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Grammy preview: Who should win, who was snubbed and where is Miley?

Published January 26, 2014 10:15 am

Music • Critic assesses who should win and who was snubbed, and asks, "Where is Miley?"
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Jay Z undeservedly leads the nominations with nine nods, but the most anticipation leading up to the 56th annual Grammy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on Sunday revolves around one question:

Will Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr play together as part of the Beatles being presented a Lifetime Achievement Award?

The two surviving Beatles initially were listed as separate performers, but Grammy reps are not ruling out a joint appearance. It would be the duo's first since July 2010.

Confirmed performers at the ceremony include Daft Punk and Stevie Wonder dueting, Taylor Swift, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Metallica with pianist Lang Lang, Katy Perry, Lorde, Kendrick Lamar with Imagine Dragons, P!nk with Nate Ruess, and Robin Thicke with Chicago.

Oh, yeah, there are also awards to be handed out. Here are my thoughts on who should win certain awards, who shouldn't, and who got snubbed when nominations were announced.

RECORD OF THE YEAR

"Get Lucky," Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers

"Radioactive," Imagine Dragons

"Royals," Lorde

"Locked Out of Heaven," Bruno Mars

"Blurred Lines," Robin Thicke featuring T.I. & Pharrell

Who should win • It feels wrong to call Daft Punk "elder statesmen," but in this category, Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo definitely are. And this year, with two songs featuring Pharrell getting nominated, "Get Lucky" was a much better song about sex than Robin Thicke's creepy one. Bruno Mars and Imagine Dragons also deserve the nomination, but not the Grammy.

Who should not win • It's too early for Lorde to win. Don't make this a career highlight for her.

Who got snubbed • Musicians in country music. There were great records from women in country music this year, especially singles from Kacey Musgraves, Ashley Monroe, the Pistol Annies and Taylor Swift, who could have been honored for any of the following: "Begin Again," "I Knew You Were Trouble" and "Red." Plus, no Miley Cyrus?

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

"The Blessed Unrest," Sara Bareilles

"Random Access Memories," Daft Punk

"Good Kid, M.A.A.D City," Kendrick Lamar

"The Heist," Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

"Red," Taylor Swift

Who should win • "Red" and "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City" were named to my best-of-2013 lists, but I would give the award to Kendrick Lamar, the new face of West Coast rap. On the other hand, Taylor Swift, despite our collective nausea over her winning so many awards in the past, made the best album of her young but prolific life.

Who should not win • Sara Bareilles, for all of her virtues, only got a lot of attention this year because people thought Katy Perry ripped off her song "Brave."

Who got snubbed • Kanye West, for all of his faults, deserved this. And he will let us know that he deserves it, too.

SONG OF THE YEAR

"Just Give Me a Reason," P!nk featuring Nate Ruess

"Locked Out of Heaven," Bruno Mars

"Roar," Katy Perry

"Royals," Lorde

"Same Love," Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert

Who should win • Although P!nk wrote the best song of her life and Bruno Mars is worthy, far and away the winners should be Macklemore, Ryan Lewis and Mary Lambert, who disproved the notion that rapping automatically makes you a homophobe. Lambert's chorus of "She keeps me warm" is the most memorable and poignant one of the year. And kudos for being topical.

Who should not win • I do not care whether Katy Perry plagiarized Sara Bareilles' song "Brave," because all musicians steal from one another in some way. But "Roar" is a boilerplate self-empowerment song that Perry seems be obsessing over since her divorce. Pick another topic, Katy. The Spice Girls were much more fun when singing about girl power.

Who got snubbed • Justin Timberlake, who created one the best-produced pop songs of the year, "Mirrors." And still, no Miley? Really?

BEST NEW ARTIST

James Blake

Kendrick Lamar

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Kacey Musgraves

Ed Sheeran

Who should win • As much as Kacey Musgraves deserves to take home the Grammy for an astonishingly great country debut, Kendrick Lamar has ascended so far in the past year that it is hard to think of him as a "new" artist. Don't kill his vibe.

Who should not win • Every other person nominated — just because Musgraves and Lamar are so strong. And I know the rules of who is "new" and who isn't are near-indecipherable, but Sheeran was nominated last year for best song, which you would think would lead to not being nominated as a "new" artist this year.

Who got snubbed • I'm not the biggest fan of 17-year-old Ella Yelich O'Connor, better known as Lorde, but how is it that she gets nominated in two of the top three categories but not this?

BEST ROCK PERFORMANCE

"Always Alright," Alabama Shakes

"The Stars (Are Out Tonight)," David Bowie

"Radioactive," Imagine Dragons

"Kashmir,"Led Zeppelin

"My God Is the Sun," Queens of the Stone Age

"I'm Shakin'," Jack White

Who should win • I am still not sick of hearing Dan Reynolds breathe heavily on "Radioactive," but "Always Alright," from the "Silver Linings Playbook" film, has a whimsical, uplifting groove that doesn't let go.

Who should not win • "Kashmir," from Led Zeppelin's live album "Celebration Day," was a great song and always will be, but c'mon. Let's be serious. It's 2014, not 1975.

Who got snubbed • Pearl Jam's "Sirens" doesn't rock as hard as any of those listed, but can you believe this band has only one Grammy to its name? For shame.

BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM

"The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You," Neko Case

"Trouble Will Find Me," The National

"Hesitation Marks," Nine Inch Nails

"Lonerism," Tame Impala

"Modern Vampires of the City," Vampire Weekend

Who should win • "Modern Vampires of the City" was one the best albums of the year, regardless of genre, for its innovative take on Americana using world music as a vehicle.

