Tag Archives: GRAMMY Awards

GRAMMY WATCH: Adam Predicts The Big Four

Don't stop the music.

Don’t stop the music.

September 30 marks the end of the eligibility for the upcoming 2014 GRAMMY Awards, so, being that it’s the day after, I think it’s time to make some predictions for the big show, yes? Though it isn’t until January 26 of next year and a special nominations special doesn’t air until December 6, here are some of my early favorites, and let me know what you think below! For now, it’s just the Big Four — and maybe a few extra thoughts when it’s all over. Let’s get to those magic predictions:

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Bruno Mars, Unorthodox Jukebox
Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience: The Complete Experience
Taylor Swift, Red
The Civil Wars, The Civil Wars

All five of these albums went to #1 and the majority of them have been certified (or are at the point where they can be.) It’s definitely going to be another pop heavy year overall. Mars’s late 2012 release has given us smashes like “Locked Out Of Heaven” and “When I Was Your Man”, plus with his upcoming Super Bowl appearance, he may just lead the nominations. Luck was on Daft Punk‘s side this year as “Get Lucky” took a ride up to #2 on the Hot 100, while their album delivered the band’s best sales frame by far. Timberlake, an early winner for this category, had the biggest opening of the year with the first half of this collection and will once again debut at the top with the second half. Why RCA chose to submit both albums as one entry instead of two, we shall never know. Both Swift and The Civil Wars are GRAMMY favorites having been nominated separately and together and should likely gain a vote or two.

Other contenders:
Drake, Nothing Was The Same – The rapper’s album was just issued last week and the numbers on it are looking huge. His connection was multiple format audiences will obviously help him; I’d think this would be the rap release to get a nomination if there is one.
Janelle Monáe, The Electric Lady – Expect to see this one on a lot of year-end lists. The futuristic neo soul singer has a lot of people buzzing about her latest release, but with low radio airplay and only decent sales, this will get cut along the way.
Jay Z, Magna Carta… Holy Grail – He’s an industry heavyweight and his most recent album was one of the most hyped of the year. With a hit single in “Holy Grail”, his name is out there once again, but reception’s been mixed and others are favored.
Kanye West, Yeezus – It’s raw, it’s minimalist and ultimately, it won over both fans and critics when it was released this summer. That being said, I don’t think those on the GRAMMY panel will “get it.” Expect a tantrum or two from West if it’s looked over.
Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires Of The City – Some people seem to think that this could pull off a nomination because of high critical scores. This era gave them their biggest hit yet on the Alternative survey, “Diane Young”, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to get this in.

RECORD OF THE YEAR
Bruno Mars, “When I Was Your Man”
Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams, “Get Lucky”
Justin Timberlake, “Mirrors”
Katy Perry, “Roar”
Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell Williams and T.I., “Blurred Lines”
The Civil Wars, “The One That Got Away”

Both Record and Song Of The Year are going to be tough this year, but 2013 has been a spectacular and diverse year for music. Since ROTY listed six nominations last year, I’ll be predicting the same this year. Summer smashes “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky” will no doubt be in there, which is huge for producer, writer and singer Pharrell Williams. Many people seem to think that both Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake are a lock for ROTY; I’m putting “Man” here over “Locked Out Of Heaven” and “Mirrors” over “Suit & Tie”, but it could go either way. “Roar”, like Taylor Swift‘s “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” last year, will be the last-minute nomination of the bunch. Finally, there’s The Civil Wars; based on the buzz this song registered on my blog well as the prior GRAMMY love for the duo, I think they hold a strong chance of being here.

Other contenders:
Drake featuring Majid Jordan, “Hold On, We’re Going Home” – With a smooth 80’s feel and a simple lyric, the song’s hot and a hit. I think this will only be shut out due to the similar throwback feel of entries like Thicke’s, which was also much bigger commercially.
Imagine Dragons, “Radioactive” – 2013 was a breakout year for this Las Vegas band and their dubstep meets rock production took over the charts a few months ago. Unfortunately, the burn factor with this one will ultimately cost it some votes in the long run.
Kanye West, “New Slaves” – With Yeezus probably missing a chance at AOTY, this would be West’s next best option. The industrial sounding song will too probably not make the category, but it’s worth a shot. He’ll pick up a few nods in the Rap sub-categories.
Taylor Swift, “I Knew You Were Trouble” – Swift has a better shot in the AOTY category. I’m not sure the Academy voters will respond positively to this song, despite the fact that it was a significant hit, given the harder electronic elements of it. Cue the goats!

SONG OF THE YEAR
Bruno Mars, “When I Was Your Man”
Lorde, “Royals”
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert, “Same Love”
Passenger, “Let Her Go”
Pink featuring Nate Ruess, “Just Give Me A Reason”

As it was last year, Song Of The Year should be vastly different from ROTY, and since this is a songwriter’s award, let’s get into the lyrical love. Mars may be the only repeat in this category; his tender love song “Man” resonated with more than a few people this year. Lorde‘s anthem about the lifestyles of the rich and famous may have a minimal production, but stands out lyrically as biting and powerful. “Love” from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert carries a heavy tone, but is also a game changer when it comes to same-sex marriage support. Passenger‘s “Go” may be the dark horse in this race, but with a similar label strategy to Ed Sheeran‘s “The A Team”, this will continue to be a slow burner into next year. Last year, the duet between Pink and Ruess has such a classic feel that I would be shocked if “Reason” is snubbed in any of the major categories.

Other contenders:
Emeli Sandé, “Next To Me” – Though this was only a moderate success on the charts, Sandé is long overdue for some form of nomination after the song initially went to radio last year. Perhaps a nod in the BNA category below will serve her better.
Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko, “Stay” – This big ballad from the singer’s Unapologetic album was a nice change of pace at the time. The multi-format smash will likely be on the minds of the voters; it’s going to be a very close one.
Sara Bareilles, “Brave” – You may think it sounds like Katy Perry‘s “Roar”, and once the GRAMMY nominations actually come out, “Roar” will likely take all the glory. Still, “Brave” has a great lyric and Bareilles is certainly worthy of the Award.
The Band Perry, “Better Dig Two” – It’s another morbid musical number from these guys, but it was huge on the Country airwaves. It’s one of the best from the genre this year, but it may fall short of the nominations due to the competition.
The Civil Wars, “The One That Got Away” – I pegged this as a nominee for ROTY, but this still has a promising chance in this category to a lesser extent. I’m hoping for an excellent performance from the duo on the live telecast.

BEST NEW ARTIST
Emeli Sandé
Imagine Dragons
Kendrick Lamar
Lorde
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

This category should be largely predictable, save for maybe an entry or two. Sandé, who was expected to be on last year’s ballot, should make it on this year after the success of “Next To Me”, current single “My Kind Of Love”, and her “Beneath Your Beautiful” duet with Labrinth. Las Vegas quartet Imagine Dragons are an easy sell with their crossover-friendly hits like “It’s Time” and “Radioactive”. Lamar’s debut album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, recently went Platinum and he’s also all over the Urban airwaves in addition to his feature on Robin Thicke‘s “Give It 2 U”. New Zealand’s Lorde is also expected to place in the category thanks to the immense, yet sudden success of her “Royals” single, a recent #1 on the Alternative chart. Finally, there’s Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, likely the favorite to win, with three big hit singles in a row including the novelty hit “Thrift Shop” and the socially conscious “Same Love”.

