My 2016 GRAMMY Picks

Another year, another round of GRAMMY picks. I feel like every year I say “This was rap’s year!” But seriously, this year was rap’s year. And not in terms of popularity. More than any other genre, rap brought sophistication and energy to music. Of course, we saw huge pop hits, and the usual players are nominated herein (T. Swift, Bruno Mars, Ed Sheeran, Drake). But it was a huge year for newcomers (The Weekend [not really a newcomer, just new in mainstream popularity], Fetty Wap, Charlie Puth, Meghan Trainor). If I say to say that the year belonged to one artist, however, my pick would be Kendrick Lamar. Not only was To Pimp A Butterfly a massive commercial and artistic triumph, but he appeared on several crossover recordings the (“Bad Blood” remix, and Flying Lotus’ “Never Catch Me”) and nearly tied Michael Jackson for the most GRAMMY nominees in a single year (11; Michael had 12).

Below are my picks for the winners of this year’s awards. Many of these categories found me choosing winners that I didn’t think we the best in their respective categories, but felt the Academy would choose them anyway. If there were any conflicts, they’ll be noted below each category.

So here goes…

Record of the Year (A Producer and Engineer’s Award)

Really Love – D’Angelo And The Vanguard
Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars.
Thinking Out Loud – Ed Sheeran
Blank Space – Taylor Swift
Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd

If I can say one thing about this year’s awards, it’s that it won’t be a runaway for Taylor Swift, not like in years past. While many called 1989 a crossover success, I think the writing comes off just as bland as she’s always been.
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Album Of The Year

Sound & Color -Alabama Shakes
To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
Traveller – Chris Stapleton
1989 – Taylor Swift
Beauty Behind The Madness – The Weeknd

The Weeknd’s album sounds like the same song 14 times. 1989 tries too hard. And the others probably aren’t on the Academy members’ radars.

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Song Of The Year (A Songwriter’s Award)

“Alright” – Kendrick Lamar
“Blank Space” – Taylor Swift
“Girl Crush” – Little Big Town
“See You Again” – Wiz Khalifa Featuring Charlie Puth
“Thinking Out Loud” – Ed Sheeran

If “Alright” doesn’t win, we might as well elect Trump our president because nothing will matter anymore. Seriously, I don’t understand how anything else measures up to Lamar’s manifesto

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Best Pop Solo Performance

“Heartbeat Song” – Kelly Clarkson
“Love Me Like You Do” – Ellie Goulding
“Thinking Out Loud” – Ed Sheeran
“Blank Space” – Taylor Swift
“Can’t Feel My Face” – The Weeknd

Everyone else in this category is bland, processed, and passé. (When will Kelly call it quits?)

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Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

“Ship To Wreck” – Florence & The Machine
“Sugar” – Maroon 5
“Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
“Bad Blood” – Taylor Swift Featuring Kendrick Lamar
“See You Again” – Wiz Khalifa Featuring Charlie Puth

It was really hard for me not to give this award to Kendrick. You may note I didn’t say “Taylor and Kendrick”. That’s because Taylor doesn’t deserve anything with thing song. It’s boring. It’s trite.(“You know it used to be mad love”? Give me a break.) Kendrick’s verse is (and, god, it pains me to say this) o…kay. It’s not great. But it does make the song a hell of a lot better. And therefore, “Uptown Funk” will win its rightfully deserved award.

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Best Pop Vocal Album

Piece By Piece – Kelly Clarkson
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful – Florence & The Machine
Uptown Special – Mark Ronson
1989 – Taylor Swift
Before This World – James Taylor

I really don’t like Taylor Swift’s music. I really really don’t like Taylor Swift’s music. In fact, I think Ryan Adam’s 1989 was a better album. But just like in years past, nothing will stop the Academy from awarding its golden child the win in this category. Close second: Uptown Special

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Best Dance Recording(A Producer and Engineer’s Award)

“We’re All We Need” – Above & Beyond feat. Zoë Johnston
“Go” – The Chemical Brothers feat. Q-Tip
“Never Catch Me” – Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar
“Runaway (U & I)” – Galantis
“Where Are Ü Now” – Skrillex And Diplo with Justin Bieber

Again we have Lamar putting his name on something that is unlike anything else in its category. The other nominees are all to similar, despite sounding different. They rely on the same tricks and gimmicks. “Never Catch Me” is just catchy enough, just powerful enough, just different enough to win.

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Best R&B Performance

“If I Don’t Have You” – Tamar Braxton
“Rise Up” – Andra Day
“Breathing Underwater” – Hiatus Kaiyote
“Planes” –  Jeremih Featuring J. Cole
“Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)” – The Weeknd

Damn, if I didn’t wanna pick “Breathing Underwater” to win. But it won’t. But, god, I hope it does. It’s unlike anything else in the category. And the vocals are just so tight and so smooth. But it won’t win. It’s like the Bernie Sanders of this category (and I’m a Bernie supporter). It’s too perfect to win; that’s it’s downfall.

