The 2018 Grammy Awards

The Grammys are here! Last year they were a matter of not inconsiderable controversy when they revealed themselves as a product of a tone-deaf old-guard mentality that isn’t really suited to pass judgment on popular music. In the year since then, the general pop cultural environment has only become more geared toward a sea change in how these things are seen and arbited, and hopefully this year The Recording Academy can manage not to make themselves look like total morons!

They are not aided by the fact that this year’s crop, with a handful of exceptions, is uniformly pretty dire, and will not yield a good winner in most categories no matter who the winner actually is. That’s a shame, I suppose, but I’d imagine it takes a lot of pressure off choosing the “right” one when none of them are actually the right one.

Best Music Film

The Defiant Ones and Soundbreaking are miniseries, not films, so RIGHT OUT OF THE GATE we have these category problems that always drive me up a wall. Way to go, Recording Academy. I’m also comfortable taking the position we did not need a four-hour Grateful Dead documentary, and I feel like I’m not jumping too far out on that limb in saying so. The circumstances around the making of One More Time With Feeling are unbelievably tragic, and Nick Cave is one of music’s great performers, but it’s still not of much use to people that aren’t already particularly into him. That leaves Two Trains Runnin’  1, which is a good documentary about the blues and civil rights.


Music Video/Film

I’ll say this about the video for “1-800-273-8255”: it’s a charming video that does an excellent job of not making it explicit how much of the one kid’s stuff (the stuff that makes Logic want him to call the titular hotline number) is in his head, and how much of it is actually coming at him. I mean, Matthew Modine seems ticked, but it might just be because, like, his son was boning in the middle of the day while he wasn’t home, y’know? Anyway, the ambiguity is useful because it also helps reinforce the message that it might not be as bad as all that, which is why you should call the hotline and talk to somebody. Good stuff. I’m not heartless.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Logic, “1-800-273-8255” (f Alessia Cara and Khalid)

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical

Most of this is garden-variety boring sludge 2, but at least there’s No ID, who produced two wonderful records, and who has also been doing notable, praiseworthy work for a long time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: No ID (Jay-Z’s 4:44, Vic Mensa’s The Autobiography, Logic’s “America”)

Best-Engineered Album, Non-Classical

Taking “best-engineered” to here mean “most representative of the performer in their natural state,” I have to say that the only one of these records that sounds like a human being made with microphones and instruments 3. is Roger Waters’ Is This The Life We Really Want?, whose title also necessitates a weird punctuation situation. These are the burdens I bear for you people. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Roger Waters, Is This the Life We Really Want?

Best Historical Album

I think the sort of survey-style compilation here represented by Bobo Yeye: Belle Epoque in Upper Volta (which I, in fact, own) and Sweet as Broken Dates: Lost Somali Tapes From the Horn of Africa (which I had not heard until writing this piece) is great, and useful. The single-artist retrospective thing is a great way to get an education about a musical-creator, which the other three entries are. I suppose another couple of hours of The Goldberg Variations is a real boon to humanity. The songs on Washington Phillips and his Manzarene Dreams are great 4, but there’s only 15 (or 18, depending on how you count) Washington Phillips songs, and this is another repackaging of them (there were already several). So I guess Glenn Gould gets it again.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Glenn Gould, The Goldberg Variations – The Complete Unreleased Recording Sessions June 1955

Best Song Written for Visual Media

It really does seem like La La Land came out way longer ago than merely at the beginning of the eligibility period for this awards show, but here we are, considering one of its songs again. Or rather, not considering it, because it’s terrible. I like “Stand Up For Something,” and it seems kind of dumb to hold it against the song that Common has basically started coming up perennially in this category for doing this exact thing, but it’s not as good as his song for Selma, and it’s not as good as some of the other songs here. “Never Give Up” is a reasonably good Sia song that sounds basically like it was pulled for Uplifting Songs for the End Credits of Feel-Good Movies For Dummies. “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” is a pretty good Zayn song with a pretty useless Taylor Swift appendix 5. “How Far I’ll Go” is a nifty Disney-style movie-capper, and as such, accomplishes what it sets out to do more effectively than the rest of these songs, and so is the winner. Although, given that the Common song means well, I’m also willing to accept it, I just don’t feel it’s as effective.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: “How Far I’ll Go” (from Moana)

Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media

Hey, here’s La La Land again! It’s still real bad! I think Ramin Djawadi’s work on Game of Thrones is some of the only work on Game of Thrones I can unguardedly get behind, and it’s impressive that he figured out how much of what he does with the score is possible, especially seven seasons in. Nevertheless, there’s better work here. Hans Zimmer’s work on Hidden Figures is hamstrung by his need to collaborate, and his work on Dunkirk is hamstrung by the fact that it’s….kind of boring. So that leaves us with Jóhann Jóhannsson’s excellent score for Arrival.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jóhann Jóhannsson, Arrival

Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media

Leaving aside my gripe that La La Land is somehow here as both a score and a compilation 6, the rest of these are fine, but only one of them used the score in a way that was integral to both the filming and the plot 7 in quite the same way as Baby Driver, which also happens to be the score that includes the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion’s “Bellbottoms”, which means it wins in two ways.


Best Comedy Album

I will never stop being annoyed that even though Sarah Silverman is probably first and foremost a standup comedian, it’s her standup that I like the least of all the other things she does, including existing as a human being. Ah, well. This one comes down to the two big comedy comebacks 8, Dave Chappelle and Jerry Seinfeld, and of those, I think it goes to Dave.


Best Folk Album

As always, the distinctions in the “American Roots” categories are pretty hard to parse. I’ve never tried to come up with what, exactly, The Decemberists would be, but I guess when they hook up with Olivia Chaney 9 they’re Folk music, Grammy-style. I suppose The Secret Sisters are “Folk” instead of “Americana” for reasons that us plebes can simply never know. At least Cat Stevens, Laura Marling, and Aimee Mann are unequivocally Folk music. That said, I’m still taking advantage of the fluke in this categorization and giving it to Offa Rex.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Offa Rex. I do like the Decemberists, and especially The Decemberists with a different singer.

Best Bluegrass Album

So, sometimes in the less-mainstream categories 10, the combination of voters that feed into them leads the set of nominees to weird places. Most of the artists in this category, then, are pretty reasonable picks. While Bobby Osborne wouldn’t be my first pick, even among veterans, and I haven’t liked an Infamous Stringdusters album since We’ll Do It Live, I see how this happened. But Michael Cleveland is an unspectacular fiddler who has the easy-to-remember marketing hook of being blind, which I would imagine helps people who don’t have a real head for the genre remember at least one person who made a record within it. Sometimes this happens in the pop categories – no genre is immune to a marketing hook 11 but it seems like every year one of the smaller categories have one. For those of you keeping along at home, that means the things I have scoffed at are “people overcoming blindness” and “socially progressive soundtrack songs.” Truly, I am the problem. Anyway, I prefer Noam Pikelny as a member of the Punch Brothers. I like that Rhonda Vincent album a lot.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, All the Rage: In Concert Volume 1

Best Americana Album

All of the “American Roots” categories are also somewhat more susceptible than average to the “veteran artist whose work may not be quite the same as it once was” phenomenon 12 , which is where we have Gregg Allman, whose contributions to the field of “Americana” are pretty undeniable, but whose new material is decidedly, definitively deniable. He belongs here more than Iron & Wine, though. Brent Cobb is a mainstream dude wearing Americana clothing, and while his music isn’t intolerable, he’s not really deserving here. And it must be noted that if the Americana category is susceptible to old-timers, that is also partly because often it is old-timers that distinguish themselves pretty well here. The Mavericks are continuing what is proving to be a very fruitful second act 13, and Jason Isbell has been around more-or-less constantly for fifteen years, which this year resulted in an album that was better than the rest of the albums in this category.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, The Nashville Sound

Best American Roots Song

I mean, David Rawlings’ album Poor David’s Almanack is a better album than every single album in the previous category at a walk (so you think it would be there), which is kind of annoying, but hey, we take what we can get when it comes to these things. “Cumberland Gap” isn’t as good a song as “If I Had an Airplane”, but it’s still awfully good. Weirdly, the best song on the Jason Isbell record is also called “Cumberland Gap,” but that one isn’t the one Isbell is nominated for here.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: David Rawlings, “Cumberland Gap”

