Music buffs select their favorites in a number of the Grammy Award categories.
Whether it’s via download, on compact disc or on the radio, it was hard to escape Eminem, Bruno Mars or Lady Antebellum in 2010. So it’s no surprise that those names dominate the 53rd annual Grammy Awards.
Each year, the Grammy Awards honor notable achievements in recorded music. The awards ceremony is Feb. 13.
Some of the State-Journal Register's music buffs — Molly Beck, Brian Mackey and Brien Murphy — listened to the songs in many of the major categories and selected tunes they would pick if asked to submit a ballot to The Recording Academy, the organization that hands out the Grammys.
Song of the Year (awarded to songwriter)
MACKEY: Pop has a long tradition of upbeat kiss-off songs, from Lesley Gore’s “It’s My Party” to Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone.” Add to that Cee Lo Green’s lament “Forget You,” which became a viral sensation when he posted it on YouTube in August. For radio play, the song’s titular F-bomb was defused to “Forget You,” sapping it of some of its power. But even in that sanitized form, it perfectly captures teenage heartbreak — “I guess he’s an Xbox, and I’m more Atari,” Cee Lo sings, when a minor romantic setback feels like a Shakespearian tragedy
Best pop performance, duo/group (awarded to performer)
BECK: The cast of “Glee” blows the rest of the nominees out of the water with its spine-tingling, sometimes-a capella cover of Journey’s money-maker.
Best male pop vocal performance (awarded to performer)
MURPHY: I want to give this to Michael Buble because he sounds like he’s having a blast singing “Haven’t Met You Yet.” But there’s a reason Bruno Mars owned 2010, and “Just the Way You Are” is near the top of the list.
Best female pop vocal performance (awarded to performer)
MACKEY: Each of this year’s nominated singers has something unique going for her. With Sara Bareilles, it’s upbeat, layered harmonies. Norah Jones has a rough-hewn sultriness. Beyonce is unmatched for au naturel vocal power. Lady Gaga gets points for the audacity of her weirdness. All arguably more talented than Katy Perry, yet none produced a song as catchy as her “Teenage Dream.” With a beat you can dance to and a soaring chorus that recalls the anticipation of an adolescent night out, “Teenage Dream” is a bubble-gum pop song so sticky it’s hard to wash out of your ears.
Best rock song (awarded to songwriter)“Angry World,” Neil Young, songwriter (Neil Young) “Little Lion Man,” Ted Dwane/Ben Lovett/Marcus Mumford/Country Winston, songwriters (Mumford & Sons) “Radioactive,” Caleb Followill/Jared Followill/Matthew Followill/Nathan Followill, songwriters (Kings Of Leon) “Resistance,” Matthew Bellamy, songwriter (Muse) “Tighten Up,” Dan Auerbach/Patrick Carney, songwriters (The Black Keys)
BECK: While “Angry World” is likely to win given its singer, “Tighten Up” is the truest rock song of the nominees. The Black Keys deserve Grammy recognition for not only championing the garage rock revival, but because their records are well-produced. Danger Mouse took over their last couple albums, leaving them “tight” but still as if the guys are playing a basement show. There’s nothing better than a dirty rock song, and these guys do it best.
Best country song (awarded to songwriter)“The Breath You Take,” Casey Beathard/Dean Dillon/Jessie Jo Dillon, songwriters (George Strait “Free,” Zac Brown, songwriter (Zac Brown Band) “The House That Built Me,” Tom Douglas/Allen Shamblin, songwriters (Miranda Lambert) “I’d Love To Be Your Last,” Rivers Rutherford/Annie Tate/Sam Tate, songwriters (Gretchen Wilson) “If I Die Young,” Kimberly Perry, songwriter (The Band Perry) “Need You Now,” Dave Haywood/Josh Kear/Charles Kelley/Hillary Scott, songwriters (Lady Antebellum)
MACKEY: A ballad for second-chance lovers who really ought to know better, “I’d Love To Be Your Last” is the best song among this year’s nominees. In a genre that often renders nostalgia and heartbreak into cliche — black-and-white photos, this old house and all the rest — it’s nice to hear a song that looks forward to new love. And if a romantic song overlooks young lovers in favor of those who’ve “both done our share of living,” it’s all the more refreshing. “If our mistakes brought us together/Does it really matter whether/We were saints or sinners in the past?”