Other contenders:
Ariana Grande – Young diva Grande has some major chops and a major fan base. 2013 marked her first top ten single, “The Way”, and her first #1 album, Yours Truly. However, with so many R&B acts in the bunch, she may not find a “way” into the five finalists.
Florida Georgia Line – The Southern duo has accumulated three big #1 singles on Country radio and scored one of the biggest Country crossovers of the year with the Nelly assisted “Cruise”, but will they skew too young for the panel? Perhaps.
Kacey Musgraves – Musgraves debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 with her first major label release; however, she’s been recording over ten years and issuing albums independently since 2002. The committee may see that as a reason to leave her out of this one.
Passenger – See Musgraves. He faces a similar problem in that he’s released several albums independently since 2009, as well as one with the band form of Passenger in 2007. Hey, Ed Sheeran and Gotye didn’t make it into BNA last year either.
Phillip Phillips  The American Idol winner from 2012 could be a strong candidate with a Platinum album and two memorable singles, yet it seems that most of his initial hype is gone. “Home” would have been a better choice for last year’s Awards.

As for some of the genre-specific categories, look out for a few more Pink and Taylor Swift nods in the Pop categories, as well as fun. and Maroon 5. Avicii, Martin Garrix and Zedd could compete together for the Best Dance Recording, while the Country categories should be dominated by Blake Shelton, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum and The Band Perry. Oh, and in the Jazz categories, my friend Kurt Trowbridge would say that Etienne Charles‘s chances of being nominated for Creole Soul are “killin’ breh.” I just hope he doesn’t have to kill anyone to get his nods. That would just be bad.

Once again, let me know you think below or find PGTC on social media by clicking the “Get Social!” tab.

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Filed under Charts/Trade Papers, GRAMMY Awards, Playlists

What The Pluck? The Rise (and Inevitable Fall) of Folk Music on Mainstream Radio

They've made this place their "Home".

They’ve made this place their “Home”.

From mandolins to violins, there’s no denying that folk is the hot genre now both at radio and at retail. Once a music style that could only make Alternative listeners happy, it’s now fully made its way into the mainstream through key records like “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers and “Home” by Phillip Phillips, which have both made the top ten. It’s refreshing to many listeners who are tired of hearing the same old dance and pop material on their regular station, who can now skip seamlessly from a booming beat to a banjo. I feel as though I’m in that category, to an extent. However, it’s also very polarizing at a format which typically caters to teens; it’s not as though Mumford & Sons have the boyish looks of One Direction or The Wanted. With lots of recent GRAMMY nominations (and a few wins by Mumford & Sons) as well as a continual push of other new folk-based acts to crossover, it seems that 2013 will be an even bigger year for the genre in terms of its wider success. Yet, it’s bound to fall at some point. How long will this folk explosion last? Here’s why I think a backlash is coming sooner than you think.

Folk’s transition into pop music is a complicated thing because it’s technically two trends coming together at once. One is the genre itself, which I’ve already talked about: more organic sounds, more attention to lyrics, minimalistic arrangements and final product, etc. It’s far different from your glossy 3 1/2 minute pop single by Rihanna or Taylor Swift. The second of the two is a more basic item found in the composition: the incorporation of one-syllable words used as a call-and-response measure. In the aforementioned “Ho Hey”, we hear the emphatic “HO!” followed by a “HEY!” and these are repeated for the duration of the single. In “Little Talks” by Of Monsters And Men, it’s reduced to just a “HEY!” which is heard several times in the post-chorus exclusively. It’s just like any other temporary fad as of recent; remember the saxophone solos in songs like Katy Perry‘s “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” and the whistling in Foster The People‘s “Pumped Up Kicks”? Exactly like that. It makes the song catchier while bucking a popular trend that’s blown up at the time. However, unless someone new comes along that tries to recreate this concept in the same sort of pattern, this is where it ends. The followup to “Little Talks” is “Mountain Sound”, which uses claps, but it’s not as distinct as the shouts. “Stubborn Love”, however, does have a sort of call-and-response section, but it’s not nearly as catchy as the one in “Ho Hey”. At least “Keep your HEAD UP!” and “LOVE!” don’t strike me that way. I don’t think either one will do well at mainstream radio for that and a number of other reasons, but that’s just my opinion. Point is, once one domino falls, so does the other. If the sing-along songs go, folk will eventually retreat.

For those of you who believe that history repeats itself, the folk-based movement reminds me a lot of what happened twenty years ago at the CHR format. By the early 90’s, a lot of the hair bands like Mötley CrüePoison and Whitesnake were on their way out of the mainstream consciousness. Some, like Bon Jovi and Def Leppard, were able to adapt their sound by promoting softer sounding records, but for the majority of groups, 1991 and 1992 was basically their curtain call. At the same time, a sub-genre of rock out of the Pacific Northwest began gaining attention nationwide and in 1992, this resulted in a hit single that led a movement into the depths of grunge. You can probably guess that I’m referring to Nirvana‘s top ten hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Several months later, the Red Hot Chili Peppers made it to #1 on the format with “Under The Bridge”. While not a grunge band, the song set the mood for other slower tempo songs by bands like Pearl Jam, Radiohead and Stone Temple Pilots to hit the chart, which then led to even more obscure alternative bands making the top 40. I mean, remember when Letters To Cleo and Mazzy Star had top-40 hits? Punk bands also hit the survey: Green Day, The Offspring, etc. Alternative, grunge and punk took over the format, which only furthered CHR’s identity crisis, and led it to dismal ratings for several years. Even Z100 in New York City, the biggest pop station in the United States, had an Alternative lean in the mid-90’s. It was good for fans who wanted to rock, but stacked next to records by Ace Of Base, Elton John and Mariah Carey made it a mess overall. Ratings increased several years later when boy bands and teen female singers became popular and pushed a lot of Alternative crossovers into smaller rotation slots, eventually to Hot Adult Contemporary radio as the 2000’s began.

The same sort of thing is happening now. A lot of crossover rock bands that did particularly well on CHR in the early-to-mid 2000’s (3 Doors Down, Linkin Park, Nickelback, etc.) have seen their last significant success at the format and are now strictly being relegated to the Hot AC chart in addition to some limited Alternative or Active Rock play. This also includes acts like Lifehouse and Matchbox Twenty, and Train will be at this point (again) in another few years. None of these examples are hair bands, it’s true, but they’ve been shafted for our dear folk acts, who I’ve mentioned several times. It started last year with the slow rise of “Home”, the signature record this time around, and has blown up at this point. Pretty soon, new singles by Matt Hires and The Dunwells, twisted around in folky goodness, may be joining them. They’re already picking up station additions at the lighter formats. Yet, again, how do we transition from a Pitbull song to a Mumford & Sons song to a Britney Spears song at Top 40 radio? It sounds awkward as heck. Yes, it’s great that variety has once again shined through, but is too much of something a good thing? Oh, and don’t you try to tell me that every pop song sounds the same and every folk song doesn’t. Same twang. Same instruments. Same slight rasp in the vocals. It’s all there. Some stations are more committed to playing these songs; other radio companies hold off on these kind of singles until they make it up to a certain point in airplay for the sake of maintaining a Rhythm lean. Question is, what will be the shift that takes down folk if there is any? If there’s not, will we be looking at a massive free fall like we did two decades ago?

This post isn’t meant to bad mouth folk music. I think it’s awesome that programmers and fans alike can share in a good song or two and that a genre that’s been under-appreciated at this type of radio in the past can be rejoiced. My main concern is with the CHR format itself and how relevant it can be if it keeps going the way it’s going. While it could once regularly appeal to older listeners just as it is today, it’s not going to be sustained for years to come. There’s no doubt that, in the meantime, established artists will begin to play around with folk instruments in their new material in the same way that rock bands tried out disco-influenced singles in the late 1970’s. However, with the attention span of top-40 radio today, which is quick (albeit, not as quick as in the 70’s and 80’s), folk may be out of fashion tomorrow. Who knows? For the moment, it’s here to strum on, but don’t say I didn’t warn you when radio tells those folk folks to “pluck off”.

How do you feel about folk music’s sudden rise? Do you want it to stay around or go away? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.

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Filed under Charts/Trade Papers, Music News

2013 GRAMMY Awards: The Picks According To Adam (+ COMPLETE WINNERS)

Carry on wayward Sons.

Carry on wayward Sons.

We’re nearing the end of GRAMMY Week! Thanks for sticking with the blog as we count down the days until music’s biggest night on Sunday at 8PM eastern on CBS.

Now, for the topic of all GRAMMY topics, my predictions for all of the categories. This took a while to compile, so I hope you enjoy and let me know your predictions in the comments or on Twitter at @AdamFSoybel. You’ll see some general notes from me in the categories I know best. Check back on Sunday to see how well I did! (Original Big Four post) (Second Big Four post)

FULLY BOLD = I picked the winner correctly. CROSSED OUT = I did not pick the winner correctly. I got 35 out of 81 correct.

GENERAL FIELD (winners complete)
Record Of The Year: fun. featuring Janelle Monáe – “We Are Young” Gotye featuring Kimbra – “Somebody That I Used To Know”
Album Of The Year: Mumford & Sons – Babel
Song Of The Year: Kelly Clarkson – “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” fun. featuring Janelle Monáe – “We Are Young”
Best New Artist: fun.

First of all, you’re probably saying, where is Frank Ocean? To be honest, I have no clue where to put him, because I can’t see him winning any of the Big Four. I know people generally think he’ll take Best New Artist over fun., but considering how commercial the picks have been leaning recently, I think they can pull it off. (I do have Ocean winning for a feature and genre-specific award later on.) My only change from December is that I think “We Are Young” will win Record Of The Year rather than “Somebody That I Used To Know”. Gotye and Kimbra aren’t performing on the broadcast, which is usually an indication that they didn’t win any of the big ones.

POP FIELD (winners complete)
Best Pop Solo Performance: Adele – “Set Fire To The Rain (Live at the Royal Albert Hall)”
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: Gotye featuring Kimbra – “Somebody That I Used To Know”
Best Pop Instrumental Album: Chris Botti – Impressions
Best Pop Vocal Album: fun. – Some Nights Kelly Clarkson – Stronger

Solo Performance is definitely going to Adele; remember that Train‘s “Hey, Soul Sister” won in a live version two years ago for a similar category. With my thinking that Gotye and Kimbra are going to lose out on Record Of The Year, they should win Pop Duo/Group Performance. Chris Botti‘s album did well commercially. Pop Vocal Album is tough; I’ve been going back and forth between fun., Kelly Clarkson and Pink, but I like Some Nights the most out of the three.

DANCE/ELECTRONICA FIELD (winners complete)
Best Dance Recording: Swedish House Mafia featuring John Martin – “Don’t You Worry Child” Skrillex featuring Sirah – “Bangarang”
Best Dance/Electronica Album: The Chemical Brothers – Don’t Think  Skrillex – Bangarang

I still don’t know why the Academy liked Skrillex so much last year. He’s nominated again in both categories this year, but I think the Academy will sympathize with the fact that Swedish House Mafia is breaking up, plus The Chemical Brothers took home wins for the Album Award in 2006 and 2008.

TRADITIONAL POP FIELD (winners complete)
Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: Michael Bublé – Christmas Paul McCartney – Kisses On The Bottom

Bublé’s won the Award three times in the past five years. It would be the first time a seasonal album wins in the category.

ROCK FIELD (winners complete)
Best Rock Performance: Mumford & Sons – “I Will Wait” The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”
Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance: Iron Maiden – “Blood Brothers (Live)” Halestorm – “Love Bites (So Do I)”
Best Rock Song: The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”
Best Rock Album: The Black Keys – El Camino

Mumford & Sons and The Black Keys should dominate this field; they were the two biggest rock releases in this period. Iron Maiden is a previous winner in that category and I think they’ll win, even if it’s with a live track.

ALTERNATIVE FIELD (winners complete)
Best Alternative Music Album: Gotye – Making Mirrors

Pretty sure Gotye can take this one home, which will bring his total to two Awards.

R&B FIELD (winners complete)
Best R&B Performance: Miguel – “Adorn” Usher – “Climax”
Best Traditional R&B Performance: Anita Baker – “Lately” Beyoncé – “Love On Top”
Best R&B Song: Miguel – “Adorn”
Best R&B Album: Robert Glasper Experiment – Black Radio
Best Urban Contemporary Album: Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE

Miguel got a ton of nominations at this year’s ceremony, and I think he’ll take at least Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song. The song’s been at #1 forever on R&B radio. Anita Baker has won roughly half the time she’s been nominated; “Lately” was a great return for her and I’d like to see it win. Best R&B Album is sort of up in the air, but the Robert Glasper Experiment could perhaps take it. Ocean can probably take a win in that new Urban Contemporary category this year.

RAP FIELD (winners complete)
Best Rap Performance: Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha T and 2 Chainz – “Mercy” Jay-Z & Kanye West – “N****s In Paris”
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration: Jay-Z, Kanye West, Frank Ocean and The-Dream – “No Church In The Wild”
Best Rap Song: Jay-Z & Kanye West – “N****s In Paris”
Best Rap Album: Drake – Take Care

Last year’s Awards seemed to be a Jay-Z and Kanye West lovefest, so I’m keeping that trend going for this year. Since Drake got snubbed in the Big Four categories, I’m guessing he’ll take home Best Rap Album. It did well commercially.

COUNTRY FIELD
Best Country Solo Performance: Dierks Bentley – “Home” Carrie Underwood – “Blown Away”
Best Country Duo/Group Performance: Taylor Swift featuring The Civil Wars — “Safe & Sound” Little Big Town – “Pontoon”
Best Country Song: Carrie Underwood – “Blown Away”
Best Country Album: Hunter Hayes — Hunter Hayes Zac Brown Band – Uncaged

With his performance slot, this should be Bentley’s year to pick up his first Award. The Civil Wars will likely pull off a repeat and Underwood’s always done well in the Country categories. Hayes will be blocked out of Best New Artist, so I’m really hoping he can take Country Album. He’s such a talented guy and the album’s great.

At this point, most of my nominees are based on either names I know or acts who have won the category before. If you need anything more specific on how I came to my decision, feel free to comment (as I mentioned above.)

NEW AGE FIELD (winners complete)
Best New Age Album: Loreena McKennitt – Troubadours Of The Rhine  Omar Akram – Echoes Of Love

JAZZ FIELD (winners complete)
Best Improvised Jazz Solo: Chick Corea – Alice in Wonderland Gary Burton & Chick Corea – Hot House
Best Jazz Vocal Album: Esperanza Spalding – Radio Music Society
Best Jazz Instrumental Album: Chick Corea & Gary Burton – Hot House Pat Metheny Unity Band – Unity Band
Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album: Bob Mintzer Big Band – For The Moment Arturo Sandoval – Dear Diz (Everyday I Think Of You)
Best Latin Jazz Album: Luciana Souza – Duos III Clare Fischer Latin Jazz Big Band – Ritmo!

GOSPEL/CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC FIELD (winners complete)
Best Gospel/Contemporary Christian Music Performance: Mary Mary – “Go Get It” Matt Redman – “10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)”
Best Gospel Song: Marvin Sapp – “My Testimony” Mary Mary – “Go Get It”
Best Contemporary Christian Music Song: Matt Redman – “10,000 Reasons (Bless The Lord)” / Israel Houghton – “Your Presence Is Heaven” (tie; I predicted Redman)
Best Gospel Album: Lecrae – Gravity
Best Contemporary Christian Music Album: Britt Nicole – Gold tobyMac – Eye On It

The title track from Nicole’s album is crossing over to mainstream radio; I think that’s grounds for her taking something in the field.

LATIN FIELD (winners complete)
Best Latin Pop Album: Juanes – MTV Unplugged: Deluxe Edition
Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album: Ana Tijoux – La Bala Quetzal – Imaginaries
Best Regional Mexican Album (Including Tejano): Lila Downs – Pecados y Milagros
Best Tropical Latin Album: Romeo Santos — Formula, Vol. 1 Marlow Rosado and La Riqueña Retro

AMERICAN ROOTS MUSIC FIELD (winners complete)
Best Americana Album: Mumford & Sons – Babel  Bonnie Raitt – Slipstream
Best Bluegrass Album: Dailey & Vincent – The Gospel Side Of… Steep Canyon Rangers – Nobody Knows You
Best Blues Album: Dr. John – Locked Down
Best Folk Album: Carolina Chocolate Drops – Leaving Eden Yo-Yo Mama, Stuart Duncan, Edgar Meyer and Chris Thile – The Goat Radio Sessions
Best Regional Roots Music Album: Wayne Toups, Steve Riley & Wilson Savoy – The Band Courtbouillon

Americana Album is probably either going to Mumford & Sons or The Lumineers, but I’m leaning towards the former, especially if they win Album Of The Year.

REGGAE FIELD (winners complete)
Best Reggae Album: Jimmy Cliff – Rebirth

WORLD MUSIC FIELD (winners complete)
Best World Music Album: Ravi Shankar – The Living Room Sessions, Part 1

Shankar recently passed away at the age of 92.

CHILDREN’S FIELD (winners complete)
Best Children’s Album: Bill Harley – High Dive and Other Things That Could Have Happened  The Okee Dokie Brothers – Can You Canoe?

SPOKEN WORD FIELD (winners complete)
Best Spoken Word Album: Michelle Obama – American Grown Janis IanSociety’s Child: My Autobiography

She’s back in the White House… that would probably help her chances, wouldn’t it?

COMEDY FIELD (winners complete)
Best Comedy Album: Jimmy Fallon – Blow Your Pants Off

Fallon has a strong chance of picking up the win for his collection of parodies and impressions of musicians singing television theme songs. Heck, I bought the “Tebowie” vinyl single at Record Store Day last year. Funny stuff.

MUSICAL THEATER FIELD (winners complete)
Best Musical Theater Album: Various Artists – Once: A New Musical

Haven’t seen the musical version, but the movie’s great, so I’m good with it getting a little more recognition.

MUSIC FOR VISUAL MEDIA FIELD (winners complete)
Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media: Original Soundtrack to The Muppets Midnight In Paris
Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media: Ludovic Bource – Original Score to The Artist Trent Reznor & Atticus RossThe Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Best Song Written For Visual Media: Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars – “Safe & Sound” (from The Hunger Games)

The only other potential nominee that could win Best Song is “Learn Me Right” by Birdy and Mumford & Sons, which would give the group four wins, the highest total of the night. We’ll have to wait and see.

COMPOSING/ARRANGING FIELD (winners complete)
Best Instrumental Composition: Chris Brubeck and Dave Brubeck for Music of Ansel Adams: America Chick CoreaMozart Goes Dancing
Best Instrumental Arrangement:
Gordon Goodwin, performed by Arturo Sandoval – Salt Peanuts! (Mani Salado) Gil Evans Project – How About You?
Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocals: Esperanza Spalding (with Thara Memory) – “City Of Roses”

The elder Brubeck, Dave, recently passed away at age 91.

CRAFTS FIELD (winners complete)
Best Album Notes: Holly George-Warren; Janis Joplin – The Pearl Sessions Billy Vera ‘Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles
Best Boxed/Special Limited Edition: Stephen Kennedy; Rolling Stones – Some Girls: Super Deluxe Edition Fritz KlaetkeWoody At 100: The Woody Guthrie Centennial Collection
Best Historical Album: Paul McCartney (producer), Simon Gibson, Guy Massey & Steve Rooke (mastering engineers) – Ram: Paul McCartney Archive Collection (Deluxe Edition) Alan Boyd, Mark Linett, Brian Wilson & Dennis Wolfe (producers), Mark Linett (mastering engineer) for The Smile Sessions (Deluxe Box Set) (Beach Boys)
Best Recording Package: Brett Kilroe; Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls  Michael Amzalag & Mathias AugustyniakBiophilia, performed by Bjork

PRODUCTION FIELD
Best Engineered Album, Classical: Jesse Lewis & John Newton (engineers), Jesse Brayman (mastering engineer); Carlos Kalmar and the Oregon Symphony – Music for a Time of War Tom Caulfield & John Newton (engineers), Mark Donahue (mastering engineer) for Life & Breath – Choral Works by René Clausen, performed by Charles Bruffy & the Kansas City Chorale
Best Engineered Album (Non-classical): Glyn Johns (engineer), Bob Ludwig (mastering engineer); Ryan Adams – Ashes & Fire Richard KingThe Goat Road Sessions
Producer Of The Year, Classical: Blanton Alspaugh
Producer Of The Year (Non-classical): Jeff Bhasker  Dan Auerbach
Best Remixed Recording: Skrillex (remixer); Nero – “Promises”
Best Surround Sound Album: Morten Lindberg (engineer/mastering engineer/producer); Hoff Ensemble – Quiet Winter Night Jim Anderson (engineer), Darcy Proper (mastering engineer) and Michael Friedman (producer) for Modern Cool, performed by Patricia Barber

CLASSICAL FIELD (winners complete)
Best Orchestral Performance: Michael Tilson Thomas (conductor), San Francisco Symphony – Adams: Harmonielehre & Short Ride in a Fast Machine
Best Opera Recording: Vladimir Jurowski (conductor), Topi Lehtipuu, Miah Persson & Matthew Rose (soloists), Jean Chatauret (producer) – Stravinsky: The Rake’s Progress James Levine & Fabio Luisi (conductors), Hans Peter König, Jay Hunter Morris, Bryn Terfel & Deborah Voigt (soloists), Jay David Saks (producer)Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen
Best Choral Performance: Charles Bruffy (conductor); Matthew Gladden, Lindsey Lang, Rebecca Lloyd, Sarah Tannehill & Pamela Williamson and the Kansas City Chorale – Life & Breath: Choral Works by René Clausen
Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance: Boston Symphony Chamber Players – Profanes et Sacrées Eighth BlackbirdMeanwhile
Best Classical Instrumental Solo: Andras Schiff – Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Clavier Kim KashkashianKurtág & Ligeti: Music for Viola
Best Classical Vocal Solo: Renee Fleming – Poèmes
Best Contemporary Classical Composition: Ugis Praulins – The Nightingale Stephen HartkeMeanwhile – Incidental Music to Imaginary Puppet Plays
Best Classical Compendium: Partch (ensemble), John Schneider (producer) – Bitter Music Antoni Wit (conductor), Aleksandra Nagórko & Andrzej Sasin (producers) – Fonogrammi; Horn Concerto; The Awakening of Jacob; Anaklasis

MUSIC VIDEO FIELD (winners complete)
Best Short Form Music Video: Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris – “We Found Love”
Best Long Form Music Video: U2 – From The Sky Down  Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros & Old Crow Medicine ShowBig Easy Express

So, as you can see, I have no runaway winners according to my predictions, though fun., Jay-Z, Kanye West and Mumford & Sons would all receive three wins, with a number of other acts like The Black Keys and Miguel getting two. Again, check back on Sunday night to see the actual winners. Thanks for checking out the post!Big hits have been winning the Short Form category is recent years; otherwise, “Bad Girls” by M.I.A. might have a chance. U2 won the Long Form Award with other time in 1995.

