Various Artists

Various Artists

Various Artists

2011 Grammy Nominees

Columbia Records

The Grammys are back, and this year the nominations are actually pretty good (no Nickelback, or anything of the sort for the most part). The top four categories are pretty close with no clear-cut front-runner and no one that is glaringly misplaced (with the exception of Justin Bieber in the Best New Artist Category). So when the Grammys released their annual nominations album, I was pretty stoked because with all the good nominations, there was a plethora of great songs to choose from. The Grammy Academy did not disappoint… for the most part.

All five nominees for Song of the Year are accounted for and all five are great songs. Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs’ “Beg Steal or Borrow” is a great folky song, but it lacks the power of the other nominees. “Need You Now” by 2010 Best New Artist winner Lady Antebellum was one of the best songs of 2010 and has the staying power to become one of those songs that will continue to be popular for years. “The House that Built Me” by Miranda Lambert is one of those songs that sneaks up on you with its quiet intensity, while Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie” (featuring Rihanna in a perfect collaboration) could possibly be the most intense song that he has written, which is saying something. It’s also quite possibly his best, which is also saying something. But the winner should go to Cee-Lo Green and his Motown throwback “F— You,” or on the nominee’s album edited version “Forget You.” Who else could combine true R&B, make it sound fresh, include lines like “She likes X-Box and I’m more Atari,” and have the mother of all dirty words in the title and get it nominated for two of the top prizes in the industry?

Record of the Year is the exact same lineup except “Beg Steal or Borrow” is supplanted by “Nothin’ on You” by B.O.B. featuring Bruno Mars, and “The House that Built Me” is replaced with the stellar Jay-Z & Alicia Keys duet “Empire State of Mind.” The only problem: The latter track isn’t on the album. I would have put “Empire” on the album instead of “Nothin’ on You,” but I’m not a member of the Academy either. Winner of this one should be Cee-Lo, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Eminem walk away with either this or Song of the Year.

Each Album of the Year nominee is represented, as well with Eminem and Lady Antebellum already accounted for. Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” (with Snoop Diggity Dogg) mars the competition by injecting it with an overrated and overplayed track that wasn’t even that good to begin with. They should have gone with “Firework,” but since the former is nominated in the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals, they must have felt obligated to include it. That’s too bad. But redemption is had in the form of the immensely covered “Telephone” by Lady Gaga with Beyonce and “Ready to Start” by Arcade Fire. The fact that Arcade Fire was nominated proves that the Grammy voters have taste. They won’t win, but being nominated in the biggest category is something to be proud of. This year is Eminem’s year. He will take this award home and deservedly so.

Best New Artist isn’t represented at all and I’m okay with that. Out of Justin Bieber (hold back the vomit), Drake, Florence & the Machine, Mumford & Sons, and Esperanza Spalding, the only one that I really like is Mumford & Sons and I think they will take this as their popularity is skyrocketing right now. Drake is the only one who could possibly take this one away, but I just don’t see it.

The Academy didn’t try too hard to fill the rest of this compilation. Instead of cherry-picking some of the better leftovers (like B.O.B’s “Airplanes Part II” featuring Hayley Williams of Paramore), they took a couple of categories and emptied them out. Best Male Pop Vocal has all five nominees on the album, but I could have lived without Michael Buble’s “Haven’t Met You Yet,” Adam Lambert’s “Whataya Want from Me,” or Michael Jackson’s “This Is It.” Bruno Mars is already represented and I didn’t need “Just the Way You Are” on this. John Mayer’s “Half of My Heart” is the only one that I actually would have put on the comp. Coincidentally, it is also the song that I think will win the category.

The other category that was pilfered was Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and with the exception of Paramore’s “The Only Exception,” this category flat-out sucks. A Glee song? Really? They couldn’t find any other songs to nominate? A horrific live version of Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister”? I’m a huge Train fan, but this particular version has lead singer Pat Monahan trying to hit the notes like a blindfolded three-year-old trying to hit a piñata. He’s all over the place. I thought Sade was one person, but here she is. Apparently she multiplied. And Maroon 5 just sucks. Can we all agree on that? Paramore better take this.

There are definitely songs I’d subtract and others I’d add (like Kings of Leon’s “Radioactive” and “Little Lion Man” by Mumford & Sons), but the whole point of the compilation is to get some of the more popular songs together and get you psyched for the Grammy Awards. While the show is trying to get back to relevancy after several years of ignoring anything good and giving awards to undeserving artists, songs, and albums over far superior ones (Ray Charles’ Genius Need Company over Green Day’s American Idiot for album of the year, John Mayer’s “Daughters” pilfering Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” for Song of the Year and Maroon 5 over Kanye West for Best New Artist come immediately to mind), the Academy is getting better. Now if we could add a little more diversity to the nominees album.

Grammy: www.grammy.com

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