The Grammy Nominations: Sympathy for Kanye

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The Grammys are a perennial source of confusion, disbelief, and righteous, mighty anger … and this year’s nominations, announced last night, are no exception! Every traditional negative perception of the Grammys’ habits is represented. Old people voting? Present, in the form of both Dr. Dre’s “I Need a Doctor” getting a “Best/Rap Sung Collaboration” nod and Jeff Beck’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Party Honoring Les Paul dropping into the Best Rock Album category. Archaic eligibility window wreaking havoc? Accounted for, with Mumford & Sons’ “The Cave” — a track the band performed at last year’s Grammys — up for Song of the Year. A general inability to figure out who is what? Indeed, with Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon — who released his debut in 2007, and in the time since has dropped another full-length and an EP, and has worked on side projects like Volcano Choir and GAYNGS — up for Best New Artist. But here’s the one thing we should all focus our collective anger toward this morning: the painful snubbing of Kanye West.

At first glance, Kanye should have nothing to be upset about. He actually leads the field in Grammy nominations with seven (Adele, Bruno Mars, and the Foo Fighters are next, with six apiece). But not one of those nominations is for Album of the Year. That’s right: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was shut out in favor of Bruno Mars’ Doo-Wops & Hooligans. This is, primarily, about Kanye totally, definitively deserving an Album of the Year spot. Lady Gaga’s Born This Way makes sense, and Adele’s 21 would have probably beaten him for the title anyway. But how did the Foo Fighters’ Wasting Light and Rihanna’s Loud — both fine, very visible 2011 albums that in no way touch the scope and cultural permeation of MBDTF — slip in ahead of ‘Ye? And, again: Bruno fucking Mars?! Are you serious right now?

But this is also about how badly Kanye cares about this stuff. Much of the reason millions of people think he’s an asshole is because of his award-show tantrums, most notably the Taylor Swift incident. But as he’s repeatedly, convincingly explained, he does all that stuff because he’s one of the few people on the planet who takes awards seriously. While our cold hearts have long been inured, Kanye, somehow, still passionately believes we can live in a better world where award ceremonies accurately represent everyone who did awesome stuff in a given year. As he’s explained, “I pinpoint the Grammys and the VMAs because they have to take responsibility, because they mean something to us. Little kids, 6 years [old], that are singing in front of the mirror. They’re also thinking about their Grammy speech.” Or, as he’s explained elsewhere, more entertainingly: “Who’s that African in the background Mom? Oh, he created the original layouts for the pyramids, but he was written out of the history books and his MTV award was given to ‘Aliens.’” Look, “Single Ladies” really was one of the best videos of all time! How was he supposed to let that go?!

Meanwhile, the nominations Yeezy did land are problematic on their own. “All of the Lights” got a Song of the Year nod — but is not up for the more prestigious Record of the Year. (What’s the difference? I believe “Song” is supposed to focus on the songwriters rather than the performers, but what that means practically, I could not tell you.) Meanwhile, his buddy Justin Vernon, whom he put on MBDTF, is up for Record with “Holocene.” Kanye’s other big nomination comes in Best Rap Album, in which he’s up against Lupe Fiasco, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne … and himself, with Watch the Throne. That means, just odds-wise, he’s a shoo-in. But would ‘Ye be cool with winning a Grammy for Watch the Throne rather than for his more ambitious, more personal MBDTF?

It’s not that I care about the Grammys. I just care that Kanye cares. He made my favorite album of the year; he deserves a nomination. So, in the name of the cause, a mini old-school Yeezian all-caps rant: NEIL PORTNOW WHEN DARKNESS COVERS THE SKIES TRUE ARTISTS CANT SHINE, LET CREATIVITY FLOURISH, OUR GENERATION IS THE NEW SINATRAS WE MUST BE REPRESENTED, ALSO DAVE GROHL HAS ENOUGH GRAMMYS ALREADY.

And the list of nominees:

Album of the Year
21— Adele
Wasting Light— Foo Fighters
Born This Way— Lady Gaga
Doo-Wops & Hooligans — Bruno Mars
Loud — Rihanna

Record of the Year
“Rolling In The Deep” — Adele
“Holocene” — Bon Iver
“Grenade” — Bruno Mars
“The Cave” — Mumford & Sons
“Firework” — Katy Perry

Best New Artist
The Band Perry
Bon Iver
J. Cole
Nicki Minaj

Song of the Year
“All Of The Lights” — Jeff Bhasker, Malik Jones, Warren Trotter & Kanye West, songwriters (Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie)
“The Cave” — Ted Dwane, Ben Lovett, Marcus Mumford & Country Winston, songwriters (Mumford & Sons)
“Grenade” — Brody Brown, Claude Kelly, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Bruno Mars & Andrew Wyatt, songwriters (Bruno Mars)
“Holocene” — Justin Vernon, songwriter (Bon Iver)
“Rolling In The Deep” — Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth, songwriters (Adele)