Best American Roots Performance

I mean, I did previously mention the Blind Boys of Alabama in a footnote. They’re still out here doing that thing, folks. Leonard Cohen (?!) and Glen Campbell are both here posthumously, which is real sad, especially since, while both of those men have made music without which my life would be somewhat diminished, it ain’t this stuff. Alison Krauss might have some kind of record for runner-up in these writeups, but I’d have to go crunch some numbers to figure that out, and, well, that would involve thinking about Alison Krauss more than I’m inclined to. So that leaves us with the Alabama Shakes. I’m not sure what technicality lets “Killer Diller Blues” be nominated this far after it came out, but it’s the best song here, so it should rightfully win.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Alabama Shakes, “Killer Diller Blues”

Best New Age Album

Normally I don’t write about the New Age category, but normally the New Age category doesn’t have Steve Roach, India.Arie and Brian Eno in it. You see how it is. I won’t bother you all with the vagaries of this one except to say that, despite titan of the field Brian Eno making an entry here, I really like that India.Arie album, even despite its title.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: India.Arie, Songversation: Medicine

Best Country Album

I skip categories for all sorts of reasons 14, but for some reason I masochistically insist on commenting on the country offerings at the Grammys, despite country music occupying some portion of every televised awards show, and a couple of their own. I could skip this one! No one would blame me! The Grammy nominators have even less of an idea what makes a good country song than the average person who is not a country music fan! And yet, here I stand before you, commenting on the “rightfulness” of these garbage people and their potential Grammy win. Anyway, it’s Chris Stapleton. That guy’s not garbage. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Stapleton, From a Room: Volume 1

Best Country Song

Man, I should have saved my rant about how awful these things were and how little I actually have to say about them for this category, where they’re even worse and I have even fewer things to say about them. If I were a better planner, I’d have figured this stuff out.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Chris Stapleton, “Broken Halos”

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

I am, in case you haven’t noticed or read up on the matter, an enormous fan of country music. I listen to tonnes of it. I love the stuff. That said: I have no idea why country is the only genre other than “pop” that has a “duo/group” designation in their categories. I find it to be baffling 15, although I suppose it’s an excuse to get more people nominated or whatever.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Zac Brown Band, “My Old Man”

Best Country Solo Performance

Does it seem like I’m bloviating to avoid writing about the nominees in the country categories? Well, maybe I am. But, y’know, this is the last one, so I think we can call it a success, and also it’s not like you’ve lost the opportunity to read my thoughts on country music. I’ll be back, guys.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Maren Morris, “I Could Use a Love Song”

Best Rap Album

Hey! This is the best crop of albums in the “Rap Album” category since I started writing about the Grammys all those years ago. Anyway, the Rapsody album isn’t that great, and I bounced off of Tyler, The Creator’s Flower Boy 16 in a way that other people clearly did not. 4:44 was a glimpse into Jay-Z’s internal life, and I’m of an age where Jay-Z was basically the king of Rap at the time that I became aware of it, so that means a lot to me biographo-historically. Migos’ Culture is a record that completed the shift in perception of Migos from one-trick novelty-rappers that had more skills than most to an actual bona-fide great group, and it deserves every ounce of praise that it can get. Even that isn’t enough for it to stand up to Kendrick Lamar’s Damn., which is another masterpiece from a dude that’s only ever made masterpieces.


Best Rap Song

So earlier I made a joke about how Baby Driver should win the Grammy because it uses the song “Bell Bottoms”. Here in this category, a song that uses “Bell Bottoms” as its basis 17 does not win the Grammy because, El-P’s involvement (as half of Run the Jewels) notwithstanding, it’s not as a good as the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion song “Bell Bottoms”. On the one hand, the pleasure-seeker in me wants this to be the unassailably candy overdose that is “Bodack Yellow,” and the comedy fan in me wants it to go to “The Story of O.J.” for its opening line 18, it’s probably got to be “Humble” because it is a really great song, y’all.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar, “Humble”

Best Rap/Sung Performance

While it’s true that I had nice things to say about the Grammy folks right around the album category, this category is stacked wall-to-wall with total bullshit, and that is stupid. Even the SZA song is the worst SZA song. The exception here is Kendrick. So way to go Kendrick.  