Who should not win • "Hesitation Marks" was one of the year's biggest disappointments, because ordinarily I would follow Trent Reznor anywhere (except on this album and into the "Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" remake). But The National's "Trouble Will Find Me" was just so, um, boring.

Who got snubbed • I don't know what "alternative" means anymore, but possibly included in that genre is Paramore, which lost two co-founders but still made the best music of its career on its self-titled album.

BEST RAP ALBUM

"Nothing Was the Same," Drake

"Magna Carta … Holy Grail," Jay Z

"Good Kid, M.A.A.D City," Kendrick Lamar

"The Heist," Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

"Yeezus," Kanye West

Who should win • Kanye West, for creating the most challenging music of the year that eclipsed his peers by years, if not decades.

Who should not win • Jay Z's much-anticipated album sounded as if it was meant to be given away for free, which it initially was, to Samsung Galaxy owners. The Magna Carta and Holy Grail don't deserve to be associated with this lackluster, uninspired album.

Who got snubbed • Chance the Rapper, Earl Sweatshirt and J. Cole all deserved Jay Z's spot on this list. Danny Brown's 2013 album was released a week after the deadline for consideration as a 2014 nominee, but he should get nominated in 2015 simply because he had A$AP Rocky guest on his album with the astute lyric, "So many numbers in my phone book / I could start a m——-f——— phone book."

BEST COUNTRY SOLO PERFORMANCE

"I Drive Your Truck," Lee Brice

"I Want Crazy," Hunter Hayes

"Mama's Broken Heart," Miranda Lambert

"Wagon Wheel," Darius Rucker

"Mine Would Be You," Blake Shelton

Who should win • Every artist here, with the exception of that guy from "The Voice." "I Want Crazy" is a fun song from the most talented person in country music, Miranda Lambert's "Mama's Broken Heart" is a firecracker co-written by the up-and-coming Kacey Musgraves, and "Wagon Wheel" originated from the pen of Bob Dylan. But in the end, Lee Brice's beautifully sung ode to a brother who died in action in the United States Army is the most moving country song that isn't about momma or trains or trucks or prison or gettin' drunk.

Who should not win • Blake Shelton is the odd man out in this otherwise strong category.

Who got snubbed • The three members of Lady Antebellum, who elevated "Wagon Wheel" to heaven with their backing vocals, but didn't get any credit in this category or Best Country Duo/Group Performance.

BEST COMPILATION SOUNDTRACK FOR VISUAL MEDIA

"Django Unchained," Quentin Tarantino, compilation producer

"The Great Gatsby (Deluxe Edition)," Baz Luhrmann, compilation producer

"Les Misérables (Deluxe Edition)," Cameron Mackintosh, Lee McCutcheon & Stephan Metcalfe, compilation producers

"Muscle Shoals," Stephan Badger & Greg Camalier, compilation producers

"Sound City: Real to Reel," Butch Vig, compilation producer

Who should win • Another category packed with deserving candidates: Quentin Tarantino, the best compilation producer in show business; "The Great Gatsby," an unpredictable and fresh collection; and "Les Misérables," featuring an undeservedly criticized Hugh Jackman. (Sure, he's no Alfie Boe, but who is?) For my money, though, I would pick the soundtrack from one of two Sundance-debuted films: "Muscle Shoals," an eye-opening reminder of the great music that has come from that northern Alabama hamlet.

Who should not win • The film "Sound City" was an impressive and fun debut from Dave Grohl, but the accompanying soundtrack — each track written and recorded exclusively for the film within its own 24-hour session on the famed Sound City console, reinstalled in Grohl and his Foo Fighters' own 606 Studios — was self-indulgent and filled with half-finished songs. You would think one of the tunes, a song with the surviving members of Nirvana led by Paul McCartney, would be killer, but this was an even worse song than Macca's "Wonderful Christmastime."

Who got snubbed • The soundtrack of another Sundance-debuted and now Oscar-nominated documentary, "20 Feet From Stardom." The compilation does what the film aspired to do: Push backing singers to the front of the stage to show their firepower. Among the songs included on the album are a new recording of "Lean on Me," featuring Darlene Love, and the iconic Rolling Stones song "Gimme Shelter" performed by Merry Clayton, who sang backup on the same song by the Stones.

PRODUCER OF THE YEAR, NON-CLASSICAL

Rob Cavallo

Dr. Luke

Ariel Rechtshaid

Jeff Tweedy

Pharrell Williams

Who should win • This is always one of the most interesting categories, assessing the year's oeuvres from prominent and prolific producers. Even though 2013 often seemed like the Year of Pharrell, Rob Cavallo helmed high-quality, great-sounding works from artists as varied as Josh Groban, Green Day, Tegan and Sara, Gary Clark Jr., Lindsey Buckingham and Regina Spektor. He deserves not just a Grammy, but a ribbon.

Who should not win • If Ke$ha's mother is to believed, Dr. Luke bullied the singer into developing an eating disorder.

Who got snubbed • While the number of his production credits over the past year is dwarfed by most of those nominated, Alex Da Kid's hip-hop sensibility and sound blended EDM with other genres with uncommon skill. The Brit, years after producing the pop-rap crossover success "Love the Way You Lie" (with Eminem and Rihanna), is a big factor in Imagine Dragons' runaway success, with rock and dubstep working together to make the Utah-born band's sound the most emulated of the year. Alex Da Kid also steered singer Skylar Grey's sophomore album, "Don't Look Down," to No. 8 on the Billboard album chart. Perhaps Alex will be nominated next year for his production work on Eminem's "The Marshall Mathers LP 2," released after the cutoff date of Sept. 30, 2013. —

Watch and listen

The 56th annual Grammy Awards will be telecast by CBS, Ch. 2, on Sunday, Jan. 26, at 7 p.m.