Thursday, December 3, 2009

Grammy Nominees...And My Meaningless/Longwinded Predictions And Complaints!

The annual announcement of Grammy nominees is usually a cringe-worthy event for any music nerd, and this year is basically no exception.

Now not everything here is completely terrible, but sometimes it really does boggle the mind how off the mark the Grammys can be. Who voted-in some of these nominees? How is it that people like Eric Clapton walk away with a nomination every fucking year? I didn’t even know he’d put anything out.

Beyonce garnered ten nominations this year, which is pretty crazy/awesome, although I’m still trying to figure out why “I Am…Sasha Fierce” is a double album when the two discs combined run a total of 41 minutes (which doesn’t even fill one disc). Anyway, the constantly-in-your-face, can’t-get-rid-of-her Taylor Swift wound up with eight nominations, and my current obsession, Lady Gaga, grabbed six.

Alright, enough rambling. Here’s a list of the nominees in the categories I know you care about, buoyed by my meaningless commentary on who should win, who will win, and who had absolutely no business even being nominated.

-Record of the Year
Beyonce “Halo”
The Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling”
Kings of Leon “Use Somebody”
Lady Gaga “Poker Face”
Taylor Swift “You Belong to Me”

Who will win: Pretty boring, right? I can assure you that the last person I want to win this is Taylor Swift. And of course…that is exactly who will win this. “Poker Face” is too fun, and “Use Somebody” would just make too much sense. The Grammys rarely make sense guys.

Who should win: “Poker Face” and “Halo” were everywhere, as was “Use Somebody”, so any of those three would sit well with me. Oh what the hell…I’m going with “Poker Face” because the video is the shit.

WTF!?: The only Black Eyed Peas I like are the ones on my plate. Sorry.

-Album of the Year
Beyonce “I Am…Sasha Fierce”
The Black Eyed Peas “The E.N.D.”
Lady Gaga “The Fame”
Dave Matthews Band “Big Whiskey and the Groogrux King”
Taylor Swift “Fearless”

Who will win: Let’s not even talk about the fact that none of these albums are actually the best albums of the year. They’re really not, though. Well…maybe The Fame, but that’s definitely not winning. Bet on either Dave Matthews or Taylor Swift walking away with this one, you know…since they’re the boring ones.

Who should win: Let me reiterate that none of these albums should win…but The Fame is the shit.

WTF!?: How did the Black Eyed Peas find themselves in this category?

-Song of the Year
Lady Gaga “Poker Face”
Beyonce “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)”
Maxwell “Pretty Wings”
Kings of Leon “Use Somebody”
Taylor Swift “You Belong to Me”

Who will win: Ok, keep in mind that this is a songwriting category. It’s all about the songwriting. Now think about which of these songs is the most poorly written. Figured it out? Yeah…that’s the one that’s going to win. Congrats Taylor! I mean damn, why is she nominated in every category? “Party in the U.S.A” is way better anyway.

Who should win: Seriously…”Pretty Wings” is gorgeous. Masterfully written. And Maxwell was robbed out of an Album of the Year nomination. Just sayin….

WTF?!: There isn’t much of a “what the fuck” moment here, to be honest. Everything is pretty much as you’d expect it to be. No rap songs, of course. Nothing really adventurous or different, either. Top 40 all the way.

-Best New Artist
Zac Brown Band
Keri Hilson
Silversun Pickups
The Ting Tings

Who will win: Zac Brown Band, of course. They’re the country band. The Grammys love country.

Who should win: Anyone under 30 is probably thinking MGMT on this one (including myself). Of course, they stand absolutely no chance.

WTF!?: Keri Hilson had a couple hits this year, but Best New Artist?

-Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
Beyonce “Halo”
Adele “Hometown Glory”
Katy Perry “Hot N Cold”
Pink “Sober”
Taylor Swift “You Belong to Me”

Who will win: It seems unlikely, I know. But I’m telling you, Taylor Swift is going to win everything. Just wait…this time next year you’re going to hate her with a passion.

