The Grammy Awards are tomorrow night, so like many observers, I'm thinking about who might win, as well as who should.
Album of the Year seems pretty sewn up this year, but I'd love to see a spoiler here. Three of the nominees are pretty easy to dismiss. Katy Perry's Teenage Dream didn't deserve the nomination in the first place, and I think a lot of Grammy voters would agree it is not deserving. Lady Antebellum's Need You Now isn't really my style, but from what I've read, it's not even the frontrunner for Best Country Album, let alone Album of the Year. And Arcade Fire's The Suburbs, despite being the best album here, isn't popular enough to generate widespread support.
That leaves Eminem and Lady Gaga duking it out for the win. Although relative newcomer Taylor Swift won the award last year, most recent honorees have been veterans, and believe it or not, Enimem is the most veteran act nominated this year. He was twice nominated before in 2000 for The Marshall Mathers LP and in 2002 for The Eminem Show, leading some voters to possibly view it as his "turn" to win. Recovery was also viewed as a comeback for him, giving him his biggest hit in years. It was also the best-selling album of last year, a factor that may have also worked in Taylor Swift's favor last year, as the music industry continues to struggle with album sales in the post-CD world. These factors will likely lead Recovery to victory tomorrow night, and it won't be Eminem's only statue either.
Yet, wouldn't it be grand to see an upset here? Yes, Eminem generated a lot of sales, but 12 years into the limelight now, he's just not that interesting. The figure who has most arguably reinvigorated pop music the most in the last 2 years is Lady Gaga, who just this week unleashed her latest sugary pop confection. Fame Monster was a lean and mean set of great pop songs. That it's considered an EP is probably a strike against it, as is her still "newcomer" status, but still, it's a much better album than most of the nominees.
Will win: Eminem
Should win: Lady Gaga (or Arcade Fire)
What I Said...
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs (4.5). "The Suburbs is infused with that special type of youthful angst that the suburbs are adept at producing: an unholy blend of rage and boredom. Although the concept gets a bit heavy handed, particularly on closing duo 'Sprawl,' it serves to provide an interesting thematic thread through these songs, which deliver as much musical variety as we’ve heard from the band."
Eminem - Recovery (3). "Recovery has a lot of pop appeal, although it's an interesting twist of how hip-hop can appropriate pop into something dark and sinister. The kind of wicked goofiness that he showed on his earlier work, such as "Without Me" or "The Real Slim Shady" is missing here. Instead, the album is dominated by plodding, dark, guitar-driven songs that hybridize rap and pop, often with a great sample."
Lady Antebellum - Need You Now (3.5). "I'm not a big country listener, but I don't need a broad grounding in the genre to know this sounds very commercial. It's clearly meant to generate hits, which is a double-edged sword. Sure, it sounds slick, and there are some winners here, but there's also nothing really different or interesting that hasn't been done before."
Lady Gaga - The Fame Monster (4). "As much as anything, The Fame Monster advances Lady GaGa's apparent bid to become the new Madonna, taking several pages from the singer's '80s and early '90s playbooks. With Madonna moving on to do who-knows-what with the Live Earth people, its a role I'm happy to see someone take on."
Katy Perry - Teenage Dream (2.5). "With Teenage Dream, Katy Perry establishes herself as the poster child for prolonged adolescence, taking us through a carefree romp of drinking, flirting, and partying with hardly an adult consequence in sight. After [a] strong opening, the album goes downhill pretty fast, from a few more songs of mild interest, to quite a few that are just...well, dull."