February 7, 2009
The fourth and final installment in our Grammy series, staff favorites for the Big Four categories. Check back for our live blog of the Grammy Awards tomorrow!
Record Of The Year
- “Chasing Pavements,” Adele
- “Viva La Vida,” Coldplay (Blake, Lynn)
- “Bleeding Love,” Leona Lewis
- “Paper Planes,” M.I.A. (Dan, Kevin)
- “Please Read The Letter,” Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Blake: Coldplay’s anthemic rock ballad just feels like the most important record of the year. A pure atmospheric wonder, “Viva” is a string-laden symphony that ponders the fear of power, paranoia and eternal purgatory. Here, Chris Martin sings about being king, one with a self-doubting streak. For four intensely brilliant (but confusing) minutes, he wears the crown well.
Dan: I think these are all pretty exemplary records – even “Bleeding Love” is a cut above a lot of radio pop, and it’s easily the weakest thing here. I’m really tempted to pick Adele’s big inner-conflict number; it has a classic quality to it, and her performance is phenomenal. But I have to give my support to M.I.A.’s weirdly brilliant satire of immigrant stereotypes – there’s just nothing else like it out there.
Kevin: M.I.A. turned in the most wildly entertaining and intellectually challenging hit this year.
Lynn: I’m definitely not a huge Coldplay fan (I believe the operative word I used in the past was b.o.r.i.n.g.), but even I found “Viva La Vida” nearly irresistible this year.
Album Of The Year
- Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends, Coldplay
- Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne (Dan – tie)
- Year Of The Gentleman, Ne-Yo
- Raising Sand, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss (Dan – tie, Kevin, Lynn)
- In Rainbows, Radiohead (Blake)
Dan: Don’t be fooled by the big names; all five of these are actually super-creative, high-quality albums. Ne-Yo’s got amazing beats and hooks working for him, Radiohead and Coldplay produced successfully experimental works (typical of the former, new for the latter), Lil Wayne’s set is fantastically weird and self-obsessed, and of course, Krauss & Plant took a bunch of old songs and made them sound like they came from someplace in limbo. Each album is good enough to justify a win, in my opinion, so it really comes down to a matter of personal taste. Me? I say Krauss & Plant or Weezy.
Kevin: The Plant & Krauss album gets into a groove that never grows old for me. It’s the only album of the five in my rotation.
Lynn: What do you get when you pair an acclaimed angel-voiced bluegrass singer with a legendary Brit rock ‘n roll hall of famer? The album of the year.
Blake: Radiohead’s game-changing set (Pay to play?!) is also a winning return to form. Their prog-rock is a more palatable this go-round, and Thom Yorke’s gang gives us a richly-textured, romantic gem.
Song Of The Year
- “American Boy”, William Adams, Keith Harris, Josh Lopez, Caleb Speir, John Stephens, Estelle Swaray & Kanye West (Estelle Featuring Kanye West)
- “Chasing Pavements,” (Adele)
- “I’m Yours,” Jason Mraz (Jason Mraz) (Kevin)
- “Love Song,” Sara Bareilles (Sara Bareilles) (Dan – tie)
- “Viva La Vida,” Guy Berryman, Jonny Buckland, Will Champion & Chris Martin (Coldplay) (Blake, Lynn, Dan – tie)
Kevin: For me, this is a collection of songs that sound good on the radio and are all decently written. Going by the lyrics, I’d give the edge to Mraz, but I’m a sucker for a good peace, love and understanding message.
Lynn: Coldplay deserves to walk away with this Grammy. It’s a ambitious song written by an intriguing guy. Frida Kahlo, anti-authoritarianism, eternal damnation…all in one song (and title). I love it.
Blake: “Viva” is an orchestral delight, a lyrical masterpiece and easily the best of a lackluster bunch.
Dan: “Viva La Vida” is easily the most ambitious piece of the bunch and succeeds in a big way despite some clunky lyrical moments. But I think “Love Song” is equally masterful for what it is. The scattered perspective of the verses is exactly what you’d expect from a frustrated artist trying to create something she doesn’t really want to create, which makes the build to the chorus flow very organically. And the fact that Bareilles was able to make that very specific situation feel applicable to so many people speaks highly of her pop-writing chops.
Best New Artist
- Adele (Blake, Dan)
- Duffy (Kevin, Lynn)
- Jonas Brothers
- Lady Antebellum
- Jazmine Sullivan
Lynn: Adele may be the most talented and most enduring star on this list (I need to hear more), but I stopped what I was doing for Duffy this year. She is a delight.
Blake: Jazmine Sullivan’s album shows promise, but she’s just a short step below the two Brit ladies. Rockferry, a Duffy-meets-Dusty project, is mediocre despite the talent of its creator. Adele’s 19, though, digs deeper; her smoky-sweet voice (met with a decidedly retro vibe) is a sharp shot to the heart.
Dan: I finally gave the Jonas Brothers a fair listen the other day and have to admit they’re not nearly as bad as I’d like to say they are, but for my money, Hanson still does that shtick better. I like Lady A alright based on their first album, but as with Duffy and Jazmine Sullivan, I’m not sure I really see a lot of enduring potential there yet. Adele, on the other hand, strikes me as someone I could be listening to for many years to come, regardless of whether she remains a commercial favorite. Plus, word is that her upcoming album bears the influence of the O, Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, which is a pretty intriguing prospect.
Kevin: Not crazy about any of these acts so far, but I do enjoy “Mercy.” So I’ll throw my vote behind Duffy.