What the Grammy Nominations Got Right — and Wrong — This Year

At this point the Grammys are predictable, particularly in the major categories. For instance, this year’s Album of the Year nominees feature the requisite biggest pop stars on Earth (Beyoncé, Adele, Drake); an album you might be surprised is included but upon further reflection actually makes sense (Justin Bieber’s Purpose); and one slot reserved for a deserving nominee who has no chance of actually winning, but whose nomination will give the Grammys a little cred nonetheless (Sturgill Simpson).

Face it, the Grammys lost their relevance long ago, right around the time Steely Dan beat out Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP because voters were afraid to pull the trigger on the controversial, but still deserving, Slim Shady. Others point to 2003, when Norah Jones’ good-but-not-quite-great Come Away With Me beat out Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising, which just so happened to be the definitive 9/11 album.

So yeah, the Grammys aren’t what they once were. Nevertheless, they’re still worth talking about. Here are some thoughts on the 2017 Grammy Award nominations, which were announced Tuesday morning. The winners will be announced on February 12.

Queen Bey already shares the record for most Grammy wins in one night by a female artist (six; tied with Adele), and is shaping up for a repeat. The competition is fierce – Adele will not go quietly – but 2016 was the year of Beyoncé, and Grammy night will affirm as much.

Say what you will about Bieber. He’s immature, petulant and isn’t exactly someone you’d want as a neighbor. But Purpose is pretty close to perfect. The album is tight — 13 tracks in under 50 minutes — and features some of the best low-key dance music you’ll ever hear. It also boasts three smash singles in “What Do You Mean?”, “Sorry” and “Love Yourself.” Grammy voters love themselves some hits.

Look, I like Drake; this is documented. And Views was unfairly criticized in some circles upon its release earlier this year. But to say it’s one of the five best albums of the year, as the Grammys just did, is pure fallacy. Views is good, maybe even very good, but it’s not a great album. It’s bloated and moody, and is another example of the Grammys recognizing an album for its commercial, rather than critical, performance. If anything, Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book should have been the designated hip-hop Album of the Year nominee. Speaking of which…

This bears mentioning because Chance is among the 2017 Best New Artist nominees. Never mind the fact that his first mixtape, 10 Day, dropped almost five years ago. Imagine if this logic applied to other awards; perhaps Jose Altuve and James Harden could also win Rookie of the Year in their respective sports this year.

Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” despite being one of the biggest hits of 2016, was snubbed for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year. This is a good thing. Timberlake is a talented guy for sure, but this song — while catchy — is lazy and just plain annoying. Fellow Houston Press contributor Brandon Caldwell thinks it sucks. He’s not wrong.

It’s been a rough go lately for Kanye. He scrapped the remainder of his Saint Pablo Tour after basically melting down and being admitted to a hospital for “exhaustion.” And now, despite eight Grammy nominations, latest album The Life of Pablo was shut out of all major categories. Grammy officials got it right on this one, however. Pablo features bits and pieces of genius, but on the whole, it’s mostly a great big mess.

Simpson, who absolutely wowed White Oak Music Hall earlier this year, is this year’s Chris Stapleton, the token country type who puts out a fantastic album (A Sailor’s Guide to Earth) and proves that not all successful country is of the bro variety. Simpson, like Stapleton before him, has no chance of actually winning Album of the Year, but here’s hoping he does, if only for the acceptance speech. Dude doesn’t exactly hold back.

Margo Price’s Midwest Farmer’s Daughter didn’t get nominated for Best Country Album, which is a crime… Props to Blink-182, whose comeback album, California, earned a well-deserved Best Rock Album nomination...Drake’s “One Dance," 2016's song of the summer, should have replaced Twenty-One Pilots’ “Stressed Out” in the Record of the Year category.
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Clint Hale enjoys music and writing, so that kinda works out. He likes small dogs and the Dallas Cowboys, as you can probably tell. Clint has been writing for the Houston Press since April 2016.
Contact: Clint Hale