2005 / Music / Previews

Soundbytes: Glimpse Predictions For Grammy 2005

West, Green Day To Compete For Top Awards

If I were smart, I’d get into the award-manufacturing business. Call me a cynical critic, but every year, it seems the entertainment industry creates yet another award show to heap praise on itself. (Really. Where did the Screen Actors Guild Awards come from? How many more Oscar clones do we really need? Are our celebrities truly underappreciated?)

Photo: CBS

Photo: CBS

This Sunday, it’s the Grammy’s turn, and with a 47-year history of being behind-the-curve on nearly every musical trend and only occasionally recognizing true artistic achievement, this year’s awards features a broader cross-section of the pop music landscape than ever before.

Take the top categories of “Record Of The Year,” “Album Of The Year,” and “Song Of The Year” for example. This year’s nominations include not only diverse music-makers from rock, R&B, and hip-hop, but nominees in various stages in their careers. This combination should attract a wide audience for the telecast and make for some interesting competitions.

Record Of The Year

  • “Let’s Get It Started,” The Black Eyed Peas
  • “Here We Go Again,” Ray Charles & Norah Jones
  • “American Idiot,” Green Day
  • “Heaven,” Los Lonely Boys
  • “Yeah!” Usher (featuring Lil Jon & Ludacris)

The prediction: Green Day. Conventional wisdom would say that Usher will be the likely winner. He’s currently the king of pop, is slated to perform Sunday night, and he’s the poster boy for this year’s awards. However, Green Day’s disc was the second strongest album of the year (bested only by Kanye West’s “The College Dropout”), and with no Kanye competition in this category (in contrast to others), they could galvanize enough votes to upset Usher. The other contenders won?t muster enough support. Although he’s a familiar name to the wide spectrum of Grammy voters, the late Ray Charles will probably be recognized in other categories as a tribute his trailblazing career. Los Lonely Boys are still not household names, and the Black Eyed Peas — who were nominated but lost in a couple of categories last year and are nominated again this year ?- have failed to crossover enough to pull off a victory here.

Album Of The Year

  • “Genius Loves Company,” Ray Charles & Various Artists
  • “American Idiot,” Green Day
  • “The Diary Of Alicia Keys,” Alicia Keys
  • “Confessions,” Usher
  • “The College Dropout,” Kanye West

The prediction: Kanye West. Again, Usher is the most popular act in this category, but it’s not the fans that vote for the Grammys. Kanye West already had an established track record as a hitmaker for other R&B and hip-hop stars, but the depth, complexity and musicality of his solo debut took many by surprise. Industry people admire and respect his work and he should come out on top. The other three nominees will win their honors in other categories.

Song Of The Year

  • “Daughters,” John Mayer
  • “If I Ain’t Got You,” Alicia Keys
  • “Jesus Walks,” Miri Ben Ari, C. Smith and Kanye West (Kanye West)
  • “Live Like You Were Dying,” Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman (Tim McGraw)
  • “The Reason,” Daniel Estrin and Douglas Robb (Hoobastank)

The prediction: Kanye West. “Jesus Walks” deserves appreciation both because it was a hit and because it was such a unique creation, musically and lyrically. There’s also the admittedly tame controversy surrounding the song (some radio stations and Christian groups were irked that an overtly religious song featured some naughty words). This might lay the groundwork for some who want to make a statement about radio censorship. Alicia Keys’ song was a hit, but it fell short of the mega-success of “Fallin'” and the other radio staples from her debut record. Being the only country artist in the top trinity of categories could work to Tim McGraw’s advantage and place him in the running. Mayer and Hoobastank have their constituencies but that won’t be enough.

Best New Artist

  • Los Lonely Boys
  • Maroon5
  • Joss Stone
  • Kanye West
  • Gretchen Wilson

The prediction: Kanye West. Hardly a new artist as he’s been producing since the late ’90s, Kanye West nonetheless has reinvented himself as a star in his own right based on the strength of his solo debut. While “The College Dropout” further solidified his position as hip-hop’s hottest song doctor (maybe tied with Pharrell), you can be sure the powers-that-be will give him free rein on his next solo outing.

Pop Vocal Album

  • “Genius Loves Company,” Ray Charles & Various Artists
  • “Feels Like Home,” Norah Jones
  • “Afterglow,” Sarah McLachlan
  • “Mind, Body & Soul,” Joss Stone
  • “Brian Wilson Presents Smile,” Brian Wilson

The prediction: Brian Wilson. It’s odd that Wilson didn’t get nominated for “Smile” in the “Album Of The Year” category as his record has landed on many critics’ picks of the top albums of 2004. Also, his story of completing his Beach Boys masterwork after years of problems with drug and mental illness would seem a perfect fit for the perennial Grammy comeback. Regardless, this category would seem an easy victory for him. Of the three female nominees, none really scored a hit with their efforts. Sympathy votes could make Ray Charles competitive.