Who should win: Adele.

WTF!?: I’ll give it to the Grammys on this one. This category has no “what the fuck” moments at all. Everything here basically makes sense.

-Best Dance Recording
Lady Gaga “Poker Face”
The Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling”
David Guetta and Kelly Rowland “When Love Takes Over”
Madonna “Celebration”
Britney Spears “Womanizer”

Who will win: Gaga all the way on this one.

Who should win: Umm…Duh!

WTF?!: There were many, MANY better dance songs than “Celebration” this year. I got mad love for the Queen of Pop, but c’mon!

-Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals
Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood “Can’t Find My Way Home”
Coldplay “Life in Technicolor II”
Green Day “21 Guns”
Kings of Leon “Use Someobody”
U2 “I’ll Go Crazy If I Don’t Go Crazy Tonight”

Who will win: U2 could fart into a tape recorder and it would win song of the year at the Grammys. This awards show is obsessed with them. Expect them to win every rock category they’re nominated for. At least they didn’t get an album of the year nom though, because they’d win that too.

Who should win: “Use Someobdy,” without question.

WTF?!: What did I tell you. Sure, this wasn’t the best year rock has ever had, but did we really need to nominate Eric Clapton here?

-Best Hard Rock Performance
We’re just gonna skip this one because it’s atrocious and the Grammys suck.

-Best Metal Performance
Judas Priest “Dissident Aggressor”
Lamb of God “Set to Fail”
Megadeth “Head Crusher”
Ministry “Senor Peligrino”
Slayer “Hate Worldwide”

Who will win: One of the old guy bands for sure (which are 4 of the 5 bands nominated, actually). It’s as if the Grammys think metal bands ceased to exist after 1986.

Who should win: I wouldn’t mind Slayer taking this one. “Hate Worldwide” is actually pretty amazing.

WTF?!: Did the Grammys not get the memo that Mastodon released one of the best metal albums ever this year?

-Best Rock Album
Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood “Live at Madison Square Garden”
AC/DC “Black Ice”
Green Day “21st Century Breakdown”
Dave Matthews Band “Big Whisky and the Groogrux King”
U2 “No Line On The Horizon”

Who will win: Since Dave Matthews Band are also nominated in the album of the year category, logic would tell you that they’re taking this category for sure. But never underestimate the undying love and appreciation the Grammys have for U2. Seriously, Bono is like the God of the Grammys.

Who should win: Say what you will about Green Day, but 21st Century Breakdown is actually fantastic. They were robbed out of an album of the year nod as well.

WTF!?: Seriously though, have the Grammys not heard of Mastodon? How about the Dead Weather? They’ve definitely heard of Eric Clapton though. Haha that’s for sure…

-Best R&B Song
Jamie Foxx f/ T-Pain “Blame It”
Jazmine Sullivan “Lions, Tigers & Bears”
Beyonce “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)”
Maxwell “Pretty Wings”
Pleasure P “Under”

Who will win: Beyonce should have this one locked up, but watch out for an upset from my man Maxwell.

Who should win: I really want to say Maxwell or Jazmine Sullivan, but I just can’t do that. I mean, I’m gonna finish this article in a minute…but “Single Ladies” is one of the best R&B songs of all time! OF ALL TIME! (I had to do it.)

WTF?!: Pleasure P?

-Best Rap Solo Performance
Drake “Best I Ever Had”
Eminem “Beautiful”
Jay-Z “D.O.A. (Death of Autotune)”
Kid Cudi “Day N’ Nite”
Mos Def “Casa Bey”

Who will win: “Casa Bey” is a phenomenal song, but Mos Def stands no chance here. I’m thinking either Jay-Z or Eminem (bet on Eminem).

Who should win: Believe it or not, I’m actually going with Drake on this one. I basically like all of these songs, but the impact of “Best I Ever Had” is actually quite remarkable. I mean c’mon guys…this was a mixtape track!

