Pop Playground
46th Annual Grammy Awards

ah, the Grammys, that bastion of safety, self-fulfilling prophecies, and predictably political picks. It's easy to denigrate the much-maligned award show: it has taken upon itself the impossible task of being all things music to all people (104 award categories!). Grammys, I ain't mad atcha. But do you have to make the pandering so obvious? Here are this year's winners digested, and my own fantasy picks from the nominee list. For the categories I care about that is; I'm not throwing my hat into the heated debate over Best Liner Notes. Here's a helpful link to the nominee lists.

Record of the Year: Coldplay – Clocks

Just for clarification, "Record of the Year" is based on production values, so it's typical that a rock band will win: rock producers painstakingly tweaking every piano note has a greater mythological appeal than guys banging on drum machines. Coldplay has the coveted niche of The Only Band That Matters To People For Whom Music Doesn't Really Matter, so, with no other nominations they easily beat out their hip hop competition.

Fantasy Pick: Outkast, although I would have liked to see Timbaland nominated for "Cry Me A River."

Album of the Year: Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

The only choice that makes sense. Everyone likes Outkast.

Fantasy Pick: Outkast works for me; Justified had as much filler proportionally, and fewer standout songs overall. Not that I think JT needs to attempt a double album.

Song of the Year: Luther Vandross – Dance With My Father

Luther cleaned up this year, most likely because everyone thinks he's on his last legs. He's a nice guy and all, but this isn't exactly his best work: maudlin and unimaginatively arranged. Certainly no "Here and Now"; barely a "Don't Want To Be A Fool."

Fantasy Pick: Weak nominees (that Warren Zevon song sucks, guys). Eminem and Avril would be my choices, but suffered from songs released too long ago to be fresh.

Best New Artist: Evanescence

Frequently a kiss of death for a career (Alanis or Fiona Apple anybody?), this category seems to favor the ladies. Xtina's staved off the curse, but with a fan base of alienated teenagers, industry acknowledgement probably won't do this band much good. The guitarist bailed when Amy Lee got too celeb-ed out; here's hoping everyone who bought their record will do the same.

Fantasy Pick: 50 Cent maybe? Though I liked seeing him shafted after he cleaned up at every other award show.

Best Female Pop Vocal: Xtina – Beautiful

I can't believe she's still around. Her latest batch of songs is incredibly schizophrenic, not to mention generally crappy.

Fantasy Pick: Avril – I'm With You. But last year was her time to shine.

Best Male Pop Vocal: Justin Timberlake – Cry Me A River

All the other nominees were old (two were dead!). It's nice to see the Grammys trying to stay relevant.

Fantasy Pick: No complaints here. Sting can go to hell.

Best Pop Performance, Group: No Doubt – Underneath It All

Once again, the only nominee that isn't running on fumes.

Fantasy Pick: This is mine, although my official position is ABTE (Anybody But The Eagles).

Best Pop Collaboration: Sting and Mary J. Blige – Whenever I Say Your Name

I'd never even heard of this song before the Grammys. Oh yeah, Sting can go to hell.

Fantasy Pick: Pink and William Orbit – Feel Good Time. The song that should have been in every commercial but wasn't.

Best Pop Vocal Album: Justin Timberlake – Justified

This is his year.

Fantasy Pick: Justified. I'll admit a weakness to Michael McDonald, but this blew the other nominees out of the water.

Best Dance Recording: Kylie Minogue – Come Into My World

Alias: The European Grammy. Only a handful of dance tracks make it on to the Grammy radar, but this year they happened to be pretty good. Kylie's track actually sounds like something approaching the cutting edge, and hopefully you'll never see this on a Jock Jams compilation.

Fantasy Pick: I've got no big problems with Kylie, but Telepopmusik's "Breathe" edges her out in my book.

Best Female Rock Performance: Pink – Trouble

This is a pretty specious category, as it only counts for "solo" artists playing "rock" songs (hearkening back to those singer-songwriters of the '70s no doubt). Pink songs almost never do anything for me except make me detest her a little more; this blaring bit of nonsense is no exception.

Fantasy Pick: I'll roll with shemo on this one, either Michelle Branch or Avril. They seem SO last year though.

Best Male Rock Performance: Dave Matthews – Gravedigger

None of these songs mattered.

Fantasy Pick: Dave might as well win.

Best Rock Performance, Group: Warren Zevon – Disorder In The House

Zevon benefited from a knowledge of imminent death that colored otherwise generic rock with a sense of gravitas. This is bar-rock by the numbers; your local watering hole's house band has 6 songs just like this.