Best Rock Album

  • “The Delivery Man,” Elvis Costello & The Imposters
  • “American Idiot,” Green Day
  • “The Reason,” Hoobastank
  • “Hot Fuss,” The Killers
  • “Contraband,” Velvet Revolver

The prediction: Green Day. The pop-punk trio should easily capture this award. The album not only gave their careers a much-needed kickstart, but also demonstrated a willingness to mature as songwriters and experiment musically that the band hadn’t explored previously. Costello’s record wasn’t one of his best and his nomination appears to be motivated more by acknowledging him for past achievements. The Killers had a bigger hit than Green Day, but their album overall wasn’t an equal to “American Idiot.”

Best Rock Song

  • “American Idiot,” Green Day
  • “Fall To Pieces,” Velvet Revolver
  • “Float On,” Modest Mouse
  • “Somebody Told Me,” The Killers
  • “Vertigo,” U2

The prediction: Green Day. I think this will be a close one and will likely be one of the most competitive categories. I’m thinking Green Day just because they’ll likely prevail in the “Best Rock Album” category and some votes might carry over. However, the Killers and Modest Mouse both had big hits with their songs. And as big as they are, U2 is likely to get support from an army of voters for nearly any song they put out, regardless of merit or category. The inclusion of Velvet Revolver for its lame, tuneless power-ballad is really a joke.

Best Alternative Music Album

  • “Medulla,” Bjork
  • “Franz Ferdinand,” Franz Ferdinand
  • “Uh Huh Her,” PJ Harvey
  • “Good News For People Who Love Bad News,” Modest Mouse
  • “A Ghost Is Born,” Wilco

The prediction: Franz Ferdinand. Of all these albums, this Scottish quartet’s debut is the funkiest, the most fun and the least pretentious. It’s also the most accessible, and that translates into being the one record of all these nominees that most Grammys voters have bought. Wilco is a critics favorite, but “A Ghost Is Born” is a weaker, more self-indulgent experiment than much-praised “Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.” PJ Harvey and Bjork’s appearances here are nods for past glories. Modest Mouse scored some radio/MTV attention but they were never the buzz band that Franz Ferdinand is.

Best Hard Rock Performance

  • “Megalomaniac,” Incubus
  • “Some Kind Of Monster,” Metallica
  • “Feelin’ Way Too Damn Good,” Nickelback
  • “Duality,” Slipknot
  • “Slither,” Velvet Revolver

The prediction: Velvet Revolver. The group is made up of already famous former members of Guns ‘N’ Roses and Stone Temple Pilots, their song was pretty good, and I bet enough industry people have worked with Axl Rose to finish Guns’ long-gestating new album, “Chinese Democracy,” and been burned by his endless delays that they’d want to stick it to him by giving his ex-bandmates an award.

Best Metal Performance

  • “Nymphetamine,” Cradle Of Filth
  • “Live For This,” Hatebreed
  • “The End Of Heartache,” Killswitch Engage
  • “Whiplash,” Motorhead
  • “Vermilion,” Slipknot

The prediction: Slipknot. Roadrunner Records really can’t lose in this category. Three bands from their stable are nominated in this slot (Cradle Of Filth, Slipknot, and Killswitch Engage). Some years, this category features acts that have garnered mainstream attention. This year, underground acts with angry little names (Motorhead excluded) make up the choices. Motorhead’s metal legacy can be counted on to deliver some healthy support, but Slipknot is the most popular of these bands right now and that should help them pull through.

Best R&B Album

  • “My Everything,” Anita Baker
  • “I Can’t Stop, ” Al Green
  • “The Diary Of Alicia Keys, ” Alicia Keys
  • “Musicology,” Prince
  • “Beautifully Human: Words & Sounds Vol. 2,” Jill Scott

The prediction: Prince. By embracing his past and attempting to be more publicity friendly than he had been in years, the Purple One had the second highest-grossing tour of 2004. Musically, “Musicology” was a much richer and less sprawling collection than his most recent studio creations. Grammy voters might feel it’s time to further welcome him back from exile (and reward him for last year’s Grammy performance with Beyonce).

