I have a love-hate relationship with the Grammys because I don’t see the music world as a competitive sport.—James Taylor
No, we don’t actually get an official vote on the Grammys’ ballot. One has to have actually recorded something that is available either via online download or in physical form. Nothing I’ve ever recorded meets that criteria. Be thankful. Seriously.
That doesn’t mean we don’t have some very strong opinions regarding the hours upon hours of music we hear, and we’re pretty sure you do as well. So, we’re going to go through some of the categories in which we feel we would be qualified to make a reasonable decision and list who we think should win. Then, after the awards are handed out, we can go back and compare how well we did. Maybe. Unless it’s just too embarrassing to mention. Ready? Here we go:
Album Of The Year
Sure, Taylor Swift’s 1989 is probably the favorite going in, but I’m not a huge Taylor Swift fan for a number of reasons. Looking through the remaining nominees, the only other two I would consider serious contenders would be Alabama Shakes and The Weeknd. Between those two, I prefer the sound of Alabama Shakes largely because they’re not over-produced: the sound on the album has a raw quality to it and none of the nominees, including Ms. Swift, can match the gorgeous R&B vocals of Brittany Howard. Sure, from a popularity perspective they’re a long shot, but when I consider who should win there’s really no contest.
Sound & Color, an album by Alabama Shakes on Spotify
Song Of The Year
Yep, snubbing Taylor Swift again, and Kendrick Lamar isn’t going to get an on-air award as long as his songs are so heavily laced with unnecesarry profanity. Of the remaining nominees, our choice is Ed Sheeran, Thinking Out Loud and it may actually stand a pretty good chance of taking home the award. Why? Simply because this song has an incredibly broad age appeal. Sentimental, soft, careful with its dynamics, this is a song that can be played at an engagement party one day and your grandparents 50th wedding anniversary the next without being inappropriate either place. It’s well written, perfect for a slow dance with grandma or your fiance, and leaves a happy feeling when it’s done. What more could one ask of a good song?
Thinking Out Loud, a song by Ed Sheeran on Spotify
Record Of The Year
I have some serious difficulties with this one because there are some very good nominees. My personal choice would be D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Really Love. Miss Kendra Foster, who we photographed above with Parliament Funkadelic in 2010, is a co-writer on this incredibly complex and interesting piece, so I’ll admit to just a teensy bit of bias, but the song is strong, impressive, and easily the most complicatedly beautiful composition on the list. That being said, though, if anything other than Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk takes home the award I’m likely to call foul. Don’t tell me you’ve not dance or jigged or moved in some way to this song at some point during the year. I’ve delighted not only in the song itself, but all the very creative covers it has inspired. In fact, those covers are themselves a tribute to the strength of the song. I’m going to give you both D’Angelo, because you need to hear it, and Uptown Funk because we all need to dance a little bit.
Really Love, a song by D’Angelo on Spotify
Uptown Funk, a song by Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars on Spotify
Best New Artist
Wow, this is really a tough one to call without risking offending someone. All five nominees have some very positive vibes going for them and if the Academy takes their voting as seriously as they should then the winner could be a surprise to everyone. If you like your music loud with stream-of-consciouness lyrics, then you’re going to love Courtney Barnett. If you like a gentle guitar and bare vocals, then chances are you’ve been listening to James Bay at least since last summer. Heavy studio production with a country twang your thing? Sam Hunt’s who you’ll be cheering for. Speaking of production value, the engineers should accept any award Tori Kelly receives. Don’t get me wrong, she is extremly talented, but how she sounds live is totally different than what is on the recording. That leaves Meghan Trainor, who we listened to for so long last year it doesn’t seem like she’s a “new” artist at all. Not only has she had us All About That Bass all year long, but Like I’m Going To Lose You and Dear Future Husband have broadened her audience, and her sound, that much more. She also has an incredibly strong PR team behind her. We’ll be neither surprised nor disappointed if she goes home with the award.
