Don’t “Believe” in Bieber
Justin Bieber laughed off his bout of indigestion at a recent concert, but his Grammy lockout might be an even tougher swallow. He’s one of the biggest stars in pop, and his new album “Believe” was universally acclaimed for its vocal virtuosity and sonic maturation. But the Recording Academy didn’t agree, and shut him out of every major category. If there was a year to welcome the Biebs into the rare air of Grammy acclaim, this was it — but the voters were like “Bieber, Bieber, Bieber — no.”
Unstuck on Lionel Richie
A tradition-minded collection of duets from a proven Grammy winner and his high-wattage pals, Lionel Richie’s “Tuskegee” seemed destined for some upper-level nominations. (That formula paid off big for Santana with “Supernatural” in 2000.) Alas, the R&B veteran’s Nashville turn — with appearances by Shania Twain, Tim McGraw and Willie Nelson, among others — came up empty, even in the country categories. “Hello,” Richie might be singing today to Recording Academy members, “Isn’t it me you’re looking for?”
Hip-hop has a Grammys beef
The Grammys cycle didn’t have a defining, unanimously acclaimed hip-hop release. But both Drake’s “Take Care” and Nas” “Life Is Good” sold decently and seemed to fit the Grammy demographic — smart, well-produced albums about growing older and finding responsibility. So it’s a little surprising to find hip-hop almost completely absent from the major categories. Sure, 2 Chainz isn’t going to win 2 Grammyz — but the total dearth of rap in the top slots seems unexpected at best, and purposeful at worst.
Alternative to what?
Given out since 1991, the alternative music album award may have outlasted its usefulness. In what way are acoustic-leaning singer-songwriters Fiona Apple and Gotye competing with the sleekly futuristic M83? Throw in Bjork and Tom Waits — two fiercely idiosyncratic veterans allergic to genre — and you’ve got a grouping too broad to make sense.
Rave on, Lichtenstein
All hail the coming wave of Lichtenstein techno. The best dance recording category is stocked with the usual EDM-crossover suspects — Avicii, Calvin Harris, Skrillex and Swedish House Mafia. But Al Walser, a native of the tiny European nation with barely a thousand Facebook likes to his name, somehow made it on the list for his single “I Can’t Live Without You.” How’d he do it? No one knows yet (he claims to be a Grammy voting member though), but we will be the first to champion the new genre of “Lichten-step” if he wins.
Frank Ocean took left-field R&B to the Grammys this year, but he didn’t go alone: L.A.’s Miguel also scored an unexpected nomination for song of the year with the sultry “Adorn.” Hopefully this rising tide of new, smart soul washes Chris Brown out to sea.
No beez in the trap
Nicki Minaj’s domination of pop culture over the last two years hasn’t narrowed her job description. Is she a rapper or a pop singer? The answer, of course, is both — but that appears to have split Grammy voters. Though it debuted at No. 1, her “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded” album was shut out of the rap and pop prizes, as was her huge hit single “Starships.”