WTF?!: These nominees are pretty solid. No complaints…although we could definitely use a little Raekwon here.

-Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
Beyonce and Kanye West “Ego”
Keri Hilson f/ Kanye West and Neyo “Knock You Down”
Jay-Z f/ Rihanna and Kanye West “Run This Town”
The Lonely Island f/ T-Pain “I’m On A Boat”
T.I. f/ Justin Timberlake “Dead and Gone”

Who will win: Hmmm…this is actually a tossup. Beyonce, Keri Hilson and Jay-Z could all take this one, but I guess I’d bet on “Run This Town,” mainly due to the star power in the collaboration. But watch out for an upset from Keri Hilson. “Knock You Down” was a huge hit.

Who should win: Definitely “Run This Town.” Rihanna absolutely nailed the hook on that song.

WTF?!: Yes, “I’m On A Boat” really is nominated for best Rap/Sung Collaboration. It’s shit like this that makes you wonder if the Grammys even care anymore?

-Best Rap Album
Common “Universal Mind Control”
Eminem “Relapse”
Flo Rida “R.O.O.T.S.”
Mos Def “The Ecstatic”
Q-Tip “The Renaissance”

Who will win: Eminem, for sure.

Who should win: I’m on the fence about this one. Q-Tip’s album was pretty great, but the frontrunners in this category are definitely Mos Def and Eminem. Great albums from both guys, but “Relapse” was perhaps the more meticulously-produced and crafted album, which scores some points in my book. I’m going with Eminem.

WTF?!: Common, Eminem, Mos Def, Q-Tip and…Flo Rida? GTFOH!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Clipse' "Til the Casket Drops": I guess the dirty money really ain't that bad...

Rating: 3.5/5

Clipse certainly have a lot to live up to with their new album, don't they?

Gloomy, paranoid and downright suffocating, Clipse’ 2006 sophomore effort “Hell Hath No Fury” is a masterpiece. Among the most critically acclaimed hip hop albums of the past ten years, Hell Hath saw the brothers from Virginia Beach channeling all of their frustrations (with their asshole label Jive records, in particular) into the album, forsaking mainstream pop sensibilities entirely. The album plunges the listener into the madness of the cocaine business; murder, greed, paranoia and regret abound, underscored by some of the best production the Neptunes have ever been responsible for. It pleased the hell out of critics, as well as the group’s adoring fan base, but received a positively ice cold reception at record stores. Faced with the dilemma of balancing artistry with the allure of a platinum plaque, Clipse return with “Til the Casket Drops,” a fierce statement of defiance and success, though also a considerably lighter affair.

Often, the results are absolutely brilliant. Opening with the hard rocking “Freedom,” Clipse make it clear that they couldn’t give two shits about critical opinion of their work, with Pusha T proclaiming “I’m only finding comfort in knowing you can’t replace me/What a thing to say/But what am I to do?/I’m role playing a conscious nigga/And true is true/Cocaine aside, all of the bloggers behoove/My critics finally have a verse of mine to jerk off to/I own you all.” From there, the duo runs effortless through no less than seven tracks without a single blunder. Jittery, high wire synthesizers propel the Cam’ron-assisted “Popular Demand,” and “Kinda Like A Big Deal,” anchored by a rumbling, percussion-heavy monster of a beat, is Clipse at their arrogant best (although they do get just a tad outshined by an overachieving, hilarious Kanye West). “I’m Good” is glamorous, self-aggrandizing, fun, the reggae-tinged, anti-snitching juggernaut “There Was A Murder” entertains and disturbs in equal measure, and “Never Will It Stop,” featuring Re-Up Gang member Ab Liva, is as intense and musically unrelenting as its title would suggest.

