Who will -- and who should -- win in several key Grammy categories
The Grammy Awards holds its 53rd annual awards tonight. Only recordings released from Sept. 1, 2009, to Sept. 30, 2010, are eligible, which is a huge relief for everyone on this list, as Kanye West's world-beating "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" didn't show up in stores until November. (Assuming Kanye doesn't royally annoy voters between now and then, which is a big "if," look for him to be up there a lot during the 2012 telecast.)
A small array of Austinites is up for awards, including Willie Nelson for Americana album for "Country Music" and Patty Griffin for traditional gospel album with "Downtown Church." Pinetop Perkins and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Jimmie Vaughan collected nominations for best traditional blues album, for "Joined at the Hip" and "Plays Blues, Ballads & Favorites," respectively. James Cotton collected a nomination in the same category, for "Giant."
Grupo Fantasma received its second Grammy nomination for best Latin rock, alternative or urban album for "El Existential." Tortilla Factory, founded and run by the late Tony "Ham" Guerrero, who died Jan. 29, also scored a Tejano album nomination for "Cookin.' " Okkervil River chief Will Sheff received a nomination for best liner notes, for his work on "True Love Cast Out All Evil," Okkervil's album with Roky Erickson. Austin DJ Wolfgang Gartner was nominated for best remixed recording non-classical, for the song "Funk Nasty." (Read about Austin's John Arndt, nominated for his work with Christian group Gunger, on page F1.)
Here are a few thoughts on who we think will win the big categories, who should win and why.
Album of the Year
Nominees: 'The Suburbs,' Arcade Fire; 'Recovery,' Eminem; 'Need You Now,' Lady Antebellum; 'The Fame Monster,' Lady Gaga; 'Teenage Dream,' Katy Perry
Who will win: Eminem. As opposed to the largely unfortunate 'Relapse,' this one is actually good, not to mention one of the best-selling albums of recent times (triple platinum since it arrived in June!). Gaga and Perry are still singles ladies and Lady Antebellum is too Nashville by half.
Who should win: The rock critic answer is 'The Suburbs' but, contrary to most critics, I don't think it's even the best Arcade Fire album. Eminem's 'Recovery' by a nose.
Record of the Year
(Award to the artist and the producer, recording engineer and/or mixer)
Nominees: 'Nothin' on You,' B.o.B Featuring Bruno Mars; 'Love the Way You Lie,' Eminem Featuring Rihanna; 'Forget You,' Cee Lo Green; 'Empire State of Mind,' Jay-Z and Alicia Keys; 'Need You Now,' Lady Antebellum
Who will win: Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, much to the blinding rage of those of us who don't actually live in New York.
Who should win: Cee Lo, all the way. It's funny, its online distribution story is cutting-edge, it's practically a meme and 'Forget You' is the title we can print in the paper.
Song of the Year
(A songwriters award)
Nominees: 'Beg Steal or Borrow,' Ray LaMontagne; 'Forget You,' Cee Lo Green; 'The House That Built Me,' Miranda Lambert; 'Love the Way You Lie,' Eminem featuring Rihanna; 'Need You Now,' Lady Antebellum
Who will win: Lambert and Antebellum will split the Nashville vote; my guess is that LaMontagne doesn't quite have the industry juice to put it over the top. So it's Cee Lo or Eminem and Rihanna. My gut says the latter, but ...
Who should win: Cee Lo, for exactly the reasons it should win Record. It has a great story and it's a great song.
Best New Artist
(For an artist who releases the first recording that establishes the artist's public identity)
Nominees: Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence and the Machine, Mumford and Sons, Esperanza Spalding
Who will win: This is one weird list. A teen idol, a Canadian rapper, an act that sounds a whole lot like Kate Bush, an English folk rock band that sells hundreds of thousands of records without anyone but its fans noticing, and a jazz bassist. Uh ... Drake, maybe?
Who should win: Mumford and Sons, if only to remind people that their success is kind of surreal for its organic nature. They have support on AAA (adult album alternative) radio, AAA listeners still buy records, and their fans love them a great deal, almost mysteriously so.
Best Pop Vocal Album
'My World 2.0,' Justin Bieber; 'I Dreamed a Dream,' Susan Boyle; 'The Fame Monster,' Lady Gaga; 'Battle Studies,' John Mayer; 'Teenage Dream,' Katy Perry
Who will win: Oddly, John Mayer, as he is the most trad-rock on the list.
Who should win: For sheer singing, sheer quality of instrument, probably Boyle or Gaga. For pop as in 'getting everyone to talk about you all the time,' gotta go with Gaga, so let's.
Best Rock Album
Nominees: 'Emotion and Commotion,' Jeff Beck; 'The Resistance,' Muse; 'Backspacer,' Pearl Jam; 'Mojo,' Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers; 'Le Noise,' Neil Young
Who will win: Man alive, is that a dire list. My guess is Jeff Beck, if for no other reason than he just doesn't make records all that often.
Who should win: None of these people, honestly. I suppose Neil Young for the sheer oddness of the record, which is a solo electric guitar recording with vocals.
Best R&B Album
Nominees: 'The Love and War Masterpeace,' Raheem DeVaughn; 'Back to Me,' Fantasia; 'Another Round,' Jaheim; 'Wake Up!' John Legend and the Roots; 'Still Standing,' Monica
Who will win: Probably the Roots and John Legend. The academy adores Legend — he has six of those statues already.
Who should win: Here's the thing: 'Wake Up!' is a covers album, only one original among them, but it is a sharply realized tribute to political '70s soul. Then again, Raheem DeVaughn's record has a nice mix of old-school and modernity. Eh, let's give it to Legend and the Roots.
Best Rap Album
Nominees: 'The Adventures of Bobby Ray,' B.o.B.; 'Thank Me Later,' Drake; 'Recovery,' Eminem; 'The Blueprint 3,' Jay-Z; 'How I Got Over,' the Roots
Who will win: Probably Eminem, unless everyone feels like kissing up to Jay for an album that came out in 2009.
Who should win: A three-way tie for first: Eminem, the Roots and Drake all made smart, powerful hip-hop albums, and none of them contain 'Empire State of Mind,' but it's the Roots who made a record as good or better than they ever have.
Best Country Album
Nominees: 'Up on the Ridge,' Dierks Bentley; 'You Get What You Give,' Zac Brown Band; 'The Guitar Song,' Jamey Johnson; 'Need You Now,' Lady Antebellum; 'Revolution,' Miranda Lambert
Who will win: Lady Antebellum, for two reasons: It's a decent record and two of the members have family ties — Scott is the daughter of country music singer Linda Davis and Charles Kelley is the brother of pop singer Josh Kelley.
Who should win: Country music critics adored Jamey Johnson's sprawling double CD for its breadth and depth. Like most doubles, trimming it to a single would make it immortal, but who wants to live forever? Johnson should take the trophy.
Best Alternative Music Album
Nominees: 'The Suburbs,' Arcade Fire; 'Infinite Arms,' Band of Horses; 'Brothers,' the Black Keys; 'Broken Bells,' Broken Bells; 'Contra,' Vampire Weekend
Who will win: Another one that's really tough to call. Vampire Weekend is a huge name, but the album can't touch their debut. Broken Bells seems like a sympathy nod, so it's Black Keys and Arcade Fire, who already have one. Arcade Fire by a nose.
Who should win: Again, when I break out an Arcade Fire record, it's not 'The Suburbs,' but many consider it a masterpiece, and I think it's probably better than the rest of the records here.