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GRAMMY Flashback: Who? What? How Did That Win?

An unjustified loss.

An unjustified loss.

Welcome to GRAMMY Week! This week, from Monday to Friday, you’ll be treated to some special GRAMMY related topics, from the past to the present, all leading up to the music’s biggest night on Sunday at 8PM eastern on CBS. Let’s dive into today’s post…

Now, time for some GRAMMY wins from the weird and wacky corner of the music universe. Over the past fifty-four years, some of these choices haven’t exactly held up well are still criticized to this day. How and why did these happen? The voting committee shows us that, sometimes, they might just be a bit out of touch with the mainstream with a few of the results in these six different categories. Take a look.

THE BIG FOUR
A few entries have won Song Of The Year without hitting the top 40 on the Hot 100. In fact, they barely made the Hot 100 as is. 1966’s winner, “The Shadow Of Your Smile” by Tony Bennett, peaked at #95. Forty years later, “Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own” by U2 only went to #97. Both are GRAMMY darlings, but it seems sort of weird to have won such an honor without being a big national hit. Several Record Of The Year winners never made the Hot 100 at all: 2002’s “Walk On” by U2,  2005’s “Here We Go Again” by the late Ray Charles and Norah Jones and 2009’s “Please Read The Letter” by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. I think we’re at the point where this phase is over… for now.

There have been some really questionable choices for Best New Artist since the category’s been around. In 1961, television’s Bob Newhart pulled off a win, the only time a comedian has won Best New Artist. Then, in 1963, Robert Goulet took Best New Artist in one of the stranger wins, beating out Peter, Paul and Mary and The Four Seasons. Goulet only had one big hit, but it was one year after the win. 2001’s winner, Shelby Lynne, had been making the Country chart since 1989… I mean, because getting an award twelve years after your first hit is really new. We’ve also had two really left-of-center choices in the past two years: 2011’s Esperanza Spalding and 2012’s Bon Iver. We won’t have this same kind of situation this year, even if Alabama Shakes wins. I don’t need to bring up Milli Vanilli once again. Cringe all you want.

I think we’d rather forget 2008 when Herbie Hancock and friends won for River: The Joni Letters, a jazz album that beat out the late Amy Winehouse, the Foo Fighters and Kanye West. It was one of the few times in recent years that an Album Of The Year failed to certify even Gold for shipments of 500,000 copies. I think the Academy learned from their mistake. There have been other peculiar choices, especially in last decade or so, but none as much as Hancock’s win.

GENRE-SPECIFIC CATEGORIES
Lots of great R&B songs came out in 1977, but for Best R&B Song at the 1978 ceremony, the winner ending up being “You Make Me Feel Like Dancing” by Leo Sayer, beating out big hits by The Emotions, Thelma Houston and two songs by The Commodores. Decent song, but one problem: it never made the R&B chart. Oops! It was Sayer’s only GRAMMY win and his charting days were done in the States by 1981.

Probably the worst offender in a genre category happened at the 1989 GRAMMY Awards with Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance Vocal or Instrumental. Metallica, who were the front-runners to win for their 1988 album, …And Justice For All, were defeated by Jethro Tull and their album Crest Of A Knave. Who knew a flute was metal? Guess this was a prime example of the panel “living in the past”. The controversy was well-publicized and it was such a joke that the category was dropped altogether at the next ceremony and split up into two distinct Awards.

They don’t always get it right, but at least we can look back and laugh once in a while. Any other outcomes at the GRAMMYs that you thought were totally wrong, whether in a big category or in a genre one? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel. All of my GRAMMY predictions for the upcoming ceremony are coming tomorrow! Better get to working on that post, right?

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GRAMMY Flashback: Decades Of Hits, No GRAMMY Wins

The Dogg days aren't over yet.

The Dogg days aren’t over yet.

Welcome to GRAMMY Week! This week, from Monday to Friday, you’ll be treated to some special GRAMMY related topics, from the past to the present, all leading up to the music’s biggest night on Sunday at 8PM eastern on CBS. Let’s dive into today’s post…

A lot of pages are out there about classic acts who never had the chance to win a GRAMMY for one reason or another. Some of those artists and bands include Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Lynyrd Skynyrd and Queen. This post, however, is focused on the acts who have been in the industry for at least a decade yet are still recording new material and making the hits. One big thing has eluded them: a win at the GRAMMY Awards. In fact, a few of the performers on this list haven’t even been nominated before. Here are ten acts of different genres who you swore won something, but came up empty:

BLAKE SHELTON
Born in Oklahoma, Shelton’s racked up 12 number-one hits on the Country chart since his debut single, “Austin”, in 2001. He’s also a judge on NBC’s hit reality series The Voice. Shelton’s won plenty of Academy of Country Music and Country Music Association Awards, and though he had three GRAMMY nominations last year, he lost all of them. This year, he’s up for Best Country Solo Performance for his #1 single, “Over”. I don’t think this is going to be one to do it for him, but he’s on such a hit streak now that a win can’t be far behind. Besides, his wife, Miranda Lambert, won a GRAMMY Award two years ago. He has to catch up while he still can!

DIERKS BENTLEY
Hard to believe that it was 2003 when Dierks Bentley scored a #1 single on the Country Chart with his first record, “What Was I Thinkin'”. Bentley’s had nine nominations over four different ceremonies, all in various Country categories, but he’s hasn’t picked up one single Award. Bentley has one nomination this year, his tenth, for Best Country Solo Performance for the #1 hit, “Home”. That one is a pretty strong contender and could be the one to break his losing streak. Bentley will be performing with Miranda Lambert on the live broadcast (perhaps a sign of a win?) and they’ll be in tour together this year.

GAVIN DEGRAW
Singer-songwriter DeGraw signed to J Records and put his first album, Chariot, in 2003. He’s best known for his 2004 single “I Don’t Want To Be”, which went to #10 on the Hot 100 and #1 at CHR radio. The guy has a solid fan base, but he’s never been nominated for a GRAMMY Award. Though his album sales have diminished over the year, his leadoff singles still chart decently on the national charts, so perhaps he’ll be due for a nomination in a lesser category sometime in the future.

GOO GOO DOLLS
With a new single “Rebel Beat” picking up some airplay gains in the last few weeks, the band out of Buffalo is looking for another winner as they enter their nineteenth year on the charts. The Dolls have been nominated for four GRAMMY Awards, including Record and Song Of The Year for their 1998 hit, “Iris”, but the band lost all four and haven’t been nominated since 2000. However, they’ve still managed to release several top ten albums and a handful of Hot 100 entries since then. Clearly past their peak, they won’t likely receive any more nominations in the future, but they’ll still get some airplay here and there even if it’s not as impacting as their 90’s material.

JENNIFER LOPEZ
She’s an actress, a dancer, a singer, and a television personality and she’s excelled in all of those departments. When it comes to Awards, however, she sometimes falls a little bit short. Case in point: the GRAMMY Awards. Lopez has been nominated just twice even though she’s been on the charts since 1999, and both came in the field of Best Dance Recording. In 2000, it was “Waiting For Tonight”, and in 2001, it was “Let’s Get Loud”, both from her On The 6 album. None of her new material from last year received a nomination at the upcoming ceremony. With more music in the works for this year, Lopez should eventually get something. It’s just a matter of what the competition looks like.

KENNY CHESNEY
He’s been on the Country Chart cranking out top ten hits for nearly twenty years and he still hasn’t won a GRAMMY. Huh? He scored his first big single in 1995, but Chesney wasn’t even nominated for his first Award until 2005, and all four of his nominations have been limited to collaborations with other performers. His most recent, last year, was “You And Tequila” with Grace Potter. He isn’t up for anything this year. I’m sure that doesn’t bother him one bit, though. Someday, he might announce his retirement and only then will he win a GRAMMY. Yes, it’s bothersome, but the Academy will do what they do.