But then Clipse make two near-fatal mistakes, practically bringing the momentum of Til the Casket Drops to a standstill with the Keri Hilson(?) assisted “Eyes On Me” and the equally forgettable, Nicole Hurst-assisted “Counseling.” Not only are these songs entirely unnecessary and unremarkable R&B collaborations (i.e. obvious attempts at radio airplay and mainstream acceptance) that, within the context of the album, stick out like hot pepper flakes in a gram of cocaine, but they’re sequenced back to back, and thus bringing the otherwise inventive, hard-edged proceedings to a halt. Unlike Hell Hath’s “Dirty Money,” which felt more like satire of the common practice in hip hop of including a customary “song for the ladies” on an otherwise misogynistic, testosterone-drenched album, there’s just no sarcasm to be found on “Eyes On Me,” a basic, run-of-the-mill exercise in the art of the club banger; something that Clipse don’t do very convincingly.

The group recover nicely though, returning to the epic, remorseful, organ and synth-heavy anthems that they do do convincingly, on stellar tracks like the DJ Khalil-produced “Footsteps” and the stunning, Kenna-assisted finale, “Life Change.” The album ends on a decidedly triumphant, positive note; quite a departure from the fearful, weary-eyed “Nightmares,” Hell Hath No Fury’s dreary conclusion. In contrast to that album’s bitterness and malevolence, Til the Casket Drops is a celebration of life; a decidedly immoral, illegal and potentially deadly life, to be exact. It explains the overall lighter tone and their ill-advised dancefloor ambitions, and the results easily best almost every other rap album released in 2009. But after an album as lean and mean as Hell Hath No Fury, the results are sure to be just a little jarring for even the most steadfast Clipse aficionado.

Gotta love that dirty money though, right?

John Mayer's "Battle Studies": Where The Hell Is John Mayer?

Rating: 2.5/5

Guys, I think John Mayer's holding back on us.

After coming across like a tepid, bland Dave Matthews wannabe on his first two albums, John Mayer’s “Continuum” seemed to come out of nowhere. Boasting a molasses-thick blues sound and simple, elegant songwriting, Continuum was definitely one of the best albums of 2006, and it’s probably among the finest pop albums released this decade. Lyrically, the album saw Mayer reach much deeper than on previous efforts, allowing the listener into his world to find parallels with their own hopes and fears. The songs were memorable, warm, and relatable.

And all of this makes Mayer’s new album “Battle Studies” all the more disappointing. To an extent, most of these songs are actually pretty good. The slightly hard-edged “Assassin” comes equipped with a hard rocking chorus, and his cover of the blues classic “Crossroads” sees Mayer almost, sorta, kinda make good on his promise as a potential heir to the bluesy white guy, singer-songwriter throne. But often Mayer seems to be settling into an airy, U2-inspired sound that just doesn’t hold up, with songs like “Heartbreak Warfare” and “War of My Life” sounding like Joshua Tree b-sides.

“All We Ever Do Is Say Goodbye” is a total snooze-fest meanwhile, and the Taylor Swift-assisted “Half of My Heart,” though possessing a fairly solid lyrical motif, lacks any edge whatsoever. But don’t get it twisted; there a moments on Battle Studies that work fantastically. The slow burning “Edge of Desire” is a perfect example of the beauty in subtle, nuanced songwriting, and first single “Who Says,” is definitely among Mayer’s best compositions. Why, you ask? Well, for starters it conveys the guy’s sense of humor. Ending with the knock out line, “It’s been a long night in New York City/It’s been a long time since 20 too/I don’t remember you looking any better/But then again I don’t remember you,” this is Mayer at his most intriguing and convincing.

For most of Battle Studies however, Mayer seems to be playing it safe. The guy is just being too nice; too conservative when it comes to injecting some of that charming, charismatic personality we’ve all been forced to contend with since his ridiculously unlikely descent into tabloid fixturedom. These songs always sound good, but there’s much left to be desired in terms of establishing a connection with what you’re hearing.

C'mon's about opening up a little bit next time?