Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The 2013 Grammy Sampler

I remember the first time I ever saw a Grammy Awards telecast as a wee boy -- 1971. Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" took Song of the Year and Record of the Year. Dionne Warwick and Ray Stevens reigned in the Best Contemporary Vocal Performance categories (which would be renamed Best Pop Vocal Performance the very next year), and The Carpenters beat Elton John and The Partridge Family for Best New Artist.

Before I post some of this year's winners, please take a moment to consider this partial list of artists who've never won a Grammy: Led Zeppelin, Dusty Springfield, Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, Electric Light Orchestra, The Who, Bob Marley, Diana Ross (nor the Supremes), Talking Heads, ABBA and Queen. Yes, freakin' Queen. If that's not a palm-to-face-WTF? generator, I don't know what is.

Here's  a sampling of the winners from various categories at this year's 55th Annual Grammy Awards...

Best New Artist: fun. Yes, that's the name of the group. It's fun., with a lower case f and a period. It's so obnoxiously hipster that it makes me not want to like them. But, I do like them. Their album, Some Nights, is energetic, bombastic, ambitious and... fun. It's all pretty uplifting, which can rub music snobs the wrong way, but I say the world needs music like that sometimes.

Jack Antonoff, Andrew Dost and Nate Ruess -- they're fun.

The older I get, the more ridiculous I find the Best New Artist category. It just doesn't make much sense. I mean, if the Grammy voters are so enthusiastic about these people, won't they just garner nominations in other categories and get some recognition anyway? (As a matter of fact, fun. took home a Grammy for Song of the Year, too -- "We Are Young.") But of the five nominees this year -- fun., The Lumineers, Alabama Shakes, Hunter Hayes and Frank Ocean -- the only one whose music I'm seriously avoiding is Hunter Hayes, a country heartthrob who seems destined for Celebrity Apprentice or some equally grotesque reality show in about five years.

In case you're unfamiliar with fun., here's the video for the title track of their Some Nights album.


Best Americana Album: Slipstream -- Bonnie Raitt. It was her first album in seven years; lovely, tasteful and soulful. Her voice has aged well and she remains a singer who knows how to pick a song. The album is mostly a collection of covers, including the familiar "Right Down the Line" from 1970s singer/songwriter Gerry Rafferty. The simple video is about love -- all kinds of love. Sweet and very inclusive.

Best Dance Recording: "Bangarang" -- Skrillex. What can I say about the artist known as Skrillex? Well, ironically, a lot of his music sounds like his name. It's called dubstep. I've never actually met anyone who likes Skrillex, but the Grammy voters have given him six Grammys over the past two years. Six.


You can certainly dance to Skrillex; some of his music actually sounds like music. I don't dislike the guy, I just don't like this particular song. It feels like something that would appeal to meth addicts around 3:00 a.m. on a dance floor in hell. You'll either like Skrillex or you'll long for the good old days... like 2000, when Grammy voters decided Cher's "Believe" was the year's best dance recording.

Anyway, here's the video for "Bangarang."


Best R&B Song: "Adorn" -- Miguel. If you're hearing this one for the first time, you may feel like there's something familiar about it, but you can't quite put your finger on it. Let me help you: Miguel is either channeling the late, great Marvin Gaye, or he's deliberately adopting the singer's style. "Adorn" has the same vibe as Gaye's classic "Sexual Healing." Miguel, who wrote this himself, may have a classic in him, but this just makes me want to listen to Marvin Gaye.


Best Short Form Music Video: "We Found Love" -- Rihanna. All things considered, this was a pretty good choice. The song is a stunning slice of dance pop that was given a completely unexpected video treatment. Rihanna slips into the role of drug addict, albeit the most gorgeous one in the history of the world, and everything spirals out of control for her and her exotic junkie boyfriend. Controversial when released? Sure was. Rihanna tweaked her image here, and probably no one was expecting such a riveting visual juxtaposition to the song's lyrics.

For a complete list of winners in all 81 categories, go here.

Peace out,

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