By: The Busted Amp Staff
It's that time of year again; the GRAMMYS have released their 2016 nominees. And for people who still take stock in these sort of things, the release of the nominees is like a second Christmas
While we at the Busted Amp don't like the popularity (or name recognition) contest that the GRAMMYS can so often be, we'd be remiss to not give an overview for your viewing pleasure. (Stay tuned later this month for our end of year lists!)
Without further adieu, here are the nominees:
Boy, are there some head scratchers in this bunch. I think this award comes down the 1989 vs. To Pimp a Butterfly. There's no denying that Taylor Swift put out the epitome of a good pop album this year, and naysayers of the genre need not look farther than Ryan Adams' cover album to see that the songs have cross-genre appeal. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kendrick Lamar gave the world a poignant, politically charged, genre-fusing hip-hop masterpiece that cemented his spot in the top echelon of rap artists.
Admittedly, I was not super familiar with Chris Stapleton, and even though I think Traveller is a better country release than just about anything else in the genre this year, I cannot see it being more appealing than the above two. Sorry Chris. Last but not least, Alabama Shakes. This is the pick that, throughout the varies categories, I don't understand. Yes, I thought Sound & Color was a good album, and I liked the change of direction that the band took from their debut Boys & Girls, but that's about it. For me, this album didn't have nearly the punch as To Pimp a Butterfly or the repeatability of 1989. In fact, after a while I thought the album was a little forgettable, even in its own genre, which I'll talk about a little later.
We are going to agree on this one. Both in who should win and who will win. The GRAMMYS are absolutely going to favor the popular selection as they always do, but as usual the popular selection is not the best. While none of these albums will likely make it on my top 5 albums of the year, only one of them will make it to my top 10. King Kendrick's latest album is a cultural masterpiece, and one that will be looked at in the future as the 2010's Straight Outta Compton or The Chronic. It's already being compared to some of the greatest and culturally relevant hip hop albums ever. But none of those albums won a GRAMMY, and the same will almost certainly stay true here. It's been over a year since 1989 was dropped, but it's easy to forget that it was 2014's only album to go platinum on the sales charts. While it's definitely not the best album of the last year, it's hard to justify not rewarding the success of 2014's biggest seller. Expect this one to be winning a lot of undeserved awards. Don't worry, Adele fans: this will be her next year.
PS-While it's on a totally unrelated note, don't cast aside Chris Stapleton's debut album. Now granted I live in Nashville so I'm in the heart of country music, but I cannot tell you how many people have come into my store asking for his album. I've had more requests for this artist's new album in the last few months than any other artist combined. Just saying.
Who should win: Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly (consensus)
Who will win: Taylor Swift - 1989
Another easy to predict category. None of these songs are anywhere near my top 10 songs of the year, but then again they never are. This one is T. Swift's category to lose, but out of these choices I would personally go for "Girl Crush." Derek and I will likely disagree on this one, but honestly "Alright" was not my favorite single from King Kendrick. However the raw emotion of "Girl Crush" is what ultimately does it for me. But here I'm really just picking my favorite song out of a list of, frankly, dull songs. In my opinion the GRAMMYS put together this list so they could give T. Swift a GRAMMY among a group where even haters would have to agree it's ok she wins.
On another note, why is "Blank Space" specifically up for all the awards? Wasn't "Shake It Off" the more popular song? I know I liked that song far more than "Blank Space." Honestly I thought "Blank Space" was pretty forgettable. Oh well. What do I know.
Ah, the old "Record of the Year vs. Song of the Year" debate, we meet again. It's my understanding that Record of the Year is more about songwriting and Song of the Year is "the year's best single". If that's the case, then they got these nominations pretty right for what you'd expect them to be. Don't speak too soon, Joe, "Alright" isn't my favorite single either, and especially in the context of songwriting. "King Kunta" takes the cake there. But I digress.
Taylor Swift is bound to win a few of these, it's just a matter of which ones. I think she takes this one instead of Record of the Year, and that's fine with me.
Who should win: None of them, Derek: Taylor Swift - "Blank Space"
Who will win: Taylor Swift - "Blank Space" (consensus)
Hey! I actually have a preference here! "Uptown Funk" was easily my favorite mainstream hit from the past year. Its awesome combination of modern-day electronic music and '80s style funk made it the catchiest and funnest single of the year in my opinion. It absolutely deserves this award, but will it win it? Probably not. Once again I expect the committee to cave and give another award to Taylor Swift, because she really needs more recognition. But in all seriousness, this is a pretty tight category when it comes to successful singles from the past year. Definitely tighter than Song of the Year. I think the consensus will be pretty split between "Blank Space" and "Uptown Funk," however this split may open the door to pretty much anyone in this category. If The Weeknd's name gets called here, I would honestly not be even remotely surprised.
