The 56th Annual Grammy Awards will be presented this Sunday, January 26th. The Grammys are awarded by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, honoring the best achievements in the music industry. While there are plenty of issues with the Grammys themselves (archaic and unnecessarily complicated categorization, commercial success being more recognized than true musical achievement, etc.), today we want to focus only on the nominees in the three biggest categories this year and see who should win, who will win, and why. These reasons are coming from thinking in the mindset of an Academy member, not necessarily what truly is the “best music.”
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
The Nominees: The Heist; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Red; Taylor Swift, good kid, m.A.A.d. city; Kendrick Lamar, Random Access Memories; Daft Punk, The Blessed Unrest; Sara Bareilles
Who Will Win: Ever since the start of the new decade, the Recording Academy has seemed to be much more aware that the public is not interested in seeing Robert Plant & Allison Krauss or Herbie Hancock win their biggest award. They have taken much more initiative to nominate albums that were commercially successful while still maintaining critical respectability. This would seem to indicate that the most likely winner will be “Red.” Taylor Swift is an established Grammys favorite and arguably the biggest pop star in America, and “Red” is the biggest selling album of the past year and also Swift’s most critically acclaimed work yet. However, don’t sleep on Macklemore and “The Heist”. The unprecedented success of the singles off of that album and the general feel good nature of his independent, underdog success story could sway many voters. Macklemore very much would be the zeitgeisty pick to win.
Who Should Win: Out of these nominees the true “album of the year” would have to be “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” by Kendrick Lamar. Lamar’s album was the biggest, most acclaimed rap debut since “The College Dropout” and his rise to become one of the top MCs is a story that the Grammys would do well to highlight. A win for Lamar would be a win for the most truly deserving musical achievement.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
The Nominees: Get Lucky; Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams, Radioactive; Imagine Dragons, Royals; Lorde, Locked Out of Heaven; Bruno Mars, Blurred Lines; Robin Thicke feat. T.I. & Pharrell Williams
Who Will Win: The Grammys have truly embraced commercial success as the biggest determining factor in the category of Record of the Year. All of the songs nominated this year were Top 10 hits on the Billboard charts, the biggest radio singles of 2013. The controversies surrounding “Blurred Lines” over its lyrics and allegations of plagiarism by the Gaye family will keep it from taking the prize. “Radioactive” feels like the least inspired nominee here, and will not have the support of a “Royals” and Lorde in general this year. However, I see this category coming down to “Get Lucky” and “Locked Out of Heaven.” Bruno Mars is an artist the Grammys have been in support of since he emerged on the scene, and a win here would cement his stature. However, the power and likability of “Get Lucky” cannot be denied. There was truly no song in 2013 that the whole country could agree on like it. This made it the defining pop single of 2013. I believe the Academy will recognize that.
Who Should Win: For the reasons listed above, this prize should go to “Get Lucky.” When 2013 is looked back on in 20 years, that will be the song that will remembered best and the Grammys should recognize that. The only other song that truly deserves consideration is “Royals” and while there is a chance that Lorde could steal this category, especially as a kind of backlash to her not being nominated for Best New Artist (ala Argo taking Best Picture in response to no nomination for Ben Affleck), I believe that the Grammys will honor her in another category, not this one.
SONG OF THE YEAR
The Nominees: Just Give Me a Reason; Pink feat. Nate Reuss, Royals; Lorde, Same Love; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Mary Lambert, Roar; Katy Perry, Locked Out of Heaven; Bruno Mars
Who Will Win: This category is the easiest of the three to figure out how it will be awarded. I will say with 99% certainty that “Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis will take the prize here, for several reasons. One, it is a true “message song.” The issue of gay marriage continues to be one of the biggest fights in this country and this song’s head on tackling of the issue and its support for equality will draw much support from Academy members who want to support this issue through their vote. Second, Macklemore is very much a zeitgeist figure at the moment, and it is very safe to assume that the Grammys will want to award him one of their “big” awards, to show they are “hip to the times.” I don’t see him taking Album of the Year, I instead see them giving him this award.
Who Should Win: With all due respect to Macklemore and the very well written song that “Same Love” is, the true Song of the Year, if we are judging by songwriting, is “Royals.” Lorde’s takedown of the consumerism and aspirationalism in society and in popular music was truly the most cleverly and well written hit of the year, which is what this category should be awarding.