Thursday, December 01, 2011

Grammy nominations

Adele's coronation; whatever happened to Duffy?

The Grammy nominations were announced last night, and Adele was clearly the big winner.  This surprised absolutely no one: singles "Rolling in the Deep" and "Someone Like You" were ubiquitous in 2011; her album 21 was a huge commercial success; and, not that this necessarily matters, 21 is a pretty terrific album.  Adele was named Best New Artist at the Grammys two years ago, after her promising debut album 19 was released, and her follow-up cemented her reputation as an artist that everyone (teenage girls, grandmothers, critics, music snobs, the gays, the straights: everyone) could like.  I will be very surprised if she does not win the major awards that she's nominated for.

I can't help but compare Adele's career trajectory to Duffy's.  Adele and Duffy are both young British soul singers who achieved fame at about the same time.  Both received comparisons to Amy Winehouse (generally favorable ones, particularly concerning their stability), and both were nominated for Best New Artist at the Grammys two years ago.  Both released their follow-up albums in the last year, but there their stories diverge.  Adele's 21 clearly catapulted her into the stratosphere, but Duffy's second album, ENDLESSLY, was greeted with shrugs.

And, quite simply, ENDLESSLY's not a very good record.  It's got some nice moments, but it feels like a significant step backwards from ROCKFERRY, which was a fantastic debut.  I still listen to it all the time (like right now, for example), and there are a handful of classics: the openers "Rockferry" and "Warwick Avenue", the single "Mercy" (whose "Yeah, yeah, yeah" refrain nicely counter-pointed Amy Winehouse's "No, no, no" of "Rehab"), and the breathtaking "Syrup & Honey", a ballad of heart-breaking romantic longing.

Two years ago, it appeared that Adele and Duffy were both at the beginning of long and wonderful careers.  It looks like Adele has made good of that promise; can Duffy rebound, or was she just a one-album wonder?

A few other random Grammy thoughts:

- What the hell is a Skrillex, and why does it sound like a Chemical Brothers b-side from 1997?


- I had hoped PJ Harvey's Mercury-winning LET ENGLAND SHAKE might get a Best Alternative Album nom, but it did not.

- There are, of course, a lot of upturned noses among the hipsters  at Bon Iver appearing in the Best New Artist category, since his first album, FOR EMMA, FOREVER AGO came out in 2008.  They question the "New"; I question the "Best".  Bon Iver (like Death Cab For Cutie, Belle and Sebastian, and so many others) is One Of Those Artists I Just Don't Get.

- The best category is, obviously, Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.  The nominees are: Tony Bennett.  Harry Connick Jr.  Barbra Streisand.  Susan Boyle.  And Seth MacFarlane.

- If Book of Mormon wins Best Musical Theatre Album, Trey Parker and Matt Stone will be an "O" away from EGOT.  In my head, they've already won the "O", since they really should have won for "Blame Canada".  (Phil Collins, seriously?  Yes, I'm still bitter, 12 years later.)

- As bad as BURLESQUE was - and, let's face it, it was pretty bad - "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me" was a terrific song, so I'm glad to see it get a Grammy nomination after getting overlooked by the Oscars.  Just like Springsteen's "The Wrestler"!

- Comparing Springsteen to Cher: my work here is done.