Scooter Braun, the pop-music puppet master of the moment, is upset that his boy Justin Bieber failed to receive a single Grammy nomination. “I just plain DISAGREE,” Braun tweeted in an upper-case rage. “The kid deserved it. Grammy board u blew it on this one.” Braun may have been upset for himself as much as he was for the kid. Another of his clients, the English boy band The Wanted, was snubbed as well. But Bieber and the boys sang their songs; securing Grammy noms is Braun’s job . And so, perhaps it was Scooter who blew it.
Braun consoled the Stratford, Ont., superstar and the kid’s fan base, pecking out on his keypad that Bieber nation would “stay the underdog a little longer,” even though it is more or less the opposite of that.
The thing is, should Braun or anyone else be upset over the decisions of Grammy? Does anyone really attach that much meaning to the recording industry’s idea of validation? The usually fiery Simon Cowell had a decidedly cool-headed reaction to the apparent snub of his own product (the dominant British boy band One Direction), noting that his guys had a fine year, trophies or not. “You know what’s more important? Fans, record sales,” he told MTV. “I’ve always said that.”
A Grammy doesn’t make reputations like the weightier taste-making voice of Oscar. As Steve Knopper noted at rollingstone.com, what the Grammys honour are “songs and albums with artistic merit and decent sales as well as performers who might look nice on TV.” Pretty straightforward.
When the nominations were announced on Wednesday, naturally the choices were scrutinized. Given that the list comes out in December, we look at the names and numbers, expecting them to reflect the goings-on in the music world for the year passed. Was that accomplished? Yes and no.
Electronic dance music (EDM) was a continuing thing in 2012, but the knob-tweaking genre was not represented in the major album/song/record categories. Not a surprise, as EDM is a live phenomenon.
Smooth, moody and sometimes sensitive R&B was a hit, with the traditional base and inroads to cool kids and critics as well. For his debut studio album Channel Orange, the New Orleans singer-songwriter Frank Ocean earned six nominations. Three of the disc’s songs charted, and of course there was the matter of his blogged open letter – an elegant, personal story of his same-sex attraction – that made him “the most talked-about man in music,” according to the Guardian. Also in this field, five-nom attention was directed toward the mono-named artist Miguel, whose album Kaleidoscope Dream includes the song-of-the-year hopeful Adorn. (Toronto’s crooning lover-man The Weeknd released his major label debut after Grammy’s Sept. 30 deadline.)
Mention Gangnam Style to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, and that body says sigh instead of Psy, the South Korean YouTube sensation. This guy’s novelty lapses soon; Grammy bets that he will have galloped off into the sunset before the Feb. 10 telecast date.
The other artists with a half-dozen nominations are Jay-Z, Kanye West, Mumford & Sons and, on the strength of its anthemic We Are Young, the New York indie-pop band Fun. Notice that while West and Beyoncé’s husband (who teamed up for 2011 album Watch the Throne) fared well, rap music was again ghettoized, with no representation in the four major categories.
The Black Keys earned five nominations, plus one more for front-man Dan Auerbach (as a producer). Auerbach produced Dr. John’s Locked Down, which, absolutely deservedly, is in the running for the best blues disc. Curiously, Gary Clark Jr., the blues story of 2012, was left down and out by Grammy.
As were Bieber and the boy bands mentioned above. However, yet another of Braun’s clients, Vancouver’s Carly Rae Jepsen, earned two nominations for the unavoidable hit Call Me Maybe. Come February, will the Recording Academy call her again? It doesn’t matter. She had the song of the year, trophy or not.