2017 Grammy Awards: 10 Worst Nominations

The trophy of the Grammy Awards

A Grammy Award | Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty Images)

All major awards shows are flawed to the extent that they attempt to make objective choices about something as subjective as art. The Grammys are perhaps the best (or worst) example of this, as year after year the much-discussed awards show fails to satisfyingly encapsulate and reward the best music released the previous year. Despite the millions of unique albums released each year, the Grammys highlight only a select few, aiming to please everyone and thus satisfying no one. Of course there is no objective “best” song or album, as that depends entirely on who you ask, so often the awards simply go to whoever is most popular.

This year was no exception, as even the nominee list will show. Let’s look at some of their most egregious choices this time around.

1. Record of the Year: “Work” by Rihanna feat. Drake

Rihanna has a knack for alternating between good pop songs and irritating ones, and for me, “Work” falls squarely into the latter category. The music and the vocal melody never really evolve throughout the song’s three minutes, leaving listeners with nothing to grasp onto other than Rihanna’s mushmouthed vocal performance.

2. Best Rock Album: California by Blink 182

The Grammys seem to think rock music is already dead, as their nominees in the genre are always lousy with so-so releases from aging reunion acts rather than more original albums from newer artists. Blink 182’s latest album is a forgettable footnote in their pop-punk legacy, but it still scores a nomination, because who else is making solid rock music these days? Besides maybe Car Seat Headrest, Muncie Girls, Whitney, Ryley Walker, Modern Baseball, Heron Oblivion, and the Drive-by Truckers, that is.

3. Best Rock Album: Weezer by Weezer

See above.

4. Best New Artist: Chance the Rapper

The Best New Artist is a joke category among joke categories, which mislabels artists as “new” every year. Chance the Rapper is a skilled rapper and producer whose third album, Coloring Book was among the best of 2016, but he most certainly isn’t new — his previous mixtape, Acid Rap, was released in 2013, earning widespread critical praise and debuting at No. 63 on Billboard’s hip-hop charts. Come to think of it, fellow nominees Maren Morris and The Chainsmokers aren’t that new either.

5. Best Country Album: Big Day in a Small Town by Brandy Clark

The Grammys finally acknowledged some of the good things happening in modern country by nominating Sturgill Simpson’s emotional and original release, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth (also nominated for album of the year), but that didn’t stop them from nominating overproduced trash like the latest release from Brandy Clark. Her music and the music of many other popular contemporary country artists (often labeled stadium country, or bro country) is little more than slick pop music with added twang and generic lyrics about trucks, and it’s a shame to see it still earning so much attention.

6. Record of the Year: “Hello” by Adele

Adele is about as close to universal adoration as any artist can be in today’s fractured media landscape, so it makes sense to see her name in most of the Grammys’ major categories. But listen to “Hello,” the lead single from her album 25 again and you’ll see it can hardly compare to the melodicism of earlier hits like “Someone Like You.” The album may be good, but the song is far too underwhelming to deserve the praise of “record of the year.”

7. Album of the Year: Purpose by Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber is much more tolerable today than he was a couple years ago, both as a prominent media figure and as a musician. But does his latest album Purpose deserve the title of album of the year? Quite simply, no. It’s moving in parts and tiring in others, making for a solid but unremarkable release that earns nominations mostly because Justin Bieber has both name recognition and the strength of a record industry empire behind him.

8. Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: “Closer” by The Chainsmokers

It seems The Chainsmokers value hand-claps and other syncopated rhythms far more than they do melody. Their hit single “Closer” is a bland pop jam whose ethereal dance beat and numerous references to specific cities can’t cover up the fact that the ho-hum lyrics have no interesting melody to go along with them.

9. Best Dance Recording: “Don’t Let Me Down” by The Chainsmokers

The Chainsmokers muck up yet another category. The other nominees for best dance recording are all surprisingly strong, using electronic instrumentation in engaging and interesting ways, but “Don’t Let Me Down” is more generic tripe, featuring the same repetitive beat and obnoxious “breakdown” we’ve all heard a thousand times in the wake of LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem.”

10. Best Rock Performance: “Heathens” by Twenty One Pilots

“Heathens” is a fine enough song, but it’s most certainly not a rock song. How anyone can hear this dark electro-pop anthem and still label it as rock is beyond me, but it’ll likely win the category anyway, since the people in charge of the Grammys aren’t very clear on genre distinctions.

The 59th Annual Grammy Awards will air on February 12, 2017.

Follow Jeff Rindskopf on Twitter @jrindskopf

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