As Neil Young sings on his thrice-nominated album Le Noise, it's an angry world out there, especially for those whose favourite musicians didn't show up on yesterday's list of nominees for the 53rd Grammy Awards, to be given out on Feb. 13. But Ke$ha's loss is someone else's gain; and the list is ripe with amusingly apt pairings (Michael Buble vs. Barry Manilow!) and generational match-ups (old rockers/rappers against new!). Here's some of what fell out when we gave the list a good shake:
Bieber vs. Drake: The Canadian newcomers were BFFs at last spring's Juno awards, where Drake won the prize for best new artist and promptly offered to share it with the Stratford moptop (Drake is the anointed Juno host for this year). The Grammys, which flirted with Drake last year but ultimately went home with others, offer a rematch in the newcomer category (weirdly, since Drake was plainly a new artist last year), and dangle another three possibilities for the Toronto rapper, including the rap album award (against Eminem and Kanye West, among others). Bieber is also up for pop vocal album, in a worlds-colliding heat that pits Lady Gaga against Susan Boyle.
Arcade Fire fans the flames: The Montreal indie band's entry for album of the year comes at the end of a remarkable chart-storming rush into the mainstream view-finder. But watch out for a repeat of Radiohead's experience in 2001, when the challenging Kid A lost this category to Steely Dan's safe and sensible Two Against Nature. The competition this time includes discs by Lady Gaga and Eminem. Two other categories pit the Fire against the Kings of Leon, Vampire Weekend, Broken Bells, Band of Horses and Black Keys (twice).
The fast rise of Bruno Mars: The Hawaiian singer, songwriter and producer blew up fast as a solo act this year with some high-profile guest vocal spots and a single ( Just the Way You Are) that has scored 50 million hits on YouTube. He's up for two awards each as songwriter, guest artist and producer (as one-third of the Smeezingtons), and could win any of those; but his single will probably lose the male pop vocal prize to sentimental favourite Michael Jackson's This is It (or should we say: That's that?).
Laurie Anderson vs. Jeff Beck: The postmodern performance artist goes to the mat with a bona fide rock guitar god. To make the match even more bizarre, Beck is nominated for his instrumental version of Nessun dorma, the show-stopping tenor aria from Puccini's opera Turandot.
That Cee Lo Green title: The catchy f-bomb single also known as Forget You is the one to beat this time for record and song of the year, and also has Green on the list for prizes in the urban/alternative performance and short video categories. How many winks and nudges will we have to endure from the podium as the presenters dodge the song's real name?
Eminem as Obi-Wan Kenobi: He came onstage briefly with Drake in Toronto last summer, and it almost felt as if the Kings of Leon had asked Keith Richards to step in for a solo. The snarling bad-boy of a decade ago is now the revered old warrior, loaded up with 10 nominations and facing down newcomers like Drake and T.I.
Before there were remixes: Canadian pianist Marc-André Hamelin's Études (nominated for instrumental solo without orchestra) is an album of his virtuoso reworkings of pieces by Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Alkan, Scarlatti. It's part of a Romantic tradition represented most notably by Leopold Godowsky, whose extravagant rewrites of Johann Strauss pieces filled up a Hamelin album two years ago.
Alex Cuba: Here's real movie-of-the-week material: Guy gets out of Cuba by marrying a Canadian, holes up in her small hometown in northern B.C., sparks wide interest with his Cuban fusion records, wins a Latin Grammy, and is now up for a "real" one for his self-titled debut (Latin pop album).
Glee vs. Idol: Glee compilations have two nominations, recent American Idol winners have none (Adam Lambert is on the list, but he missed an Idol win last year). Further signs that attention has strayed from the solo talent TV series to the group sing-fest.
Stony Plain Records and Elora Festival Singers: Proof that you can be based in Edmonton (like Stony Plain, on Grammy's traditional-folk-album list for Maria Muldaur & Her Garden of Joy) or rural Ontario (home of the Elora Festival Singers, up for Eric Whiteacre: Choral Music) and still catch a smile from Grammy. Other Canadians up for Grammys this time: Measha Brueggergosman (classical vocal, for Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder), Matt Haimovitz (classical crossover, for Meeting of the Spirits), filmmakers Scot McFadyen & Sam Dunn (long-form video, for Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage) and UBC Arts dean Gage Averill (album notes, for Alan Lomax In Haiti: Recordings For the Library of Congress, 1936-1937).
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