By Melissa Ruggieri
For years, rap and Grammy didn’t exactly live together in perfect harmony.
Little more than a decade ago, Jay Z was busy boycotting the ceremony because he felt that rap and hip-hop were unjustly ignored, while Eminem didn’t even bother to show up to collect his trophies.
Of course, Kanye West always boo-hoos about being overlooked in the major Grammy categories. But West probably takes issue with the cow that provided the leather for his Louis Vuitton sneakers, so consider the source.
The 56th Annual Grammy Awards – airing Sunday at 8 p.m. on CBS – are primed to reverse the lukewarm attitude toward rap given the plethora of nominations for Jay Z, Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Pharrell Williams and Drake.
Granted, Jay Z’s leading nine nominations dominate the rap categories; only his featured slot on Lamar’s album of the year pick, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City,” is a marquee showing. As well, Jay Z could feasibly win only seven Grammys since he’s nominated against himself for best rap/sung collaboration (with his wife, Beyonce, on “Part II [On the Run]” and with Justin Timberlake on “Holy Grail”) and twice for best music video (“Picasso Baby: A Performance Art Film” and “Suit & Tie” with Timberlake).
But he can hardly complain about Grammy snubbing his work this year.
In keeping with this year’s rap-heavy leanings, Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewisand Williams all scored seven nods each (though Williams’ high-profile collaborations last year with Daft Punk and Robin Thicke means he will compete against himself in some categories and can only win four awards).
Timberlake, whose “The 20/20 Experience” ended 2013 as its biggest-seller (2.43 million sold, according to Billboard), also earned seven nominations, but was egregiously disregarded for album of the year. Lamar, Macklemore & Lewis, Taylor Swift and Daft Punk all earned deserving slots, while Sara Bareilles’ perfectly listenable but unexceptional “The Blessed Unrest” nabbed what was likely the Timberlake position.
There wouldn’t be too many arguments if Swift took the prestigious album category. “Red” just missed the 2012 cutoff for eligibility so it has the advantage of marinating in voters’ mind the longest, and it produced a trio of fantastic hits (“I Knew You Were Trouble,” “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” and “Everything Has Changed” with best new artist nominee Ed Sheeran).
But if Grammy really wanted to prove that putting so many rap stars on the ballot wasn’t just an empty gesture, they’d award Lamar album of the year for his visceral “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.”
Adding to the Year of the Flow theme is Drake, whose five nominations put him in direct battle with Jay Z, Lamar and Macklemore & Lewis in the best rap performance, best rap song and best rap album categories.
Will the Canadian MC – and surprisingly solid “Saturday Night Live” host – emerge victorious? Don’t count on it, unless his “Started from the Bottom” convinced more voters of its worth for best rap performance over Macklemore’s comparable novelty song, “Thrift Shop.”
While the glut of rap nominations reflects airplay and sales charts more astutely than most years, they also showcase the disconcerting reality that 2013 was heavy on testosterone.
Only Swift, deserving newcomer Kacey Musgraves and New Zealand wunderkind Lorde (the youngest nominee at 17) scored four nominations each.
Pink, Katy Perry and Bareilles each has a pair of nods – and Pink, Lorde and Perry will combat each other for song of the year with “Just Give Me a Reason,” “Royals” and “Roar,” respectively.
But this year, at least, it seems as if the Grammys are a man’s world.
So now we know some of the artists who might win a Grammy on Sunday. But how about those who were unceremoniously ignored?
— Elton John.His 31st studio album, “The Diving Board,” arrived just before the academy’s Sept. 30, 2013 cutoff date for eligibility. It is a striking piece of work elegantly presented under the direction of producer T Bone Burnett.
— Miley Cyrus. Haters gonna hate, but you’re robbing yourself of enjoying a couple of melodically rich pop songs if you refuse to look past Cyrus’ questionable behavior and appreciate her tunefulness. Both “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” – released last summer – deserved recognition in not only pop categories, but record and song of the year ones, too.
— Rod Stewart. The prince of raspy rock returns with his first album of non-schlocky standards in 12 years and this is the reception he gets? How is it that Led Zeppelin’s nearly 40-year-old “Kashmir” is worth a nod (if it wins, it would be the band’s first performance Grammy), but Stewart’s potent “Time” is overlooked?
— Janelle Monae. Forget about Atlanta pride. Monae would be a brilliant breeze of freshness even if she lived in Idaho. Too bad September’s “The Electric Lady” seemed to garner kudos from all industry insiders – except the ones that matter most.
Atlwebradio News Staff: