Every award show is a vainglorious shit parade perpetrated by self-interested, self-congratulatory fartknuckles. They’re all despicable, predictable exercises in conspicuous consumption that fly in the face of what art should mean. And that is exactly why I’m stoked for the Grammys this year.
Most years I’d be like “Screw the Grammys,” only tuning in if there was a good party full of shade-throwing music nerds. Even then I’d probably spend most of the show on the back porch talking about Appalachian drone-folk or some other esoteric release. That’s because I am, by vocation, a music critic. For most of my adult life I have earned my living by writing about music, usually the weird sort that nobody really likes but that still counts as “important.” Most years I have my head crammed so deep in the underground I wouldn’t be able to tell you who 90 percent of Grammy nominees are.
But 2016 was the year it all went haywire. I wrote a book about the birth of punk rock, and my constant search for new music, which had defined my personal and professional life for decades, came to a screeching halt. Last year was the year I discovered most of my new music via the in-house propaganda channel at Planet Fitness or bands I discovered on TV. I interviewed a bunch of baby boomer musicians and bro-country dudes, which is the least punk rock thing ever.
And now I feel oddly invested in who wins the 59th Annual Music Industry Rub N Tug. Weirder things have happened. Anyway, here are my predictions for The Big Show.
Terrible bands that sold a lot of records will win big, unfortunately
Spoiler alert: The Grammys are a popularity contest. And as if that weren’t lame enough, they’re basically an office popularity contest, with far-flung colleagues voting for whichever peers they thought had the best year. So even though last year was filled with bold, creative work pushing the boundaries of what pop music can mean — like Beyonce’s Lemonade, Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth and Anderson.Paak’s Malibu — there’s a good chance the awards will go to the most insipid options.
Basically, expect rappish pretty-boy dubpop duo Twenty One Pilots to have a big night. They are huge with the hip tween and are proof that you should always wear a rubber while doin’ it to Sublime. Twenty One Pilots fielded two simultaneous Top 5 hits, a weird feat that puts them in the same trivia questions as Elvis, the Beatles and Macklemore. And they are just so damn corny. It is incredibly milquetoast music. It’s like they sat down and said “How do we get our music on Planet Fitness’ in-house propaganda channel?” and then wrote an album. This is music that can only exist in a judgment-free zone.
Kanye could (should?) get snubbed
Most years I would tell you that Kanye should win a bunch of stuff and Life of Pablo, his never-quite-finalized public meltdown, is a genuinely artful, challenging and creative meditation on modern celebrity. But last year Yeezy managed to make enemies of some of the most ardent supporters of his artistic and personal transgressions. Hanging out with the Cheetoh-in-Chief didn’t help his cause and I wouldn’t be surprised if Kanye gets completely snubbed this year. He eventually rescinded his endorsement of Trump, but that happened weeks after voting for the Grammy’s had closed—far too long after people had decided they fucking hate Kanye.
Beyoncé deserves all the awards
Lemonade is my pick for Album of the Year. “Formation” is clearly the Song of the Year. And the Best Rock Song is definitely the Zeppelin-sampling, Jack White-featuring “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” (It’s totally insane that it was even nominated but hey, there’s no reason Bey can’t deliver the best rock song of the year, too.) Lemonade was one of the year’s heaviest, funkiest records; a concept record packed with mystical imagery and percussive precision. Beyonce managed to piss off a lot of shitty, uptight people this year and make some Big Important Art that bangs hard on the stereo while doing it, so Lemonade should also win the not-a-category-but-should-be Most Punk Rock.
I’m so into you, Ariana Grande
Doughnut-licking weirdo Ariana Grande is my pick for Millennial Linda Ronstadt, one of this generation’s greatest singers who is likely to never get the respect she deserves. (If she gets snubbed by the post-apocalyptic answer to the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, I’m going to be pissed. Even if I’m most just a pile of irradiated goo.) She also get my vote for Best Pop Vocal. Grande’s voice is an amazing instrument, her song selection is always stellar and she is supported by some of the best musicians in the game. She’s not an auteur in the old-dude chin-scratching’ sense, but she steers a big boat full of creative people that make some damn catchy tunes. Aging Music Nerd Approved, for sure.
Adele will probably be rolling deep in awards
Adele will take a bunch of trophies home. 25 was a huge record that moved honest-to-god physical product. Like in stores and stuff! Old Lames love snore-core and the Academy is pretty old and lame. And the Old Lames at the Academy love when an artist sells physical product. Adele is maybe one of the best celebrities working today. She’s affable and honest and 100 percent real. She is a great talk show guest. But her music is borrrrrrrring, which makes it a perfect storm for a Grammy win, really. The dark horse here is Justin Bieber. His EDM-crooner redemption arc has been huge with the cool kids but might not have trickled up to Grammy voters. And Grown Up Bieber is still pretty insufferable, though the new songs are genuinely cool takes on the smooth, 21st-century, dance-pop thing.
Positive vibes all around
Best New Age record comes down to a coin flip: Enya versus Vangelis. Who can choose? No, seriously: That’s a tough choice. Best New Artist is an easy one: Chance the Rapper. Chance’s third album/mixtape/whatever-you-kids-call-it-these-days is a psychedelic gospel masterpiece, like Dark Side of the Moon but not totally fucking miserable. Honorable mention goes to Anderson.Paak who only lost out because I have a weird distrust of singing drummers. (Blame Don Henley.)
Bros gonna bro their way to victory, too
The Alternative Category should go to Baroness, because their Southern art-metal is awe-inspiring and it might because they’ve been kicking a lot of ass for a real long time. The rock category will go to someone old, like Radiohead. R&B album goes to Buy, but don’t sleep on KING who are keeping real-deal soul harmonies alive and vital. And Country will probably go to Sturgill Simpson, even though he keeps telling the industry to go fuck themselves. Which they should. But whatever. That’s the Grammys, in a nutshell.