2011 Grammy noms: the good, the bad, and the confusing

I’ve heard a few albums in the past few months that should have been nominated for Grammys: Little Dragon and Joe Henry both put out singular albums, lyrics and melodies that challenged the listeners to buy into the proud overlapping of genres. Yukumi Nagano deserves a Grammy, damn it, based on her voice alone. And Joe’s a quiet veteran of the business, he’s played with and produced a lot of musical statesman (like the late Solomon Burke). “Blood From Stars” was his best, most cohesive album in a while — and he’s as meticulous and calculating a songwriter as Donald Fagen. Sharp, subtle, and pretty damn funky every now and then. And I’ve just discovered “How I Got Over” by The Roots, and that might be one of the best albums they’ve ever made. They’re up for Grammys with John Legend, but “HIGO” will be considered classic hip-hop in about a decade. It will age well.I think I watch the Grammys every year for the same reason I watch some reality TV: I want to know that someone in the Academy still believes in doing the right thing. For the Grammys, that means rewarding good, actual music. The nomination list doesn’t give me much hope, though I anticipate at least laughing at outfits. Still, I want to believe the Grammys are about art, not image. The Grammys should reward musical greatness.Which is why Justin Bieber having anything to do with the Grammys makes me terribly sad. More examples: Album of the YearRecovery — EminemNeed You Now — Lady AntebellumThe Fame Monster — Lady GagaTeenage Dream — Katy PerryThe Suburbs — Arcade FireEminem and Lady Gaga deserve it, if only for the impact on culture they’ve made. Katy Perry, though? Not knocking her grown-up bubblegum pop — but this is just out of place. Best New ArtistDrakeEsperanza SpaldingJustin BieberFlorence + the MachineMumford & SonsIf Esperanza doesn’t win this, I’m slashing Drake’s DeGrassi High wheelchair tires. Anger toward Justin Bieber is useless — he’ll probably win. But still. Best Male R&B Vocal Performance“Second Chance” — El DeBarge“Finding My Way Back” — Jaheim“Why Would You Stay” — Kem“We’re Still Friends” — Musiq Soulchild“There Goes My Baby” — UsherThis, I can get behind. Somewhat. But El’s still got his voice and he’s updated his Quiet Storm style — I love me some El Debarge. Everyone else is alright. Even Usher, I guess.But here’s the one that baffles me:Best Contemporary R&B AlbumGraffiti — Chris BrownUntitled — R. KellyTransition — Ryan LeslieThe ArchAndroid — Janelle MonáeRaymond v. Raymond — UsherWhat is Janelle Monaé doing in this category? I love that album, and I’m glad it’s nominated, but “The Archandroid” was not — at all — contemporary R&B. That album used elements of hip-hop, but it was too expansive to put into one category.It will be interesting to see who performs, and who wins. I want to know if the Academy can manage to redeem themselves with the winners.

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