Album of the Year
Grammy battle lines: Arcade Fire aims to take out Eminem & Lady Gaga, score awin for worthy music
At this point in time, it makes very little sense to complain about what The Grammys got wrong in its nomination process. Not many people have quite that much time on their hands. Better to celebrate the few things that they get right, and hope that a few of the night’s performances are keepers.
The Album of the Year award is still the one that holds the most prestige, even after all the times it’s been mucked up by the committee, or the Academy, or whatever that bunch of generally out-of-touch characters that pick these things calls itself these days. When I saw the list of nominees, four of the five seemed pretty predictable.
Eminem, the big winner with 10 nominations, scored for Recovery, which can’t hold a candle to his best work but did have two songs that dominated radio for most of the year. The Fame Monster was an EP, but there’s no way they would pass up Lady Gaga and the spectacle she brings to the table (and, I have to admit, she livens up the radio big-time).
Then there’s Katy Perry, who also dominated airplay with the songs from Teenage Dream, even if they were the kind of songs that got stuck in your head and erased all your brain cells while in there. Finally, Grammy loves a good country crossover, and Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now qualifies there, with its ubiquitous, Alan Parsons-biting title track.
It was the fifth and final nomination that floored me. While I had secretly held out hope that Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs would score some recognition, I doubted that Grammy would give it Album of the Year love. I thought it would be shunted into the Alternative Album category, which is where the deserving rock records usually end up, as if “alternative” is Grammy shorthand for “alternative to crap."
But the Grammys proved me wrong, and The Suburbs, which was my favorite album this year (and, in part, deals with frontman Win Butler’s reflections on his childhood in The Woodlands), now stands up against the pop elite. At the very least it means we’ll probably be treated to one of AF’s intense yet ingratiating performances on the live show in February.
The last time that Grammy and I were this simpatico in this category came way back in 1998, when Bob Dylan’s Time Out Of Mind went toe-to-toe with Radiohead’s OK Computer. Although, in retrospect, I think Radiohead should have won, I was more than happy to see Bob walk out with the golden megaphone, or whatever the hell that trophy is supposed to represent.
My prediction: Lady Gaga gets the award. Eminem responds by bashing her in a song on his next album (I can see him rhyming “Gaga” with “ha-ha”, “ta-tas”, and, for punch line, “Next year you’ll be working at Wawa”). The two, of course, then have a public reconciliation at the following year’s ceremony, joining Elton John for a cover of “That’s What Friends Are For.” It’s the oldest tale in the book.
Meanwhile, Arcade Fire will likely have to settle for that Alternative Album prize, which is no joke in a shockingly well-chosen field that includes Broken Bells, Vampire Weekend, Band Of Horses, and Black Keys. (Although, seriously, where is The National? I know I said I wouldn’t complain, but come on.)
The Suburbs is the most deserving, and that’s ultimately why it won’t win Album of the Year in the Bizarro World of The Grammys. That it even got a whiff of such rarefied air, well, that’s an achievement in itself.