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Rick Koster talks Grammys, makes predictions
The Grammys are setting a record this year by only having 876 categories - and only nine of them will be featured on their seven-hour telecast Sunday.
Yes, this is exaggeration - but the Grammy awards ceremony has always been about grandiose production and sparkly celebrity more than music.
Well, Grammy is what it is. There are four categories that seem to reach across the wide expanse of viewers and attract universal fan attention. Here they are, along with my observations and prognostications.
The Black Keys - "Lonely Boy"
Kelly Clarkson - "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"
fun. featuring Janell Monae - "We Are Young"
Gotye featuring Kimbra - "Somebody That I Used to Know"
Frank Ocean - "Thinkin' 'Bout You"
Taylor Swift - "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"
Koster ponders: "Lonely Boy" rocks energetically enough, but it would have been a B-side on any early Foghat album. (To be fair, whoever picked Foghat's singles didn't have a clue, either.) The chorus structure in Clarkson's admittedly catchy tune was been beaten to death years ago - along with the offbeat disco bass line. "We Are Young" is just one of those effortlessly anthemic tunes you can't resist, even if "young" is a longways in the rear-view mirror. I suppose - ahem - I'll be the only Professional Writer About Music (PWAM) in the world who notices Gotye got a distinct Aussie stem-cell transplant from the very great Not Drowning, Waving. Ocean and Swift? The aural equivalent of putting six packets of Sweet 'n' Low in a chocolate shake.
Koster's Prediction: Gotye featuring Kimbra
What should win but of course isn't nominated: Marillion - "Montreal"
Black Keys - "El Camino"
fun. - "Some Nights"
Mumford & Sons - "Babel"
Frank Ocean - "Channel Orange"
Jack White - "Blunderbuss"
Koster ruminates: You'd sort of think the minimalist garage-isms of White and the Keys would cancel each other out, but I'm not sure that will happen. Mumford & Sons are exploding, but the tsunami-hype of discovery might have peaked last year. Fun. and Frank Ocean both have solid but very different records. Probably too close to call but ...
Koster's prediction: "El Camino"
What should win but of course isn't nominated: North Atlantic Oscillation - "Fog Electric"
Ed Sheeran - "The A Team"
Miguel - "Adorn"
Carly Rae Jepsen, Tavish Crowe and Josh Ramsay - "Call Me Maybe" (as recorded by Jepsen)
Jorgen Elofsson, David, Greg Kurstin and Ali Tamposi - "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" (as recorded by Kelly Clarkson)
fun. and Jeff Bhasker - "We are Young"
Koster posits: Congrats to Ed Sheeran for graduating summa cum laude from Jason Mraz University. Well done!
Now, young man, it's time to get serious: listen repeatedly to Checkpoint Charley's "Songs One Through Twelve."
Koster's Prediction: fun. and Jeff Bhasker
Song that should win but of course wasn't nominated: The Beach Boys - "That's Why God Made the Radio"
Koster opines: While, frequently, the nominees in the Best New Artist category already have respectively released four or six albums, all of these folks really are relative rookies.
Another thing: they're all pretty damned good. Hunter Hayes can't help it if he's handsome and isn't old enough to know what country music was before Nashville ruined it. Fun. can't help it if they were smart enough to hire ex-Jellyfish wizard Roger Manning to arrange tunes. Frank Ocean can't help it if a sexual identity issue made him controversial. Does that work to his critical favor? The Lumineers can't help it if The Waterboys already made "Fisherman's Blues." The Alabama Shakes can't help it if all four members would be driven out of Brooklyn for a significant lack of hipness.
Koster's Prediction: The Alabama Shakes
Artist that deserves to win but of course wasn't nominated: The Autumn Chorus
Of some curiosity: The Roots' "Undun" album came out in 2011, but after the Grammy date cut-off. I called it one of the best CDs of 2012 and now it's up this year for Best Rap Album. It'd be cool to see it win.
Finally: Steven Wilson's up again for Best Surround Sound Album for his work on Storm Corrosion's self-titled album - a miraculous ambient/rock collaboration he made with Opeth's Mikael Akerfeld. Wilson has deserved about two dozen Grammys over the years in myriad categories. Maybe he'll finally get one.