As first reported here yesterday, the nominations for the 2007 Grammy Awards have been announced. Which means that by the time you read this, it will no longer qualify as an actual news story.
So what follows here is instead going to be a bit of a rant about the institution known as the Grammy Awards. But before I get started, I need to qualify things just a bit.
It needs to be acknowledged that the organization who puts on the Grammys, NARAS (which stands for The National Academy of Recording Arts And Sciences), does do great work on behalf of those who make their trade in the recording industry. One of their best charitable organizations, Music Cares, provides financial assistance in things like housing and medical care to members of that industry who otherwise couldn't afford it. I know this because when I lost my eye in an accident some ten years ago, Music Cares took care of a good chunk of my own medical bills.
So thank you NARAS for the great work you do through organizations like Music Cares.
That being said, this year's Grammy nominations warrant comment.
For starters, you wanna tell me that Bob Dylan's brilliant Modern Times does not merit consideration for best album of the year? And the latest releases by Justin Timberlake, John Mayer, hell, even the Dixie Chicks (who get begrudging points for standing up to those evil Republicans) do?
I could go on for days about this glaring omission alone. But let's call a spade a spade here. Dylan got snubbed, plain and simple. And I don't even want to hear about Dylan's nomination for Best Solo Rock Performance (for "Someday Baby," a pleasing, but relatively minor track from Modern Times) either. That to me represents classic Grammy gratuitousness. It's the same sort of reasoning that got Springsteen a win in the best folk category for Devils & Dust, yet lost him the big prize a year or so earlier for The Rising (to Norah Jones for those keeping score).
And while we're on that particular subject, I didn't see Springsteen's We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions nominated anywhere in the Best Folk/Americana Album category. I did however see Dylan's Modern Times up for the folk prize. To anyone who has heard both, you tell me which one belongs where: Best Album or Folk/Americana? Seriously, you tell me.
After putting out mostly spotty releases for the better part of the nineties (some would say the eighties as well), Dylan's been on a roll since the turn of the millennium. While the album that started that creative resurgence, Time Out Of Mind, did get itself a Best Album Grammy, Modern Times is Dylan's best reviewed record since Blood On The Tracks. It has been universally recognized as one of the best records of his long and legendary career — a milestone from an artist whose catalog is loaded with them.
Of course this wouldn't be the first time that Grammy didn't get it right. These are, after all, the same folks who have bestowed the Music Industry's "highest honor" on such past recipients as Christopher Cross, Milli Vanilli, and the Starland Vocal Band. Anybody remember "Afternoon Delight?" Or maybe you just "selectively" forgot it like the rest of us.
Or how about the year that Grammy chose Jethro Tull as Best Metal Act over then still trailblazing pioneers Metallica? At least that one was good for a laugh, such as when Melody Maker wrote a story about it with the priceless headline "For Whom The Bell Tulls."
But Justin Timberlake? I mean, come on. That's what God created the American Music Awards for. There's your popularity contest right there. I've got nothing against Justin. Nothing at all. But the AMA's is not only the awards show where he belongs, but the one where he actually deserves to win. At least until Jay Z's new record comes out or something. Past blunders aside, Grammy is supposed to be where we honor the best in artistic excellence for the past twelve months.
But I guess that is why we have a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. Because even guys like Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, and the Grateful Dead need somewhere to park their careers. Not that Grammy doesn't acknowledge the great ones. The Rolling Stones finally got some sort of "Lifetime Acheivement" honor something like 25 years after "Satisfaction" was released (and long after they stopped making landmarks like Exile On Main Street). I believe it was their first Grammy.
But Grammy is also all about the here and now. This year's nominees in the major categories, for better or for worse, represent what is happening in music today, rather than yesterday. In other words, these ain't your Mammy's Grammys. On that point alone, I will give the Grammy Awards credit this year. The unfortunate thing is that at least partially because of this, I'm taking even odds right now for Timberlake to win the big prize.
Speaking of which, what can we expect to see when the Grammys are telecast live on CBS February 11, 2007?
If you are anything like me, the awards themselves will probably have you hurling things at your TV screen. Still year after year, they keep me coming back because through the miracle of live television, the unexpected occasionally does occur.
Sometimes it's simply a great performance. Like when Prince blew the doors down with Beyonce on the eve of his Musicology comeback tour a few years ago with a scorching version of "Purple Rain." Other times, it's one of those weird, unexpected moments of spontaneity that remains forever etched in memory. Remember the "Soy Bomb" guy during Dylan's performance the year he performed?
The constants of course remain things like the endless stream of winners getting all religious and thanking God for bringing home the gold for hits like "Spank My Bootylicious Booty" (or something along those lines). Or the boring ten minute speech by the president of NARAS warning us all about the evils of home taping, downloading, or whatever the industry is blaming sluggish sales on this time around. Pssst — it's called putting out better records for a more affordable price guys.
As for the major awards themselves, I'm handicapping it like this with these very early predictions. Now mind you, please note these are just based on my opinion. In no way are they to be taken scientifically.
Album Of The Year Nominees:
Taking The Long Way by the Dixie Chicks: St. Elsewhere by Gnarls Barkley; Continuum by John Mayer: Stadium Arcadium by the Red Hot Chili Peppers; FutureSex/LoveSounds by Justin Timberlake.
Should Win: Chili Peppers
Should Win But Isn't Even Nominated: Dylan
Dark Horse: Mayer
Will Win: Justin Timberlake
Record Of The Year Nominees:
"Be Without You" (Mary J. Blige); "You're Beautiful" (James Blunt); "Not Ready To Make Nice" (Dixie Chicks); "Crazy" (Gnarls Barkley); and "Put Your Records On" (Corinne Bailey Rae)
Should Win: "Crazy"
Will Win: "Crazy"
Dark Horse: "Be Without You" or "You're Beautiful"
Best New Artist Nominees:
James Blunt; Chris Brown; Imogen Heap; Corinne Bailey Rae; Carrie Underwood.
Should Win: James Blunt
Will Win: Carrie Underwood
Song Of The Year Nominees:
"Be Without You" (performed by Mary J. Blige); "Jesus, Take The Wheel" (performed by Carrie Underwood); "Not Ready To Make Nice" (performed by the Dixie Chicks); "Put Your Records On" (performed by Corinne Bailey Rae); "You're Beautiful" (performed by James Blunt).
Should Win: "Not Ready To Make Nice"
Will Win: "Be Without You" (largely because "Crazy" didn't make this category).
Dark Horse: "You're Beautiful", "Jesus Take the Wheel" (tie)
As for elsewhere, look for these to win:
R&B Album: Mary J. Blige
Pop Album: John Mayer (unless Timberlake takes this one too).
Rock Album: Chili Peppers (though I'd love to see Neil Young get this for Living With War)
Rap Solo: Missy Elliott for "We Run This"
Rap/Sung Collaboration: Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z for "Deja Vu"
Best Producer: Rick Rubin. Between the Peppers and The Chicks, it's Rubin's year. Besides, in another life I actually briefly worked for him. Whaddup Rick?
Country Album: Dixie Chicks (unless a strong anti-Chicks vote gets Alan Jackson the award by default. Just for the record, Johnny Cash, yet another glaring non-nominee, would get my vote for the posthumous American V: A Hundred Highways)
Stay tuned for the Grammys on CBS February 11, 2006. And keep the glass items away from the TV.