Article by Eugene DeCosse
Every year, the music industry congregates to celebrate the previous year’s musical accomplishments at the Grammys. The Grammys are seen as the epitome of musical awards, like the Oscars for movies or the Emmys for television. This year the Grammys will be held on February 15th in Los Angeles, California (McDermott).
The musicians with the most nominations this year are Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, The Weeknd, and Drake. Kendrick Lamar has eleven nominations (Kendrick), second only to Michael Jackson’s twelve in 1984. Lamar has received nominations for his critically acclaimed album To Pimp a Butterfly and collaborations with artists like Taylor Swift and Kanye West. Taylor Swift has received seven nominations for her blockbuster album 1989 (Kendrick), as well as her collaboration with Kendrick Lamar in the song “Bad Blood” and the subsequent music video. The album 1989 was the best selling album of 2014 and was the fastest album ever to sell five million copies (Caulfield). The Weeknd also has seven nominations for his album Beauty Behind the Madness and is nominated in all three of the traditional big categories: album of the year, record of the year, and song of the year (Kendrick). Drake has received five nominations for his mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Unfortunately, Drake missed out on nominations for his song “Hotline Bling” because of Grammy registration issues (Miller). Adele who released blockbuster album 25 will also not be nominated for any awards because of the eligibility period for a work to be considered; the Grammys this year will award works released between October 2014 and September 2015. The cutoff is used to create time for voters to listen to the albums and songs, and leave time for nominations and award ceremony (Briones).
Although Adele will not be contesting any awards this year, she will be performing. Along with Adele, a host of big names like Kendrick Lamar, Little Big Town, The Weeknd, Pitbull, and Justin Bieber will be performing at the ceremony. The ceremony will be hosted by LL Cool J for the fifth consecutive time (Briones).
Grammy awards can be received in over seventy categories, both genre specific (For example: Best Country Album) and genre neutral (For example: Song of the Year). However, out of the seventy plus categories, four categories hold more precedence than the others: album of the year, record of the year, song of the year, and best new artist. A common confusion among viewers is the difference between song of the year and record of the year. “Song of the year” awards songwriting, while “record of the year” awards everything that went into the song from production to performance (McKinney). The nominees for the big four categories according to Business Wire are listed below:
Album of the Year
To Pimp a Butterfly: Kendrick Lamar
Sound & Color; Alabama Shakes
Traveller: Chris Stapleton
Beauty Behind the Madness: The Weeknd
1989: Taylor Swift
Song of the Year
Blank Space: Max Martin, Shellback and Taylor Swift
Alright: Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Anthony Spears and Pharrell Williams
See You Again: Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charles Puth and Cameron Thomaz
Girl Crush: Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose
Thinking Out Loud: Ed Sheeran and Amy Wadge
Record of the Year
Really Love: D’Angelo and The Vanguard
Uptown Funk: Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars
Thinking Out Loud: Ed Sheeran
Blank Space: Taylor Swift
Can’t Feel My Face: The Weeknd
Best New Artist
Every year, the selections for each of these categories are widely debated, and the Grammys are often scrutinized for their relative lack of direction and structure regarding their awards. For an award like Album of the Year, there is problem with what to value. Every album has a different purpose and it is hard to objectively judge an album without set criteria. For example, even within this year’s nominees for Album of the Year, albums like 1989 and To Pimp a Butterfly have very different purposes. Taylor Swift stated 1989, “was to make songs that were instantly catchy” and “to bounce out of the speakers” (Inocencio); whereas, Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly was dense with lyrics and filled with non radio friendly songs. Kendrick’s album was a timely piece about modern day racism and stardom and his goal was for, “the album to connect with people” (Weiner). Both are great albums but accomplish separate purposes. However, the Grammys do not specify what to award, and leave that up to the voters. Other questions also persist, Do the Grammys reward commercial or critical success? Do they have genre biases? It seems that much of the criteria is not clear and changes from year to year. Some years big blockbusters like Thriller will rake in the awards, while in other years relatively indie critically acclaimed albums like Morning Phase will triumph (GRAMMY). However, the trend has largely been moving towards critically acclaimed albums winning awards, instead of blockbusters like Thriller. Although it is hard to pick winners because the criteria is always evolving, these are my picks for the four major categories at this year’s Grammys.