All About That Bass, a song by Meghan Trainor on Spotify
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
While there are five nominations in the category, this is really a three horse race between Maroon 5, Taylor Swift w/ Kendrik Lamar, and Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars. While all three have immensely popular songs, where it breaks down for me is the fact that Swift/Lamar and Ronson/Mars are pairings of convenience. A dozen other people could step in with Swift or Ronson and do just as well. Maroon 5, however, is an actual established group with some longeivity and grammy experience behind them. That distinction is enough for me to give them the edge in this particular contest.
Sugar, a song by Maroon 5 on Spotify
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
Oh my deities, this category was just meant for old fogies like me, wasn’t it? Tony Bennett doing Jerome Kern? Sweet! Bob Dylan, Josh Groban, and Barry Manilow? Yes, PLEASE! Put them all together and I’m set for the night. The only entry on this list that is questionable is Seth Macfarland, not because his song choices are bad, but more because his voice just can’t compete with the other nominees. He’s good, but he’s not legendary as a musician as the others are. So, who takes home the award? Every last one of them has a plethora of fans, but ultimately I think it comes down to Tony Bennett’s soft voice and Bill Charlap’s talented piano accompaniment. Yes, I’m jealous of Bill, but we’ll just have to let that go. In the mean time, I make a playlist of all five albums just because they’re all that good.
The Silver Lining – The Songs of Jerome Kern, an album by Tony Bennett, Bill Charlap on Spotify
Best Pop Vocal Album
I don’t see any way Taylor Swift doesn’t go home with this one; this is her home turf and 1989 has been too strong an album to ignore completely, even though I personally wouldn’t mind never hearing it again. Obviously, I’m no longer a 14-yr-old so the appeal is limited. Of all the nominees on this list, though, the one that surprises me is the one that some might consider the very antithesis of Ms. Swift: James Taylor, Before This World. That’s right, they put the 67-year-old folk artist in with all the bubble gummed teeny boppers. If the Grammys were given on strict musicality alone, James would take the award in a heartbeat. We know that won’t happen, though. No one ever said the music business was fair, nor that it really cared about the quality of the music. Taylor Swift may win, but we’ll be listening to James.
Before This World, an album by James Taylor on Spotify
Best Rock Performance
Okay, so maybe it’s a good thing I don’t have a Recording Academy membership; I’d never get my Grammys ballot turned in because of changing my mind so often. When I consider the performances in this category, it very much depends on what mood I’m in as to which I like best. Objectivity is hard to come by. Twist my arm and force me to make a choice, though, and I’m going to go with the experience of the Foo Fighters, Something From Nothing. Why? F’n Dave Grohl, man. When it comes to sheer passion in his performance and total dedication to both the music and the fans, no one beats him. Remember, this is the guy that broke his leg during a show, had it set, and then returned to finish the performance! Almost any other artists would have given up, cancelled the tour, and gone home. Not Grohl. Not the Foo Fighters. So, while the nominee list in this category is impressive, I think the Foo Fighters end up with this one.
Beyond this point in the list, things get a little dicey. The Academy has gotten really creative with the categories in an effort to distinguish between sounds and not put totally disparate artists up against each other (except for putting James Taylor in the pop catuegory). There are several categories in which I’m just not versed enough with the style, or possibly just not that interested, to make an intelligent comment. For the remainder, I’ll just leave you with my choices with no comment. Check back with us after the Grammys are awarded on February 15 and we’ll see how well we did.
Best Rock Song
What Kind Of Man, a song by Florence + The Machine on Spotify
Best R&B Performance
Rise Up, a song by Andra Day on Spotify
Best R&B Song
Really Love, a song by D’Angelo on Spotify
Best Country Duo/Group Performance
This has to be the sentimental favorite. Unfortunately, it’s questionable whether Joey will survive to see the awards show.
Best Country Song
Girl Crush, a song by Little Big Town on Spotify
Best Country Solo Performance
Best Pop Solo Performance
Best Gospel Performance/Song
Wanna Be Happy?, an album by Kirk Franklin on Spotify
Best American Roots Performance
If this doesn’t light your fire, your wood is wet.
Best American Roots Song
The Cost Of Living, a song by Don Henley, Merle Haggard on Spotify