The Indy's cast of music writers offer their predictions for the 2005 Grammy Awards, sure to be a scene, what with the confirmation of a duet by J Lo and Mark Anthony and every other variety of glam and hype imaginable. The awards will be broadcast on Sunday, Feb. 13. For a full list of nominees, visit www.grammy.com.
Category: Record of the Year
With great crunkitude comes great responsibility. That's why, in short, Usher, Ludacris, Lil Jon and their tour de booty "Yeah!" should beat the stuffing out of everyone else in the Record of the Year category. While there's talent here -- most notably in the form of Ray Charles and Norah Jones -- there's nothing close to the gleefully pointless opiate of "Yeah!" Add to that Usher's poise, dancing supremacy, tendency to backflip and -- duh -- the abs, and you've got yourself a song capable of rousing John Ashcroft to get his freak on. Other contenders have their moments, like Green Day's suburban rock opera "American Idiot" and the Black Eyed Peas' "Let's Get it Started," while Los Lonely Boys are simply execrable. It's gonna be an Usher kinda night. -- Aaron Retka
Category: Song of the Year
This august category honors those songs that you've been hearing 6,000 times a day for the past year and runs the gamut from the earnest pop-rock of John Mayer to the earnest pop-country of Tim McGraw to the earnest pop-soul of Alicia Keys, with stops at decent, if mainstream, hip-hop (Kanye West) and dreary grunge balladry (Hoobastank). Kanye West should win for "Jesus Walks" and actually has a shot at taking home the award, but there are more important principles at work here, specifically: Don't we owe it to future generations to forever memorialize our bad taste by venerating a group who actually named themselves Hoobastank? -- Aaron Retka
Song of the Year: Ditto
In one of the year's surprisingly weakest categories, Kanye West should have little trouble in picking up a Grammy for "Jesus Walks," an urban hymn that, despite its name, manages to transcend religion in capturing the tenacity of the human spirit against all odds. Of course, part of the genius is that West encapsulates all this inside a three-minute-and-13-second radio-friendly package of hip-hop, gospel choirs and nimble rapping. The song's buoyant production and the universality of its message made "Jesus Walks" one of the most refreshing tracks of the summer of 2004. Neither John Mayer's "Daughters," an unmemorable slice of coffee-shop pop containing lyrics that seem to blatantly reinforce gender stereotypes, nor Hoobastank's post-Creed power ballad, "The Reason" should offer much of a hurdle for West, who should come away from the Grammys as this year's big winner. -- Joe Kuzma
Category: Album of the Year
If the past is any indication, sentimentality could rule here. The Grammys love to reward classic artists and innovators who dare to reinvent themselves -- just ask Carlos Santana. But this year's nostalgic favorite, Genius Loves Company, Ray Charles' posthumous album of low-key duets, finds itself pitted against some stiff competition. The album's sparse production and the A-list guest vocalists will appeal to purists, but ultimately, Genius will probably divide its voting constituency with The Diary of Alicia Keys, which is stylistically comparable.
This negation should open the door for talented newcomer Kanye West to win his first Grammy for the stellar College Dropout. In contrast to Green Day's soporific American Idiot, which brazenly condenses three decades of rock-opera clichs, College Dropout is the proto-typical hip-hop concept album, wrapping lucid beats around imaginative rhymes with compelling sincerity. As those who couldn't get it out of their CD player last year already know, College Dropout is the best album of the year. -- Joe Kuzma
Category: Best New Artist
What do Milli Vanilli, Hootie and the Blowfish, and LeAnn Rimes have in common? They've all been dubbed the Best New Artist (and in one case, the title was revoked for lip-syncing) over the past 20 years. It seems an ominous prospect to follow in the paths of any of these artists who, today, seem likelier candidates for a VH1 biopic expos than for another Grammy.
And yet one nominee among this year's crop looks to have the best chance at breaking the Best New Artist jinx. Likely to win Album and Song of the Year awards, Kanye West is the hottest producer and composer in hip-hop today, and should be a shoo-in for Best New Artist.
