Record of the Year The big one, and while the field is mostly awful, there’s Frank Ocean’s sublime “Thinkin Bout You” to cheer for. And honestly, while we’d happily never hear Gotye’s ubiquitous “Somebody That I Used to Know” again, it’s not his fault the song’s been played to death — and it’s way better than the likes of fun., the Black Keys, Taylor Swift, and Kelly Clarkson.
Album of the Year See comments on Record of the Year above, substituting Channel Orange for “Thinkin Bout You” and Jack White and Mumford & Sons for Taylor Swift and Kelly Clarkson.
Best New Artist There are two entirely worthy artists here, namely Alabama Shakes and, yes, Frank Ocean. We’d be happy to see either win, although we’re guessing that Ocean is the more likely recipient. Please please please god let it not be fun. Please.
Best Alternative Music Album As with pretty much everything else at the Grammys, this is about as cutting edge as a bowling ball, but still, the field isn’t terrible. We’d be happy to see Fiona Apple win for The Idler Wheel…, mainly because it’s a record that’s actually comparable to her best work (and might in fact be her best work.) Elsewhere, it’s mostly respected artists getting nominations for relatively lackluster albums — Tom Waits for Bad As Me, Björk for Biophilia, M83 for Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming — and Gotye, because the term “alternative” is now officially meaningless.
Best Rap Performance We’ve always been big fans of Nas — making something as good as Illmatic is enough to earn someone lifetime credibility, as far as we’re concerned — and we were also pleasantly surprised by Life is Good. “Daughters,” a wry lament to the dramas that daughters bring, was also pretty great, and we’d be chuffed to see it win here.
Best Urban Contemporary Album The Academy could only scrape together three nominations here, and one of them is Chris Brown. Sigh. Again, let’s cheer for Frank Ocean. (And, of course, it’d be particularly nice to see him beat out Brown.)
Best World Music Album Clearly, we have a problem with the whole us-and-them premise of the “world music” genre designation — the idea that there’s Western music and then there’s a kinda nebulous musical blob containing everything from Indian classical to Inuit throat singing is kinda nonsensical. But still, there are some good records here, and we’d particularly like to see Amadou et Mariam win for Folila.
Best Dance/Electronica Album The Grammys’ electronic nominations are particularly embarrassing, dominated by the sort of awful commercial artists that just scream the fact that the Academy has absolutely no idea about this strange music that all the kids listen to these days. The fact that the only remotely palatable nomination in either category is a Chemical Brothers live album rather says it all (the duo’s moment of relevance passed about a decade ago), but still, we’re rooting for Ed ‘n’ Tom here.
Best Americana Album Leaving aside the question of how Mumford & Sons can constitute “Americana,” considering they’re a) from England and b) play a sort of watered-down version of Celtic folk, it’d be rather nice to see The Avett Brothers get some recognition.
Best Recording Package And finally, this slightly suggestive title refers to album art/design/packaging etc, and as such, it’s hard to see anyone going past the amazing multimedia experience that was Björk’s Biophilia. (Unless, that is, you really liked that image of David Byrne and Annie Clark with curious bulges emerging from their faces.)