The Recording Academy announced the nominees Friday (December 6) for the 56th Annual Grammy Awards, which will take place in Los Angeles, California, January 26, 2014.
As is always the case after the nominees are announced, critics examine the list and try to figure out what the members of the Academy were thinking when they made their selections. Before we get all riled up about the nominees and those who deserved to be nominated, but weren't, it's important to remember that the music nominated was released during the period October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013. (That's why, for example, Arcade Fire's Reflektor album wasn't nominated for album of the year, while the title track (and first single) was snubbed by the Academy — the single was released September 9.)
Also, while many music fans (and snobs) will complain that obscure alternative album A or single B was entirely more worthy of a nomination than many of the nominees were, we're going to try to avoid veering into obscurity when analyzing the nominees. As a music snob, I gave up hope long ago that the majority of my favorite albums, songs, or artists would be nominated for work that is arguably far superior to that which was nominated.
With the date parameters clear, here's a look at what the Recording Academy did well, where it failed, and where we were just left scratching our heads:
Good: Kendrick Lamar receiving seven nominations, including an Album of the Year nomination for good kid, m.A.A.d city. Lamar's debut full-length was preceded by a boatload of hype and lived up to it.
Bad: Neither Lorde nor Ariana Grande received a Best New Artist nomination. Best New Artist is often a minefield. Often, the winners are never heard from again, while the nominees go on to have long and fruitful careers. Often, the nominees are not new artists, but rather, performers who have released a number of albums and suddenly have a hit that catches the eye of the members of the Recording Academy (see Fountains of Wayne) Both Ed Sheeran and James Blake released their debut albums in 2011, and yet, both received Best New Artist nominations.
Huh?: Sara Bareilles' The Blessed Unrest received an Album of the Year nomination. I know that it's easy to pile on Bareilles, and her album was no less mediocre than a number of the other best album nominees; however, either Justin Timberlake's The 20/20 Experience or Bruno Mars' Unorthodox Jukebox definitely deserved a nomination over Bareilles. And while we're at it, enough Taylor Swift. Her album, Red, was unlistenable and it's time to stop paying attention to this unlikeable (unless you're a 15-year-old girl) woman whose level of self-importance is as high as Katy Perry's singing is tone-deaf.
Good: Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" getting a Record of the Year nomination. It's far and away the best record of the year. Which leads us to...
Bad: Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" not getting a Song of the Year nomination. (For those unaware, the difference between Song of the Year and Record of the Year is that Song of the Year is a songwriter's award while Record of the Year is an artist's award, recognizing the song's performance and production.) Not to pick on Katy Perry, but did a song as puerile as "Roar," which needed five songwriters to bang out a series of increasingly irritating cliches, more deserving of a nomination than "Get Lucky". And while we're at it, Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" deserved a Song of the Year nomination. One wonders whether voters didn't nominate "Blurred Lines" for song is due to the controversy surrounding its alleged similarity to Marvin Gaye's "Got to Give It Up."
Huh: How does Timberlake's "Suit and Tie" (one of the few songs ever overplayed in television commercials without becoming irritating) not receive a song or record of the year nomination?
Good: Miley Cyrus was snubbed. We can all hope that this means that she won't be seen at the Grammy Awards.
Bad: Arcade Fire's "Reflektor" single didn't receive a nomination in any category. It's not the best track on the album, but it is one of the better singles released this year.
Huh: Led Zeppelin receiving nominations for Best Rock Performance ("Kashmir" (Live)) and Best Rock Album (Celebration Day), which were recorded in December 2007 at a Zeppelin reunion show. And I won't even get into the nomination for the Rolling Stones' "Doom And Gloom". Were there no other rock albums or performances that were more worthy? (My Bloody Valentine's m b v jumps to mind, as does Frightened Rabbit's Pedestrian Verse (which could have received an alternative nomination.)