This year’s Grammy nominees comprise an eclectic bunch: where else could you find a former Beatle, an assassinated archduke and a group of cartoon primates together? Here’s a guide to what should win at the ceremony (which airs next Wednesday, Feb. 8 at 8:00 p.m. on CBS):
Record of the Year: Gorillaz, “Feel Good Inc.”
Unfortunately, Apple has used this song to brainwash the masses into believing that eternal happiness springs from iPod ownership and, in the process, has worn out some of its appeal. But don’t fault the Gorillaz; the unique pairing of Damon Albarn (formerly of Blur) and Danger Mouse (The Grey Album) fused a strange amalgam of Brit-pop and hip-hop (which is great to listen to on your iPod).
Song of the Year: U2, “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”
“Sometimes,” a tribute to Bono’s deceased father, finds the lead singer’s lyrics at their most confessional, (“We fight all the time / You and I, that’s alright / We’re the same soul”) expressing the sacred paternal bond. Complete with understated support from the Edge’s distinctive guitar, “Sometimes” is a lyrical eulogy worthy of recognition.
Album of the Year: Kanye West, Late Registration
Last year was so Kanye-centric that it’s nearly impossible he will walk away from the Grammys empty-handed. While he would be deserving of the Record of the Year for “Gold Digger,” it would only be recognizing him for one part of the substantive LP he released. West, along with help from producer Jon Brion (best known for his work with Fiona Apple), managed to make an album that appealed to both the mainstream and hip hop aficionados with bangin’ beats and intelligent lyrics.
Best New Artist: Keane
Considering the lack of options within this category (Fall Out Boy can sweep any MTV awards show to the delight of 13-year-old girls everywhere), Keane is ostensibly the latest and greatest. To the band’s credit, it has released at least one memorable single thus far (“Somewhere Only We Know”) and puts on a fairly active live show for a three- member band without guitars. In another year with stronger competition, however, Keane might not fare as well.
Best Male Pop Song: Paul McCartney, “Fine Line”
Throughout his career, McCartney has consistently churned out reliably good pop songs, and “Fine Line” fits in nicely with his recent output. The first single from his Chaos Creation in the Basement, “Fine Line” is a tale of redemption built around McCartney’s insistent work on the piano.
Best Female Pop Song: Gwen Stefani, “Hollaback Girl”
Stefani-whose solo debut, “Love.Angel.Music.Baby.,” was filled with well-crafted dance songs-stands out of the pack particularly with this track. The Neptunes’ production, which makes a song out of stomping and clapping, is only made more over the top by Stefani’s in-your-face lyrics.
Best Group Pop Performance: The Killers, “Mr. Brightside”
With “Mr. Brightside,” the Las Vegas quartet accomplished a rare feat: a song heavy enough to justify air time on rock stationsbut with enough hooks and synthesizers to find a place alongside Madonna on pop radio. Maybe an award win will inspire them to put out a sophomore album.
Best Solo Rock Performance: Bruce Springsteen, “Devils Dust”
The Boss switched gears from his usual all-American, stadium-stomp rock to deliver a quieter, more introspective album. The title track evokes a simpler, older time (“Got my finger on the trigger / But I don’t know who to trust / I look into your eyes / There’s just devils and dust”), and shows Springsteen’s range as a songsmith.
Best Group Rock Performance: Franz Ferdinand, “Do You Want To”
This single might fit better in the “best dance performance” category, considering the way the track utilizes guitars to create a bass line suited for the clubs. The subject matter of “Do You Want To” is a little fluffy, but it certainly compensates musically. Besides, can Coldplay (nominated for “Speed of Sound”) really be considered a “rock” band?
Best Rock Song: U2, “City of Blinding Lights”
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb was a versatile album. Not only did it contain some softer moments (like the aforementioned “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own”), but it also had the epic, arena rock feel that transformed U2 into the behemoth it is today. “Blinding Lights” sounds less like a new song and more like an outtake from The Joshua Tree, a high compliment.
Best Rock Album: Rolling Stones, A Bigger Bang
Although Bang might seem like the perfunctory record the Stones are required to release in order to justify another globe-spanning tour, it is a surprisingly solid effort of straight-forward, bluesy rock punctuated by the flair and sexual bravado the band has made a career from. Is A Bigger Bang better than Beggars Banquet? No, but it’s certainly light years ahead of the ’80s crap, like Undercover and Steel Wheels, that Mick and company tried to pawn off on the unsuspecting public as “Rolling Stones records.”
Best Hard Rock Performance: Nine Inch Nails, “The Hand that Feeds”
After a six-year wait, Trent Reznor came back and assaulted modern radio with “The Hand that Feeds,” the eminently catchy single from With Teeth. Although far from his best, “The Hand that Feeds” provide an adequate showcase for Reznor’s ability to mix pop hooks into riff-driven hard rock.
Best Alternative Album: Death Cab for Cutie, Plans
If for no other reason, Death Cab needs to win this Grammy so the group can play up its “award-winning” status and disassociate themselves from everyone’s favorite Orange County residents. The layered production from Death Cab guitarist Chris Walla on tracks like “Soul Meets Body” and “Brothers on a Hotel Bed,” coupled with the introspective lyrics of Ben Gibbard show that Death Cab is ready to make a name for itself.
Best Short Form Music Video: Sarah McLachlan, “World on Fire”
Normally, this award would be probably be bestowed upon the most bombastic, overpriced spectacle packed with special effects and other signs of vain extravagance. Instead, however, Grammy voters should recognize McLachlan for her simplicity and generosity; she calculated the costs of normal music video production, gave that money to charity, then listed these expenses and how they could be spent to better the world, in the video. Although, considering McLachlan’s humble nature on film, she might reject the award.
Best Long Form Music Video: R. Kelly, Trapped in the Closet, Chapters 1-5.
Martin Scorsese might have directed a comprehensive and interesting documentary (No Direction Home, which is also nominated), but did the famous director sing an epic story of infidelity and jealous lovers? No, but Kells brought us the cliffhanger-loaded Trapped in the Closet, perhaps the most asinine and unintentionally hilarious soap opera ever. Kelly’s “Closet” saga became the target of ridicule on “South Park,” but to the singer’s credit, he did have plenty of DVDs flying off the shelves and created a guilty pleasure that will likely live on through its
laugh value.,Bryan O’Toole