The 2014 People’s Choice Awards Part 1

The Comforting Illusion of Democracy Awards are, in a lot of ways, kind of the most boring. They’re generally aimed at celebrating something merely for being popular, which seems like kind of a silly thing to give a trophy for, given that you already have the attendant benefits of, y’know, making the most popular thing. Although I suppose there is some utility in having the knowledge of who that was there.

But other awards shows are built around the idea that they are not a popularity contest1, while the People’s Choice Awards are specifically trying to be as reasonable a measure of popularity directly as possible.. They take the troubling problem of the editorship of the curator out of the question as much as possible – in no small part due to using some scary-ass monitoring software that secretly tabulates the way people look at stuff on the internet and seriously I have to stop thinking about this now or I’m just going to start gibbering.

Whatever terrifying methods may be used to select the nominees, it cannot be denied that they’re thorough:there’s, like, fifty thousand categories. I could, basically, devote the rest of this blog to simply writing about the interminable list of people nominated for People’s Choice Awards. But I won’t do that! Instead I’ll do this: I’ll tell you who should win and you’ll be able to swagger through life knowing what the voters for the People’s Choice Awards don’t: that you are right. Unlike with other awards shows, however, I don’t have to deliver the truth to the secret shadow illuminati behind every awards show. I can just vote for the damn things. THE COMFORTING ILLUSION OF DEMOCRACY IN ACTION.

Favorite Music Fan Following
I guess the idea here is that I, a member of the theoretically-voting populous decides whose fans they like best. Obviously this is going to be naturally skewed in favor of the person with the biggest following, but just think: everyone who is annoyed by Demi Lovato fans is going to make sure to vote, if only to keep Demi Lovato fans from winning anything2. Surprisingly, there’s no Beliebers here – your guess is as good as mine – so we’re left with the largely un-catchy names of the “Britney Army” (“We have the right to bare as much as possible! Arms, legs, whatever, y’all!”), “The Directioners” (who win the award for “fan base that most makes people want to cause them grevious harm” with all their shenanigans), “The KatyCats” (which is, I guess, a play on “kitty cats,” but which also: enough with the cat puns, Katy), “the Little Monsters” (a name that gets even sillier with the passage of time – it made sense back when she coined her fans that, but that was, like, fifty personas ago. I dunno.) and the “Lovatics” (and not, as I sort of hoped Demi Lovato’s fans would call themselves, the demi-bras – they don’t show up very much and they provide her with minimal support3). Truly, this is a choice that would make even Sophie recoil in horror.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Little Monsters tend to include at least some people that I actually like as people, although there’s a part of me that wants to say “The Directioners.” I don’t know any Directioners, though.

Favorite Music Video
I feel like, no matter how long it continues to go on, I am always confused by Demi Lovato appearing on lists like this. There is no good or fair reason for this. She is no worse than any other pop star (although she is significantly more boring). That said, it really prevents me from appreciating whatever it is she might have to offer us. Which, in this case, is a really dull music video. One Direction and Katy Perry are doing, in their respective videos, the same things that One Direction and Katy Perry always does – and I say this despite actually liking both songs. That leaves us with “Wrecking Ball” and “Just Give Me a Reason.”

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: This is for the video, so Miley gets it, but that’s not without pointing out that it is clearly the worse song.

Favorite Album
Hey! It’s Blake Shelton again! And Michael Buble! Two dudes that are always pretty happy to be at awards shows! And also two people who did not make very good albums! Luck is on their side, however, because neither did anyone else in this category. I appreciate that Robin Thicke has managed to somehow draw his pop career out to include another hit, but I think rewarding his album (which I’ve not heard but the single from) is not going to help. Besides which, we wouldn’t still be talking about him if it weren’t for Miley, whose Bangerz is…still not very good. The 20/20 Experience was pretty good until Part 2, which was all bad. And so we come to Blake and Buble.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I don’t want to disappoint either one of these people, but I feel like Blake Shelton’s a good enough sport that he can take it. Michael Buble is the rightful winner.

Favorite Song
This is a much better category. I feel like close readers can chart my steadily-improving feelings for “Just Give Me a Reason” as the awards season goes on, and as much as “Roar” has a dumb video, it’s still a pretty good song, albeit in the already-accepted “Katy Perry semi-inspirational power-ballad” sort of way. “Radioactive” is too dumb to consider writing more than twelve words about. And so we come again to Bruno vs. Justin.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I’m not going to do the research necessary to corroborate this, but I’m fairly certain this is the first time “If I Was Your Man” has been the Bruno song in contention. It’s an even better song than “Mirrors,” quite frankly. Even if that does contradict something I wrote whenever ago.

Favorite Alternative Band
Alternative. Indeed. I was, for reasons that are too boring to get into here, digging through iTunes the other day, and I remembered how much I used to like the album Showbiz, by Muse. I then thought, as I always do, that Idlewild’s Hope is Important is much better4. And then I stopped thinking about Muse. Paramore aren’t really Paramore anymore, Imagine Dragons are still a fucking joke. Mumford and Sons are Mumford and Sons.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I say this one goes to whoever can successfully curb-stomp the members of Imagine Dragons.

