up for major awards this year: Train? Matchbox Twenty? Nickelback?
-Way to go Coldplay! First you impregnate Gwyneth Paltrow, then you’re nominated for Record of the Year, all in one week!
-Among those you thought had retired decades ago who are up for Grammys this year: Barbra Streissand, Kenny G, the Eagles, Steve Vai, Earth, Wind, and Fire (!), The Oak Ridge Boys, and Ludwig von Beethoven (nominated for Best Orchestral Performance).
-Judging by the nominees, Evanescence is currently the best rock band in the world (“Bring Me to Life” is a good song, but no, they’re not).
-Fountains of Wayne, who probably deserved a Best Album nod, are up for Best New Artist, even though they’ve been around for about a decade.
-Best Female Rap Solo Performance has three nominees (Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Da Brat) who would’ve been up for the same award had it been given out in 1989; with Latifah also becoming the first Oscar acting nominee up for a rap Grammy.
-Hillary Clinton is up for her second Grammy, once again for the book-on-tape version of her autobiography (she won for “It Takes a Village” in 1995). Her competitors include Bill Maher, Don Cheadle, and Al Franken.
-The Best Comedy Album category includes “Weird Al” Yankovic, David Cross, Garrison Keillor, George Lopez, and Margaret Cho. It omits the best comedy album of the decades, Triumph the Insult Comic Dog’s “Come Poop With Me.”
-There is a Best Polka Album category, though Weird Al is not nominated. No, I’m not kidding.