Tuesday, December 11, 2007


Well, the Grammys have done it again! I've often argued that the Grammy Awards are, in fact, credible. Indeed, I'm a voter - I've voted for the past few years.

I'm not a fan of the myriad of award ceremonies that seem to crop up week after week. But the Grammys seem to have (to me) a prestige to them, plus there's the fact that they are given out by an organization that works year round to support music.

Yes, it's a corporate thing, yes, the major labels have lots of influence, yes, critical favorites are often overlooked, blah, blah, blah. But I think that they've done a good job of getting a clue since the days that Jethro Tull beat Metallica for the heavy metal Grammy or DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince beat Public Enemy. At it's best, the Grammys award artists who combine artistic merit (which, of course, is subjective) and sales.

And that's why I was floored (like a lot of other people) when I saw that Bruce Springsteen was shut out of the "major" categories of Album, Record and Song of the Year. I figured Bruce, along with Kanye West and Amy Winehouse were going to be the big nominees, and I was right in two out of the three. Where The Grammys used to be more about older artists, now it favors younger ones (probably in no small part because of the TV ratings). But Bruce is the type of artist the voters seem to love: he's older but (unlike Steely Dan, who won a big Grammy a few years ago), sells a lot of records, and is a big influence on younger artists, from Pearl Jam to Arcade Fire.

"Girls In Their Summer Clothes" is such a great song and production, I was really surprised that it wasn't nominated for Record and Song. Although I don't write about mainstream pop too often, I like a lot of big pop hits: so I have no problem with Justin Timberlake's "What Comes Around... Goes Around" being nominated for Record. I love Amy Winehouse's "Rehab." I haven't heard the new songs by Beyonce or Rihanna (who seems very Beyonce-like). And I am definitely a Foo Fighters fan. But from a production standpoint, I can't see how the Foo Fighters' "The Pretender" is a great production - it sounds like the producer stayed out of the way and let the band rip. Rightfully so. But "Girls..." is a great wall of sound production.

"Rehab" is also up for Song, which I have no problem with (although I prefer Amy's "You Know I'm No Good"). I really like Corinne Bailey Rae's "Like A Star," but I don't think it is as good as "Girls..." A lot of people diss American Idol winner Carrie Underwood. I don't know much about her, but "Before He Cheats" is a great song (albiet one she didn't write). Is the Plain White T's song really better than Bruce's?

Both Amy Winehouse and Kanye West are up for Album of the Year, rightfully so. I'm happy to see Foo Fighters up for it. I was suprised to see Vince Gill: I like the music that I've heard from him, but it was a quadruple album. Did it really make that much of an impact? You'd think that if the voters were in tune with country music, it would be a Keith Urban or Brad Paisley or even Carrie Underwood album, with all due respect to Mr. Gill. Finally, with all due respect to Herbie Hancock - who has some incredible music on his resume, including his stint with Miles Davis, his own band The Headhunters and the immortal "Rockit," just to name some. But how is his Joni Mitchell tribute album nominated for Album Of The Year? It just seems like block voting or something. Meanwhile, I guess Columbia Records' staff was more interested in getting nominations for Beyonce than for Bruce.

This is coming off like a whiny post. Well, Bruce did get a few nominations: Magic is up for Best Rock album, against Foo Fighters, John Fogerty, Wilco and Daughtry. As long as Daughtry doesn't win, that's cool. "Radio Nowhere" is up for Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance against Beck's album-less single "Timebomb," John Mellencamp's "Our Country," Lucinda Williams' "Come On" and some Paul McCartney song. And Bruce's version of Ennio Morricone's "Once Upon A Time In The West" is up against Metallica's version of Morricone's "The Ecstasy Of Gold," Rush's "Malignant Narcissism" and songs by Joe Satriani and Steve Vai (if I were to vote, I'd go for Rush!).

It's not all about Bruce, either. I was happy to see Foo Fighters get those props. Robert Plant & Alison Krauss got a nod, as did The Beastie Boys (for their underrated The Mix-Up album), The White Stripes ("You Don't Know What Love Is [You Just Do What You're Told]" is surely one of the best songs of the year), U2 (for "Window In The Skies" from their best-of, and "Instant Karma" from the John Lennon tribute album). Green Day (for "Working Class Hero" also from the Lennon tribute), Ozzy Osbourne (for his great song "I Don't Wanna Stop"), Common and Steve Earle. Alicia Keys got some for her great song "No One" - I don't think her album will be eligible until next year's Grammys, a strategy often used by U2. Ben Harper got one for Best Instrumental for "Paris Sunrise #7" but realistically, it is probably because he is one of the few "pop" artists with an instrumental who the voters have heard of.

I guess there's no use in taking the Grammy Awards that seriously: this Friday, tickets go on sale for three Springsteen shows at Giants Stadium. Last time he did Giants Stadium (in 2003 with The E Street Band on The Rising tour) he started out by putting three shows on sale, and ended up playing ten sold out nights (followed by three at Shea Stadium weeks later). I guess it's better to have the vote of the people - that's democracy for you.


Andy said...

What's wrong if Daughtry wins? It surprisingly is a pretty good album. You should check it out. The producer of the album also is nominated for the "Producer of the Year" Grammy Award.

Anonymous said...

Fans of Bruce Springsteen are not only devoted but articulate about why they worship the Boss. A new book “For You: Original Stories & Photographs by Bruce Springsteen’s Legendary Fans” is the work of disciples from Boise to Barcelona. The mayor of Delray Beach, Fla., says it best: “Bruce fans are a fraternity — we share something deep and special, a relationship with the artist and with each other.”