To Pimp a Butterfly will win the album of the year. No other album this year surpassed the significance and relevance of To Pimp a Butterfly. To Pimp a Butterfly examines what it really means to be black in the midst of racial turmoil and the influence that popular artists carry. The Grammys have had a trend of awarding critically acclaimed albums, and Kendrick Lamar has no competition in the second category. Kendrick Lamar’s album has been one of the most positively reviewed albums in recent years, as evidenced by a 96 on Metacritic, the review aggregator site, the highest score in the last ten years, out of albums with over ten reviewers (Metacritic). Although To Pimp a Butterfly has not sold as many copies as 1989 or Beauty Behind The Madness, sales have not dictated winners in this category in recent years. In the last few years, albums like Morning Phase, Raising Sand, and The Suburbs, have won the award despite limited success in the sales department (GRAMMY).
For song of the year, “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift will win. Although nowhere near as lyrically dense compared to “Alright” and “Girl Crush” or as emotional as “Thinking Out Loud” and “See You Again”, the light natured and self depreciating humor in “Blank Space” should be able to garner enough votes to win. “Alright” and “Girl Crush” will take votes from each other from voters looking for intricate or creative lyrics while “Thinking Out Loud” and “See You Again” will do the same with votes looking for the “emotional” song.
“Uptown Funk” will win record of the year. No other song this year has spent as much time as “Uptown Funk” at the top of the charts, a testament to its fresh electro funk beat and catchiness. If there was one category that depended heavily on record sales, record of the year would be it, much to the advantage of chart topping “uptown funk”.
For best new artist Sam Hunt will win. Although Meghan Trainor may be the popular choice because of her chart success, Sam Hunt has been able to blur the lines between country and pop music and is clearly the more innovative artist; this should be a big influence, because the Grammys have awarded more innovative acts for best new artist like Bon Iver in recent years. Bon Iver like Sam Hunt, has blurred the distinctions of genre by combining auto tune with folk while stretching across genres and collaborating with multiple rap acts like Chief Keef and Kanye West (GRAMMY).
Briones, Ayane. “Adele Will Make Her First Grammys Appearance in 3 Years | Teen Vogue.” Teen aaaaaaaVogue. N.p., 21 Jan. 2016. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.
Caulfield, Keith. “Taylor Swift’s ‘1989’ Hits 5 Million in U.S. Sales, Is the Fastest-Selling Album In aaaaaaaOver 10 Years | Billboard.” Billboard. N.p., 8 July 2015. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.
“GRAMMY History.” The GRAMMYs. N.p., n.d. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.
Inocencio, Marco. “Taylor Swift Talks Transition From Country to Pop: ‘1989’ Felt ‘More Natural’.” aaaaaaaAt40. N.p., 30 Oct. 2014. Web. 8 Feb. 2016.
“Kendrick Lamar Leads GRAMMY® Nominations with 11; Taylor Swift and The Weeknd Each aaaaaaaGarner Seven.” Kendrick Lamar Leads GRAMMY® Nominations with 11; Taylor Swift and aaaaaaaThe Weeknd Each Garner Seven. Business Wire, 7 Dec. 2015. Web. 01 Feb. 2016.
McDermott, Maeve. “Grammys 2016: Everything We Know so Far.” USA TODAY. N.p., 27 Jan. aaaaaaa2016. Web.
McKinney, Kelsey. “Everything You Need to Know to Understand the Grammy’s 83 Categories.” Vox aaaaaaaTechnology. Vox, 5 Feb. 2015. Web.
Metacritic “To Pimp A Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar.” Metacritic. N.p., 16 Mar. 2015. Web. 01 Feb. aaaaaaa2016.
Miller, Matt. “Here’s Why Drake’s ‘Hotline Bling’ Didn’t Get Any Grammy Nominations.” aaaaaaaEsquire N.p., 8 Dec. 2015. Web.
Weiner, Natalie. “Kendrick Lamar Visits High Schoolers Studying ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ | Billboard.” aaaaaaaBillboard. Billboard, 6 Oct. 2014. Web. 08 Feb. 2016.