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Best R&B Song (A Songwriter’s Award)

“Coffee” – Miguel
“Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)” – The Weeknd
“Let It Burn” – Jazmine Sullivan
“Really Love” – D’Angelo And The Vanguard
“Shame” – Tyrese

Again, I find myself in a situation where I give the pick to a song that really should come in second place. I’d love for Miguel to take this one. But the playfulness of “Earned It” (“Imma care for you/’cause girl you’re perfect…/you deserve it…/’cause girl you earned it”) is too irresistible. It’s one of the few songs about sex that I’d actually play while having sex. It oozes sex (and not in a sentimental or cliché way) and it just works. And if I may, I’m going to sound like a terrible newscaster or sports writer and make the pun that when it comes to my pick, The Weeknd “earned it”. (Ew. I feel gross now.)

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Best Urban Contemporary Album

Ego Death – The Internet
You Should Be Here – Kehlani
Blood – Lianne La Havas
Wildheart – Miguel
Beauty Behind The Madness – The Weeknd

I really fell in love with The Internet this year. And though I feel in love with Lianne La Havas a few years ago, I think her sophomore album, “Blood” (my runner up in this category), falls short of my expectations for it.

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Best Rap Performance

“Apparently” – J. Cole
“Back To Back” – Drake
“Trap Queen” – Fetty Wap
“Alright” – Kendrick Lamar
“Truffle Butter” – Nicki Minaj feat. Drake & Lil Wayne
“All Day” – Kanye West Featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom & Paul McCartney

Hardly does Fetty Wap rap on “Trap Queen”. Disqualified. I like every other song in this list (including “Trap Queen”), but as I mentioned before, Kendrick brought a level of sophistication to To Pimp A Butterfly that no other artist in any genre did.

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Best Rap/Sung Collaboration

“One Man Can Change The World” – Big Sean feat. Kanye West & John Legend
“Glory” – Common & John Legend
“Classic Man” – Jidenna feat. Roman GianArthur
“These Walls” – Kendrick Lamar Featuring Bilal, Anna Wise & Thundercat
“Only” Nicki Minaj feat. Drake, Lil Wayne & Chris Brown

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Best Rap Song (A Songwriter’s Award)

“All Day” – Kanye West Featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom & Paul McCartney
“Alright” – Kendrick Lamar
“Energy” – Drake
“Glory” – Common & John Legend
“Trap Queen” – Fetty Wap

Re: “Energy”: it’s too low key, vocally, to win this category.
Re: “All Day”: Despite much how much I like this song, the Academy would never choose a song that said the n-word so much, I could never say it had a chance of winning. Not even in 2016.
Re: “Glory”, it’s already nominated in the Rap/Sung category.

Re: “Trap Queen”, see Best Rap Performance.

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Best Rap Album

2014 Forest Hills Drive – J. Cole
Compton – Dr. Dre
If Youre Reading This Its Too Late – Drake
To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
The Pinkprint – Nicki Minaj<

This is the strongest category in the entire gamut. I think the only album that comes close to TPAB is 2014 Forest Hills Drive. But even that isn’t a close second. We’re talking about the entire black experience compiled into a 79 minute recording. And it isn’t just because of the historical significance that I chose this record to win. The musical sophistication is unmatched here. And this just isn’t the forum to get into why TPAB is so great. Maybe I’ll write about that in a later post.<

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Best Musical Theater Album

An American In Paris
Fun Home
Hamilton
The King And I
Something Rotten!

If anything is going to beat Hamilton, it’s Fun Home.

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Best Song Written for Visual Media

“Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)” – The Weeknd
“Glory” – Common & John Legend
“Love Me Like You Do” – Ellie Goulding
“See You Again” – Wiz Khalifa Featuring Charlie Puth
“Til It Happens To You” – Lady Gaga

I’m gonna make some controversial statements. No one would care about “Glory” if Common and John Legend didn’t sing it. No one would care about “See You Again” if Paul Walker didn’t die. “Love Me Like You Do” is the the most noncommittal love song ever. And Lady Gaga sounds ill.

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Best Contemporary Classical Composition

Gerald Barry: The Importance Of Being Earnest
Andrew Norman: Play
Stephen Paulus: Prayers & Remembrances
Joan Tower: Stroke
Julia Wolfe: Anthracite Fields

I can’t believe it, a comedic opera that actually made me laugh.

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And that’s it! What are your thoughts? Leave a comment and let me know if you agree or disagree with my picks!

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