Music's biggest night
// JJ Brewis

With the approach of spring comes the onslaught of celebrity award shows, and “Music's Biggest Night” is the Grammy Awards. Each year we are treated to a massively long speech about downloading and the state of music today, obnoxious fashion, an annual appearance by either Bonnie Raitt or Stevie Wonder, and scandals, such as in 2009 when Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift’s award acceptance speech. Then, of course, there are the awards themselves, which always seem to be an afterthought. This year the Grammys return in full-force, hosted by LL Cool J. Here, then, is a breakdown of the biggest and most intriguing categories.


Often times, the nominees for Record of the Year and Song of the Year are near identical. In the past, recipients of one category have had about a 50 per cent chance of picking up the other.

This year, both categories share four nominees: Adele's "Rolling in the Deep"; Bruno Mars' “Grenade”; Bon Iver's "Holocene"; and Mumford & Sons' "The Cave". The only difference is that the Song category, which is awarded to the songwriter, also features Kanye West's "All of the Lights", whereas the Record category, which is awarded to the artist and producer, includes Katy Perry's "Firework".

If the Grammy committee is looking to actually honour the song with the biggest impact on the musical landscape, they'll give it to Adele. Personally, I'd go with Bon Iver, but he may be too obscure to scoop this up. Record of the Year is one of the most versatile categories, with recent winners ranging from Coldplay to Green Day to Norah Jones. In Song of the Year, West's "Lights" stands a good chance, given its multiple superstar vocalists, including Rihanna and Elton John.

All of the nominees are quite distinct, so all the voters need to choose is which style to reward, whether soulful (Adele), a use of vocal register ("Grenade"), or folksy ("The Cave"). But guaranteed, West and his crew are walking away with this one.


Has there been a more hyped and promoted album in recent years than Born This Way, Lady Gaga's homage to equality and self-appreciation? It's doubtful. This is her third nomination in a row, being squashed out in 2010 by Taylor Swift, and in 2011 when underdog nominee Arcade Fire took home the prize. However, Adele's 21 was the top selling and most single-producing, appealing to a much wider audience.

Last year's win was an upset for major nominees including Eminem and Katy Perry. This year sees a rock inclusion from Foo Fighters, and other top 40 stars Bruno Mars and Rihanna. Given that Gaga's singles didn't pan out for any nominations, I'm betting on seeing a wacky gown up on that stage.


The category's title is a bit misleading, and actually rewards "the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist", which may not necessarily be the first release from that artist. Sometimes the winners go on to make a massive splash, with recipients ranging from The Beatles to Mariah Carey. Sometimes, an artist like Hootie & the Blowfish, who faded into obscurity, beats out eventual career artists like Shania Twain and Alanis Morissette.

This year, dubstep electronic artist Skrillex, enchanting indie woodsman Bon Iver, the new First Lady of rap Nicki Minaj, R&B artist J. Cole, and country act The Band Perry round up the nominations. It may come down to a hair, but I'm betting on Bon Iver to squeak out a narrow win over Minaj.


There are some solid offerings here, such as Cut Copy's Zonoscope, which would be my personal choice. The likely pick will be favourite David Guetta, who has literally collaborated with every major pop and R&B artist in Billboard's Top 100 at this point. Also featured are Robyn, who has made a massive splash with her three-album Body Talk project, Skrillex, and the maybe-slightly-passe DJ act deadmau5.


Interestingly, this is the first year that combines genders for the category, and both winners in the Male and Female Pop Vocal Performance category last year, Lady Gaga and Bruno Mars, are present among the nominees in this new consolidated category. Fellow contenders Adele and Katy Perry make the list a competitive one, as all four of those artists are also represented in the other big categories.

The pop music radar is surely showing to be a woman's world, at least for the time being, with Pink tossed in as the fifth nominee here, leaving Mars as the sole male in the category. Though a pop phenomenon, Gaga's "You and I" failed to make a mainstream splash, leaving Adele and Perry fighting for the finish line in this one.


Last year Bruno Mars shocked viewers by beating Michael Jackson in the only category he was posthumously nominated for. What will happen to the final nomination for Amy Winehouse, who is represented here for her duet of "Body and Soul" with Tony Bennett?

Other nominated songs in the category were huge chart toppers, including Foster the People's "Pumped Up Kicks" and Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger". Coldplay and The Black Keys are also represented here, but it's likely to come down to either "Jagger" or "Soul", as both feature artists with previous Grammy wins.


Before the nominations for this year were announced, Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was a huge buzz album that made it on essentially every critic's year-end list for 2010. But despite massive critical appeal and chart success, West abandoned the album early in 2011 and never even toured with it. Instead he focused in on his Watch The Throne collaborative album with Jay-Z. Both discs are nominated in this category, and neither of them are up for best album.

Will the academy go for West's solo artistic opus or the crunchy duets album? The real clincher here is the inclusion of rap's artsy bad girl Nicki Minaj with her Pink Friday release. Lil Wayne and Lupe Fiasco round out the category, but I'm certain Throne will pull out on top.

//JJ Brewis, art director
//Graphics by Shannon Elliott

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