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar, “Loyalty” (f Rihanna)

Best Rap Performance

I’ve spoken in the past about the divide between “Bad and Boujee” and “Humble.” I think that it’s possible to tell a lot about a person by which one they choose. I’ve ridden for Kendrick for literally as long as this blog has existed. I love the guy, I really do. And while I’m unusually bad at guessing who I’m going to continue to like in the future, I bet I will for a long, long time. And yet, “Bad and Boujee” is better than anything Kendrick offered this year. This may have something to do with my oft-stated indifference to lyrics. I make no excuses, however.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Migos, “Bad and Boujee” (f Lil Uzi Vert)

Best R&B Album

Did you know that there were roughly fifty R&B albums that came out last year that were better than these five? It’s true! Some of them made it into the Urban Contemporary and Traditional R&B categories, but mostly this category is a total embarrassment. But of course, Traditional R&B only has a song category, not albums, and Urban Contemporary only has an album category, not songs. Why is this? I have no idea, but it’s fucking stupid.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ledisi, Let Love Rule

Best Urban Contemporary Album

Khalid made a respectable debut here, and I look forward to hearing more of his music. Childish Gambino made as good a record as Childish Gambino has ever made, but it’s still not all that great 19. 6Lack surprised me by making a record that I liked, having been completely not into any of his previous singles. The Weeknd made his best post-popstar record, and that’s pretty cool. But SZA made one of the best records of the year, and deserves all kinds of awards for that.


Best R&B Song

See above for most of my opinions w/r/t these folks, with the side note that PJ Morton is Maroon 5’s keyboard player, which allows you to graft the appropriate feelings there, too.


Best Traditional R&B Performance

I suppose Ledisi should earn some sort of accolade for being the best of the selections in these categories despite not actually liking her record that much. I mean, it’s pretty good. I like it. I just wouldn’t guess that it was not only nominated a bunch of times, but also that it was more or less the best selection. Admittedly in this case, it came down to her or Mali Music, but in this case Ledisi had the better song get nominated.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Ledisi, “All the Way”

Best R&B Performance

Kehlani and Bruno Mars are here for what are, honestly, a pair of disappointments. In other years that might have been a more exciting mashup. Daniel Caesar does it all for The Lord, which means that it’s coming from a place that is personally important to him, which is great, but doesn’t make his music any better than it is. Ledisi is still pretty good, but SZA made a genuinely-great record, and “The Weekend” is a genuinely-great song.


Best Alternative Music Album

Man, back when The War on Drugs made Wagonwheel Blues I was so into it. I haven’t listened to that record in a while, but their output since has been a pretty steady decline. Their fans seem to be into it, though, and it certainly has worked in the mainstream, so bully for them, I guess. Father John Misty continues to make music that is emphatically not my thing. The National made another record that’s pretty much exactly like all their other records which, again, is great for their fans, but also doesn’t really make it to the top here. Gorillaz continue to not be as good as they used to be 20. The LCD Soundsystem record is great, and comes from a band that has never made a record that was less than great, even after having “retired” and “reformed”.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: LCD Soundsystem, American Dream

Best Rock Album

As much as I don’t have many good things to say about The War on Drugs, they are at least better than Nothing More. And although they have fallen considerably since the days when they seemed great, they haven’t fallen as far as Queens of the Stone Age who, in turn, have not fallen nearly as far as Metallica. That leaves us with Mastodon, who, while they also have had better days, at least didn’t embarrass themselves. 

