Grammy Nominees 2010: Did They Deserve It?
One question comes up when you think about the Grammy nominees of 2010: did they deserve it? The question of whether or not 2010’s Grammy nominees deserved their nominations is a difficult one, primarily because the Grammys have a history of not representing the best as much as they do the most popular. For proof of this, we need look no further than the fact that the first ever Grammy for Metal went to Jethro Tull, not Metallica. So, what’s up with the 2010 Grammy nominees?
Let’s take a look at some of the big categories. First off, hip hop, America’s most vibrant, progressive, essential contemporary genre. The Grammy nominees for Best Rap Album were Jay-Z, Eminem, Flo Rida, Q Tip, and Mos Def. Apart from Mos, this list is so uninspired it’s almost painful to look at. Jigga’s "Blueprint III" is flat out awful, and apart from a few standouts, Em’s "Relapse," the eventual winner, is flaccid crap. Q Tip is the generic concession to what white critics consider intelligent Hip Hop because it’s unthreatening, and Flo Rida’s uniformly terrible club hits were ubiquitous in 2009, apparently meriting his inclusion as a Grammy nominee.
Let’s talk Mos for a minute. "Black on Both Sides" and his work on Black Star’s seminal self-titled album is some of the most essential hip hop on tape. Mos’ 2009 record, "The Ecstatic," was hailed left, right and center as a return to form, but really that’s lazy journalism. "The Ecstatic" is, more than a return, a great step forward, incorporating psychedelic guitar, Middle Eastern samples, horn-driven Jazz brush beats, xylophones and pretty much anything else you could think of. And it’s a massive success. So, kudos to the Grammy people for nominating him, but we’re not surprised he didn’t win.
That said and done, we’ll look at one more category: Album of the Year. The Grammy nominees were: Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, The Black Eyed Peas, Lady Gaga and Dave Matthews Band. These five artists, shy of a massive UK pop band like U2 or Coldplay and a hard rock group of longhaired neanderthals like Creed or Nickelback, represent the spectrum of popular music as of 2010. There’s pop, country, soul, hip hop, R&B, glam, disco, dance, club, rock, roots, folk and electro spread through the styles of these five.
Beyoncé’s "I Am… Sasha Fierce" is uneven as hell, but there’s no doubt she’s a superstar, and a phenomenal singer. Taylor Swift appeals to America’s massive country fan base, tween pop fans, boys with crushes on the good girl, girls who want to be the good girls and older folk who miss the innocent days of pop culture, which is probably why she won. The Black Eyed Peas… well, they’re The Black Eyed Peas, and ditto for DMB, both of which do what they do, and do it well. Lady Gaga, a left-field choice, is hit-or-miss on "The Fame," but at her lurid, over-sexualized best, she’s hella entertaining, and a great pop artist.
So are these the five best albums of the year? Hell no. Gaga deserves to be there to represent pop. For hip hop, Mos’ "Ecstatic" is so much better than BEP’s effort it’s in a different universe. In rock, Dinosaur Jr., Scotsmen We Were Promised Jet Packs, and Muse all released records that put DMB’s most recent snooze-fest to shame. "I Am… Sasha Fierce" came out in 2008. What? Seriously. Add to that Maxwell’s and The-Dream’s superior ’09 R&B records, and we’re not sure we’ll ever know what they were thinking with that one.
Of course, whether or not these records are the best of 2009 is irrelevant. That’s not the question at hand. Do they deserve their Grammy nominations? Yes. Why? Because the Grammys are about popularity and populism, and the Grammy nominations of 2010 fulfill these requirements.