Yet Maroon 5, which boasts half a dozen hit singles and larger record sales than most of the other artists combined, is the front-runner for this award. Musically, their sound represents a step back to blue-eyed soul of the early '70s. With a sexy, crooning frontman (Adam Levine), the group has managed to reach the upper echelons of Top 40 ubiquity. "This Love" and "She Will Be Loved" are saccharine pop at its least engaging, and yet the radio was all about that in 2004.
Pencil Maroon 5 in for this award, because undoubtedly at VH1, they've already begun working on the "Where Are They Now?" episode. -- Joe Kuzma
Category: Best Male Pop Vocal Performance
Each nominee in this category belongs in a different decade -- Elvis Costello's charming recording of a Cole Porter song could easily be a 1930s hit, and Prince's masterpiece "Cinnamon Girl" pop bliss, with its perky guitar solos and falsetto vocals, is straight out of the 1980s. And Seal? Who thought he would have a comeback, let alone with a sappy tune like "Love's Divine" (is this a Christian rock song in disguise? Come on!). But unfortunately, it looks like the American Idol faux-coffeehouse croonings of John Mayer and Josh Groban are here to stay. It would be nice to think that the original prince of pop, Porter, would be posthumously recognized along with Costello for "Let's Misbehave," but the crooners have seduced too many wide-eyed coeds and too many of their dollars. It's Josh or John for this one. -- Bettina Swigger
Category: Best Alternative Music Album (Vocal or Instrumental)
For a category that pretty much means "albums with songs you won't hear on the radio," this is a remarkably good one. All of the albums nominated are excellent, accessible and memorable (though Wilco's A Ghost Is Born didn't quite measure up to their 1999 release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot). Franz Ferdinand keeps Western civilization dancing, PJ Harvey continues to improve on her impossible talent, and Modest Mouse proves that emo kids could indeed cheer up. That said, for sheer ambition and production value, Bjork should win for her compelling a capella smorgasbord of the human voice, Medulla, featuring, among others, vocal talents Rahzel and Mike Patton. It's a record that forces you to listen, and rewards you for the challenge. -- Bettina Swigger
Category: Best Classical Album
Tough call but I think it will come to either the Robert Spano(conductor) and Atlanta Symphony Orchestra recording of CityScape: Concerto for Orchestra by Jennifer Higdon or Lorin Maazel (conductor) and the New York Philharmonic's recording of On the Transmigration of Souls by John Adams. Deciding factor? The Adams piece is in memory of the victims of the 9/11 attack. It's a moving testament as only Adams can write and the New York Philharmonic in their hometown can perform. In the Classical Music division, also watch for Colorado College Summer Session faculty member, pianist John Novacek and his colleague Leila Josefowicz in the Best Chamber Music Performance category, though I think it'll go to Lief Ove Andsnes and Christian Tetzlaff for Bartok: Violin Sonatas 1 & 2. -- Carolyn Carroll
Category: Best Rap Album
The Rap Album category is dominated by the battle between Jay-Z's Black Album and Kanye West's College Dropout. Sure, Nelly makes an appearance in the nominations, but his album was simply craptacular. And OK, I know the Black Eyed Peas are played on the radio every fourth song but their concept is as contrived as N*Sync's. The best Rap Solo Performance is owned by Jay-Z for "99 Problems," and Black Album should win Best Rap Album as well. Jay-Z isn't a rapper who needs to run around without his shirt off to sell records; he brings skill and experience that blow the competition away. -- Sara Gallagher
Category: Best Category to Root For
Though it likely won't make the broadcast, but will be resigned to one of those retrospective overviews of awards given earlier in the day, Norman and Nancy Blake's Morning Glory Ramblers, recorded right here in Colorado Springs on the Dualtone label of Western Jubilee Recording Company, could walk away with the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Album. If it does, hollers, cheers and stomps go out to our favorite little recording studio and Colorado Springs' best-kept secret. -- Kathryn Eastburn