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Mastodon, Emperor of Sand

Best Rock Song

No, but seriously, Nothing More is an awful band, and that Metallica record 21 is dire. The Foo Fighters and Avenged Sevenfold are both reliable workhorse bands that have carved out reliable workhorse places for themselves in the rock music ecology 22 , but they’re both doing pretty nonspectacular work these days. That brings us to K. Flay, who are pretty good.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: K. Flay, “Blood in the Cut”

Best Metal Performance

True story: when this Body Count record came out, I almost wrote a WTFLTT piece on it, and then, while researching the piece, discovered that they have continued to make records intermittently, and have serious, hardcore fans. I also underestimated how serious the band’s approach is. So way to go, Body Count! You are a genuinely-meant expression of a once-vital rapper whose current work is now basically inadvertent self-parody, and I suppose there are worse things to be than genuinely, honestly terrible. August Burns Red is the second act to be nominated for a Grammy who makes explicitly Christian music, which is an interesting development, and it will be interesting to see if it continues, or if 2018 is just a blip year for this sort of thing. They’re still not very good. Mastodon and Meshuggah are both veterans who made pretty good records, that seem to be sitting well with their fans, of which I am not really one 23 I like Code Orange pretty well. I mean, there are tons of better metalcore bands from Pittsburgh (which, for whatever reason, has a tonne of these bands out there) 24, but they’re the best this category has to offer.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Code Orange, “Forever”

Best Rock Performance

Leonard Cohen and Chris Cornell are both in the great beyond, and that is very sad. While I understand the compulsion to nominate them posthumously, I also think that it is kind of undeserved here, and a little sadder to be celebrating what is, honestly, pretty mediocre work, rather than the great material either man has produced 25. Nothing More are still godawful. No, seriously, they’re really bad. It is of some interest that Kaleo is probably a band that you heard on television 26, and they are pretty shockingly unmemorable. So I guess, regardless of everything I just said about the Foo Fighters a minute ago, they’re the best band in this category. Good for them.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: The Foo Fighters, “Run”

Best Dance/Electronic Album

This is here just to say that, sure, Bonobo and Mura Masa are plenty old, but they are positive babes in the woods compared to Kraftwerk. The part of me that wants the most perverse option is rooting for Kraftwerk here, but honestly, they haven’t made a good record in decades. Maybe they’ll still show up to the ceremony though. That would be funny 27.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Bonobo, Migration

Best Dance Recording

The only way that LCD Soundsystem would have any competition in this category is if the Gorillaz song that was nominated was the aforementioned “Ascension”. As the Gorillaz song here nominated is the decidedly nonspectacular “Andromeda”, it’s LCD Soundsystem in a walk.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: LCD Soundsystem, “Tonite”

Best Pop Vocal Album

It does seem odd to have Coldplay and Imagine Dragons in the pop category here – they are, pretty unquestionably, pop music, but they have been nominated for Grammys previously in the rock categories. Maybe this year they wanted to diversify their “rock” offerings. Or maybe someone on the nominating committee got tired of arguing about whether or not the largely-production-based, largely-electronic Imagine Dragons were in any meaningful way a “rock” band. In any event, they also did not make good music! They are better than Ed Sheeran, but that is not saying much. Lana Del Rey and Lady Gaga continue to be more interesting as people than as performers. That leaves us with Kesha, who probably would have won without all the process of elimination rigamarole, as Rainbow is awfully good.


Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

I’m doing this category just to say that I do not support giving Seth MacFarlane awards, and I think that an attempt to get him there to vamp during a presentation is silly, and I hate this all very much. It is dumb enough to distract from the fact that the worst non-MacFarlane album in this category is the one where Bob Dylan sings other peoples’ songs. You know, for those people who hate Bob Dylan the songwriter/lyricist, and are only interested in Bob Dylan the singer. Those people. Who totally exist. Obviously.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Oh none of this should be celebrated, but anything that isn’t those two records is probably fine I guess. It would go to Michael Bublé unreservedly if the “Nobody But Me” he covered was the Isley Brothers song instead of the other one.

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

“Despacito” is as good a song as Justin Bieber has ever contributed to, but it took over every public space to such a ridiculous extent that I can’t help but be annoyed by it anymore. So I guess that leaves Portugal, The Man’s “Feel it Still” as the lone tolerable song in this crop.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Portugal, The Man, “Feel it Still”

Best Pop Solo Performance

Ed Sheeran remains terrible. Pink, Kelly Clarkson and Lady Gaga are all not terrible as a rule, but none of the songs here are much good. I guess the Pink song is ok. Kesha did better than all of them.