There's no doubt that "Uptown Funk" has been one of the biggest earworm in recent memory. That old school feeling, Bruno Mars, and all the girls hitting you hallelujah (woo!). When it comes to the best single, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars are the heavyweights. The only problem being that they're up against other heavyweights. Taylor Swift and The Weeknd released two powerhouse songs of their own. Personally, I don't think "Blank Space" is as strong as, say, "Shake It Off", but both it and "Can't Feel My Face" are going to make this category mighty interesting. As for the other two nominees, Ed Sheeran has the unfortunate match up against the formerly mentioned songs, and this year "Thinking Out Loud" just doesn't have the fighting power. I'd be shocked if D'Angelo wins, not that "Really Love" isn't a good song, but to me it's not even in the same league.
Who I think should win: Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars - "Uptown Funk" (consensus)
Who will win: Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars - "Uptown Funk"
This category has always been one of the most mind-boggling, frustrating categories of the GRAMMYS, especially recently. I think the favorite to win this category is Meghan Trainor, even though she was nominated twice last year for Record and Song of the Year for "All About That Bass". I think between Sam Hunt, James Bay, and Tori Kelly, it's really anyone's game. Hunt is also nominated for Country Album of the Year, so I think his chances are a bit higher than the rest. The indie crowd, including myself, are going to be pulling for Australian Courtney Barnett because of her fantastic release Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, which has, in my opinion, some of the best storytelling of any album released this
I definitely agree that in recent years this category has been a head-scratcher. I think Meghan Trainor will win this category easily because GRAMMYS will want to include her in this year's festivities somehow. Even though she was also nominated last year....? This makes little sense, but I won't question it. I'll be hoping for Courtney Barnett to pull off the upset but I think too many pop fans would storm the Twitter front if she actually did for the GRAMMYS taste. I do miss the years when Bon Iver would win and the pop fans would storm Twitter though....
Who should win: Courtney Barnett
Who will win: Meghan Trainor
I have a few bones to pick with this year's Rock Album nominees. First, how in the world do they consider James Bay rock? Second, if Slipknot's song "Custer" is up for Best Metal Performance, how is the album up for Best Rock Album and not Best Metal Album? Third, Muse's album Drones has to be one of the biggest piles of shit this year. It was utterly terrible and borderline unlistenable. Either I'm just getting old, forgot what rock is, or this category is nothing but junk this year. I certainly don't think rock had this bad of a year.
Out of this list, give the GRAMMYS to Death Cab For Cutie, even though I didn't think that album was phenomenal either, but at least it was dark and brooding because Ben Gibbard and Zooey Deschanel divorced. This list is so forgettable that I don't have any clue who they'll actually pick. I'm going to say James Bay for the sole reason that he's had the biggest "hits" of this year from the nominees. Either him or Muse - solely because of name recognition, because it can't possibly be for the actual album.
Lol. That's all I have to say. Every year, the GRAMMYS have at least one "Lol" category with an absolutely ridiculous group of members comprising the category. Last year it was the Best Metal Category. This year it's the Best Rock Category. I really don't care for any of these albums, so I will refrain from having a stake in this fight at all, but I will 100% agree with Derek. Muse was once my favorite band. I stuck with them all the way through The Resistance, but in recent years even I admit they have lost much of their former glory, and the fact that they are on this list is an insult to the genre. I'm worried that the GRAMMYS will take this whole thing one step further and even nominate them for a victory simply due to the recognizability of their name. But, I don't think they will go THAT far and will instead hand this ridiculous category to James Bay. Shame on you, GRAMMYS.
Who Derek wants to win: Death Cab For Cutie - Kintsugi
Who will win: James Bay - Chaos and the Calm
For clarity, Best Performance is for the people who actually perform the song as well as the songwriters. Best Song (see below) is for the songwriters only.
The inclusion of Alabama Shakes was a no brainer considering their inclusion in the Album of the Year discussions. It's definitely the single that's gotten the most airplay from the album, and a worthy addition to the nominees since there is no "Best Alternative Performance". "Something From Nothing" was the best single on the new Foo Fighters ambitious album/tv series, even though the tv series was much better than the album itself. Wolf Alice is huge across the pond in the UK, but hasn't quite broken out here in the USA yet. A win here could change all of that, and "Moaning Lisa Smile" is a churning, guttural jam of a song to debut with.
I'm a little confused on the category choices for Florence + The Machine and Elle King. Florence is also nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album and Elle, in my opinion, is straight up pop. Despite all of this, I think Florence + The Machine take the prize.
Ya, I think Florence is on this list so she can win a category, because she is definitely not the first thing that comes to mind when I think of rock music. She's also not the second or third thing that comes to mind either. Yet, here she is, and she'll likely win the category. Which is a shame because, while I do like Florence Welch despite my terrible experience seeing her live, I absolutely loved "Moaning Lisa Smile." It's one of my favorite songs of the year and is a shining example of where the rock genre can move towards. Never thought I'd be upset at the prospect of Florence Welch winning a GRAMMY but I guess that day was bound to come eventually.