Favorite Band
…..and here they are again, fresh from their hopefully-successful curb-stomping. Ugh. I guess, from a moral standpoint, they’re somewhat better than Paramore. At least Imagine Dragons just decided that they wanted to form a band in order to make music that sounds like horses trying to make a Foo Fighters records and then covering up their shitty mistakes with keyboard squelches. Paramore actually went to some lengths to be as terrible as they are, up to and including firing all the band members that weren’t the hot redhead and then marketing themselves as “the hot redhead.” I would like all of the internet punditheads who insist that there’s “no such thing” as selling out in 2013 to take a look at that and tell me what else to call it. And it’s not even as though Paramore were such a top-shelf commodity to begin with. ANYWAY. Maroon 5 is also terrible. So is OneRepublic.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: One Direction. Because in the land of the terrible and the terrible, the act with exactly one good song is king.

Favorite R&B Artist
When I was looking at the American Music Awards I wondered why they didn’t populate the R&B category correctly. Here we are at a correctly-populated R&B category, and now I’m going to complain that it still sucks. There is literally no pleasing me. Anyway, I get that popularity is a big deal here, and under those rules, it should almost certainly be Justin Timberlake. And not Robin Thicke, Rihanna, Ciara or Alicia Keys.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: If The Weeknd can figure out a way to use the award itself as a way to ingest drugs, he should get it. If he can’t, it goes to Frank Ocean. I’m a rebel, dotty.

Favorite Hip-Hop Artist
This is…exactly like the American Music Awards category, only now with more Drake. Luckily, the inclusion of Drake is enough to prevent my eyeballs from exploding. It also means I don’t really have anything to say about this.


Favorite Country Music Icon
Hows come I don’t get to vote for Icons of other genres? I actually like the idea. It’s like the opposite of the “best new artist” category that everyone has to have. Not that I’m necessarily suggesting that the People’s Choice Awards needs more categories. And I suppose at least in Country music, telling someone that their best years are behind them isn’t the same kind of death warrant it would generally be in hip-hop or rock music. Anyway. If Willie Nelson hasn’t won it already, there’s certainly no reason to pretend anyone else is even a contender. Least of all Tim McGraw. Seriously.


Favorite Country Artist
Man, if I could hug the people’s choice awards for not including the Florida Georgia Line, I absolutely would. Anyway. Do you suppose that Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift get tired of always being nominated for the exact same awards? Is this why Carrie Underwood doesn’t seem to show up to hardly any awards shows? The answer to these questions and more in another category. Or not. Anyway. Blake Shelton again. The Band Perry Again. I’m sort of out of things to say about this assemblage of human beings.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mrs. Coach’s hair. I never run out of things to say about it.

Favorite Pop Artist
The People’s Choice Awards are right on the other side of the transition that the American Music Awards start – they’re a little later (or, well, earlier), so they’re not always batting cleanup for the year past. This ends up meaning that they’re when these things start to feel a little more current, which makes it all the more jarring to continue to see Bruno Mars and Justin Timberlake there. The 20/20 Experience, having led off record season, will be ten months old at the time of this awards show (which, admittedly, isn’t that long, it just seems like it is because every awards show has planned its performance schedule around him), and Unorthodox Jukebox will be thirteen months old. Not that that’s a problem in a field rounded out by the usual Britney/Katy/Demi field. Just that it’s a long time to be on the circuit for a record.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bruno Mars. And then maybe he can take a nap. Poor guy.

Favorite Breakout Artist
You know, it just occurred to me to wonder about the substitution of the word “breakout” for the word “new.” Have they really “broken out”? Of what, precisely? The term would have some utility if we were talking about someone who became something on their own merit, rather than the relative success of one marketing campaign over another, but at this point this paragraph is sounding so cynical that it’s going to be hard to transition into talking about Ariana Grande. Anyway. Icona Pop’s one good song sitll puts them at, like, seven or eight more good songs than Imagine Fucking Dragons5. I know that I’ve heard Austin Mahone, but I can’t bring any of his music to mind, so it isn’t him either. Ariana Grande and Lorde are both, thankfully, making music that sounds rather smallish and not a giant overproduced behemoth.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Lorde, because I do like “Royals.”

Favorite Female Artist
It does make sense that three of the favorite female artists are the nominees for favorite pop star total, and it makes me even angrier at awards shows that can’t manage to have that kind of internal consistency. Stupid other awards shows. Anyway. It is not now, and will never be, Demi Lovato. I feel like that’s the only thing that’s important. Oh, and also it’s not P!nk or Selena Gomez. Or Britney.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I suppose it’s Katy Perry, but really, I’m not feeling that either. Is it too late to nominate Grouper? I think it should be Grouper. But Katy Perry can accept the award on behalf, since it’s such short notice.

Favorite Male Artist
Man, I didn’t think I was going to see Blake Shelton and Michael Buble nominated in two categories this year. That’s crazy. Anyway. It’s probably not either of them, but that’s kind of sad. It’s really not Avicii. Which puts us right back where we were at Favorite Pop Artist.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Justin Timberlake this time, because I presume that Bruno Mars is still taking that nap.

1 and sometimes that’s true – sometimes awards shows are merely part of a marketing strategy, and not a straight popularity contest at all. This is the primary difference between the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards, ultimately. This will probably come up more for those respective ceremonies.
2 which is just mean: they’re already Demi Lovato fans, why would you want to take this away from them as well?
3 Try the fish. Tip your waitresses. I’ll be here all week.
4 the reasons I have for always linking Muse and Idlewild are beyond me, other than that they came around at about the same time, and one got stupidly famous while the other didn’t

5 I’m putting them in negative numbers because thinking about having to hear one of their impossidumb songs is making me angry.  