Best New Artist

Every year I mentioned the rumored/supposed “curse” with this category 28, and use it as a hopeful attempt to get someone banished from the public sphere. If you actually run the numbers, this curse cannot be said to exist in any meaningful sense, but it makes me feel better about things anyway. In this tradition, then, I hope that it’s Julia Michaels. Lil Uzi Vert is only borderline-listenable, but he appears to be getting better, Alessia Cara and Khalid both have nice voices and could do good work in the future 29. SZA is downright wonderful. But Julia Michaels, man. That woman’s music has basically nothing going for it. So hopefully she wins and there’s a curse and I don’t have to hear her anymore.


Song of the Year

I think I’ve said everything I have to say about Julia Michaels then. I’ve also addressed my feelings about “Despacito.” Since the 2018 Grammys are the Grammys of Our Discontent, I also have to point out that Bruno Mars is yet another person who’s generally alright who has a pretty bad song up for consideration here. “1-800-273-8255” still means well, and still isn’t that bad 30. Jay-Z’s “4:44” is a weird choice for a single, but it’s the best song here.


Album of the Year

Alright, knocking out the already-discussed 24K Magic (ew) and “Awaken, My Love!” (which is interestingly-punctuated, and about 0.00001% as good as Atlanta), we’re left with Jay-Z’s best album in years, Lorde’s fantastic Melodrama, and the creative and commercial juggernaut that is Kendrick Lamar’s Damn. So you probably knew where this was going the whole time.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar, Damn.

Record of the Year

Finally, as is always the case, this set of categories ends just as I run out of things to say about them. “Humble” was the winner back at hip-hop, it’s the winner now.

THE RIGHTFUL WINNER: Kendrick Lamar, “Humble”

For the record, the categories I skipped were: Best Contemporary Classical Composition, Best Classical Compendium, Best Classical Vocal Solo Album, Best Classical Instrumental Solo, Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance, Best Choral Performance, Best Opera Recording, Best Orchestral Performance, Best Surround-Sound Album, Best Remixed Recording, Non-Classical, Producer of the Year, Classical, Best-Engineered Album, Classical, Best Album Notes (the only one of these I have is the Washington Phillips one, and frankly, I just have no idea what “best album notes” would even mean), Best Musical Theater Album, Best Spoken Word Album (I mean, I like the Boss as much as anybody, but I haven’t listened to this, and I also love Carrie Fisher, but I did read The Princess Diarist and can’t imagine that it’s much improved by having to listen to it), Best Children’s Album, Best World Music Album (this space continues to refuse to acknowledge that every form of music made by a non-western person is part of the same “genre”, and therefore that “World” music is an insulting mass of exclusionary nonsense for dilettantes and assholes), Best Reggae Album, Best Regional Music Album, Best Tropical Latin Album, Best Regional Mexican Music Album (Including Tejano), Best Latin Rock, Urban or Alternative Album, Best Latin Pop Album, Best Roots Gospel Album, Best Contemporary Christian Music Album, Best Gospel Album, Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song, Best Gospel Performance/Song, Best Latin Jazz Album, Best Latin Jazz Ensemble Album, Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album (quentin save me from having to write about large jazz ensemble music), Best Jazz Instrumental Album (having excluded Large Jazz Ensemble and Vocal Jazz, it only seems fair to also exclude the one subcategory of JAzz I might actually enjoy), Best Jazz Vocal Album, Best Improvised Jazz Solo (the idea of listening to music specifically for an instrumental solo makes me feel itchy in my insides), Best Boxed or Limited Edition Package, Best Recording Package, Best Arrangement, Instruments and Vocals, Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Capella, Best Instrumental Composition, Best Contemporary Blues Album, Best Traditional Blues Album, and Best Contemporary Instrumental Album


