The Grammys are a strange beast: seemingly out of touch with the music of an era, and then in a rushed frenzy of catching up years after the artists have realized their greatest success. We need only consider the fact that the Rolling Stones did not receive their first Grammy until 1994 with their largely dismissed album, Voodoo Lounge. Elvis won his two sole awards for Gospel Albums in the 1970's. Diana Ross, either as a member of the Supremes or as a solo artist, has never (I repeat, NEVER) won a Grammy. (Jimmy Kimmel always quips when Fergie is on the show: "Welcome a woman who has more Grammys than Diana Ross!").
Sometimes the Grammys do get it right and award an album or recording that captured the Zeitgeist of a particular year: Thriller in 1983; Jagged Little Pill in 1995; Speakerboxxx/Love Below in 2004; Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in 1967. The question becomes each year will the Grammys award the best or someone that hasn't been rewarded before (eg when Steely Dan beat out Eminem in 2001). Last year, Taylor Swift beat out Beyonce and Lady Gaga because of Kanyegate, rather than because the album was the best of the year. Although Swift deserved some recognition, giving her Album of the Year may have been a bit presumptuous.
Best New Artist
The Grammys have had some of theis most laughable decision with this category. Some artists have gone on to be immensely successful artists, and some have never been heard from again. And then, some won in this category who have become famous but in very different: ie Bob Newhart, who won in 1961. Mariah Carey, The Beatles, Bette Midler and Carrie Underwood were solid choices, but does anyone know where Debby Boone, the Starland Vocal Band, or Jody Watley have gone to?
Sometimes people who have exploded on the scene fail to get nominated. When Whitney Houston was burning up the charts with "Saving all my Love for You," she was deemed ineligible to compete in this category because she had recorded a duet with Jermaine Jackson the previous year, but Lauryn Hill won Best New Artist over five years after she became a star with the Fugees when they relaxed these rules. Somehow Lady Gaga and Katy Perry failed to be nominated in their respective debut years. Jonas Brothers, Shelby Lynne, and even Justin Bieber were nominated several years after the release of their first album. It is a very strange category.
This is usually one of the trickiest categories because there is always one wildly popular artist who has little critical respect and then a darling of the critics. For instance, the year Christina Aguilera won, she was competing against Macy Gray. In fact, that decision has been vindicated with time, as Xtina has gone on to phenomenal successes (and some missteps. hello, Burlesque, anyone?) and Macy Gray has never repeated the success of her first album. This year we repeat this dichotomy with Justin Bieber and Florence and the Machine. Many are predicting Bieber will triumph, but there is a chance that Florence will upset the young boy with the haircut.
Best Record of the Year
No hip-hop record has ever won in this category. This seems like the year where that could change. Billboard predicts that Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind" will be the winner, but Eminem's quite complex song about an abusive and codependent relationship, "Love the Way you Lie," is also nominated. This predicament could actually mean that the votes are split and then the safest choice in the entire category, Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now," beats out the hip-hop records. There may be some riots in the Staples Center if that happens. I still do not understand how "Bad Romance" was not nominated in this category.
Best Album of the Year
There is little doubt in anyone's mind that Eminem will finally be presented the big prize this year, especially after he was shockingly defeated by the senior citizen-age Steely Dan in 2001. His stiffest competition comes from the heralded album of Arcade Fire, The Suburbs, but it seems Eminem will defeat them easily. Once again, they nominate Gaga for an EP, but can't nominate her for record?
Best Female Pop Vocal
I will personally storm the stage if Gaga does not win here for "Bad Romance." If Norah Jones wins again, which is possible, it will be another instance where the Grammys decide to load one group of because they are safe and uncontroversial. How many Grammys does U2 or Alicia Keys need? They both have over a dozen a piece. And if Katy Perry, who can have so much trouble matching pitches when singing live, garners this award over Gaga, I will also not be pleased.
Best Male Pop Vocal
This category may go to John Mayer, someone who keeps winning Grammy after Grammy, or it may be a posthumous award for Michael Jackson. I am hoping that there is a major upset and Adam Lambert's "Whataya Want from Me" (penned by Pink) is the victor in this category. The very gooey "Just the Way you Are" from Bruno Mars is a backup.
There are over 100 categories at the Grammys. Only a fraction of them are presented at the actual show. I have always said if you want a lot of Grammys, garner an iota of critical respect in a little known genre. Alison Krauss' 26 Grammy Awards partly came from the fact that she dominated the Bluegrass category for a decade. Jimmy Sturr has 16 Grammys in the Polka category.
Well, let's tune in and very likely be displeased with whom the Recording Academy chooses as the Best of the Year.