A Streaming Pile of Truth Part 1: iTunes Radio

Recently, iTunes launched iTunes radio, a streaming service clearly set up to rival Spotify1, and thereby becoming the eighty thousandth streaming music service to grace the Earth. Yay. I’ve never been much of a streaming music user – I far prefer to be in more control than that over what I listen to next – but I have occasionally used them for chores around the house, or doing things socially that I wouldn’t necessarily want to be fiddling with something specifically2, or a handful of other reasons that aren’t really germane to this piece here. Anyway, the point is: there’s now yet another streaming service that I, at least ostensibly, have an account with, and probably still hate. But which one do I hate the least? Surely, this is a question for the ages. So what I’m doing is using each service for all of my usual “listening to music” activities (which, between work work, housework and not-doing-anything-else time is basically all of the time) for one day or so, and keeping notes on the experience so that I can share them with you fine people.

On each service’s day, I am limited to the use of that service, but within that option I can do whatever the site allows. There are two caveats here: the use of iTunes Radio is a use if iTunes Radio, and so means that I’m not allowed to use actual iTunes. Initially I wanted to have to sit through the whole thing with no skips allowed, but that seems a little sadistic, especially since I have no idea what iTunes radio would even try to play for me at this point. There is nothing, however, stopping me from making a billion stations and only listening to the ones that are likely to work out, but that would make for a boring-ass post3

As a control experiment, I have loaded the eleven thousand or so songs in my “my top rated” playlist4 onto an ipod to see if I’m any better than a highly-sophisticated sorting algorithm at constructing a body of songs that I would be happy to listen to at random. It is possible that there may be some services – I’m thinking specifically of iTunes Radio here – that I won’t be able to use on my phone while I walk (or at my gym, which doesn’t have wifi), and in those cases I will have to do without music. I’ve downloaded like fifty episodes of Comedy Bang Bang to help me through such a terrible occurrence. Beyond that, though, there’s nothing else but to hold my breath and jump in.

Installment #1 – iTunes Radio

Once iTunes has adopted its radio function, you are left with the ability to create stations, just like on every other streaming radio service. Also like the other services, you get the ability to say “more things like this” and “fewer things like this” as well as to buy the song you’re hearing directly. There’s also a slider that you can set to “hits,” “variety” or “discovery,” although what, precisely. “Hits” does not, as you might think, mean “songs that get played a lot and/or songs by artists that you play a lot on your own iTunes account,” but rather “songs that a lot of people play on their iTunes account, somewhat adjusted for what you’ve got in your library.” Which I guess is a more sensible usage of the word “hits.” “Discovery” then is “stuff that other people listen to when they listen to the stuff you’re listening to now,” presumably adjusted away fromt he sorts of things that you’re already used to. “Variety” appears to be a mixture of the two. The other slider is the one that allows you to let swears in on your radio stations. I guess that’s a neat feature, but it’s not security-protected or anything, so it’s basically only useful if you just really don’t want to hear songs with swears on them, since any kid can see the “put swears back in my songs” button and click it.

So how’d it do? Well, it started off on entirely the wrong foot, by playing Explosions in the Sky as the first song on Tortoise radio. That’s a bit like opening your Cheers retrospective with HArry Anderson: oh sure, it’s nice to hear every once in a while, but it’s not what’s bringing people in the door. This insult was compounded by the fact that the service never played Tortoise on Tortoise radio. Not once. It did, however, play half a Phoenix song, which I told it not to do again – you get six skips an hour, and I’ll be damned if that wasn’t one of them – and a Sigur Ros song, which I told it to do more like, on the logic that that would be me closer to goddamned Tortoise. Instead it played Beck’s “Devil’s Haircut5”. The subsequently-created Grouper station played Suicide as its second song6 before morphing into “Radio Pitchfork Circa 2010” with John Maus, Deerhunter, Atlas Sound (those two were, in fact, played concurrently. I certainly hope that Bradford Cox is paying for that service). It also, however, played a bunch of Grouper. Oneohtrix Point Never Radio appeared to make the point that I wanted to hear music that was actually like the music in my iTunes library7. Subsequent stations were mainly to see the depth of field of their country and rap engines, respectively. Oh, and I got three songs into Merzbow Radio – which did play Merzbow – before getting a Marilyn Manson song (no, really) and giving up on iTunes Radio altogether.

The truth: I don’t know if it’s a result of using the smaller of my iTunes libraries (the library on this computer only has the music that I’ve acquired in the last eleven months), or if it’s a result off their weird Hits/Variety/Discovery thing, but the depth of field was low. Twice, on two different stations, I heard Flying Lotus followed by Laurel Halo (two different Flying Lotus songs, same Laurel Halo song). Now, this wasn’t a huge problem, and the two stations were Grouper and Oneohtrix Point Never themed, which isn’t a huge stylistic leap, but still, it speaks to a comgining algorithm that doesn’t have a lot of branches.

That further said, even when set to “Variety” or “Discovery” it tended to move toward the populist (it played a lot of Deerhunter, no matter what the station, and managed to fit Gucci Mane into places where no Gucci Mane ought to be). It does play ads – which is fine, of course it plays ads – but either as a result of its newness or people’s relative-unwillingness to get behind it, it only plays, like, four ads8. But the breaks are infrequent, so it’s only noticeable when it’s baffling9. I will say, however, that I was occasionally pleasantly surprised by song selection (a result of the song selection itself being pretty wonky) – John Frusicante played on Tortoise radio, Suicide on Grouper, the Carolina Chocolate Drops on The Punch Brothers. That being said: it didn’t play anything that was at least by an act I didn’t know, which was somewhat disappointing, and it seriously never played any Tortoise.