Fantasy Pick: Only Radiohead or the White Stripes seem to have any sort of momentum. The nominee list reveals the horribly schizoid nature of popular rock climate: no one's sure what counts as good any more. Is it important-seeming moodiness (Yorke & Co.)? Melodramatic schmaltz (Train)? Something fun but with a vague semblance of punk (Foo Fighters)? The retro Stripes seem fashionable, but picking the dead guy was the easiest way out, and probably the most appropriate pick in this case.

Best Hard Rock Performance, Group: Evanescence – Bring Me To Life

Evanescence was the obvious choice, seeing as it was the only act with nominations in other categories.

Fantasy Pick: Queens of the Stone Age is the only nominee that is actually trying to make rock hard.

Best Rock Song: White Stripes – Seven Nation Army

One of the few well-written rock tunes of the year. Train's studio-engineered string arrangements got nothing on hott riffs.

Fantasy Pick: Tha Stripes

Best Rock Album: The Foo Fighters – One By One

So Elephant is nominated for Best Album, but not Best Rock Album? I smell a fix!

Fantasy Pick: Nickelback all the way.

Best Female R&B; Vocal Performance: Beyonce – Dangerously In Love 2 What the fuck? This wasn't even a single! And it's filled with those weird in-between notes Beyonce seems so fond of. They do little but call attention to themselves, which I guess suits B just fine.

Fantasy Pick: Mostly a yawnfest; Beyonce seems reasonable enough.

Best Male R&B; Vocal Performance: Luther Vandross – Dance With My Father

Dear, Luther: Get Well Soon!

Fantasy Pick: R. Kelly – Step In The Name of Love. Kelly's the most important male figure in R&B; I can't help but wonder if the scandal hurt him here. It's hard for anyone to face an ailing legend though.

Best R&B; Vocal, Group: Beyonce and Luther Vandross – The Closer I Get To You

Star power clinched this one, not the actual song, which is a just a bland cover.

Fantasy Pick: The Isley Brothers – Busted. Ron's Mr. Biggs persona is pretty one-dimensional, but I can't help but love a song with the hook "Go upstairs and get your shit / And get the fuck up out of here now."

Best R&B; Song – Beyonce – Crazy In Love

This won like six months ago.

Fantasy Pick: You can't argue with those horns, and I won't argue with the recording academy.

Best R&B; Album: Luther Vandross – Dance With My Father

Interestingly, Beyonce wasn't even nominated for this. The list is aimed at "mature" audiences, with nary a pop star in sight. Which also explains why I don't really care about it.

Best Female Rap Performance: Missy Elliott – Work It

No contest here (especially against Da Brat and Queen Latifah). Missy is going to win this every year until they stop having to dredge up MCs that haven't mattered in a decade.

Fantasy Pick: Missy

Best Male Rap Performance: Eminem – Lose Yourself

I actually felt that every song nominated deserved being on the list.

Fantasy Pick: At least 50 had the decency to show up. Just kidding, Em gets much love for dissing the Grammys while owning them.

Best Rap Performance, Group: Nelly, P. Diddy, and Murphy Lee – Shake Ya Tailfeather

I love the song for the flashy, empty, trashy fun that it is, but legitimating an ode to ass-shaking seems a bit much.

Fantasy Pick: Juelz Santana and Cam'ron – Dipset Anthem. It's the best rap song of the year, but it's not standard Grammy fare. I'm surprised (but very pleased) that it was even nominated.

Best Rap Song: Eminem – Lose Yourself

The mentor once again upstages the highly favored apprentice. 50 moved a lot of units for the academy in 2003; odd that they wouldn't throw him some sort of bone. "Lose Yourself" is a reasonable, safe pick, so it's not surprising that it dominated.

Fantasy Pick: I liked "Work It" more.

Rap Album: Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

Don't complain about much of the album not even being rap – it's not like any of the other categories' lists are shimmering beacons of important genre distinctions. Notable tidbit: Outkast was not even nominated for any of the rap song categories; the Academy likes to separate artists into Good For Singles/Good For Albums as much as certain online music 'zines. As it was nominated (and won) Best Album, this was an obvious win.

Fantasy Pick: Shit, Outkast can have it.

Best Producer, Non-classical: The Neptunes

An interesting mix in this category, but once again there's a disparity: Coldplay wins record of the year, but the Neptunes win best producers? Is Chris Martin thinking what I'm thinking?

Fantasy Pick: Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis don't exactly scream "2003!"; The Matrix is better at writing songs than producing them; Outkast isn't made of superproducers (yet); Godrich ruined Sea Change. Just don't rest on your laurels, Pharrell.

By: Gavin Mueller
Published on: 2004-02-11
Comments (4)

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