The Grammys: Deep Cuts Recap

GrammysLast night’s awards show rollicked along with inspired live collaborations pushing crossover appeal to new heights, touching moments honoring timeless musical champions, and a whole lot of gold getting handed out.  At least, I assume that’s how it continued: low on energy and staring down the barrel of a new week of work, I only stayed up long enough to verify that Taylor Swift did not break her own neck.  Out of 82 categories, I knew only a handful of winners would be announced live on television and I’d have to wait till morning to see the full list anyway.  So, whether you remained entranced throughout the evening or missed out entirely, I’m here to cover material I’m sure you didn’t see.

For highlights from live performances, check the internet, because I’ll just be looking at the nominees list.  Fun facts, ho!

  1. As you are likely to hear around the water cooler, Daft Punk came out on top.  Foregoing the obvious pun, I’ll tell you what hardware they picked up: (1) Record of the Year, (2) Album of the Year, (3) Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, (4) Best Dance/Electronica Album, (5) Best Engineered Album—Non-Classical.  That means they beat out big names like Lorde and Kendrick Lamar, while also beating out people you’ve never heard of like Madeleine Peyroux.  And by association, their groupie Pharrell Williams nabbed Producer of the Year, though he credited as a performer only, not as a producer, on “Get Lucky.”
  2. The other big name mandatory in all Grammy coverage will be Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who took (1) Best Rap Performance, (2) Best Rap Song, and (3) Best Rap Album while missing out on Song of the Year and Album of the Year.  They were beaten by Justin Timberlake and Jay Z for Best Music Video (“Suit & Tie” > “Can’t Hold Us”) and didn’t garner even a nomination in the final rap category, Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, where Justin Timberlake and Jay Z again won out, this time with “Holy Grail.”  Jay Z’s name appears solo or among others on 7 non-winning nominations, as well as one other winner, since Pharrell Williams produced his “BBC.”  Despite Macklemore’s greater hype, I’d call the night a pretty even split between him and Jay Z as today’s new school and old school titans of rap.
  3. This sort of thing is tedious to verify, but with reasonable certainty, I’d say Kendrick Lamar scored the most nominations out of artists walking away empty handed.  Seven chances, no results.  I tried to find a parallel from the world of sports and couldn’t get closer than the Buffalo Bills, with four tragic Super Bowl appearances and none glorious.
  4. Taylor Swift had four whiffs on the night, this 0-for-4 a far cry from her 4-for-4 breakout in 2009.  Maybe they should stop nominating her in all these “country” categories.
  5. Rihanna’s Unapologetic, this year’s Best Urban Contemporary Album, gives her seven Grammys over seven years and puts keeps her streak alive at five years straight with at least one trophy.
  6. Pink is still relevant.  Two nominations for her collaboration with Fun.’s Nate Ruess and (so I hear) a live circus-act version of “Try” highlighted the thirteenth anniversary of her first Grammy, for… any guesses?  “Lady Marmalade.”  Okay, now, for bonus points, name all the girls on that track.  Ready?  Christina Aguilera (then age 20), Lil’ Kim (26), Mýa (21), and Pink (21).
  7. Paul McCartney is eternally relevant.  You have to kind of squint at the page like you’re working on a Magic Eye to find all his awards, but he actually had more than Macklemore: (1) Best Rock Song, (2) Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package, (3) Best Surround Sound Album, (4) Best Music Film.  Presumably he is working on the same “blackout Bingo” sheet he started as 1964’s Best New Artist, and is miffed at the addition of something like 40 new categories since then.  Note that 1964 marked only the 7th Annual Grammy Awards show.
  8. Did you know that there could be ties?  In Best World Music Album, the Gypsy Kings shared this year’s prize with Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and Best Historical Album was split between the Rolling Stones and Bill Withers.
  9. Three years since Arcade Fire confused millions of Twitterers by beating out the likes of Ladies Gaga and Antebellum, hipster music has settled again into the background where it belongs.  Vampire Weekend were nominated only for Best Alternative Music Album, which they won.
  10. Look forward to tonight’s Colbert Report, where you will be bludgeoned repeatedly with the information that Stephen Colbert took home Best Spoken Word Album.  This is his second Grammy, and he was already halfway to an EGOT.
  11. Cyndi Lauper deserves some sort of recognition for the longest period between awards.  Following up on her 1984 Best New Artist victory, last night she enjoyed her second Grammy win, this time for Best Musical Theater Album.  She wrote the music and lyrics for Kinky Boots, which is wholly original, so don’t go thinking this is another one of those jukebox musicals like Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out.
  12. In a rare case of Double-Marley, the award for Best Reggae album went to Ziggy Marley while British DJ Photek failed to cash in on his nomination for Best Remixed Recording—Non-Classical, having remixed Bob Marley’s “One Love.”