The Verdict: Lump it. It runs in iTunes, so your library is right there anyway. it doesn’t seem like it’d be a terribly useful way to find new music, because it chooses songs like it’s having a seizure in a record store aisle. And if you don’t already use iTunes, this would certainly be the worst reason to start doing so.
1 this is something of a “New Coke” approach, as there appears to be minimal evidence that Spotify is doing any serious damage to iTunes’ market share
2 provided I’ve also forgotten to make a playlist
3 “9:30 am I’ve decided, after 30 seconds of Tortoise Radio, that I’m tired of it not playing The For Carnation. 9:31 am I’ve decided that, clearly, The For Carnation Radio isn’t going to play anything good so I’m switching back.”
4 I’m a song rater – I find it’s a great way to already have the best of the best separated out for making further playlists out of. As it is, I’ve just got the whole thing loaded into my ipod so that there aren’t any good songs I have to try to live without.
5 to recap: I said “Tortoise,” then “less Phoenix,” then “more Sigur Ros” and it said “oh you must mean Beck.” I’m not saying that this entire analysis could’ve been nothing more than that sentence, but certainly that’s a big part of the takeaway.
6 I am certainly far from the sort of dude that’s going to complain about hearing a bonus Suicide song, but it does make me question iTunes Radio’s judgment. Y’know, again.
7 which, at last count, includes one John Maus album, eight or nine Deerhunter songs, two Atlas Sound songs, and seven albums, one box set and three bootlegs by Tortoise. Just saying.
8 despite which I still don’t really understand what the Nissan Heismann House is. Make better ads, guys.
9 the Nissan ad, and also iTunes and American Express teaming up to tell you about Small Business Saturday, which isn’t fooling anyone.

Things That Could Not Be Better Than They Are

Jo Ann Beard’s “The Fourth State of Matter
The Stooges’ Fun House
Teenage Fanclub’s “What You Do To Me
Being able to buy comic books whenever I want

1inside-the-park home runs are gimmicky, a double is common, but a triple is usually a
case of a batter hitting the ball right and then beating the fielders –
he’s literally winning five contests (batter vs. pitcher, batter vs.
first baseman, batter vs. second baseman, batter vs. third baseman,
batter vs. outfielder that got to the ball) in a row. It is the single
finest thing that can happen in a sporting event.

The 2013 American Music Awards

The television-network-based music awards really seems to happen in fall. I don’t know. Maybe there’s less competition or something? Or maybe it’s all part of the corporate machine, giving us awards shows in October and November before the big pre-christmas records are released so that we remember that, dammit, there are records released in August as well. Well, not August. But some of the other months. Anyway, they give awards, I tell you how they should go.

Favorite Soundtrack
Y’know, last year I was annoyed at the Disney-type tie-in nature of some of the nominees, and here we are Two of the favorite soundtrack nominees are UMG (the third is Interscope). I suppose at least if there was one area where Disney1 could get away with it it’s the soundtrack area. Anyway. Apparently some contract was signed that said that Jay-Z has to be nominated for an award in every single awards show. Had this contract been in place when Blueprint came out, that would be the best news ever. As it is, it’s The Great Gatsby soundtrack, which, ew. I literally cannot, for reasons that remain somewhat inexplicable even to me, bring myself to feel charitable toward Pitch Perfect2.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Y’know, I’m not a fan of Les Miserables, but it’s hard for me to begrudge it winning the award it is literally most qualified to win of all possible awards. So there you have it.

Single of the Year
Ugh. Alright. “Thrift Shop” has pretty well overstayed its welcome, I feel. I wonder if the Corporate Mouse Overlords put the whack on “Same Love” (which is currently getting its tongue bath from the awards circuit, since “Thrift Shop” is largely last year’s model. “Cruise” is a cute song, but I feel weird about its insistence on its own geography. I think “Blurred Lines” is probably inevitable here – it recently broke the record for most radio exposure – and I have mixed feelings about that, as well. At the end of the day, though, I like T.I. more than Nelly.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: “Blurred Lines,” but nobody’s happy about that.

Favorite EDM Artist
My favorite EDM artist is Burial. Or maybe Nicholas Jaar. Just putting that out there. Calvin Harris was nominated last year, was disappointing last year, and has only gotten worse since last year. I kind of like Avicii, and am glad that he got his time in the sun after Flo Rida ripped him off last year. I think I’ve only heard one Zedd song, and it’s the dumb one with the girl from Paramore. I feel like no one should have their entire body of work judged by a song they did with the girl from Paramore. Daft Punk continues to be lauded heavily for a mediocre record with a couple of good singles, and that continues to be annoying.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Aw, what the hell, it’s Avicii. I like “Wake Me Up” kind of.

Favorite Contemporary Inspirational Artist
Guys, I still don’t know anything about the CCM scene. I don’t even know if they’re still calling it CCM. I mean, I guess it’s “inspirational” so they don’t have to tangle with that seoncd “C” there. As though prior to the shift there were thousands of Orthodox Jews waiting to record songs about the importance of the length of their peyot. Anyway. I don’t know who any of these people are, is what I’m saying.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mrs. Coach’s hair, which inspires me every single day, y’all.

