Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Grammys Are Coming--Part 4 (2017)

The category I saved for last is Album of the Year. Mostly, I was trying to buy myself some time since I wasn't familiar with four of the albums, and one is old enough that I had to completely remind myself of it. I think there is a clear winner in this group, but there have been surprises before. Overall, I'm sort of underwhelmed by the choices this year, and I'm not sure if that's just my personal taste, if the Grammy committee missed something way better out there, or if the field just isn't that strong this year.

* * * * * * * * * *

25, Adele

Adele is great. Her voice is magic and you always feel like you're hearing someone at her best. I do think a lot of her music starts to blend together. With that said, her songwriting is fantastic, her recordings are always impressive, and her passion is unmistakable. So, the album is a great listen and worthy of attention. It definitely holds its own and then some among this group.

Instead of posting the same song again, here's another track from her album, albeit performed somewhat live.

* * * * * * * * * *

Lemonade, Beyoncé

This album is something pretty unique. Beyoncé covers a lot of styles and hits a lot of important topics. It's a manifesto about black power, feminism, Southern stereotypes, and more. The fact that it was actually released as part of a one-hour video presentation should say something about the work itself. It's a concept that can't even be fully appreciated without the visuals. After listening to the album, I can see why the questions about her and Jay-Z came flying fast and furious. There are several lyrics that hint at problems. I will say that rumors about celebrity couples don't faze me anymore.

Here is another single from her album. Trigger warning: there is a lot of underwater imagery in the beginning that may make some people feel short of breath.

* * * * * * * * * *

Purpose, Justin Bieber

I will probably never be a Bieber fan. We have too much history and there are things about his singing style that I find unlikable. His voice is still too nasally for me, and after all of the Kate McKinnon impressions on SNL, I find it very hard to even look at him without laughing. Leaving all prejudice behind, I will give him credit. This is a very mature album that is constructed very effectively. The title is a bit presumptuous, and some of the lyrics are a bit on the nose for me, but I will admit that I was wrong when my first inclination was to dismiss it.

This is the title track, and it's a good one. I still find something about Justin Bieber very irritating whenever I see him, but I recognize this is probably rooted in a lot of my earlier judgments of him. I'll give him props where props are due.

* * * * * * * * * *

Views, Drake

Drake has never been an artist I cared much about, and even after this listen, nothing has changed. I still don't get what all the fuss is about him. When I've seen him be interviewed he seems perfectly likable--probably because he's Canadian--but I just don't get it. This album is supposed to be unique for him because of the variety of styles he uses. Most of it is in the dancehall vein, and that may be why I don't really like it that much. Also, this is one of the albums that makes me feel like it was a weak year for music. Hey, it may just be my personal taste, so if he takes home the Grammy, I will applaud an artist that put out good music this year. I'm just not buying it.

I wanted to embed a shortened video to cut out the nearly two-minute intro to this video, but it wouldn't embed. Here's the link to "One Dance," which was one of the best tracks from the album. It gives you an idea of the style Drake's going for.

* * * * * * * * * *

A Sailor's Guide To Earth, Sturgill Simpson

Sturgill Simpson was a complete unknown to me when this nomination came in. I hadn't heard any buzz. I'd never heard of this album. Part of it is because it's not the genre I keep up on, but normally I've heard of the big releases from the previous year. He comes off as older than he is, but that's probably because he is squarely in the middle of the outlaw country world. His sound is most definitely a throwback to classic artists like Johnny Cash and Merle Haggard. The album was not my cup of tea, but not hard to listen to. It was a good concept album, and that's probably what thrust it to the front of the Grammy committee's minds.

"In Bloom" is a Nirvana cover, which took me by surprise.

* * * * * * * * * *

My Choice: Honestly, take your pick. I'm down on Drake and Sturgill Simpson, but that's probably just because my personal tastes don't line up. If I had to pick one, I'd choose Lemondade. Purpose is a surprising second choice for me.

My Prediction: Lemonade. I think that this concept album is the strongest top to bottom, and barring some sort of political bias that I'm unaware of, the Grammys are going to reward Beyoncé for her timely message.


The Magic Violinist said...

I remember really liking Adele's newest album when I listened to it, but I couldn't pick out a single track from it (except for "Hello") if I tried. Justin Bieber's new stuff is surprisingly good. It's got to be hard to try and reinvent yourself after you've been known as a teenage punk for so many years.

Dr. Mark said...

That was essentially my point about Bieber. It's going to be a while before anyone puts his past in the rear view mirror for good.

Boquinha said...

"probably because he's Canadian" - made me snort/laugh out loud. Love this.

Drake's song? Songs like that drive me CRAZY. Like I want it to build up, crescendo, and get going in some way. When the whole song is the same and sleepy and so . . . level . . . it makes me kind of antsy. Dislike.

And Sturgill? No. Just no. We heard him on SNL, remember? For like a few seconds anyway before we all said "no" collectively.

Feeling kind of meh about the Grammys this year. Let's hope the performances are good.

Jimmy said...

I know this is after the fact. I was on business travel so just now catching up...

Bieber is Canadian, too, BTW. Just sayin. In his case, I think less hair dye and a more adult haircut would go a long way for him.

I kind of found myself liking Sturgill. At least that one song. It had a Dwight Yoakam feel to it and Dwight Yoakum is the only good thing I have to say about contemporary Country. Although like me, he's not as contemporary as I like to think I am.

Beyonce was robbed. I hear she's annoying people lately and her pregnancy pictures are just weird, but that album took her to a new level, whereas I don't know the difference between 22, 23, 24, or 265 from Adele.

Boquinha said...

Jimmy, did you see Adele's speech when she found out she won instead of Beyonce? It was excellent and you could tell she was super uncomfortable. I loved Adele's personality and demeanor throughout the entire show - she is polished and talented, but never lets that get in the way of being REAL. She stopped the music during her tribute to George Michael because she was off and said she needed to start again because he deserves better. During one of her wins, she shared a very short speech so her manager could speak and they cut him off by playing music over him and moving to a camera on another stage, so when she got to the stage the next time, she deferred completely to him and yelled into the microphone a little angrily, "You cut him off before!" And then at the end when she won the big award, her speech was HELLA genuine and so heartfelt and moving. It was hard to not cry. She completely deferred to Beyonce and spoke so highly of her. It was painful and excellent at the same time. My views on Adele have skyrocketed. I'd love to be friends with her. (And yes, Beyonce was robbed - even Adele knows it.)

Jimmy said...

Stacy after your reading your post I Youtubed it and I agree. Pretty classy and genuine. In the effort to be fair, I do want to say that I find her cursing unnecessary, and from other interviews I've seen with her she seems to fall back on it pretty often.

If I'm going to call Beyonce out for it, figured I should call her out, too.

Dr. Mark said...

Adele sure strikes me as the "other side of the tracks" kind of Brit, as compared to the High Tea-sipping Downton Abbey types. I find the way she presents herself to be quite refreshing, but I can see where she could offend as well. One of my friends posted an article that pointed out all the non-racist reasons why Beyonce actually didn't deserve the Album of the Year Grammy. It made some decent points, but I still think she deserved the Grammy. Overall, though, I was pretty disappointed. What a down year.