More lyricists, bands represented at iconic award show

By Maura Wery

When I first saw the announcement of the 2013 Grammy Award nominees, my faith in popular music was restored. For about five years, I haven’t actually watched the Grammys because I felt like the judges were choosing what was popular, number-wise, as opposed to what was good, quality-wise. But this year, I am pleasantly surprised to see some actual substance, rather than flashiness, in the nominees.

The exciting category to me is the Album of the Year. This category has been usually reserved for the chart-toppers. Last year’s nominees included Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Adele, Rihanna and Foo Fighters. I could understand Adele and Foo Fighters being there, seeing as they are what I consider “artists.” I’d even make an exception for Bruno Mars seeing as he is a modern-day crooner. But I though Lady Gaga and Rihanna made the list on radio play and chart topping alone, not really on songwriting talent. Are their live shows exciting and flashy? Of course. Are they Grammy-award-winning songwriters and lyricists? Not really.

Somehow, this year changed the status quo for this category. The 2013 nominees for the Album of the Year were announced, and all five were songwriters. I was pleasantly surprised with the change-up.

My favorite to win is The Black Keys. I have a special place in my heart for them, seeing as they were one of the first alternative bands I discovered. The Black Keys went under the radar for a number of years, having started in 2001 and not earning a Grammy nod until the release of Brothers in 2010.

With the critical and commercial success of El Camino, it was no surprise to see them on the list. The band Fun. and the Mumfords also were not huge surprises. Both of them had critically acclaimed and well produced albums. Fun. also showed the ability to cross over between pop and alternative radio, something that rarely happens. Jack White kept his place as an alternative powerhouse with his nomination for his album, Blunderbuss.

Frank Ocean’s nomination was the most exciting for me. The last time a hip-hop artist was nominated was 2011 when both Eminem and Jay-Z were nominated.

Ocean’s first major album, Channel Orange, is something of a new concept for hip-hop itself. Ocean uses electronica-type beats and then uses a mixture of singing and speaking over the sounds. It’s a whole album of experimentation. For a work of that artistic openness to impress music critics is something to be celebrated.

Ocean is nominated in three other categories for his work on Channel Orange and is also nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and Best Longform video for his work with Kanye West and Jay-Z on “No Church in the Wild” off of Watch the Throne.

I assume that Carly Rae Jepsen will take Song of the Year, but she has some competition from Ed Sheeran. Best Dance Album will most likely be a battle royale between deadmau5 and Skrillex. Some other categories I’m excited about are Best New Artist, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Rap Performance, mainly for the diversity of the artists nominated in them. Pop, indie and rock are all being recognized for contributions to the music world. My favorite pair-up has to go to Pop Duo, which features English indie band Florence and The Machine alongside the sexy-and-they-know-it group LMFAO. Are we sorry for party rocking? Not at all.

You can tune into the 55th Annual Grammy Awards on CBS at 7 p.m.

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