Eminem, The Eminem Show
Dixie Chicks, Home
Bruce Springsteen, The Rising
Norah Jones, Come Away With Me
Who should win: Norah’s my girl for the top honor in the music industry. She can serenade and tickle the ivories better than any chick in music and, better yet, she successfully rebelled against the grain with a simple yet innovative mainstream debut, a combination unheard of nowadays. Her music is accessible, interesting and universally endearing, and she recorded with the promotional backing of a small jazz label. She’s just what the music world and industry need to revitalize sagging sales and waning creativity.
Who will win: I can’t believe that you want me claim credit for pointing out the obvious, but if it’s not already painfully clear, I’ll tell you: Eminem and Nelly are doing what they always do, but now just selling more T-shirts along the way. The Dixie Chicks hit big with a cover, a kiss of death in the Academy. And Norah wandered too far into the outskirts of pop.ÊBut what about The Boss? Bruce has already cleared a spot on his mantle for that weird mini-gramophone that doesn’t actually play records. It’s been a tough year for America: our national security was seriously shaken, and the music industry is in shambles. No one else has combated hysteria over these threats with such great hooks and comforting choruses. Critics wet themselves over “The Rising” even before it rose out of the studio.
Record of the Year
Vanessa Carlton, “A Thousand Miles”
Eminem, “Without Me”
Norah Jones, “Don’t Know Why”
Nelly w/Kelly Rowland, “Dilemma”
Nickelback, “How You Remind Me”
Who should win: Since the Grammy for Record of the Year is awarded to the song’s producer and engineer as well as to the artist, how the song sounds in terms of arrangement and production is just as important here as the quality of the song itself. Based on those criteria, Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” is most deserving of the Record of the Year. The song’s beautiful and driving piano arrangement, coupled with occasional dramatic string passages and Carlton’s polished singing, certainly made this record the most original sounding pop song of 2002.
Who will win: Overall, there is no clear-cut favorite in this category, as each song seems to have as good a chance to win as the next. The most likely winner, however, will probably be Nelly and Kelly Rowland’s “Dilemma.” This hugely successful song, which is driven by Nelly’s gentle yet propulsive rhyming and an arrangement that is danceable yet subdued at the same time, combines the crisp production and radio popularity the Recording Academy is looking for in a Record of the Year.
Best New Artist
Who should win: I feel like the best new artist category is a sad statement of where music is today. Supposedly, these five nominees represent the BEST of what has emerged this year (and made money). Yet none of these nominees are really all that impressive. Michelle Branch is the new unoriginal, boring incarnation of country/rock/pop. Norah Jones was interesting for the thirty seconds that I forgot that there were three decades of female jazz singers who were actually soulful, and therefore Norah’s white-bred (bread? I never know) brand was hardly good or fresh. Avril Lavigne. Avril Lavigne. The next time I hear her name on the radio and can’t turn the dial fast enough to avoid hearing the slightest bit of her song, I vow to commit ritual suicide. Ashanti has a good voice, but refuses to use it to sing with any passion whatsoever (I suspect that producers may have something to do with that). I also have a bias against anyone who associates with Ja Rule. I actually liked John Mayer for a while — he is an incredible guitar player and a funny performer. However, I have heard his songs way too many times, and they have gotten old. Great choice for best NEW artist. I don’t know what else to say. Who should win? I suggest that the state of Florida vote on it.
Who will win: I haven’t really been following polls, sales charts, or listening to the radio, so my opinion is hardly well read. But if it were, I would be one of those losers who talks forever and ever like a guest on some E! show. Usually, the awards shows like to pick the really obvious ones that have made lots and lots of sales, but will throw in a surprise every once in a while to get good reaction shots of celebrities in the crowd, and make their sad affair a bit more interesting. If that is the case, they might give it to Norah or John, since these are sort of the “in” artists of the mainstream. Otherwise, I am guessing Avril. Blame Canada.
Song of the Year
“Complicated,” Avril Lavigne
“Don’t Know Why,” Norah Jones
“The Rising,” Bruce Springsteen
“A Thousand Miles,” Vanessa Carlton
“Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” Alan Jackson
Who should win: If you don’t like Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated,” you’re either brutally lying to yourself or haven’t heard it. The tune is very much the best song of the year, if not the catchiest little ditty since Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It doesn’t matter in the least that the song is about keeping it real and is sung (not to mention co-written) by a Canadian pop singer who makes Blink-182 look like the Ramones. The single is more infectious than genital warts, but way easier to tell your parents about.
Who will win: It’s hard to imagine the hockey-playing songstress will take home any awards for “Complicated.” Not much competition will come, though, from Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)” — partially because a just Lord wouldn’t award Song of the Year to one with parentheses in its title. I think it’ll go to Jesse Harris’ “Don’t Know Why,” sung by Norah Jones. After all, the award is for the actual songwriting, and “Don’t Know Why” is inherently better — albeit less catchy — than “Complicated.”
— Max Abelson