Why should you care about the Grammy Awards? Very valid question. But let’s face it: as the Writer’s Strike threatens to shut down more and more red carpet events, the 50th Annual Grammies may be the only constant in this year’s lagging awards season. In that light, the following is the last installment in my three-week countdown to February 10. Read below for my picks and pans in one of 2008’s many Grammy categories.
The award: Album of the Year
Past five winners: The Dixie Chicks (Taking the Long Way); U2 (How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb); Ray Charles (Genius Loves Company); OutKast (Speakerboxxx/The Love Below); Norah Jones (Come Away With Me)
Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace, Foo Fighters
These Days, Vince Gill
River: The Joni Letters, Herbie Hancock
Graduation, Kanye West
Back to Black, Amy Winehouse
Who’s Missing: Grammy voters tend to love duet albums from a pair of accomplished artists, so it’s interesting that they left off Raising Sand — the collaboration between Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin frontman) and Alison Krauss (O Brother, Where Art Thou? contributor). Snubbing Bruce Springsteen’s Magic is also a major surprise.
Who Shouldn’t Be There: Herbie Hancock. River is nothing more than a jazzy cover album of Joni Mitchell songs, but it’s the kind of disc that might steal this award away from a more deserving artist. Hancock’s roster of guest vocalists is full of Grammy favorites, from Norah Jones to Tina Turner to Corinne Bailey Rae. For that reason, I fear that Hancock might take this category at the last minute — but more for his impressive list of friends than his similarly impressive musicianship.
Who Should Win: Amy Winehouse. It’s her year. Back to Black is funky, soulful, emotional, and unfortunately completely honest in lyrical content. We haven’t seen an album fly so high while its artist flies so low in quite some time.
Who Will Win: Kanye West. I fear that I’m buying in to conspiracy theory here, but Grammy voters love tragedy. We’re not talking Winehouse-style self-inflicted tragedy, but rather legitimate death; in 2005, for example, Ray Charles took home four Grammies after his passing in June ’04. By that logic, Kanye West is first in line for this year’s big award, as his mother passed away in a tragic accident just three months ago. He’s also performing a tribute to her tonight, so I’d expect Grammy voters to award him in style.