Friday, December 09, 2005

The 48th Annual Grammy Awards Nominees

The Grammy nominees are out! You can view the complete list of nominees at Top of the news is of course, the fact that Mimi has been emancipated and rewarded with eight noms, including the top 3 biggies: Album, Record and Song of the Year. However, she has to share the honours with Kanye West and John Legend, both of whom also scooped up eight nods apiece.

Kanye West himself is having a banner year, being nominated 10 times just last year for his debut album, The College Dropout. John Legend is also a Kanye West protege, and his album, Get Lifted, was released on West's label. Besides, West also contributed production duties on Mariah Carey's Emancipation album. After his disappointing showing last year, where he only won three Grammys (due to Academy voters' sentiments to the late Ray Charles), West is hoping he will garner a bigger share of the honours come February next year.

Let's examine some of the major categories:

Record of the Year

  • We Belong Together (Mariah Carey)
  • Feel Good Inc. (Gorillaz featuring De La Soul)
  • Boulevard Of Broken Dreams (Green Day)
  • Hollaback Girl (Gwen Stefani)
  • Gold Digger (Kanye West)

Three of the songs here have topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts: We Belong Together (14 weeks), Hollaback Girl (4 weeks) and Gold Digger (10 weeks). Mariah's track is one of the biggest tracks of the year and is surely the one to beat. However, the other nominees are not exactly slackers either. Feel Good Inc. and Boulevard both hit number one on the Modern Rock charts too (Boulevard narrowly missed out on the top spot in the Hot 100, peaking at number 2). But in the case of the Gorillaz, considering that they're the only British group here, they stand a slim chance of picking up the top gong.

Album of the Year

  • The Emancipation Of Mimi (Mariah Carey)
  • Chaos And Creation In The Backyard (Paul McCartney)
  • Love.Angel.Music.Baby. (Gwen Stefani)
  • How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb (U2)
  • Late Registration (Kanye West)

This category is another tight race, and as usual, it features one sentimental favourite in the form of Paul McCartney. Critics have said that this is Sir Paul's best work in years, but still...

Mariah refuses to call Emancipation her "comeback" album, insisting that she has never been away. However, no matter how you see it, it truly marks a return to form for Mariah. Despite her chart topping successes in the 90s (she's the only artiste to have a number one hit every year of the 90s), she has only won two Grammys (Best New Artiste and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for Vision Of Love in 1991). It might finally be time for some critical recognition.

Gwen Stefani proved that there is life after No Doubt, emerging as a formidable solo act (the album has already culled five hit singles). I recently purchased the album and I must say that it is one of the top pop albums of the year. However, Stefani is unlikely to win this category, but being nominated is already a very big honour for this new solo artiste.

Kanye West released his sophomore album to critical acclaim and I'm counting on him to win this one. He'll probably just edge out Mariah for this award, seeing how he was "snubbed" last year.

Another critic darling is U2, who seem to have a perennial date with the Grammys with every album that they release. Atomic Bomb didn't bomb, but it was released such a long time ago that voters might simply forget about it. Also, it isn't as strong as their previous album, All That You Can't Leave Behind.

Best New Artiste

  • Ciara
  • Fall Out Boy
  • Keane
  • John Legend
  • Sugarland

Looking at the history of winners for this award, only one hip-hop artiste has ever won this award, and that was Lauryn Hill in 1999. As such, you can count Ciara out. Besides she isn't as groundbreaking as Lauryn Hill was, who indeed broke ground by being the first artiste to win Album of the Year with a hip-hop album.

I'm not quite sure who Sugarland and Fall Out Boy are. They seem quite obscure in this part of the world. Keane had a good year last year, and I'm quite surprised that they're nominated. Didn't know that they had managed to break into the tough US market. However, no British act has won this award for the past 15 years, so Keane seems unlikely to win. The best bet will be John Legend then.

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance

  • It's Like That (Mariah Carey)
  • Since U Been Gone (Kelly Clarkson)
  • Good Is Good (Sheryl Crow)
  • I Will Not Be Broken (Bonnie Raitt)
  • Hollaback Girl (Gwen Stefani)

It's surprising Mariah got nominated for It's Like That when I felt that she gave a better performance on We Belong Together. Kelly Clarkson has been faring very well on the charts and this might be the song to win her her first Grammy. Like U2, Sheryl Crow is another perennial favourite. She gives a credible performance on Good Is Good, but it's not her best. Hollaback Girl might be a little too rowdy and vulgar ("This my shit, this my shit") for the conservative voters. Bonnie Raitt is an unknown quantity, so look for a tussle between Raitt and Clarkson.

Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals

  • Gone Going (Black Eyed Peas & Jack Johnson)
  • Virginia Moon (Foo Fighters featuring Norah Jones)
  • Feel Good Inc. (Gorillaz featuring De La Soul)
  • A Song For You (Herbie Hancock featuring Christina Aguilera)
  • A Time To Love (Stevie Wonder featuring India.Arie)

While not exactly a major category, I'm highlighting it here because I'm very pleased to see Virginia Moon being nominated. Before Foo Fighters' latest album was released, there was talk of them collaborating with Norah Jones and the initial response was nothing short of shock: a hard rock band and Norah Jones of light jazz on the same track?

I was very eager to find out what the end result would be and I was pleasantly surprised, like everyone else, at what a fine tune they have come up with. The Foos managed to reinvent themselves to suit Jones, and Dave Grohl's "other" voice (the non-screaming one) compliments Jones' perfectly. I really hope they win this category.

Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal

  • Speed Of Sound (Coldplay)
  • Best Of You (Foo Fighters)
  • Do You Want To (Franz Ferdinand)
  • All These Things That I've Done (The Killers)
  • Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own (U2)

This is one tough category. Every nominee is good and it pits the most exciting bands in business today in the same category. U2 has been blessed with exceptional luck at the Grammys and they have won their fair share of awards, so I think it's time they let others have the chance. Best Of You is a solid track, but the Foos haven't been kicking up a big storm in the US this past year.

Franz Ferdinand, The Killers and Coldplay are probably the best-reviewed and best-loved bands in the US right now, so it's real tough trying to pick the winner here. However, I think Coldplay will tip the scales because they proved their consistency and quality over three albums, whereas the other two need more time to prove their worth.

Best Hard Rock Performance

  • Doesn't Remind Me (Audioslave)
  • The Hand That Feeds (Nine Inch Nails)
  • Tin Pan Valley (Robert Plant)
  • Litte Sister (Queens Of The Stone Age)
  • B.Y.O.B. (System Of A Down)

I'm glad to see that two of my favourite songs of the year are included here. The Hand That Feeds and Little Sister are among my Top 10 songs of the year, and both are evenly matched. If either wins, I'll be happy.

Best Female R&B Vocal Performance

  • 1 Thing (Amerie)
  • Wishing On A Star (Beyonce)
  • We Belong Together (Mariah Carey)
  • Free Yourself (Fantasia)
  • Unbreakable (Alicia Keys)

The only reason why It's Like That was nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance instead of We Belong Together is because the latter is nominated in the R&B category. So It's Like That is more "pop" than We Belong Together? To me, both are quite R&B sounding.

Anyway, Mariah should win this category without breaking a sweat. Beyonce is so last year. Fantasia is a diva-wannabe and it will be a good chance to learn from the real diva. Amerie had a hit in the catchy 1 Thing, but it's too lightweight. Alicia Keys is super over-rated with this song, when compared to If I Ain't Got You, my song of the year for 2004.


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