Grammy voters got it mostly right, with nods for top-notch acts like Green Day, Gretchen Wilson and Kanye West.
By GINA VIVINETTO, Times Pop Music Critic
Published February 13, 2005
Billie Joe Armstrong, frontman and guitarist for Green Day, performs with the band Feb. 5 in Brighton, England. Green Day’s rock opera American Idiot is nominated for Album of the Year. More about the band’s masterpiece, here.
Green Day grows up
Behind the critical success of American Idiot is a punk-rock band with a newfound maturity and artistic ambition.
Tonight's Grammy nominees are the most solid I've seen. I can't make fun or criticize anything about the choices made by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, the mysterious music industry people who choose who's worthy of what.
(Nobody actually knows who these people are. My bet is the committee features Charo, sometime label exec Tommy Mottola, Madonna's publicist, Nipsey Russell and Ed Sullivan (or if he can't participate from the grave, the guy who sings for Third Eye Blind.) Because I can't poke fun at Grammy nominees (insert sound of crowd's displeasure), I'll share my choices for winners. See if your choices jibe with mine. If so, neat! We can swap CDs sometime. If not, I guess I can expect your barbed comments in an e-mail. Because one thing music freaks enjoy doing as much as listening to music is sharing their opinions about it.
Here are my picks:
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: Remember, this award goes to the best from any genre. The contenders are all good, but I don't think Alicia Keys' sophomore The Diary of Alicia Keys is a knockout. Usher's Confessions is solid, but it's not the weighty material that is Green Day's truly brilliant American Idiot. That bristling rock opera is political, musically adventurous and breathtaking. And it's no secret that I'm blown away by rapper Kanye West and his brilliant debut, The College Dropout.
The late Ray Charles, also a favorite of mine, and his musical friends made a fine bunch of collaborations on Genius Loves Company.
Tough call. I'll be thrilled if Green Day or West takes the win.
SONG OF THE YEAR: My vote goes to West's Jesus Walks for proving that West was wrong. He can rap about his faith and still sell records.
BEST NEW ARTIST: I tip my hat to West as a new artist, although he has been producing for years. Country maverick Gretchen Wilson has added sass and authenticity to a humdrum contemporary-country scene. I do like young soul singer Joss Stone, the British lass who made a version of the White Stripes' Fell In Love With a Girl, switching the gender, on The Soul Sessions, her wonderful debut.
I'm rooting for Wilson because, dang it, she comes from hard times and I want her to get even more accolades in this world.
BEST ELECTRONIC/DANCE ALBUM: Sure, the Prodigy record (Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned) has that great remake of the Fifth Dimension's Up, Up and Away (well, sort of) with vocalist Juliette Lewis (yes, the nutty Hollywood actor). But it was Basement Jaxx's Kish Kash that totally blew the mind of this dancing fool.
BEST ROCK ALBUM: Green Day's American Idiot versus the Killers' Hot Fuss? That's not fair! My vote goes to Green Day because why weren't the synth-drenched, New Wave-sounding Killers nominated in the category for . . .
BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM: Of course, would I choose the Killers' album over the nearly perfect self-titled debut by Franz Ferdinand? Or the gorgeously trippy Good News For People Who Love Bad News by Modest Mouse? Or Bjork's avant-garde, a cappella Medulla?
Okay, ready for a secret? You're gonna tar and feather me, but I didn't flip over the other nominees: P.J. Harvey's Uh Huh Her or Wilco's A Ghost Is Born.
So, who gets my vote? Um . . . um.
Okay! Okay: Franz Ferdinand.
BEST R&B ALBUM: What? Anita Baker? Are you kidding? Baker's new album was a snoozefest! However, Prince's sizzling Musicology and Jill Scott's Beautifully Human: Words & Sounds Vol.2 were hot. I want either of those to win.
BEST CONTEMPORARY R&B ALBUM: Janet Jackson's Damita Jo is one of the year's worst albums; it has no business being in this category. Usher's Confessions should take this and run, deservedly so.
BEST RAP ALBUM: This category is one of the year's toughest: West against brilliant veteran Jay-Z's The Black Album, which is reportedly his swan song. Yikes. The Beastie Boys' feisty and political return to form To the 5 Boroughs was also a heavy hitter. I'm wimping out here, backing West and Jay-Z.
BEST COUNTRY ALBUM: I'm 100 percent behind Loretta Lynn's Van Lear Rose. Lynn is one of the best songwriters country music has known, and Rose finds her, in her 70s, back in the saddle and in top form. (Special props to the other women in this category for two of country's best albums last year: Tift Merritt for Tambourine and Gretchen Wilson for Redneck Woman).
BEST BLUEGRASS ALBUM: Ralph Stanley II's Carrying On has my vote. BEST CONTEMPORARY JAZZ ALBUM: I'm going with Bill Frisell's Unspeakable.
BEST JAZZ VOCAL ALBUM: Nancy Wilson's R.S.V.P. (Rare Songs, Very Personal) has it all over the albums by Al Jarreau and Dana Owens, also known as Queen Latifah, whom I credit with trying to branch out into another genre.
BEST JAZZ INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM, INDIVIDUAL OR GROUP: Give it up to two great modern jazz records, the Branford Marsalis Quartet's Eternal and The Out-of-Towners featuring Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock and the Jack DeJohnette Trio. Anyone who says jazz is dead isn't listening. BEST LATIN ROCK/ALTERNATIVE ALBUM: Refer to Ozomatli's Street Signs to find out what wild and wonky Latin music should sound like. BEST CONTEMPORARY BLUES ALBUM: I liked Charlie Musselwhite's sublime Sanctuary.
BEST CONTEMPORARY FOLK ALBUM: It's not fair putting an album of various artists performing the classic songs of the Carter Family in this category against the likes of Ani DiFranco, Steve Earle, Patty Griffin and Eliza Gilkyson.
So, I'm going to pretend that The Unbroken Circle: The Musical Heritage of the Carter Family doesn't exist - hey, it's my column!
Then I'm going to vote for Earle's bristling The Revolution Starts . . . Now.
BEST REGGAE ALBUM: I love everyone in this category, Toots, Sly and Robbie, Jimmy Cliff and Steel Pulse, even all the artists on the Def Jamaica record. I'll go with Sly and Robbie just for the dub.
BEST CONTEMPORARY WORLD MUSIC ALBUM: Definitely Youssou N'Dour's stunning Egypt. Before the first song had ended, I was at last a fan of this well-known international artist, whose name I had long known, but not his music.