Tomorrow is Grammy time again. It’s that magical (read: “baffling”) time when, like Jersey Shore the ignorant and undeserving frequently thrive while anything that challenges your sensibilities and may make you think for a moment gets cast aside, like Arrested Development.
The internet is once again flooded with predictions and commentary regarding this year’s massive, bizarre ordeal, and the audience gets to be reminded of songs and albums that came out two years ago.
This year’s “Music Industry Pats Itself On The Back-a-Thon” is no different, with every contender for Album of the Year coming out of the three US-based “big four” labels. But, somehow, with a perplexing amount of awards being thrown around, you’d think that only five artists released albums: Kanye West, Adele, Foo Fighters, Bruno Mars, and Skrillex. But the only way you could be surprised by the picks is if you’re still bewildered when your mom magically appears from behind the napkin saying “peek-a-boo”.
But, like every year, the Grammy nominees are fraught with controversy. The controverse du année seems to be centered around Kanye West’s My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy and the fact it wasn’t nominated for Album of the Year.
For once, Kanye isn’t the asshole in the situation. Good for him.
This snub isn’t unlike the confusion behind Radiohead getting shafted for OK Computer. The difference is that Radiohead were nominated and at least lost to the legendary Bob Dylan. What the Grammy voters have implicitly said about MBDTF is that it is a lesser album, artistically, than Doo-Wops and Hooligans by Bruno Mars, an album so saccharine and sweet, I had to get my foot amputated after listening to it. Really, Bruno Mars is like the adult version of Justin Bieber.
In all fairness to another nominee in the category, the Foo Fighters’ recent album did challenge the standard formula of pop music and push their genre forward with cohesive, innovative sounds heretofore unheard of in most popular standards while still maintaining the delicate balance between experimental and mainstream sensibility. Wait… that was Kanye’s album. Nevermind.
Considering some of the people Yeezy lost the nomination to, it’s clear that the critics aren’t part of the clandestine “panel of experts” that decide the nominees because I remember the critics that said MBDTF was only “okay” got strung up next to that guy who said The Dark Knight sucked.
The Grammy voters don’t seem like the type of group that is looking for an album as much as they’re looking for a collection of songs that are singles and single-like, written around the same time, and sold together for no other reason than convenience. Much like Sid from Toy Story liked when familiar things were mutilated and restructured into horrible affronts to god for his own personal amusement.
It’s hard to explain just how exciting it is to pop an album in (read: “double click a file”) and be able to listen to it from start to finish. With those albums, the only distraction or drawback is getting stuck on one particularly good song that I have to listen to 78 times in a row, which was the case with “Rich Man’s World (1%)” by Immortal Technique.
The point is that anyone can make an album full of mediocre attempts at singles. Flo Rida does it. Ke$ha does it. Soulja Boy does it. Disturbed does it. It’s not difficult to throw a bunch of shit at a wall and see what the flies gobble up.
That’s not to say there aren’t good pop albums or single-oriented musicians. Cee-Lo Green’s The Lady Killer was an excellent collection of great songs. But it’s not an album in the way that Pink Floyd’s (non-Grammy Award winning) The Wall, Dog Fashion Disco’s Adultery or Pharoahe Monch’s Desire are albums.
I’d normally think that this kind of differentiation would be the purpose for album categories and song categories. I mean, you don’t just shove three random paintings next to each other and call it a triptych. But what do I know? I’m not a Grammy voter.
The Grammys tend to throw a bone from time to time, giving a Best Album nomination to a hip hop album every year. The emphasis in that last sentence should be on the “a.” And one of those nominations was Nellyville.
I can hear you already: “Really?”
I wish the Grammy voters had to act like the Supreme Court and explain their decisions. I’d love to see the justification for why Nellyville is a better album than Quality, God Loves Ugly, Legend of the Liquid Sword, or Phrenology. Instead, the Grammy voters get to get their Clarence Thomas on.
But I’d also like to hear the explanation for considering Foo Fighters to be “Hard Rock/Heavy Metal” and how Foster The People winds up in Pop and Alternative categories simultaneously. I thought alternative rock was distinct from pop. Actually, I thought alternative rock was actually the “alternative” to pop. But, then again, I suppose the Beastie Boys, Nirvana, Green Day, and Gnarls Barkley somehow fit right in with Foster The People.
But to return to MBDTF before anyone notices that I’ve digressed too far, it seems like a purely political move by the Grammy voters to not nominate Kanye for Album of the Year, but obligatory to nominate him for something. Because, if they didn’t nominate him for anything who knows what crazy shit he’d do this time.
Maybe they’re strangely playing two purely political games: punishing Kanye and simultaneously subduing the consequence of not nominating Kanye.
This only seems more evident given Kanye’s own performance at previous Grammy ceremonies: three of his five albums got Album of the Year nods, with post-“Imma Let You Finish” 808s and Heartbreak being largely overlooked (since it didn’t have as many top-ten Billboard singles as his other albums).
Either that or they found the only people on the planet who didn’t like MBDTF.