Favorite Latin Artist
Man, I was wrong last year! I predicted that the “Favorite Latin Artist” category didn’t have a lot of turnover! And here we have three completely separate nominees! And I know who one of them is, even! Some crash-course research shows that Marc Anthony is still boring, Prince Royce’s album has the very ominous title Phase II, and Romeo Santos used to be in Aventura, who I’ve also heard of.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Prince Royce. Maybe if we give him all the awards we can stop his plotting before it gets to Phase III.

Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist
I suppose it’s fair to say that “Adult Contemporary” is more of a hue than a color – that is to say: it’s not actually a genre, as these Maroon 5, Pink and Bruno Mars aren’t really in the same genre (beyond the wide umbrella of “pop music” anyway). And all three are kind of in the same place. They’re all competent, even sometimes-impressive musicians who are able to market themselves exremely well. But I only actually like one of them.


Favorite Alternative Artist
This isn’t really any better than “Adult Contemporary,” although it does use a radio-programming distinction that stopped being meaningful late in the Clinton administration. I guess it’s fair to say that the American Music Awards are really the last of the awards shows from the prior year, instead of the first from the current year, which puts the Lumineeers in the position of being nominated for the same award as Mumford & Sons, which is kind of a tragedy. I mean, on the one hand at least neither of those bands is Imagine Dragons. On the other hand, one of them is Mumford & Sons.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Lumineers. They’re just adorable. And they’re neither Imagine Dragons nor Mumford & Sons.

Favorite Soul/R&B Album
2013 has been a bad year for pop music, and that is never more evident than the field that this category looks out on. I guess. Although Miguel is nominated in a category a bit further on, and Kaleidoscope Dream is better than all of these. Rihannna got nominated in an album category last year as well – which I guess is a function of them not having more than one “singles” category – and she still doesn’t make good albums. I’ve not heard Robin Thicke’s album, but I’m sure it’s the same idea.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience should win half the award, because half of it is a pretty good record.

Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist
When the R&B sector of the pop audience got together and decided that Ciara should come back from former-pop-star exile and be included on the island of currently-played toys, I was completely and utterly baffled. Now she’s nominated for awards, and I’m no less confused. I guess we did want her goodies after all. Alicia Keys’ career is extremely comforting. She’s always there, always selling records, always likely to be covering some songs at an awards show. Perhaps even an awards show just like this one! Rihanna, however, had a pretty great year, with a pretty bulletproof couple of singles. Oh, and she got those slow loris people arrested.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rihanna, and slow lorises everywhere.

Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist
I sort of like that the categories in the American Music Awards are called “favorite” instead of “best.” This probably has something to do with copyright, but I guess that’s ok also. Anyway, it stands somewhat at odds with my dictatorial nature, but I think I’ll be able to get around it. And thus it is the case that while you probably think that Justin Timberlake is your favorite, it’s actually Miguel. You were wrong. You didn’t think that Robin Thicke was ever in the race, did you?


Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Album
This is probably just as seemingly randomly-selected as it was last year, but at least this year they got lucky and landed on a good record. On exactly one – and not more than one – good record. One record, and two fucking terrible records.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City

Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ok, no, I can’t just not say anything. Let me go on to the next category and maybe I can look back at it with clearer eyes and a fuller heart in a minute.

Favorite Country Album
Last year this was the category that caused my meltdown. I suppose if I had anything invested in Inspirational or Latin music, I would probably have the same feelings about them. This awards show is generally terrible to genre fans. Except R&B, which is pretty well served by being the default format for a lot of pop music anyway. Anyway, this year this category is not terrible! I mean, it’s pretty terrible! But it’s not impossible to consider the field. Luke Bryant is not the worst recording artist on the planet! The Florida Georgia Line are really, really into pointing out that their name is not only where they come from, but also the setting of all of their songs! And T-Swizzle is, well, still a secret undercover genius.


Favorite Rap/Hip Hop Artist
Ok, the country category improved so much. Maybe I can take some deep breaths and have another go at this.


THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Or maybe not. Fine, fine. There’s lots more categories. It’ll come to me.

Favorite Country Band/Duo/Group
Alright, the Florida Georgia Line again. I’m sure this has nothing to do with their Universal affiliation, and everything to do with their objective quality, which is totally evident by their, y’know, awesome songs. Right. It’s also the same record label as The Band Party, but that isn’t as tough a pill to swallow. Nevertheless, we’re left with Lady Antebellum, and I’m ok with that.


Favorite Country Female Artist
OK, now this is actually the same three nominees as in 2012. Like, they’re in a different order on the website, but it’s still Miranda Lambert, Taylor Swift, and Carrie Underwood.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The nominees haven’t changed, so neither has the right answer. Taylor Swift again!

Favorite Country Male Artist
It’s not exactly the same category, so it has a leg up on the women, at least. I still don’t like Luke Bryant, though. Hunter Hayes is gross, and is, somehow, even worse than Luke Bryant.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: It’s Blake Shelton, which is fine, although it seems a little cheap given his competition.

Alright. We did the rest of a whole genre. Let’s try again. Deep breath.

Favorite Rap/Hip Hop Artist
No, no, we can do this.



