So this second installment of my Grammy predictions and picks, thanks to some big, time-consuming (but fun) events in my little corner of the world this weekend, is exceedingly last-minute. So last-minute, in fact, that I believe the pre-televised Grammy ceremonies (where the bulk of the awards, especially the non-big-ticket ones, are given out) have already occurred/are occurring at the moment I’m writing this. I’ve only seen two of those categories’ winners, and neither of those categories are being covered here, so rest assured I’m not making fake “predictions” just to look good. So very hurriedly…let’s do some more Grammy discussin’.
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
A nice cross-section of talent this year…we’ve got ourselves some Norah Jones and Sara Bareilles, as well as superstars (for better or for worse) like Lady Gaga and Beyonce. And oh dang it, I was looking through the category Wiki page just now and I accidentally saw the winner, so I can’t really predict anyone, can I? (Because of this, btw, I will probably refrain from looking at any category histories at this point to help my predictions, so I might be winging it a little bit from here on out.) Anyways, interestingly, the live version of “Halo” by Beyonce is nominated (probably because the studio version isn’t eligible for this year, and last year around nomination time it must have been still growing). I’d go for that, Norah, or Sara if I was a Grammy voter. As for the actual winner, I shan’t spoil it here.
Best Male Pop Vocal Performance
If the female category for pop vocals is a “nice cross-section,” the male category is kind of…all over the place. But in a good way. I can’t say I dislike any of the songs here (even the Adam Lambert one, admittedly, and I am NOT a big fan of him at all, dating from his AI stint). As for who I think will win/already won? I’m going to go with some other predictors and say that the Grammy voters will go the sentimental route and give a posthumous award to the legendary Michael Jackson for “This Is It.” (Seeing as it’s probably one of the last chances they’ll have to give MJ a Grammy, I doubt they’ll pass it up. Heck, I probably wouldn’t pass it up either.) Bruno Mars could be a spoiler, though. He’s nominated for quite a few other things (a lot of them producing/songwriting), and “Just The Way You Are” is the kind of song that’s both popular and kind of old-school (AKA huge Grammy bait). I’ve grown rather fond of the tune, so that’s one of my personal picks, along with “Haven’t Met You Yet.” Another nominated song in the category, “Half of My Heart,” is also on my iPod, and I rather like it, but I’m kind of scratching my head at why it was nominated here in the first place, seeing as it’s more of a duet/collaboration than a solo performance by John Mayer. (Taylor Swift contributes prominent vocals to it.)
Best Dance Recording
I have to admit, I was totally not planning to cover this category at all. (P.S., I don’t have time to cover all the categories I could conceivably write about/have knowledge of, so I’m basically going to skip to the jazz ones after this. ) But last week, I finally decided to check out the music of Robyn…and I fell in love. Mad musical love. So I’m going to throw conventional wisdom to the wind and predict that the Grammy voters will be kind and awesome and give her terrific “Dancing On My Own” an award. (Either that, or La Roux, who similarly rocks, or Goldfrapp, who I admittedly haven’t heard too much of, but have loved what I’ve heard by her so far.) It’s soulful, easy on the ears, great to dance to, and heartbreaking all at the same time. And as talented as Rihanna and Lady Gaga can be, methinks that Robyn could really do wonders with the extra recognition.
Best Rap Solo Performance
Best Jazz Vocal Album
I could write for hours and hours about this category, but I only have about less than ten minutes (and I have at least one other category I wish to cover), so here’s the skinny. (Sort of. ) My predictions are twofold…I’d say Dee Dee Bridgewater‘s energetic, innovative tribute to Lady Day, “Eleanora Fagan (1915-1959): To Billie With Love From Dee Dee” (now THAT’S a title) has the best chance to win, seeing as it’s by a prestigious previously-nominated artist, it goes outside of the box (but in an accessible way, for the most part), and it’s a tribute, which in the past, if memory serves me right, Grammy voters have simply eaten up. (An example off the top of my head is Patti Austin winning a few years ago for “Avant Gershwin.”) However, here’s where the second part of my prediction comes in…I think Freddy Cole (AKA Nat King Cole’s younger brother, something I did not know until recently) and his fine (albeit a little low-key) Billy Eckstine tribute, “Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B,” could be a definite spoiler here. The Bridgewater album is terrific, but some more traditionally-minded voters could be turned off by her unique approach to Billie’s classic songs (they shouldn’t, but it’s a possibility). Freddy, being pretty close to jazz royalty and all, would be what said traditionally-minded voters would flock to next, I’d wager. As for what I’d pick if I were
king a member of NARAS? Definitely Denise Donatelli’s outstanding “When Lights Are Low.” Geoffrey Keezer’s arranging is superb (more on that in a second), Denise is in fine voice, and it’s even a little close to home, as I’ve sung/worked (!!!) with the husband & wife who do background vocals throughout the record, Kerry Marsh & Julia Dollison. It’s just a beautifully put together album (though I may be a bit biased ). The other two entries, “Ages” by Lorraine Feather, and “Water” by Gregory Porter, sound great too. I was especially intrigued by the former, and it could be a sleeper win if the votes get split in weird ways. However, as stacked as the vocal jazz category is this year, I hate to say their chances are slim. (Can’t we just give the Grammy here to everyone? )
Best Instrumental Accompaniment Accompanying Vocalist(s)
Yeah, so this isn’t one of the big Grammy categories at all…but I’ve been very interested in it for a while (I even know the 2011 nominees by heart), mostly because I’m a big arrangement buff. (I have a mental list of favorite arrangers. No joke. ) This category is pretty dang stacked this year. First is “Baba Yetu” (a track by the Soweto Gospel Choir that interestingly enough, was used for a video game trailer if I’m not mistaken). The orchestral arrangement is sweeping, and I dig it a lot, but it did seem a little by-the-numbers. So that one’s out. Next is “Baby” by Bobby McFerrin, from his absolutely breathtaking album “Vocabularies” (which should have been nominated for Best Jazz Vocal, but instead got shoehorned into Best Classical Crossover…sigh). It’s a stunningly beautiful song…but it doesn’t quite belong in this category, in my opinion. The vocal arrangement (and the song itself, of course) is worthy of a billion awards…but the song is almost entirely a cappella, so I think NARAS just shoved it into the wrong category. That leaves three heavy-hitters…”Based On A Thousand True Stories” by Norwegian artist Silje Nergaard and arranged by the brilliant Vince Mendoza; “Don’t Explain” by the aforementioned Denise Donatelli & arranger Geoffrey Keezer; and the Herbie Hancock-led and co-arranged “Imagine” project. I’d say Herbie & Larry Klein have the best chance to win (seeing as he’s been a Grammy fave in the past). Vince Mendoza is a multi-time winner in this category, and his arrangement brings “Based On A Thousand True Stories” to life, so I wouldn’t count him out either. I’ll be quite happy if either of these two win, but my very, very favorite would be Geoffrey Keezer’s work on “Don’t Explain.” He turned it from a Billie Holiday chestnut to a fresh, dynamic showcase for Denise’s terrific vocals. Plus, to my knowledge, he’s not a past winner, so he’d be getting his first Grammy.
So that’s all, folks. The Grammys are already airing (at least in my time zone), so I’m running late/irrelevant anyhow. Now I’ll go to check how many of my predictions were right, yo. Look out tonight or tomorrow for a new Sketches post (complete with video!), be sure to subscribe, and thanks for reading!