  1.  which is not, in fact, a filmed version of the August Wilson play, which is what I thought it was for most of its promotional cycle. 
  2.  although shoutout to The Stereotypes, whose nomination includes their work with Iggy Azalea, which…did you even know there had been an Iggy Azalea single during the eligibility period? Yeah, me neither. 
  3.  That’s not to say these are particularly bad, or even worse than the Roger Waters record: the Perfume Genius and K Flay records in particular are fine if you like that sort of thing. They just aren’t what I’d call well-engineered. 
  4.  there are few people in the annals of recording history who are as unfairly ignored as Washington Phillips, whose songs are absolutely gorgeous 
  5.  probably a sign that things were going to go all stupid for the music of T. Swift, honestly. 
  6.  a thing that I have my mild categorization issue with even despite the fact that it, y’know, sucks on toast 
  7.  well, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 kind of did, but not to the same extent, and only arguably 
  8.  this surprises me, as I didn’t expect to react to the Jerry Seinfeld special so positively. 
  9.  As they have in the here-nominated Offa Rex, although in all honesty, “folk” is as good a descriptor as anything for what they’ve done in the last decade or so. 
  10.  in terms of the Grammys, the space that bluegrass occupies culturally and commercially is less – in the sheer numerical sense – than the genres further down the list here. 
  11.  Think of Susan Boyle’s nominations, or the similarly-blind Jeff Healey, or the commercial/awards juggernaut of the Blind Boys of Alabama, all of whom made perfectly serviceable music that wouldn’t have been nearly as prominent were it not for the novelty granted their music by its existing in spite of their particular challenges. 
  12.  this is, again, something that can generally befall any category – the Grammy nominators skew older, and that sort of thing does happen. 
  13.  Brand New Day is their third album in four years, and they’re all pretty good. 
  14. see below for some examples! 
  15.  My stab at a reason is that country music is one that is popular enough to have a bunch of subcategories, but also one where you are as likely to be popular as part of a group as you are a solo person – as opposed to, say, rock music or jazz music (which has a soloist category – see below – instead of a solo artist category), where you’re pretty much guaranteed to be part of a band, for the most part – and that, since the categories were thought out a long time ago, and appended only reluctantly, was not applied to say, rappers, who can also be individuals or groups. But even that barely makes sense to me, and I spend a whole lot of time thinking about this stuff. 
  16. Formerly Scum Fuck Flower Boy, which we can all agree is a much better title. 
  17.  and is the single from the Baby Driver soundtrack 
  18.  “O.J. said ‘I’m not black, I’m O.J.’……………ok.” You kind of have to hear it context. It’s amazing, guys. 
  19.  I mean, if it ever matters to Donald Glover what I think, he can take solace in the fact that he makes my favorite currently-airing tv show (Atlanta) and was in my other favorite tv show of all-time (Community). Not to mention he got his start writing for another show in my top ten (30 Rock). So. I mean. He’s good. 
  20.  Although Humanz does contain the bulletproof, unassailable “Ascension,” which is one of the best songs they’ve ever come up with, but which is great almost entirely because of Vince Staples. 
  21.  which you can read a few thousand words about here 
  22.  and though it’s true that I love the first four Foo Fighters albums very much, and haven’t given much thought to their more recent material, I also can’t blame the band for sticking to what they do well. 
  23.  although I have been a fan of both, right around the same time (i.e. 2000-2005 or so, at which point the sort of heavy metal I had an interest in changed drastically, and I sort of dropped out of following either band closely. My fault, not theirs.) 
  24.  also feel free not to quibble with me about my use of the term “metalcore” here, thanks in advance 
  25.  to be fair, this is sort of the argument that one would have when a once-great musician dies.  
  26.  or, if you’re me, the trailer for Logan 
  27.  they will not show up to the ceremony. 
  28.  i.e. that the artist who wins “Best New Artist” then vanishes without a trace 
  29.  Khalid has already done good work, but, y’know, I’m hopeful that he will continue to do so, is what I’m saying here. 
  30.  although I’ve been writing about it a lot, and seeing it and hearing it for longer than that, and I still can’t remember the goddamned phone number, even though it’s a well-publicized number, and even though I have a magnet from the organization in charge of administering it – complete, once again, with this phone number – on my fridge. Enjoy this rare autobiographical detail. I have a fridge magnet, y’all.

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