Best Rap Album
Watch The Throne — Jay-Z & Kanye West
Tha Carter IV — Lil Wayne
Lasers — Lupe Fiasco
Pink Friday — Nicki Minaj
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy — Kanye West

Best Pop Solo Performance
“Someone Like You” — Adele
“Yoü And I” — Lady Gaga
“Grenade” — Bruno Mars
“Firework” — Katy Perry
“F***in’ Perfect” — Pink

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
“Body And Soul” — Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse
“Dearest” — The Black Keys
“Paradise” — Coldplay
“Pumped Up Kicks” — Foster The People
“Moves Like Jagger” — Maroon 5 & Christina Aguilera

Best Dance Recording

“Raise Your Weapon” — Deadmau5 & Greta Svabo Bech
“Barbra Streisand” — Duck Sauce
“Sunshine” — David Guetta & Avicii
“Call Your Girlfriend” — Robyn
“Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites” — Skrillex
“Save The World” — Swedish House Mafia

Best Rock Performance
“Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall” — Coldplay
“Down By The Water” — The Decemberists
“Walk” — Foo Fighters
“The Cave” — Mumford & Sons
“Lotus Flower” — Radiohead

Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance
“On The Backs Of Angels” — Dream Theater
“White Limo” — Foo Fighters
“Curl Of The Burl”— Mastodon
“Public Enemy No. 1” — Megadeth
“Blood In My Eyes”— Sum 41

Best Rock Album
Rock ‘N’ Roll Party Honoring Les Paul— Jeff Beck
Wasting Light— Foo Fighters
Come Around Sundown— Kings Of Leon
I’m With You— Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Whole Love— Wilco

Best Alternative Music Album
Bon Iver— Bon Iver
Codes And Keys— Death Cab For Cutie
Torches— Foster The People
Circuital — My Morning Jacket
The King Of Limbs— Radiohead

Best Traditional R&B Performance
“Sometimes I Cry” — Eric Benét
“Fool For You” — Cee Lo Green & Melanie Fiona
“Radio Message” — R. Kelly
“Good Man” — Raphael Saadiq
“Surrender” — Betty Wright & The Roots

Best R&B Album
F.A.M.E.— Chris Brown
Second Chance — El DeBarge
Love Letter — R. Kelly
Pieces Of Me— Ledisi
Kelly— Kelly Price

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
“Party” — Beyoncé & André 3000
“I’m On One” — DJ Khaled, Drake, Rick Ross & Lil Wayne
“I Need A Doctor” — Dr. Dre, Eminem & Skylar Grey
“What’s My Name?” — Rihanna & Drake
“Motivation” — Kelly Rowland & Lil Wayne
“All Of The Lights” — Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi & Fergie

Best Rap Performance
“Look At Me Now” — Chris Brown, Lil Wayne & Busta Rhymes
“Otis” — Jay-Z & Kanye West
“The Show Goes On” — Lupe Fiasco
“Moment 4 Life” — Nicki Minaj & Drake
“Black And Yellow” — Wiz Khalifa

Best Country Solo Performance
“Dirt Road Anthem” — Jason Aldean
“I’m Gonna Love You Through It” — Martina McBride
“Honey Bee” — Blake Shelton
“Mean” — Taylor Swift
“Mama’s Song” — Carrie Underwood

Best Country Song
“Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not” — Jim Collins & David Lee Murphy, songwriters (Thompson Square)
“God Gave Me You” — Dave Barnes, songwriter (Blake Shelton)
“Just Fishin'” — Casey Beathard, Monty Criswell & Ed Hill, songwriters (Trace Adkins)
“Mean” — Taylor Swift, songwriter (Taylor Swift)
“Threaten Me With Heaven” — Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Will Owsley & Dillon O’Brian, songwriters (Vince Gill)
“You And Tequila” — Matraca Berg & Deana Carter, songwriters (Kenny Chesney Featuring Grace Potter)
Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical nominations go to Danger Mouse, Paul Epworth, the Smeezingtons (Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Bruno Mars), Ryan Tedder, and Butch Vig.

Best Country Album
My Kinda Party — Jason Aldean
Chief — Eric Church
Own The Night — Lady Antebellum
Red River Blue — Blake Shelton
Here For A Good Time — George Strait
Speak Now — Taylor Swift

Filed Under: Kanye West, Music, The Grammys

Amos Barshad has written for New York Magazine, Spin, GQ, XXL, and the Arkansas Times. He is a staff writer for Grantland.

Archive @ AmosBarshad