Favorite Pop/Rock Album
Why is rock music the genre that’s smashed in with pop? As I said above, it’s R&B that forms the default genre for most pop music. Why wouldn’t those two be combined? I don’t understand anything about this stupid awards show. Anyway. None of them are in the least bit a rock album, but there are literally zero rock albums that have been nominated for an award so far this year, so that’s not a big surprise, nor is it much of a loss. What is bothersome is that here’s The 20/20 Experience and Red, both of which have been nominated in other genres. If you’re going to insist on the division of genres – and it’s a music awards show, they pretty much have to – you should at least figure out what genre everything is before you go nominating things willy nilly. In any event, The 20/20 Experience is still only half a good record, and One Direction’s Take Me Home is largely a samey, overbaked affair anchored to one pretty-great single (“Best Song Ever”).

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I guess it’s Taylor Swift again.

Favorite Pop/Rock Band/Duo/Group
Again with the genre problem! Why have a “Favorite Hip Hop Artist” if the nominees are just allowed to pop back up over here? Anyway, it certainly isn’t Macklemore, and Imagine Dragons are basically the J. Cole4 of this fucking award show, so Harry and the Onedersons get to take home their trophy.


Favorite Pop/Rock Female Artist
It also appears to happen every year with the American Music Awards that the pool of people that they’re willing to nominate from is so tiny that by this point in the proceedings, the same people are up for every single award. So here we have P!nk, Rihanna and Taylor Swift. Again. It is at this point that one has to ask: what, precisely, does an American Music Award mean? That the people that own your record label like you enough to promote you? I guess that’s more than Ariana Grande’s getting, anyway.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Oh, who cares? Not the viewing public, that’s for sure.

Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist
Man, I wouldn’t have even guessed how much fun it would be to deny Robin Thicke awards. Like, I want him nominated for other stuff just so that I can say “NO NOT FOR YOU ROBIN THICKE.” I don’t even dislike him that much. I just like the idea of slinking off sadly, with no trophies. Anyway, Bruno Mars is great and all, but there’s really only one “favorite” here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Justin Timberlake

Kohl’s New Artist of the Year
I know that it shouldn’t be, but I can’t help but find it hilarious that this award is sponsored by Kohl’s. Jesus hell. Anyway. There are five nominees in this category, which is always weird. It just seems so arbitrary. It’s not like they have enough nominees to go around in every category anyway – why shouldn’t they just limit to the one they’ve already got picked out and a couple more? Ostensibly, these awards are voted on “by the people,” but it’s out of such a narrow pool of nominees that how “voted” can they really be? Anyway. Obviously it’s still not Macklemore or Imagine Dragons. I’m sad that Robin Thicke isn’t “new” so I can not give this one to him, but it’s my proclamation so I’m going to proclaim: it’s also not going to Robin Thicke. Hey, there’s Ariana Grande! I just made a joke about how out in the cold she must feel about not being nominated for anything! Anyway, it’s not Imagine Dragons or the Florida Georgia Line either. And Phillip Phillips can wait for me all he wants, but he needs to change one of his names.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Aw, I guess it’s Ariana Grande.

Favorite Rap/Hip Hop Artist
AHA STUPID CATEGORY YOU THOUGHT I WAS DONE TRYING BUT HERE I AM SNEAKING UP ON YOU. Ok. So. The first step is throwing out Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, who are probably going to be honored because there is no justice and appropriation apparently comes with zero punishment. Also, I’m not going to talk about how annoying it is that the inclusion of a black person in most of their songs is playing out as implied “permission” for them to whitesplain the hell out of their “message” songs (except for the one they straightsplain – they got a lesbian to speak for every homosexual on that one). I’m not going to do that because this isn’t about Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, because we’re ignoring them. And without Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, this category is left with Jay-Z and Lil Wayne. I’m relatively certain that this award wouldn’t mean a whole lot to either one – Jay-Z would probably just throw it in his ball pit that’s stuffed with similarly useful trophies and let Blue Ivy teethe on it5, and Lil Wayne would probably unscrew it from the base and use the hollow pyramid part to drink codeine out of6. I guess it just makes me, personally, sad that in 2013, that’s where these two men are at. Ten years ago, Jay – Z made records that deserved literally every award that could be manufactured and thrown at them. Lil Wayne was never that good, but he had a career high point that’s still better than most. In most of these categories, it’s unimportant: it doesn’t matter who wins, because it’s all kind of silly anyway. Who cares if P!nk wins a statue and Rihanna doesn? What does that say about P!nk or Rihanna? In this case, however, it stands as a depressing point of fact that the best way to neutralize someone vital and challenging is to throw money at them until they become so complacent that it’s contextually appropriate to nominate them for an award in the same category as a goddamn minstrel show7. And yeah, Magna Carta Holy Grail sucked, and I don’t even know what album Lil Wayne would be in consideration for – Dedication 5 is as good as anything he’s done in a long time, but I can’t believe that the AMAs are suddenly nominating people for their performance on mixtapes – but there’s a bigger point here. I don’t care that people sell out – authenticity is bullshit, do whatever you want with your music, because it’s your music – but I do care when the effect of it in particular is as depressing as this – that your worst work becomes the standard by which some portion of the populace judges the entire genre. While it’s also true that the country music category is full of dumb shit that misrepresents what’s good about the genre, it also includes acts that actual fans of country music like8. This shit is so cursory, and so thoughtless (“Who did kids like the last time I paid any attention? Those two guys? And they have an album out each? Great. Slap ‘em in there.”) that it comes to signify all that is dumb and retrograde about the popular opinion of, and discourse about, hip hop. In short: fuck this category.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap, Joey Bada$$’s Summer Knights, Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, Travi$ Scott’s Owl Pharoah, Earl Sweatshirt’s Doris, Starlito & Don Trip’s Step Brothers 2, Kanye West’s Yeezus, The Underachievers’ The Lords of Flatbush, Clipping.’s Midcity, Meek Mill’s Dreamchasers 3, Killer Mike & El-P’s Run the Jewels

Artist of the Year
*cough*. Uh. So. Erm. At this point, this award comes down, more-or-less, to Taylor Swift or Justin Timberlake. Normally at this point in awards show write-ups I’m tired of choosing between the two actually-good things that are nominated so I make some joke about it BUT NOT THIS TIME! This time there is a clear and obvious winner. And it isn’t Robin Thicke (who, again, wasn’t nominated).