Who should win: Wolf Alice - "Moaning Lisa Smile"
Who will win: Florence + The Machine - "What Kind of Man"
Again, for clarity, Best Performance is for the people who actually perform the song as well as the songwriters (see above). Best Song is for the songwriters only.
My opinions here aren't much different than the Rock Performance category. I don't see why the songwriting for James Bay and Highly Suspect are any better than Wolf Alice, Foo Fighters, and even Courtney Barnett, who's up for Best New Artist.
If Florence wins the last category, Elle King will win this one. Or it will be reversed. This year rock was the official dumping ground for the GRAMMYS, with most of the picks making little to no sense or not even being classified as rock by everyone but the GRAMMYS. And ya, why are James Bay and Highly Suspect both in this category when Wolf Alice and Foo Fighters aren't? And why least rock-iest tracks in both categories? Oh. That's right. So the GRAMMYS can give them these categories and let T. Swift sweep the pop categories. Give the people what they want, right?
Who should win: Alabama Shakes - "Don't Wanna Fight"
Who will win: Elle King - "Ex's & Oh's"
I think I am one of the few people in the music world that doesn't understand why Bjork gets the praise that she does. To me, at least, her voice is abrasive and hard to listen to and a lot of the music is jumbled and noisy. Part of me wouldn't be surprised if she takes this category, because she has 14 nominations without a win, which is the sixth highest all time without a win. I think it would be unfortunate if she got it here though.
The big gun here is obviously Alabama Shakes, who is also nominated for Album of the Year. If they don't win the latter, I wouldn't be surprised if they win this. If they do win Album of the Year, however, I can see this award going to someone else.
Personally, I'm rooting for Tame Impala, which put out one of the best records of the year, and an album I'm still listening to on heavy repeat. I wouldn't be shocked if they gave it to Wilco because they have a pretty huge following and Star Wars was a pretty decent album overall...(Star Wars HYPE).
I think My Morning Jacket is the clear underdog here with The Waterfall, even though it was a solid follow-up to the also GRAMMY nominated Circuital. Even though I think hit a sweet spot between Circuital and frontman Jim James' solo album Regions of Light and Sound of God, I think there are too many better choices here for them to garner the necessary votes.
For all my bitching about the GRAMMYS, I will give them this category. They did an excellent job here, lining up some of the best albums of the year in this category. I'm with Derek on this one, though: I really want to see Tame Impala walk away with the most prestigious honor at this year's ceremony, but I don't think the GRAMMYS have the guts to give this award to an experimental/psychedelic group. No, I think we'll just have to be impressed with the fact that they even received a nomination. I think this award will come down to either Bjork or Alabama Shakes.
While I do like Bjork more than Derek does, I do also think she's rather overrated. So many people revere Bjork, and I don't really see why short of the fact that she's inspired a lot of big name artists we see today. But this album to me was just meh, and it would be a damn shame to see this category go to her simply because the GRAMMYS feel bad they've nominated her 14 times without a nomination, because her fans are the kind of fans to be acutely aware of this fact. Wilco stands a pretty good chance just because of his fervently loyal following, but his following also couldn't care less how many awards his albums receive. Alabama Shakes will likely be the ones to walk away with this award, especially since they don't stand a chance in the main category against T. Swift. I'm ok with this because Sound & Color is an excellent album, but both My Morning Jacket and Tame Impala had better albums this year.
Who should win: Tame Impala - Currents
Who will win: Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color
While there are a lot of other categories we could talk about, that would make for a ridiculously long post, so we'll just leave you with some of our thoughts.
While we can be left to wonder what the heck the GRAMMYS were thinking with their rock categories, it's pretty hard to deny that Kendrick Lamar is going to sweep the rap categories. Especially given the infamous "Macklemore over Kendrick" debacle that happened a few years ago. The Best Country Album category is also going to be a tight one, with the GRAMMYS likely wanting to hand the award to Sam Hunt or Kacey Musgraves to stay in line with "pop" country, but they'll be overlooking one of the best traditional country albums of recent memory in The Traveler in the process. Other than that, the only other thing I want to mention is the egregious overlook of Kamasi Washington's The Epic in Best Jazz Album. That's a head-scratcher if I ever saw one, given the fact that The Epic is very close to my favorite album of the year and a monumental accomplishment within the jazz world, but whatever, guys. That's cool.
I could not agree more with Kamasi Washington. The Epic is a fascinating, heart-stopping, exhilarating adventure and its absence on the nominee list for Best Jazz Album is a travesty. For Best Country Album, I was not at all impressed with Kacey Musgraves' album, and I found her live act at Bunbury Music Festival to be lacking in both energy and interesting material. I think this one goes to the heavy hitting newcomer, Chris Stapleton, who actually released a gritty, relatable album.. And finally, for the rap categories, Kendrick is life, Kendrick is love.
Enjoy the show.