I’ve told you before, the Grammys are a little strange if you mind the details.  This year’s oldest release to claim victory was Led Zeppelin’s Celebration Day, which was released in October of 2012, just sixteen days past the cutoff for last year’s ceremony.  (No, wait… Kinky Boots premiered in Chicago more than two weeks earlier, the day after the cutoff.)  But while I was ticked off to see Gotye collect for Record of the Year in 2013, this year’s winners in the four general categories please me overall.  In fact, not only did Best New Artist (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis), Album of the Year (Random Access Memories), Song of the Year (“Royals”), and Record of the Year (“Get Lucky”) go to artists I find deserving; I take no issue with any of the nominees who even had a shot at those titles.

Are you more of a grouch, or just want to gush about your love for one of the winners?  Somebody needs to light up the comments section here, because without your guidance I’ll never know which of the live performances I missed are worth going back to watch on YouTube.

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8 thoughts on “The Grammys: Deep Cuts Recap

  1. Lots of great stuff here, but my favorite facts are that a) P!nk won a Grammy THIRTEEN years ago, b) the Cyndi Lauper 30 year gap, and c) the Grammy tie.

  2. The only thing here I might object to: calling Macklemore a new “titan of rap” — I’m not sure what your criteria for “titan” are, but since Grammies often come in clusters, I would argue that one good year of awards and chart performance does not earn you that moniker.

    • That’s fair, and I gather that Macklemore issued an actual apology to Kendrick Lamar for taking Best Rap Album, so we’ll see how that affects public perception. I was just as likely to use some less intense synonym there and probably should have. Maybe trying to apply any single word to both Macklemore and Jay Z is too much of a stretch at this juncture. Still, those two and Lamar shared the hip-hop limelight pretty evenly last night with little left for anyone else, giving an impression of equality on some level.

  3. I don’t really follow the genre at all, so forgive my ignorance. Yeezus was kind of a big deal, right? I don’t see Kanye mentioned here at all. What’s the story?

    • Kanye West’s efforts on Yeezus earned him two nominations: one for Best Rap Song (“New Slaves”) and one for Best Rap Album. However, his storyline wasn’t one of those closely followed by commentary leading into the show. It’s hard to believe that hype doesn’t at all correlate with wins. Rather than trusting my memory, I’ll cite Metacritic ratings in stating that Yeezus (June 2013) was not as well regarded as 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Still a perennial media personality, Kanye might simply have come up short this year—winning a Grammy takes real achievement as well as luck, and all we can say for sure is that he came up shorter than others, in the eyes of the Recording Academy.

    • I’ll agree with Colton to a certain extent, but I’d add that Yeezus is not the kind of album to win awards. It’s the most critically acclaimed album of the year despite lower average review scores, but it doesn’t have any signature hits, it’s kind of alienating and un-fun. I also suspect that people are a little tired of him, that there were no easy narratives to build around an album that tries so hard to be insular and detached, and that voters don’t like him and don’t want him to make winner speeches.

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