What Do You Mean “Music”? (A Look at the Grammy Nominees)

So, apparently there is such a thing as music that is not created for movies or television, but just… you know, for the sake of it. I am informed that regular people tend to enjoy this kind of music very much. So much so, that there is even a whole awards show dedicated to it (because you know something wants to be taken seriously when people start handing each other shiny trophies).

Ok, so all kidding aside, I’ve grown pretty much out of the loop when it comes to pop music in recent years, so I really enjoy taking a look at what is nominated for Grammy and being a little surprised that “hey, so that song I heard that one time is actually a pretty big hit”. I know that, for all intents and purposes, the Grammys are basically a big joke, but I must admit that they are of value to me as a way of time-stamping the year in music, and get a sense of what people liked. Case in point, let me make a fool of myself by trying to write critically about this year’s “Record of the Year” nominees.

I must say that, despite my facetious comments about not knowing what is “hip” in the world of music, I was genuinely shocked that neither Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” nor Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” were nominated for this award. Both those songs were so HUGE that not even I could escape them. They simply dominated the first half of the year like nobody’s business. I guess since they were released so long ago, people -even Grammy voters- grew tired of them.

The other song that was “huge” in my mind, however, did make the cut. That is Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX‘s “Fancy”, which I first encountered when someone shared its Clueless-inspired music video on Facebook. I guess this was our “song of the summer”, and even though I could write a gigantic essay about the racial and gender-politic implications of Azalea’s fame, I don’t have much to say about the song itself except that I approve of its success. It’s a pretty good song. I was also *this close* to saying that I prefer “Bang Bang“, until I realized they are sung by completely different people.

I’m gonna end up looking like an asshole when I finish writing this, because despite that intro, I actually am familiar with all the songs nominated in this category. This one I first encountered when my friend Gamal caught it as an earworm, and wouldn’t stop singing the “I’m gonna swiiing” chorus. I was surprised, though, to realize that Sia, who I was familiar with only as the writer of the song featured in the Six Feet Under finale, had suddenly become a top-40 artist. Honestly, I don’t get why people love “Chandelier” so much. I mean, it’s a pretty dumb song with pretty dumb lyrics, and it’s not upbeat enough as to be able to dance to it, so… Anyway, it’s not a bad song, so I won’t complain.

So, this Sam Smith dude is kind of a rising British star, huh? I know this because he has been tapped to write the theme song for the next James Bond movie. Does that mean that he is the male Adele or something like that? Well, his album has certainly not been as popular as Adele’s 21, but then again, what album is these days?

Here’s the thing: I used to hate New York City cultural ambassador Taylor Swift when she came into the spotlight. However, I’ve matured since then, and now I find her incredibly amusing. Now, let me preface this by saying that I am well aware that I am not a “cool” person myself, but I can’t help but relish on the fact that such an uncool person as Taylor Swift could be so successful (hers is the biggest selling album of the year, isn’t it?).

Why do I think Taylor is uncool? Because she tries so hard, and we can tell that she’s trying. Do I believe her when she says she is “never getting back together”? Or when she says that she is going to “shake off” its haters, as she does in this song? Of course not. But she has reached a level of pop perfection in her music that I can’t help but admire. Seeing her awkwardly dance in the “Shake it Off” video is what my pop music ideal is all about.

And now we get to Meghan Trainor‘s “All About That Bass”, which has to win the music yearbook’s award for “most likely to be a one hit wonder”, doesn’t it? I mean, the first time I heard the song I thought it was pretty cute, but I was over it by the third time. I mean, it is, above all, a novelty song, and those always work better in small dozes. I mean, the more I listen to it, the more its message stops making sense. How am I supposed to reconciliate “every you is perfect from the bottom to the top” with “tell them skinny bitches that” and “boys want a booty to hold at night”. The gender politics of this song are whack.

While we’re on the subject of “All About That Bass”, it would be very interesting to take a look at these nominees from a “cultural appropriation” point of view. I am, of course, the wrong person to write that essay, but it’s pretty clear that, even in the case of the extremely vanilla Taylor Swift, there is a lot of cultural appropriation in these year’s nominees for “Record of the Year”, especially since neither Pharrell nor the be-all-end-all queen of pop music Beyonce were nominated (although they did get Album of the Year nominations). But then again, it’s not like that’s a new development in pop music, is it?

Anyway, to hell with it, here’s how I would rank these nominees:
1. “Fancy” 2. “Shake It Off” 3. “Stay With Me” 4. “Chandelier” 5. “All About That Bass”

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