LIFEHOUSE
This quartet turned trio turned quartet again made their chart debut in 2001 with the mega-hit “Hanging By A Moment”, but the Academy left them hanging when the song couldn’t propel them to a Best New Artist nomination at the 2002 Awards. In fact, they’ve never received a single nomination to date, which is surprising considering that they’re six albums deep into their career. Their latest release, Almería, came out in December, though lead single “Between The Raindrops” with Natasha Bedingfield hasn’t seen much attention. Will they ever take home a coveted prize? It’s looking less likely as time goes on.

PITBULL
It was back in 2004 that a then 23-year-old Pitbull hit the scene with “Culo”, which sampled the Coolie Dance riddim which about a thousand different acts used around that time. (Nina Sky‘s “Move Ya Body” was the biggest, hitting #4 on the Hot 100.) The rapper’s developed a big following at popular radio since 2009 with big songs like “Give Me Everything” with Afrojack, Nayer and Ne-Yo. He’s been nominated at the Latin GRAMMY Awards in two categories, though he lost both of them. I can’t ever see him being nominated for Album or Song Of The Year, but you’d think he would’ve at least been nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at least once by now. I guess it just proves that it’s a dog eat dog world.

SNOOP DOGG
Now, this one is a head-scratcher. How the heck does Snoop Dogg not have a GRAMMY Award? The Doggfather has been nominated fourteen times since 1994 on both featured and main credit singles, but nothing has been able to win the Award. Twelve of those nominations were in rap categories, with the most recent two of the fourteen being for a guest appearance on Katy Perry‘s hit, “California Gurls”. He’s up for a fifteenth nomination at this year’s awards for Best Rap Song on “Young, Wild, and Free” with rapper Wiz Khalifa and singer Bruno Mars. Could this finally give the guy his long-awaited recognition by the Academy? Don’t count on it, but hey, it would be a nice surprise if it happened.

THE KILLERS
Brandon Flowers and the boys have been on the scene since 2004 with several big albums in a row and hit singles like “Human” and “Mr. Brightside”. Between 2005-2007, the quartet received seven nominations in genre-specific categories (four singles, one album), though nothing managed to pick up an Award. Flowers also put out a solo album that didn’t garner any nominations. Last year, the band released Battle Born, which hasn’t done particularly well commercially, so it’s no surprise that the Academy snubbed them for another year. Their material won’t be recognized for any of the big categories, but I think they’re bound to win a lesser category if they keep putting out the great material.

Are there any performers that you think should be highlighted? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel. Stay tuned for more GRAMMY posts as the week continues!

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GRAMMY Flashback: Happy Two Year!

Shining a "Light" on two pretty ballads.

Shining a “Light” on two pretty ballads.

Welcome to GRAMMY Week! This week, from Monday to Friday, you’ll be treated to some special GRAMMY related topics, from the past to the present, all leading up to the music’s biggest night on Sunday at 8PM eastern on CBS. Let’s dive into today’s post…

“Moon River”. “You’ve Got A Friend”. “Every Breath You Take”. “My Heart Will Go On”. The songs listed here are just a few of the many winners of Song Of The Year. It’s an Award that every songwriter strives for: to have their composition recognized by the Academy. Yet, a strange occurrence happened at the 1978 GRAMMY Awards, which reflected the music of 1977. Six nominees and their lyricists patiently waited to hear the results read by singing star John Denver, who I’m sure shocked a few people when not one winner was announced, but two. It’s the only time in GRAMMY history that two nominees have tied the vote for a win in one of the Big Four categories. Two females. Two big ballads. Two number one singles. Two songs that originated in films. Two very different careers after the win.

BARBRA STREISAND – “Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star Is Born)”
Who can live up to the incomparable Barbra Joan? Up to that point, you might have considered her a GRAMMY darling, with thirteen nominations and four wins out of them, all from 1963-1965. After the initial success, her single and album positions faltered for a while, but her career was revived in the early 1970’s with hits like “Stoney End” and “The Way We Were”. Streisand had been nominated the previous year in the category Best Classical Vocal Soloist Performance for her album, Classical Barbra. “Evergreen” was the only song to be released from the 1976 remake of A Star Is Born, a soft ballad about love and the metaphors to it, ending with the message that “time won’t change the meaning of one love/ageless and ever, ever, evergreen.” It spent three weeks at #1 on the Hot 100 in March 1977 and ranked as the #4 song overall of the year. The soundtrack album also went to #1 for six weeks. She’s additionally won the GRAMMY for Best Pop Female Vocal Performance for the same song, as well one Academy Award and two Golden Globes for her efforts, one being Best Actress in a Motion Picture.

After the song won the Award, Streisand continued to pump out the hits and big albums like 1980’s Guilty and 1997’s Higher Ground. I mean, this is Barbra Streisand we’re talking about. 21 top-40 hits and 31 platinum/multi-platinum albums later, she’s obviously an icon, having spent fifty years in the music business and still going strong. She had several other GRAMMY wins, including a Legend Award in 1992, and a nomination as recent as last year. Not too shabby if I do say so myself. She’ll be performing at the Academy Awards on February 24 in what’s rumored to be a tribute to the late Marvin Hamlisch, her first live performance on the show since, you guessed it, singing “Evergreen” at the 49th ceremony in 1977.

DEBBY BOONE – “You Light Up My Life”
Music really ran in the Boone family. Debby’s father, Pat, was one of the top acts of the 1950’s, with #1 hits like “Ain’t That A Shame” and “Love Letters In The Sand”. Her grandfather, Red Foley, charted for twenty-five years on the Country chart, with one single becoming a national #1 hit: “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy” in 1950. Written as a love song by songwriter Joe Brooks, Boone stated that she pictured God as the one who could “light up [her] life” and give her “hope to carry on”. As the third generation in the chain to hit the charts, she took her debut solo single (originated in the movie of the same name) all the way to the top of the Hot 100 for ten consecutive weeks, which was a record at the time and one that lasted for another fifteen years. It was the #1 song of the decade. She easily took the GRAMMY Award that year for Best New Artist (though thousands of teen girls were crushed when Andy Gibb and Shaun Cassidy were beat in the process) in addition to that split prize for Song Of The Year. Boone’s song also propelled her to a Top New Female Vocalist win at the Academy Of Country Music Awards that same year.

Life wasn’t so easy for her after the instant success of “Life”. She placed two more songs in the Hot 100, but considering their peaks were #50 and #74, respectively, they didn’t light up the airwaves or a lot of people’s lives. She turned back to Country music, where she accumulated eight top-40 hits, even scoring another #1 on that chart with 1980’s “Are You On The Road To Lovin’ Me Again?” However, by the next year, the hits had run out. Boone tried a career in Christian and Gospel music after that, which saw four GRAMMY wins between 1984-1989 in the category of Best Gospel Performance – Female. Did mainstream audiences really career? She’ll forever be a one-hit wonder as far as we’re concerned. She’s kept busy recently with an infomercial spot for Lifestyle Lifts, which I guess we’re supposed to assume lit up her lifestyle (?) but it’s mainly just drawn attention to that one song of hers that doesn’t seem to go away. Oh well. She moved on, at least.

That’s a look back at probably the only time something like that will happen in one of the major categories, a tie between two nominees. Never say never, though. Do you enjoy one of these classic tunes over the other? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel. Stay tuned for more GRAMMY posts as the week continues!

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GRAMMY Flashback: The Year Without A Best New Artist

They got the "Boot".

Two of the acts that got the “Boot”.