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Justin Timberlake.

There we are, folks! We’re done with this one til next year!

1 “but I didn’t read last year’s and I’m not going to go click a link that’s all the way over there somewhere!” I hear you saying. Fear not: The American Music Awards were created by Dick Clark when ABC lost the rights to broadcast the Grammys, so that ABC could still have a music awards show, because that used to matter*. Disney owns ABC, and so has a vested interest in using the program for promoting their own music-affiliated business concerns – which include UMG which distributes Disney’s records. Their agreement is that Disney is allowed to use their music distribution and – more importantly – production and songwriting staff, and Universal gets a lot of promotion on Disney-owned enterprises. This also allowed Disney to get largely out of the music-for-grownups business and take over almost completely the music-for-children business.
*Now, of course, music awards shows are more popular than music is, so it’s a weird little conundrum.
2 What I’m saying is: I’m not gonna miss it when it’s gone. When it’s gone. I’m not gonna miss it when it’s gone. I’m not gonna miss it by it’s hair. I’m not gonna miss it anywhere. I’m not gonna miss it when it’s gone. *does cup tappy flippy thing*
3 except when they have four, which seems to be done capriciously, with no real rhyme or reason.
4 look, I can’t resist a running joke, ok?
5 note to self: look up when babies teethe. Is it too late for this joke?
6 come to think of it, that would be pretty cool
7 that’s Macklemore again. Do please keep up.
8 NB: Actually, one of the country music categories had this exact problem last year. It’s not a permanent problem with the AMAs, it’s just indicative of a bigger problem at the moment, which is marginalization under the pretext of importance.

The 2013 CMA Awards

First off, I absolutely did not write about the YouTube awards. This is for two reasons: the first is that I don’t really know what to make of them, and they’re even more singularly-focused than the awards shows I do write about, which is really saying something, and the second is that they were so goddamned boring I didn’t even know where to go with it.I don’t think I did anything with the CMA awards last year (which are tonight, so I suppose I also very nearly dropped the ball this year as well), which is especially funny as it’s one of two awards ceremonies (the other being the Oscars) that I’ve always tried pretty hard to watch no matter what. I’ve talked a bit about my challenged relationship with country music before, but it’s worth going back into: if 75% of the people responsible for making country music weren’t total spuds, it’d be my favorite genre. The problem is that to get to the good stuff you have to wade through a lot of oversimplified pabulum, a lot more sloganeering, pandering nonsense, and, most of all, the piles and piles of credibility-obsessed declamation. Basically, I’m going to channel the same inner self for the CMAs that I did for the Hugo awards.

There are two great things about the CMAs: one is that their awards ceremony is super tight, two is that the historically-focused nature of country music means that there tends to be some good stuff1 if only due to the propensity of “good stuff” to become more prominent with age.

The other great thing is that they only give twelve awards, and they all make sense. Which at this point in the awards show season is actually the best feature.

New Artist of the Year
Historically, country music is not a genre of great first records. They exist, certainly3, but for the most part, it takes a couple of practice runs. That said, it is unlikely that, no matter how many records Florida-Georgia Line gets to make, they will never make Redheaded Stranger, and Lee Brice is dumb. Kip Moore and Kacey Musgraves4 are kind of bland and inoffensive.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: I guess it’s Brett Eldredge, by means of not having any immediate disqualifications.

Music Video of the Year
It’s a shame that this category, which is ostensibly for the pairing of visuals with the songs themselves, also is the best set of songs of any category. “Highway Don’t Care” is really the only bad song in the group, although “Mama’s Broken Heart” certainly isn’t unbreaking mine. “Blown Away” is probably the best thing Carrie Underwood’s handlers have managed to lock down for her. Big ups to Pistol Annies, it’s a shame it had to happen on a Blake Shelton song. But “Downtown” and “Tornado” are both pretty great.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Probably Lady Antebellum’s “Downtown,” but not for any particular reason.

Musician of the Year
This might actually be my favorite category in any awards show, period – I like this sort of thing. Anyway, Brent Mason is a real monster, and got his own guitar line this year, including for playing on de facto New Artist of the Year Brett Eldredge’s record. Dan Huff has a fairly-impressive pop music career, but that’s really not what we’re doing here, is it? Mac McAnally is, I feel, mostly a songwriter and producer, but that’s fine. Paul Franklin just made a record with Vince Gill, and may have played on the most records of the people nominated in this category5. Sam Bush can’t win because if he did that would make me accept any part of “newgrass,” and I really don’t want no part of that shit.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Brent Mason, because I prefer quality over quantity, Dan.

Musical Event of the Year
And then we have my least favorite category. I’m punting this one, because fuck this noise.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mrs. Coach’s hair, which, since it’s still currently starring in Nashville, is totally a musical event.

