Malcolm X Abram: Major 2013 Grammys nominations favor younger, 21st Century artists

By Malcolm X Abram
Beacon Journal pop music writer

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Black Keys-Song Lawsu_Kada(1)
FILE - In a Dec. 10, 2011 file photo, Dan Auerbach, lead singer of The Black Keys, performs at Spike TV's Video Game Awards in Culver City, Calif. The band's attorney informed a federal judge on Monday, Nov. 26, 2012, that it had settled a lawsuit with Pizza Hut over the alleged misuse of its music in a commercial. The Black Keys reached a settlement with The Home Depot over similar allegations earlier this month, court records show. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, File)

So, it seems the Grammys voting body has either made a concentrated effort to embrace the artists of the 21st century or they allowed their kids to cast their ballots because the list nominees in what are considered the Big Boys & Girls categories (Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year) of the 2013 Grammy Awards, feature not one legacy artist.

No automatic genuflections to classic rockers such as Neil Young & Crazy Horse who are still out there making records (two this year, the covers album “Americana” and the typically ragged “Psychedelic Pill”) and touring. No “welcome back!” nominations for Bonnie Raitt’s first album in 7 years, the well-received “Slipstream,” though it was rather mysteriously nominated in the Best Americana category next to Mumford & Sons and The Avett Brothers. Lionel Ritchie’s countrified duet album “Tuskegee” was one of the top-selling albums of the year and historically, the Grammy voters tend to reward longtime industry survivors, particularly when they have successful hipness injection (or an awesome marketing plan), but Ritchie received no nominations. Bruce effin’ Springsteen, a.k.a. The Boss, released a critically acclaimed album “Wrecking Ball” but only received three of the “lesser” nominations for Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Album. We’ll see if the voters are merely paying lip service to 21st Century artists or are serious about rewarding them as The Boss is up against relative whippersnappers the Black Keys, Coldplay, Muse and Jack White.

Even the traditionally...er...traditional Best Country Album category is populated by newer artist including Zac Brown Band, Miranda Lambert and teen dreamboat Hunter Hayes.

All five Record of the Year nominees are from the 21st Century (or at least got famous in the past dozen years). Bands such as the Black Keys did it the old-fashioned way through making/selling records (as opposed to posting mixtapes) and hardcore touring, and Taylor Swift is a massive corporate cog in the country/pop star machine. But contemporary R&B crooner Frank Ocean found his way to the industry’s biggest night, the new fangled way. Through the viral dissemination of his affecting left-field debut mixtape “Nostalgia, Ultra” which made several Best of the Year lists and earned him collaborations with Kanye West and Beyonce with minimal touring and television appearances. Now, his debut album “Channel Orange,” which sparked some much needed discussion about homophobia in hip hop and R&B and has gotten almost no radio airplay, sits in the Album of the Year category alongside more established stars such as Jack White (I’ll be honest, while I enjoyed White’s “Blunderbuss,” I did NOT see an Album of the Year nomination coming) and well, the Black Keys.

Speaking of which (and you know I’m contractually obligated to speak on it, right), the newest members of Firestone High School’s Wall of Fame have a pretty good chance of taking home at least one of the five (six with Dan Auerbach Producer of the Year Non-Classical nomination) biggies come 8 p.m. on Feb. 10 when the 55th Grammy Awards telecast takes over 3-8 hours of CBS programming (What?! No “CSI Poughkeepsie!” tonight?!).

While the Black Keys may not be musically similar to Adele who already has won eight Grammys for her two album catalog, the artists share a crossover and cross-generational appeal. Both meld classic sounds (i.e. familiar stuff us old folks can digest) such as the Keys blues/classic rock foundation and both Auerbach and Adele’s older-than-their-years soulful vocals and contemporary trappings such as traces of hip hop and electronica, the Keys newfound love of big-ass choruses, etc..) and stuff that sounds new and exciting to younger listeners. I imagine (and it’s pure speculation) that Grammy voters love it (and maybe feel a bit hipper) when they can enjoy listening to the same records as their kids and the Black Keys have managed that rare and lucrative feat.

Congratulations and good luck to Pat and Dan...


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