Welcome to GRAMMY Week! This week, from Monday to Friday, you’ll be treated to some special GRAMMY related topics, from the past to the present, all leading up to the music’s biggest night on Sunday at 8PM eastern on CBS. Let’s dive into today’s post…

As you’re probably aware, Best New Artist is one of the big four categories presented on the night, first given out in 1959 to Bobby Darin. The award’s been presented to some performers that have gone on to illustrious careers: The Beatles, The Carpenters, Mariah Carey, Alicia Keys, Maroon 5 and more. The award also cursed more than a few acts it was given to: Bobbie GentryThe Starland Vocal Band, Rickie Lee Jones, Marc Cohn, Arrested Development, and others. Oh, let’s not forget Milli Vanilli, whose win was taken away after it was revealed that the two men weren’t singing their own records. Oops. Yet, what happens when the Award isn’t awarded to anyone at all even when there was plenty of new talent out there? Then, you get the 1967 GRAMMY Awards.

For some reason that’s still unclear to this day, no Best New Artist was appointed at the 1967 ceremony, which reflected the music of 1966. I figure I could highlight some of the acts that released their first big singles during that year and would’ve been eligible for the Award. Then, you can decide who should have been the big winner. I have my pick(s). The 1966 GRAMMY Awards had seven nominees for Best New Artist; I’ll limit my category to five, as is the standard today. And, the nominees are…

NANCY SINATRA
The daughter of the iconic Frank Sinatra had a big year in 1966. After a failed single in “So Long, Babe”, Sinatra went to the top of the Hot 100 with “These Boots Are Made For Walkin'”, which became her signature song. Written by Lee Hazlewood, it spent one week at #1. It also led Sinatra to three other top-40 singles during the year, including “Sugar Town” (#5) and “How Does That Grab You, Darlin’?” (#7). Her father won Best Album for A Man And His Music and Record Of The Year for “Strangers In The Night” at the 1967 GRAMMY Awards… who’s to say she couldn’t have followed him?

PERCY SLEDGE
The R&B singer from Alabama crooned his way to the #1 spot on the Hot 100 in May 1966 with “When A Man Loves A Woman”. It spent two weeks at the top. He managed two other top-20 hits during the year, both of which hit the top ten on the R&B chart. He wouldn’t have been the strongest choice to win, but with a big debut single, he could have swayed some of the voters to go his way. (He ultimately wouldn’t hit the top ten on the Hot 100 again, though he came close with the #11 “Take Time To Know Her” in 1968.)

SIMON & GARFUNKEL
This duo of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel spent years under an assortment of names trying to hit the big time, but it wasn’t until 1965 that a song from their album released the year prior, Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M., began receiving airplay at a few markets. Officially released in the fall, “The Sound Of Silence” spent two weeks at #1 in January 1966. The band went onto release four other top-40 hits during 1966, including the #3 “I Am A Rock” and “Homeward Bound” (#5). The duo garnered several GRAMMY Awards for later hits like 1968’s “Mrs. Robinson” and 1970’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. Was it to make up for the lack of a Best New Artist win? They certainly would’ve been a huge act in the hunt for it had there been a category that year.

THE ASSOCIATION
Another of the big vocal groups out of California, they first the Hot 100 in 1966 with “Along Comes Mary” (#7) with a lead vocal by Jim Yester. However, it was a song sung and written by vocalist Terry Kirkman that took the band to #1 for three weeks in September: “Cherish”. Both releases can be found on And Then… Along Comes The Association, which made the top 5 on the Billboard 200 album chart. If the voters on the panel wanted a more traditional-sounding act to win the Award, the baroque pop flavor of their material may have worked out for them.

THE MAMAS & THE PAPAS
In terms of success in 1966, this group had the biggest and most consistent pack of singles during the year. The quintet out of New York City took the charts by storm, first with a #4 hit, the classic “Calfornia Dreamin'”. That record was followed by three other consecutive top-5 singles: “Monday, Monday” (#1 for three weeks), “I Saw Her Again” (#5) and “Words Of Love” (#5). Up to that point, a mixed group of men and woman had never won the Award. Could the band have achieved that feat before The Carpenters took it at the 1971 ceremony? Might have happened “for all we know”.

Other acts to make their debut that year that might have been nominated:
Neil Diamond: his first big top ten, “Cherry Cherry”, may have come too late in the year to get him a nomination. Plus, he’s only received two nominations total and both have been for movie soundtracks.
The Rascals: had a big #1 in “Good Lovin'”, but their other 1966 singles weren’t big successes. They continued to make the top 40 until 1969.

So, who do you think would’ve won it all? I’d say Nancy Sinatra and Simon & Garfunkel had the best chance of getting it, the former based on name and the latter based on how the Academy lavished them with Awards at future ceremonies. How about you? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel. Stay tuned for more GRAMMY posts as the week continues!

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REWIND: Pop’s Biggest Paternity Case Turns 30

A little slice of Michael madness.

A little slice of Michael madness.

“If my ears are correct,” says KIIS-FM music director Mike Schaefer, “Michael Jackson’s ‘Billie Jean’ is going to the top of the charts. I crank it up every chance I get. The bass line, the lyrics, they’re just incredible. I’m telling you, it’s a mutha!” — Billboard Magazine (January 22, 1983)

Well, Schaefer’s ears didn’t deceive him: “Billie Jean” became the big hit record that he and a lot of other programmers thought it was going to be. Released as the second single from Michael Jackson‘s landmark album, Thriller, it marked a clear distinction from the first taste that listeners got of the album, a #2 duet with Paul McCartney from late 1982, “The Girl Is Mine”. The song became an international success and an iconic single for a multitude of reasons. Here’s just a fraction of why the song stands in the high ranks that it does today.

Recorded in 1982, the song details a woman, a groupie of sorts, who meets the protagonist at some sort of club and claims that he “is the one” who fathered her young child, which the protagonist denies. She tries to further prove her point by showing him a picture of the newborn son, whom he notes that “his eyes were like mine” but still refutes the statement that he is indeed the father of him. By the end, we don’t exactly know who is telling the truth in this story. Now, Jackson’s claimed in a few interviews that the character of Billie Jean is a sort of composite of some of the girls he and his brothers would encounter on tour during their early days in the late 1960’s. One biographer, J. Randy Taraborrelli, pointed out that in 1981, the year before the song was composed, a woman wrote a letter to Jackson claiming that he was the father of her child, continuing to send him letters that he ignored until one day, he received a package with photograph of the fan, as well as a letter and a gun. The latter incident would seem a little more believable as the inspiration for the song given the timing, but while he was alive, Jackson never really specified that one particular source was correct. I suppose we’ll never know, but whatever case you believe, the lyrics still make for quite the haunting tale.

Sonically, the bass line is everything in this song. It’s booming and intense and makes you just want to dance, despite the dense lyrical matter. It’s mixed together with guitar, strings, and of course, Jackson’s snapping and hiccup-style vocals. Daryl Hall of Hall & Oates mentioned that Jackson admitted to him that he essentially “copied that groove” from the duo’s 1981 hit, “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)”, but that Hall was fine with it, remarking that he himself had lifted it from someone else. At least he was inspired somewhere good. It’s hard to believe that Quincy Jones, the legendary producer, didn’t actually like the song when it was first created; he thought it was too “weak” to appear on Thriller. The two fell out over several issues, including a co-producer credit for Jackson, but eventually reconciled and decided that song, after being mixed by Bruce Swedien a total of ninety-one times, was finally ready to put on the record. Man, were things about to blow up for his status on the music scene.