Best R&B song (awarded to songwriter)“Bittersweet,” Charles Harmon/Claude Kelly, songwriters (Fantasia) “Finding My Way Back,” Ivan “Orthodox” Barias/Curt Chambers/Carvin “Ransum” Haggins/Jaheim Hoagland/Miguel Jontel, songwriters (Jaheim) “Second Chance,” E. DeBarge/Mischke, songwriters (El DeBarge) “Shine,” John Stephens, songwriter (John Legend & The Roots) “Why Would You Stay,” K. Owens, songwriter (Kem)
MURPHY: Grammy must’ve had its heart broken in 2010 because four of the five nominees are slow jams about regret over a broken relationship. With the tearful Grammy voters splitting their votes (tough year for a comeback, El DeBarge), the hopeful message of “Shine,” combined with Grammy’s previous love of John Legend, makes this the winner. Fortunately, it’s a great song.
Best rap song (awarded to songwriter)“Empire State Of Mind,” Shawn Carter/Angela Hunte/Burt Keyes/Alicia Keys/Jane’t “Jnay” Sewell-Ulepic/Alexander Shuckburgh, songwriters (Sylvia Robinson, songwriter) (Jay-Z and Alicia Keys) “Love The Way You Lie,” Alexander Grant/Skylar Grey/Marshall Mathers, songwriters (Eminem and Rihanna) “Not Afraid,” M. Burnett/J. Evans/Marshall Mathers/Luis Resto/M. Samuels, songwriters (Eminem) “Nothin’ On You,” Philip Lawrence/Ari Levine/Bruno Mars/Bobby Simmons Jr., songwriters (B.o.B/Bruno Mars) “On To The Next One,” Shawn Carter/J. Chaton/K. Dean, songwriters (G. Auge/X. De Rosnay, songwriters) (Jay-Z and Swizz Beatz)
BECK: In their purest form, rap songs should be more rap than song. Despite that, my vote goes to “Empire State of Mind” because of the lack of sampling. The song is collaborative and mixes actual R&B styles with rap. Alicia Keys’ piano adds an actual melody to the song, rather than just sampling old R&B clips to loop them at the chorus.
Best gospel song (awarded to songwriter)“Beautiful Things,” Lisa Gungor/Michael Gungor, songwriters (Gungor) “Better Than A Hallelujah,” Sarah Hart/Chapin Hartford, songwriters (Amy Grant) “It’s What I Do,” Jerry Peters/Kirk Whalum, songwriters (Kirk Whalum/Lalah Hathaway) “Our God,” Jonas Myrin/Matt Redman/Jesse Reeves/Chris Tomlin, songwriters (Chris Tomlin) “Return To Sender,” Gordon Kennedy, songwriter (Ricky Skaggs)
MURPHY: Apparently, there were no Christian rock songs worthy of Grammy notice this year … ahem. Because I prefer my Christian song lyrics to be subtle rather than obvious (although Chris Tomlin’s “Our God” is catchy), I’m going with “Beautiful Things.” It could be both a love song and a praise song, which takes a good songwriter.
Record of the year (awarded to performer and producer)“Nothin’ On You,” B.o.B w/Bruno Mars “Love The Way You Lie,” Eminem with Rihanna “Forget You,” Cee Lo Green “Empire State Of Mind,” Jay-Z and Alicia Keys “Need You Now,” Lady Antebellum
BECK: In a surprisingly unparalleled group of nominees, Cee Lo Green easily tops the rest for Record of the Year. Of Gnarls Barkley fame, Green’s famous range appeals to the masses with “Forget You.” This amusing but familiar tale of a love lost reaches a point of dramatic weeping, but if you listen closely, Green’s still on beat. The song is infiltrating radio stations normally ridden with autotuned garbage because the Motown appeal marries clever lyrics such as, “I guess he’s an Xbox and I’m more Atari/But the way you play your game ain’t fair.” “Forget You” is technically top-notch but wins because the tune is so catchy, it’s impossible to … forget.
MACKEY: “I’m the new Sinatra, and since I made it here, I can make it anywhere,” Jay-Z raps in the first moments of “Empire State of Mind.” Indeed, his ode to the Big Apple is Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” for a new generation, instilling a sense of big-city swagger in listeners from Springfield to Shanghai. Beginning with a level of regional detail worthy of a Steinbeck novel, the song becomes a parable about the costs and benefits of coming of age in New York City. It almost makes living in one of the most overcrowded, expensive and isolating cities on Earth sound appealing.
MURPHY: If Cee Lo Green’s song — the perfect marriage of performer, song and arrangement — doesn’t win, they should disband the academy.
Springfield, Ill., State Journal-Register