Thoughts on 2014 Grammy Nominations

Posted: December 9, 2013 by ericbernsen in Features, Music, News
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The Grammy’s have announced the nominations for the 2014 awards and, as usual, there are no real surprises. The biggest radio songs of 2013 are up for song/record of the year and the household artists who have dominated the awards will be center stage once again. In terms of hip-hop, the two names that standout this year are Jay Z and Macklemore. Jay earned NINE nominations this year, which is remarkable for someone this late in his career. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are no doubt the biggest Grammy breakout act of 2013. The two are nominated for album of the year, song of the year, best new artist, as well as three rap awards. It is great to see that Kendrick Lamar and his album Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City have deserved recognition and the project is among the choices for album of the year.  Although in my personal opinion I feel the Grammy’s slight hip-hop and do not do a good job of representing the genre, the nominations always create a nice excuse for discussion and banter. Let’s take a look at the major categories below and I will provide my thoughts on each.

Record of the Year

Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams – Get Lucky

Imagine Dragons – Radioactive

Lorde – Royals

Bruno Mars – Locked Out of Heaven

Robin Thicke Featuring T.I. & Pharrell Williams – Blurred Lines

-Record of The Year recognizes the artist, producer, and engineers behind the song. Keeping this in mind, I think “Blurred Lines” should be the winner of this category among the choices here. This track was just a monster hit and although I personally enjoy “Get Lucky” more since I’m a huge Daft Punk fan, Robin Thicke, T.I, and Pharrell just gelled perfectly on the single and it is hard to deny.

Song of the Year

Pink feat. Nate Ruess – Just Give Me a Reason

Bruno Mars – Locked Out of Heaven

Katy Perry – Roar

Lorde – Royals

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Same Love

-Song of The Year is meant to recognize the composer and writers of the track. Although I think Macklemore is a product of the media-hype machine, the song writing on “Same Love” is inspirational and something much needed across the board in hip-hop today. Many artists have tackled the same issue of homosexuality, but since Macklemore is the one getting the credit for it I think he 100% deserves the award. The songwriting in the other nominations just pale in comparison in my opinion, so out of all the categories this is one in which I will be rooting for Macklemore to win.

Album of the Year

Sara Bareilles – The Blessed Unrest

Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist

Taylor Swift – Red

-I will say right away that there is a level of bias for me in regards to this category. I did not listen to “The Blessed Unrest” or “Red” and I am sure they are great in the minds of Sara Bareilles and Taylor Swift fans. But I did listen to Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City (hundreds of times) and it is the best rap album to come out in a long time that will be remembered as a true classic in this generation (just one man’s opinion). Meanwhile, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis burst onto the national scene with The Heist that was jam-packed with radio-friendly singles. Impressive, but nowhere near GKMC as a cohesive, pure hip-hop album. Daft Punk returned with Random Access Memories which was a great project and is certainly worth of being nominated. However, as I hip-hop fan I am riding with Kendrick all the way here. He probably won’t win, but it will just be a shame if Macklemore takes the award which will lead people to believe he is a better rapper than Kendrick….because that is just false.

Best New Artist

James Blake

Kendrick Lamar

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Kacey Musgraves

Ed Sheeran

-There is a reason that I have not highlighted a name above marking my selection….half of these artists are not NEW. The Grammy’s continue to baffle me each year with this category as they nominate people who have been making music for several years. James Blake has been releasing great music since 2010…Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore have been making mixtapes for almost 10 years…do we see the theme here? Plenty of “new” artists who have just come on in the last year or two  would be worthy of this award. The Grammy’s should just rename this the “Best New Artist That We Just Heard Of Within The Last Year Because They Broke Through On A Mainstream Level” category….you get the idea.

Best Rap Performance

Drake – Started From The Bottom

Eminem – Berzerk

Jay Z – Tom Ford

Kendrick Lamar – Swimming Pools (Drank)

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Wanz – Thrift Shop

-Speaking of blurred lines, it is hard to define what “Best Rap Performance” even means. The fact that “Tom Ford” is on here is a joke in my opinion and just speaks to how infatuated the Grammy’s are with Jay Z. “Berzerk” was a solid single for Eminem, but by no means do I think it is worthy of a Grammy. “Started From The Bottom” would be my instant pick for “Rap Anthem of The Year”, but that category does not exist. Drake certainly created something catchy with the track, but it is nothing spectacular especially when you compare it to the rest of the material on Nothing Was the Same. So now we are left with Kendrick and Macklemore. There is no denying that “Thrift Shop” was a huge hit and reached across all mediums…if you have a life you have heard the song. But in my right mind I just can’t say it is better than “Swimming Pools”, which is by far the deepest song among the choices. The fact that Kendrick was able to make an anti-binge drinking song and turn it into his biggest single with college kids everywhere yelling “Pour up…..DRANK” is extremely impressive and for that I give it the nod.