Jackson’s single was one of the first big releases of that new year; thus, it was an instant impact once sales and airplay data starting rolling in. “Billie Jean” rocketed straight onto the Hot 100 at #47 on the chart dated January 22. It entered the top 40 next week, climbing to #37, then to #27, a more modest climb to #23, and then a huge rise up to #6 on the chart dated February 19. Two weeks later, it was spending its first of seven weeks at #1, ending its run in mid-April just as next single, “Beat It”, hit the top 5. The latter single only spent one week at the top. “Billie” last held a spot in the top 40 on May 21, at #29, spending a total of seventeen weeks there and twenty-four within the Hot 100. The song landed as the #2 song of the year on Billboard’s year-end chart. It also spent two weeks at #1 on rival Radio & Records’ airplay-only chart and six weeks at the top on Cashbox Magazine Top 100 chart.

On top of all this success, “Billie Jean” became one of the first big music videos by an African-American artist played on MTV in heavy rotation: the network had been criticized for not playing many of those artists since its inception a few years back. It earned GRAMMY Awards for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Best R&B Song. Plus, who can forget the moonwalk he danced during the song’s performance at Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever? The song broken down racial barriers while breaking onto all kinds of charts. It remained one of the big sellers after Jackson’s death in 2009 as well, selling in excess of 3.5 million copies in the States when combining digital, physical and ringtone sales. It’s a true classic, one that we’ll be remembering for many years to come. Forget Maury — the biggest unsolved paternity case of all-time just celebrated its 30th anniversary of making the charts. Congrats to the long-gone, but still celebrated, King of Pop.

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TURN IT UP TUESDAY: What’s New In Stores This Week (Jan. 22)

A little more Country than that.

A little more Country than that.

Ready for a busier week of new albums hitting the shelves? Here are the new releases out in stores on Tuesday, January 22:

  • Country veteran Gary Allan returns with Set You Free, his ninth studio album. Leadoff single “Every Storm (Runs Out Of Rain)” is currently a top 5 record on Country radio, his biggest hit in five years. Expect that to give this newest release of his a big boost. Allan has yet to score a #1 album, but he’s made the top 5 with his last three consecutive albums. (iTunes)
  • Also pulling into the Release Ranch this week is the third album from Randy Houser, How Country Feels. The title track is currently #1 at Country radio. His only other top ten record was “Boots On”, a #2 hit in 2009. (iTunes)
  • The GRAMMY Awards are almost here! This 22-track compilation features songs by big nominees like fun., Gotye, Kelly Clarkson and more. (iTunes)
  • Popular Christian group Casting Crowns release their first acoustic-based compilation, The Acoustic Sessions: Volume One. It also features two new songs. (iTunes)
  • Punk Rockers Bad Religion returns with True North, their first album since 2010. (iTunes)
  • His first single was released way back in 1960 and he’s still singing today. Aaron Neville‘s latest album, out today, is My True Story, another album of cover songs. (iTunes)
  • My personal pick of the week belongs to Luke McMaster‘s All Roads. His debut album features his recent adult contemporary hit with Jim Brickman, “Good Morning Beautiful”, as well as remakes of tunes by Al Jarreau and Hall & Oates. (iTunes)
  • Just in time for award season, Mumford & Sons release a deluxe edition of their album Babel, the Gentlemen Of The Road Edition. It’s also available in a box set version. (Amazon)
  • Two albums get a released today that are Valentine’s Day themed: Billy Joel‘s She’s Got A Way: Love Songs, a collection of eighteen of his classic hits (Amazon) and Now! That’s What I Call Love Songs, a collection of titles by various artists. (Amazon)

New digital-only singles that you can buy this week include:

  • “Now”, the first single from Paramore‘s self-titled forthcoming album. (AmazonMP3)
  • “Love Me”, the latest from Lil Wayne, featuring additional rappers Drake and Future. (iTunes)

See you on Tuesday, the 29th, for the next edition!

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So, How’d I Do? The GRAMMYs Prediction Post, Revisited (Actual Nominees Included)

Thinking bout some GRAMMY wins.

Still swimming good.

A few days ago, I wrote a little post where I made my predictions for the “Big Four” categories at this year’s GRAMMY Awards, a few days before the GRAMMY Nominations Concert Live!!, which just aired tonight. Well, one Freshly Pressed award, several hundred views and five dozen likes later, it’s time to see how I did! (P.S. I’m very happy to be recognized by WordPress and all of you who reacted to the post, so many thanks!)

The guide shall go like this:
Successful Nominee Prediction or Close Call
Not Picked
Prediction To Win The Category

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Fun. – Some Nights
Frank Ocean – Channel ORANGE
Jack White – Blunderbuss
Mumford & Sons – Babel
The Black Keys – El Camino

I got a fair amount of this category right, successfully predicting Frank Ocean, Mumford & Sons and The Black Keys, as well as Fun. as a close call. Jack White was the only one I didn’t consider, but I never actually heard his album. It was pretty critically acclaimed though, so it deserves to be there. Of my original predictions, Bob Dylan and Coldplay are nowhere to be seen. Don’t know what went wrong there since the two of them are GRAMMY darlings. Ah, well. Coldplay‘s album garnered a Best Rock Album nod and has a Best Rock Performance nod for single “Charlie Brown”. I’ll keep Babel as the winner for this Award.

RECORD OF THE YEAR
fun. featuring Janelle Monae – We Are Young
Frank Ocean – Thinking Bout You
Gotye featuring Kimbra – Somebody That I Used To Know
Kelly Clarkson – Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)
Taylor Swift – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
The Black Keys – Lonely Boy

Little bit of a curveball there with six nominees in the category instead of five. I successfully predicted two nominees (fun. and Frank Ocean) and had two as close calls (Frank Ocean and The Black Keys.) I’m happy for Kelly Clarkson as I really liked “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”, just didn’t expect it in the Record Of The Year category. Taylor Swift‘s entry in the category is very surprising though. I, personally, don’t think it’s worthy of being in there compared to the rest of the entries. It’s a throwaway tune, even if it did really well. Then again, it isn’t going to win, so no need to worry there. Adele, Drake featuring Rihanna, and Mumford & Sons weren’t nominated as I predicted they would be. I thought Mumford would for sure be in there; that’s a shock. I’m still thinking “Somebody That I Used To Know” will carry the win for the category. It’s simply too big of a single to be ignored.

SONG OF THE YEAR
Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
Ed Sheeran – The A-Team
fun. featuring Janelle Monae – We Are Young

Kelly Clarkson – Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)
Miguel – Adorn

Eeek! I predicted one correctly (Carly Rae Jepsen) and one close call (Kelly Clarkson). That Ed Sheeran nomination came out of nowhere, but I would love it if that one won. Miguel is totally not going to win this category; I’m not even sure how that one made it in there. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a likable song, but I thought it would only be a threat to the R&B categories. fun. and Janelle Monae are no surprise, but I think that they’ll get blocked out by “Stronger” in this category. Kelly needs to take home at least one award, right? The four of my original predictions that didn’t make it in are Bruce Springsteen, Frank Ocean (who I predicted to win), Katy Perry and Mumford & Sons.

BEST NEW ARTIST
Alabama Shakes
Frank Ocean
Fun.
Hunter Hayes
The Lumineers

This one I pretty much predicted correctly, getting three right (Frank Ocean, Fun. and Hunter Hayes) and one as a close call (Alabama Shakes.) “Ho Hey” by The Lumineers is still gaining at CHR radio, so I thought it would be too new for them to be considered as Best New Artist, but well done to them. Gotye and One Direction from my original predictions didn’t make it in. The former is a few albums into his career, so I guess the panel took that into consideration, and I’m not too fussed about the latter not getting in. I’m sticking with my prediction of Fun. to win the category, but Frank Ocean will put up a fight for it.

Well, this is why I’m not a psychic for a living, but I certainly did alright. Thanks for checking back and congrats to everyone who was nominated this year!

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