The irrelevance of the Grammys to what is actually happening in music is by now practically synonymous with the awards themselves, but in recent years the Recording Academy has at least made attempts to recognize that there are incredibly talented, deserving artists outside the realm of Top 40 radio: see Arcade Fire and Bon Iver’s big wins in the past 2 years. I never expect much, but it’s at least become interesting to see which signs of life in the music industry have made it onto the radar.
I clicked into the nominee list expecting to have to fight back rage at another list full of One Direction and Rihanna, but was happily surprised to find entire categories populated with deserving nominees. I know the Grammys are never going to nominate the artists who are truly pushing the boundaries of what music is and could be, but this year’s list strikes a good balance between popular appeal and musical creativity and skill.
Here are some nominations I’m excited about:
Alabama Shakes for Best New Artist. They’re up against fun., who, like Bon Iver last year actually released their sophomore album this year but apparently qualify as “new” since the Academy is just now hearing of them, but Alabama Shakes are the real surprise here. They have had no appearance on SNL, no Glee cover, not even a prominent TV or movie placement of their soulful single “Hold On.” I have written about them before, but seriously, can you believe lead singer Brittany Howard is only 22? Girl can SING.
Mumford & Sons for Everything. Album of the Year for Babel, Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song for “I Will Wait.” Not a shocker–their album was one of the top-selling of the year, everyone’s mom loves them, and they’re selling out the Hollywood Bowl and Red Rocks. And who cares if all their songs sound the same; they put on the best show I saw this year.
“Call Me Maybe” for Best Pop Solo Performance. I actually hope Kelly Clarkson wins this one for “Stronger,” even though I know they’re oth going to lose to Adele, but I am excited the Academy recognized what they could have blown off as a novelty song for what it is–a perfect little bubblegum pop masterpiece. The only reason I don’t want to gouge my eyes out after hearing it 8 million times is because Carly Rae Jepsen is just having so much fun singing it.
“Shake It Out” for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Florence Welch and her band (The Machine?) churn out ethereal alt-pop-rock anthems like nobody’s business, and they put on a fantastic show to boot. There’s a reason this song was my ringtone for months; this song deserves the award if only for the explosion of catharsis when she belts “Well what the hell, I’m gonna let it happen to me…” and the inevitable dance party that follows.
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming. for Best Alternative Music Album. This is the category they put the “weird” music, aka music I like. M83’s dreamy experimental electronic album synthesizes a lot of the ideas that are floating around out there in music right, and it sounds like it could be the soundtrack to a pretty cool life. And hey, it’s also got some great hooks.
The Goat Rodeo Sessions for Best Folk Album. This makes me happy because it’s an album that not only brings together the world’s best musicians, both classical and folk, it questions the boundaries between the two musical genres (and incorporates others as well).
Beat the Devil and Carry a Rail for Best Bluegrass Album. I’ll be honest and say I haven’t even heard this album, or a single song off it. But it’s a solo effort from Noam Pikelny, banjo player for Punch Brothers. And Punch Brothers are amazing, and he’s amazing, so I have no doubt this album is also amazing, and completely worthy of a Grammy award. It also makes me wonder, where on earth are Punch Brothers on this list??
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2013 Grammy Award nominees.