The 56th Annual Grammy Awards: Who Will Win?

Pedestrian editors Suz and Ash discussed their predictions for the major categories of the 56th Annual Grammy Awards over a few back-and-forth emails hoping to stir up some heated argument leading into the ceremony. That didn’t happen. The Grammy Awards take place Sunday 26th January from 8pm Eastern & Pacific time in the US, so things will kick off Monday around 11am for Australian audiences.
Suz: Okay Ash. Let’s start with the Best Alternative Album category.  
Best Alternative Music Album Of The Year  
“The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You” – Neko Case 
“Trouble Will Find Me” – The National  
“Hesitation Marks” – Nine Inch Nails 
“Lonerism” – Tame Impala 
“Modern Vampires of The City” – Vampire Weekend
Sidebar: Ash, can we quickly talk about the fact they use the word ‘alternative’? Do you have any idea what kind of criteria music has to fit in order to fall under this banner? When I think ‘alternative’ I think of Anaheim and cargo pants-era Gwen Stefani circa “Just A Girl”. Has anyone but the Grammy Awards referred to anything as ‘Alternative’ – whether that’s music, comedy, etc – since the dawn of the Millennium? End sidebar.
This category is competitive because these are all legitimately great and very different albums. Lonerism is brilliant, and because it’s so chill and such an enjoyable listen you almost forget what an epic feat in songwriting and arrangement it is, and how terrifically it’s been produced. It was in my 2012 top three and Pedestrian ranked it #2 in our Best Album list of that year. It still has my vote. With that said, I think the Grammy voters will go for an American band with a more definable sound. I’m tipping Vampire Weekend or maybe Nine Inch Nails. What you got?

Ash: First of all, agreed. The qualifier “alternative”, as it pertains to music genres, is as outdated and clumsy as a chain wallet. [end sidebar]

As far as which band “should” win? I’m gonna play the blatant Homerism card and say Lonerism if only because Tame Impala’s aversion to footwear and their professional and personal relationship with Wayne Coyne of The Flaming Lips best evokes that “alternative” vibe as defined earlier.
Who “will” win is an entirely different question and one best answered by asking ourselves a completely unrelated question revolving around which nominee voters would most like to attend a tennis match with. Game, set, match, Vampire Weekend.   
OK. Let’s look at the Artists Who Have Existed For Quite Some Time Now But Were Only Now Just Discovered By Voters category.
Best New Artist 
James Blake 
Kendrick Lamar 
Macklemore and Ryan Lewis 
Kacey Musgraves 
Ed Sheeran  
First of all, how weird and egregious is it that Lorde can be nominated for best song and record of the year and not be nominated for Best New Artist? How does that work? Do you have to pay your dues first? Do voters treat it more like Best New-Ish Artist? Does competing in other categories disqualify her from winning this award in the future? And how much of a lock would she have been if she was nominated?

Suz: Regarding Lorde you are absolutely right: Her absence in this category is indeed egregious. Surely the only explanation here is that it was an embarrassing oversight on the Grammys behalf, and by the time they clued-on to the cock up it was too late.

In answer to your questions, I’d say there is a zero possibility of Ella Yelich-O’Connor ever scooping a Best New Artist Grammy because only first-time nominees (in any category in a given year) are eligible to contend for it. At least you’d think that would have be the case, right?
If she WAS nominated, I think there’s a strong chance she’d take it out. In lieu of Lorde, we’re looking at a pretty broad mix here. 
The Grammys tend to keep the Best New Artist race as unpredictable as possible – which you can see from the random selections over the past 20+ years. Case in point: Wholesome country-singing ‘American Idol’ grad Carrie Underwood won in 2007 and then the following year they gave it to Amy Winehouse. 2012 and 2013 went to Bon Iver and fun. respectively, so I’m thinking they’re due to award beats this time around. I’m picking Kendrick Lamar.

Ash: OK. A quick NBA analogy I think you’ll appreciate: How can a rookie win MVP and not win the Rookie Of The Year award? That makes zero sense to me. None! Broken criteria aside, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City is absolutely winning here (and the one I want to win) because everyone under 50 has lived with this album for over a year now and it’s still an enriching piece of work with a point of view and something interesting to say. Can we stop agreeing with each other already?

Let’s look at the Songs and Records of the Year.   
Song Of The Year  
“Just Give Me a Reason,” Pink  
“Locked Out of Heaven,” Bruno Mars  
“Roar,” Katy Perry  
“Royals,” Lorde  
“Same Love,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis    
Record Of The Year   
“Get Lucky” – Daft Punk and Pharrell Wiliams  
“Radioactive” – Imagine Dragons  
“Royals” – Lorde  
“Locked Out Of Heaven” – Bruno Mars  
First, the idea that a ‘song of the year’ is markedly different to a ‘record of the year’ is a jarring thing to contemplate. According to this website, “the key difference between Record of the Year and Song of the Year awards at the Grammys is that the Song of the Year award is for the songwriter who composed the song. Unlike the Record of the Year, which is awarded to the entire team involved in producing the song, Song of the Year is for an individual contributor – the songwriter – and is awarded for the lyrical beauty of the song.”   
Can we acknowledge how crazy this is with our boy Loki?
That’s like if the Oscars announced they were breaking up Best Picture into Best Film and Best Movie, and Best Film would honour people who wrote and directed a film themselves and Best Movie would be for everyone else. Stupid. Anyway, of the seven artists nominated in either category only two appear twice, Lorde’s “Royals” and Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out Of Heaven”. So I’m assuming that one of those (Lorde, hopefully) will take out both categories on the count of being a good “song” AND a good “record” and I’m standing by that, because the distinction between the two is just a stupid exercise in semantics and I refuse to spend any more time thinking about it.
To be honest, I only really listened to one of these songs with any regularity last year; The one that soundtracked my train rides home while I fantasised about being in the Devil Wears Prada makeover montage and that was Katy Perry’s “Roar” – pop music’s most uplifting animal-related self-empowerment song. I guess that’s the one I want to win. Plus Rihanna dap pre, post and during a Katy Perry win would be ah-mazing.
Suz: The NBA analogy was perfect. Three points, no net.  
With respect, what kind of bong-huffing japester came up with these categories? I had no idea what differentiated Song and Record of the Year until reading that, so the rest of the world and I appreciate you Googling one for the team Ash.  
If we’re rewarding prizes based on the lyrical beauty of the song, Lorde‘s gotta be up there. Even without taking into account she’s a teenager “Royals” is an impressive song. When you consider the fact this kid wrote the song at age 16, it seems prodigious. It has that appealing simplicity in the production with lyrics that read as though they were penned by a rapper… It’s just a Good Song. And recognising a little teenager from New Zealand would be a cool thing for the Grammys to do. I genuinely think she’s got a great shot.

I can’t see her winning Record of the Year, though. I’m torn between Bruno Mars “Locked Out Of Heaven” and “Get Lucky”

Despite the fact the phrase ‘Cause your sex takes me to paradise is one of the most-repeated lines in Bruno’s song – and therefore has the lyrical subtlety of a brick in the scrotum, there is an undeniable likeability about the little guy. Plus, the song is a huge international hit, it’s got an interesting arrangement with that huge four-on-the-floor chorus, and a fun ska vibe to it… Basically what I’m saying is I like the song and wouldn’t hate if it won.
Don’t write off Daft Punk though. Grammys loves a collaboration and with Mr 2013 (Pharrell Williams) part of the machine that spat out “Get Lucky” – not to mention a legend like Nile Rodgers – I wouldn’t count it out.
What about Album Of The Year, Ash?
Album Of The Year  
“The Blessed Unrest” – Sara Bareilles 
“Random Access Memories” – Daft Punk 
“Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” – Kendrick Lamar 
“The Heist” – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis 
“Red” – Taylor Swift  
The Album of the Year lineup is interesting. Surely Daft Punk would be the sentimental favourite here? I haven’t heard all the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis record but based on what I have heard, if it comes down to a hip-hop victory Kendrick Lamar has to take it out. He’s a far more capable rapper than Macklemore. I’m going to go out on a limb and say “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” because I’m a gambler and because it’s really good.
Ash: Ugh, I can’t even pretend to be contrarian here because I just don’t believe in the alternatives. Booooooring. Why are we even doing this again, Suz?

Let’s think about it in these terms, despite its current standing as the most pervasive (and, some would say, important) music genre in contemporary popular culture the last legitimate hip hop album to be crowned Album of the Year was Speakerboxxx/The Love Below by Outkast back in 2004. Since then it’s been Ray Charles, U2, Dixie Chicks, Herbie Hancock, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Taylor Swift, Arcade Fire, Adele and Mumford & Sons. Take out, say, I don’t know, Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock and Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, and we’re left with a lazily written SNL sketch about a white person’s ideal iPod playlist. It’s time. And it’s Kendrick’s.

Good luck to Australia’s Grammy hopefuls: Melbourne’s Hiatus Kaiyote for Best R&B performance and Tame Impala for Best Alternative Music Album. Find the full list of Grammy nominees here

Title image by Ryan Pierse via Getty.