Best Rap Song

ASAP Rocky Featuring Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar – Fuckin’ Problems

Jay Z featuring Justin Timberlake – Holy Grail

Kanye West – New Slaves

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Thrift Shop

Drake – Started From the Bottom

-I am fully aware that “New Slaves” is a very unlikely pick to win this category. But looking at this competition, this is my selection by process of elimination. I think A$AP Rocky is a great artist and has a bright future ahead of him, but if a song with the hook “I love bad bitches that’s my fuckin problem” wins a Grammy then God help us all. I enjoyed the track and bump it every time I hear it on the radio, but it is nowhere near the upper echelon of “rap songs” that have been released in 2013. “Holy Grail” burst onto the charts due to the Justin Timberlake guest appearance, but honestly if JT wasn’t on this song it would not be nominated plan and simple. “Started From The Bottom” certainly had an impact on the hip-hop culture and I would not mind if it won. Still, I think “New Slaves” showcased Kanye at his peak in Yeezus mode as lyrically he touches on subjects that Grammy board members would normally shy away from (anti-corporation messaging). But Kanye cannot be ignored, plus the last 30/45 seconds of the song with vocals by Frank Ocean and Hungarian rock band singer Kobor Janos is arguably my favorite part of the whole Yeezus project.

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration

J.Cole Featuring Miguel – Power Trip

Jay Z Featuring Beyoncé – Part II (On The Run)

Jay Z Featuring Justin Timberlake – Holy Grail

Kendrick Lamar Featuring Mary J. Blige – Now Or Never

Wiz Khalifa Featuring The Weeknd – Remember You

-If we are really delving into what “Best Rap/Sung Collaboration” means, there is no doubt in my mind that J Cole and Miguel deserve this award. “Power Trip” was the lead single for J Cole’s Born Sinner album and this track was music to my ears when I first heard it as I knew the strong guest performance by Miguel on the hook would get the song heavy radio airplay. The two have undeniable chemistry together and I don’t see any other nomination that can match it. Jay Z and Beyonce might be a great couple, but “Part II (On The Run)” was mediocre and proved to be a rather forgettable track on the Magna Carta Holy Grail album. “Holy Grail” will probably win the category as Timberlake kills his opening verse and hook, but to me relative newcomers J Cole and Miguel just did a better job. My two favorite artists in music are Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd, but “Now or Never” should not be nominated for a Grammy in my opinion and although Abel does an amazing job on “Remember You”, the raps by Wiz Khalifa fail to match what in my mind is the Grammy standard.

Best Rap Album

Drake – Nothing Was The Same

Jay Z – Magna Carta…Holy Grail

Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D City

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist

Kanye West – Yeezus

-If I picked Kendrick Lamar to win “Album of the Year”, you better believe that I am fully supporting Good Kid, M.A.A.D City in this more-specific category. As I said previously, a project like GKMC only comes around once every so often as it really is a modern-day classic hip-hop album in my mind. “Magna Carta Holy Grail” is average when you compare it to the previous work of Jay Z and I don’t think it should be nominated. “Yeezus” was certainly an ambitious project by Kanye West that will grow in quality over time, but I don’t see it winning any Grammy’s. “Nothing Was The Same” was another unbelievable album by Drake that deserves tons of praise. However, I don’t think it can match the magic that Grammy winning album Take Care had. Lastly, we have Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and The Heist. If this album wins the category, it will epitomize what I believe to be true about the Grammy’s and their lack of hip-hop respectability. Records like “Thrift Shop” and “Same Love” were radio smashes and deservedly so. But GKMC is the complete package and one of the best storytelling/concept hip-hop albums of all time. If that can’t win a Grammy over an album with a bunch of mainstream friendly hits, it just shows you that the Grammy’s are not credible in judging rap music and are built to please the typical/casual listener.

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