Vocal Duo of the Year
You know how sometimes everybody likes something and you have absolutely no idea why? I mean, most of the time when I don’t like something I can at least understand why people do – successful marketing, ubiquity, a political stance, a funny interview, a willingness to appear onscreen with muppets, success in a medium or mode I don’t necessarily care for, etc. etc. – anyway, the point is. I still do not like Florida Georgia Line and, more to the point, I don’t understand why anyone does. It’s boring, it’s dull, and it’s been done better a hundred billion times. Anyway. This isn’t about why I don’t like stuff. It’s about who should win stuff.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Civil Wars, but it would be ok if Love and Theft were allowed to look on sadly, and possibly to touch it. They’ve done a fine job, after all.

Vocal Group of the Year
Man, I don’t know. All of these people just seem so likable. I don’t like Little Big Town, but I sometimes think their songs are worth bopping to. The Band Perry appears in all-suede suits on the CMA website, and I feel that’s grounds enough to eliminate them. I’m always surprised by Lady Antebellum’s apparent longevity – which is weird, because they’ve existed for, what, like five years? – and that seems like it should also be disqualifying. I just don’t want anyone to be disappointed.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Zac Brown Band, because do you want to imagine a sad Zac Brown? I sure don’t.

Male Vocalist of the Year
This award, oddly enough, tends to be won in big chunks – most of the time, it’s won by the person that won it last year. That seems to make Blake Shelton the front-runner, and also quite possibly eliminates Keith Urban, whose streak was from 2004-2007. Since neither should win this year, this is an “interesting fact” rather than “a reason to be frustrated”. Of the three that remain, I like Eric Church’s actual songs the best, I think Luke Bryan is pleasant enough, but I would like to hear Jason Aldean sing a song that doesn’t drive me up a tree.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: It could quite possibly be Jason Aldean, I guess, but since that’s purely speculative I’m going to have to go with Eric Church.

Female Vocalist of the Year
It’s not that I don’t like Kacey Musgraves, at least theoretically. It’s that I hate having to look up how to spell her first name again even though I just did it up there the last time I mentioned her. She can’t win awards until I figure out how to spell her name. Anyway blah blah blah Miranda Lambert Carrie Underwood Taylor Swift blah.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kelly Clarkson, who’s been nominated and remains a metaphorical bridesmaid. But you all knew I was going to say that.

Song of the Year
It makes absolutely no sense that a song that was released almost ten years ago6 is nominated for “song of the year,” so let’s try to avoid giving it the award, shall we? Shane McAnally had a good year, co-writing “Merry Go ‘Round” and “Mama’s Broken Heart” – it also seems at least a little bit interesting that Kacey (sigh) Musgraves wrote “Mama’s Broken Heart” and “Merry Go ‘Round,” but “Merry Go ‘Round” is still clearly the better song. They’re both better than “I Drive Your Truck,” and neither is as good as “Pontoon”. Sigh.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ten years late, it turns out “Wagon Wheel” is Song of the Year. Although that isn’t fair. It’d be Song of a lot of Years. What do you suppose the odds are that the Country Music Academy would want anything to do with Ketch Secor under ordinary circumstances?

Album of the Year
I have not heard any of these albums all the way through – for obvious reasons – but it’s almost impossible for me to believe that any of these are the Album of the Year.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jason Isbell’s Southeastern. HA.

Single of the Year
Here it is, several minutes after I was last baffled by their popularity, and I am, again, baffled by the presence of the Florida Georgia Line. Maybe they can record a song with J. Cole and my head will just explode with indifferent confusion. “Highway Don’t Care” and “Mama’s Broken Heart” are exactly the kind of pandering, exactly-what’s-expected-of-them singles that make my teeth itch, even if “Mama’s Broken Heart” isn’t that bad, per se, and I find that every time I have to consider it in one of these categories I like it a little more. I don’t actually mind “Merry Go Round,” I guess. Nonetheless, this category was clear.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Darius Rucker, “Wagon Wheel.” Because really.

Entertainer of the Year
George Strait won this award a couple of times twenty-odd years ago. That’s neat. He should win more often. He’s an entertaining guy. Blake Shelton isn’t. Nor is Luke Bryan, really. Or Jason Aldean. And also George Strait hasn’t had to be entertaining outside of Country Music Association events in the last twenty-odd years so he seems like kind of a recursive pick.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: T-Swizzle. Because her music may have fuck all to do with country music anymore, but they nominated her, so it’s their own fault that she deserves to go home with it.

1 an editorial and personal aside: George Jones died back in April, and I don’t think it’s too much to hope for that someone will sing “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” which is seriously one of the very best songs ever sung by a human being. Of course, it could also not happen, but I’d put money on it.
2 Seriously, look up her inaugural string of singles. She was making seriously killer records straight out the gate.
3 Dwight Yoakam’s Guitars, Cadillac’s, Etc. Etc., Uncle Tupelo’s No Depression, Garth Brooks’ Garth Brooks, and, hell, I don’t know, Barbara Mandrell’s Treat Him Right are some exceptions. But big ups to the Mekons’ The Quality of Mercy is Not Stmen, which is a pretty great debut album by a band that would end up a country band, but most definitely was not at the time of their debut album.
4 who does win the award for “person whose first name I have to look up the spelling of the most often”
5 NB: I didn’t actually count.
6 although I would like to say that one of “Wagon Wheel”’s finest qualities is that even though it was written only ten years ago, it sounds like it’s been around forever.