Friday, February 12, 2016

The Grammys Are Coming -- Part 4

Here it is. My final Grammys post. After reviewing the Best New Artist, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year, here comes the Record of the Year. This award is given for the recording as a whole. It goes to the artist and the production team, including the producer and engineering team. In some ways I had the hardest time deciding on this category. I wonder if it's because I'm not really very knowledgeable about the production side of the musical world as compared to the songwriting. Who knows? Whatever the reason, here is my latest set of reviews.

* * * * * * * * * *

"Really Love"
D'Angelo And The Vanguard
Track from: Black Messiah

How have I missed D'Angelo? Somewhere along the way I've probably been vaguely aware of him, and I know he's had a very hit-or-miss career and life in general, so maybe that's why he was unfamiliar at this point. But, wow. This was a great recording. Apparently Neo Soul is what I've been looking for to satisfy my nostalgia for funk-infused R&B-Jazz fusion. How's that for a unique mash-up? D'Angelo's is actually the first song I consciously listened to when I started working on all of this music for the Grammys. My first thought was if this was just the beginning, I was in for a treat. Like I said earlier, I don't entirely understand the behind-the-scenes work that goes into production, mixing, engineering, and whatever it takes to actually bring a record to the public. What I do know is that this track is seriously great.

"Uptown Funk"
Mark Ronson Featuring Bruno Mars
Track from: Uptown Special

I think the first time I heard this song was when Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars were on SNL together. Stacy was scanning through the show to look for our favorite parts and I was in another room playing a game. When this song came on everything stopped. We had to watch and listen. Bruno Mars has one of those sounds that is classic. He takes the old and makes it modern and hip, and whatever he and Ronson did together here is pure gold. The song came out quite a while ago so I almost forgot about it when the nominations came out. This record captures all of the best of the R&B genre (with all of its sub-genre) and takes me back to all the music I listened to growing up. Loved it.

(Mark Ronson's TED Talk on music sampling is great, too. Give it a watch if you get the chance.)

And how much fun would it be to groove with these guys?

"Thinking Out Loud"
Ed Sheeran
Track from: X

On this one, I'm not sure how to tease out what makes it deserving of not only the Song of the Year but Record of the Year as well. I mean, it's a great song. His voice and guitar work are impeccable. The entire track is so easy on the ears it's ridiculous. I really don't know what else to say about it except that songs like this make me pre-order Sheeran's albums when they come out. I just know every album will have tracks this great.

Yes, this is the same video as the one from the Song of the Year category. And your point?

"Blank Space"
Taylor Swift
Track from: 1989

Can you tell that the nuance between Record and Song are difficult for me. I will say that Taylor Swift has captured the retro feel she was going for on this one. And this is one of those songs where we get a blend of great vocals and 80s-esque digital instrumentation. The whole thing works extremely well.

Did I hear this song many, many times since its release? Yes. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily.

"Can't Feel My Face"
The Weeknd
Track from: Beauty Behind the Madness

I heard so many people make fun of this song that it was hard to take it seriously when it was on the list of nominees. Honestly, I don't think I'd even heard the song at all before I undertook this Grammy goal. Maybe I heard a bit on the radio as one of the kids was flipping through and said something like, "Argh! Not this song again!" I really couldn't tell you. The record is smooth, that is for sure. Like Prince and Michael smooth. I've been harsh with my commentary on The Weeknd, and I am not going to back down, but this track is a nice surprise.

Ignore the hair and my previous panning of his album. This track is actually decent.

* * * * * * * * * *

My Choice: I'd love to see Ed Sheeran win here because I'm just a huge Sheeran fan, but if I'm being totally objective here, I think I have to go with "Uptown Funk." The overall sound Mars and Ronson achieve here are still my favorite of all the group. D'Angelo's "Really Love" is a close second.

My Prediction: I really don't know what to say here. Of all the categories, this is the one where I feel most lost. This is really stab in the dark, but I'm going with "Really Love" by D'Angelo.

* * * * * * * * * *

So there you have it. A few days until the Grammys and my predictions are in. All I need is to get credited on some album and the recording academy can ask me for my official opinion next year.


Jimmy said...

Where to start...

I would have never put Can't Feel My Face up there for Record of the Year because what? You had a root canal or something? But then you went and showed me the video and now I'm a fan. He has so many MJ inspired moves that just for honoring MJ like that, I have to like him now. That's what MJ meant when he said sing it like you mean it.

I want to personally thank those who procreated to make Bruno Mars, thus ensuring that the DNA of funk is passed on to future generations now that MJ and James Brown are gone and Prince is getting up there in age. The force is with Bruno now. The world is in good hands.

I feel like I need to apologize, but I fail at getting in deep to the jazz scene. Something's wrong with me. It's not you, jazz, it's me.

Ed Sheeran is good. Solid. He's a guy with a guitar doing exactly what he should be doing on earth. I'm a huge fan. That song is great. It never gets old to me. But despite his honest efforts, I still think it's safe to say that redheads shouldn't rap.

Thanks, Mark! I hope you continue with this type of thing. It's been really fun.

Boquinha said...

Whoa. D'angelo is wild! Very throwback. You're not kidding! I kind of dig the Spanish intro, too. And did you catch the vinyl-static sound at the very end? I love that sound!

Ohhh, I remember that moment now that you mention it. Which song was it? Uptown Funk? I thought it was Runaway Baby (which is GREAT fun to watch him perform). Such great energy. I prefer it even to this one. Mark, you HAVE to find a way to play your horn. I miss seeing YOU groove with it. For real. Please. Promise me.

And he really does sound like Michael Jackson in that video! Whoa! I love Jimmy's comment and read it specifically because I wanted to hear his thoughts on the MJ similarities. It sounds like it's too bad The Weeknd's other lyrics and songs are so misogynistic and awful. :(

But Jimmy, Ed Sheeran's "rapping" to me isn't like other rapping. It's word poetry. It's slam poetry. It's SO different and, quite honestly, I MUCH prefer it to regular rap. It's so so good! Aaaahhhh! He makes me all melty!!

These are great, Mark. I'm so excited to watch the Grammys together tomorrow and I'm so glad to read these posts before then. Thank you!!

Dr. Mark said...

Jimmy -- I'm glad you've enjoyed the posts. It fun to get some thoughts out there and see what someone has to think. I wish The Weeknd had more "clean" songs out there because there is no doubt that he is talented. I just hate when artists of all types push the boundaries just to do it. I have way more respect for the artists that have a greater purpose behind all that envelope pushing. No need for an apology--I feel like I may have read an article somewhere that suggested that even our taste in music is somewhat affected by our genetics. I'm sure jazz is okay with it. And yes, let's clone Bruno so old school funk never dies. The guy is the real deal.

Stacy -- It was definitely "Uptown Funk." The performance you're thinking of is when Bruno Mars was on the Grammys a few years ago. So awesome. And I agree about Ed Sheeran. It's definitely slam poetry more than rap. I can't find him on any list of this year's performers at the awards show, but hopefully we'll see lots of him tonight.

Dr. Mark said...

Oh, and I found this question on a Billboard article about this year's Grammys. It references The Weeknd. "Can his pop-breakthrough momentum overcome voters' distaste for his songs' archly sleazy sex-and-drugs themes?" Yeah, that about sums it up.

Siths and Jedis said...

I like these posts a lot, like I said. The Grammys were really good. I hope to read these posts again next year.