Best R&B Song

  • “Burn,” Usher
  • “Call My Name,” Prince
  • “My Boo,” Usher and Alicia Keys
  • “Yeah!” Usher (featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris)
  • “You Don’t Know My Name,” Alicia Keys

The prediction: Unknown. How can Alicia Keys or Usher win in this category? Hypothetically, their supporters will split two and three ways, respectively. Usher is the most deserved party in this pack and Alicia Keys had a solid — if not earth-shaking ? hit with “You Don’t Know My Name,” but the nominating committee obviously wanted to rig this in Prince’s favor. I don’t think Prince’s song was popular enough on its own to win this award, and the divide between Keys’ and Usher’s songs make this a dead heat.

Best Rap Album

  • “To The 5 Boroughs,” The Beastie Boys
  • “The Black Album,” Jay-Z
  • “The Definition,” LL Cool J
  • “Suit,” Nelly
  • “The College Dropout,” Kanye West

The prediction: Kanye West. While this is allegedly Jay-Z’s final record — which could count for something — I can’t imagine voters will deny West this well-deserved award.

Best Rap Song

  • “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Snoop Dogg (featuring Pharrell Williams)
  • “Hey Mama,” The Black Eyed Peas
  • “Jesus Walks,” Kanye West
  • “Let’s Get It Started,” The Black Eyed Peas
  • “99 Problems,” Jay-Z

The prediction: Kanye West. This should be another cakewalk for West, although there could be trouble from the fact that Snoop and Pharell were on constant rotation on MTV with “Drop It Like It’s Hot” and this is Jay-Z’s final hurrah.

Best Electronic/Dance Album

  • “Kish Kash,” Basement Jaxx
  • “Legion Of Boom,” The Crystal Method
  • “Creamfields,” Paul Oakenfold
  • “Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned,” The Prodigy
  • “Reflections,” Paul Van Dyk

The prediction: Basement Jaxx. I bet most Grammy voters don’t even own one of these albums. If there’s any that do, they’ll be voting for Basement Jaxx.

Best Dance Recording

  • “Good Luck,” Basement Jaxx (featuring Lisa Kekaula)
  • “Get Yourself High,” The Chemical Brothers (featuring K-OS)
  • “Slow,” Kylie Minogue
  • “Comfortably Numb,” Scissor Sisters
  • “Toxic,” Britney Spears

The prediction: Scissor Sisters. This category combines mainstream pop princesses (Minogue, Spears) with underground favorites (Chemical Brothers, Basement Jaxx). I’m betting that Grammy voters will mistake Scissor Sisters’ “Comfortably Numb” for the British band’s monster single “Take Your Mama.” (You know the song. It’s the one that sounds as much like ’70s Elton John as Jamiroquai’s late’90s, Stevie Wonder rip-off “Virtual Insanity”).

Best Country Album

  • “Van Lear Rose,” Loretta Lynn
  • “Live Like You Were Dying,” Tim McGraw
  • “Tambourine,” Tift Merritt
  • “Be Here,” Keith Urban
  • “Here For The Party,” Gretchen Wilson

The prediction: Loretta Lynn. Grammy voters love to reward living legends. Lynn’s career had been in decline during the last decade as country audiences flocked to younger and sexier stars. “Van Lear Rose,” on which Lynn collaborated with garage-rock mastermind Jack White of the White Stripes, brought Lynn back into the spotlight. Still more of a gentile, plantation belle than a country siren, Lynn won this comeback via her easily relatable songs. Her stories of adversity and heartache are of the kind that appeal to both working men and women. The inclusion of alt-country singer Tift Merritt here suggests that the Lost Highway crowd might finally be appreciated in mainstream country circles.

Best Country Song

  • “It’s Hard To Kiss The Lips At Night That Chew You?re A– Out All Day Long,” The Notorious Cherry Bombs
  • “Live Like You Were Dying,” Tim McGraw
  • “Miss Being Mrs.,” Loretta Lynn
  • “Portland Oregon,” Loretta Lynn and Jack White
  • “Redneck Woman,” Gretchen Wilson

The prediction: Loretta Lynn. Country music’s most beloved legend is nominated twice here, which could allow McGraw and others to sneak in, but the tracks on her new album and the career resurgence it has spawned should place her ahead of her rivals. My bet is “Miss Being Mrs.,” which Lynn wrote about her late husband (famously depicted by Tommy Lee Jones in “Coal Miner’s Daughter”) will win it for her.

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Note: David’s nationally syndicated music column, Soundbytes, appeared in the Entertainment section of all Internet Broadcasting websites. This column was originally published there.

©Copyright 2005 by David Hyland. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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