It's Not Your Parents' Grammy Awards -- Or Is It?

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Bruce Springsteen / Ronald Reagan / Jay-Z
Charles Aaron WRITTEN BY
Charles Aaron

Aside from the Orwellian Reaganscape darkening the horizon, 1984 was a personal watershed for me -- a parent actually showed an interest in music that I listened to (well, sort of).

Because clueless Republicans involved in Fucked-Up Ronnie's re-election campaign had tried to exploit Bruce Springsteen's Vietnam lament "Born in the U.S.A," and because the video for Springsteen's pop trifle "Dancing in the Dark" (featuring a winsome Courtney Cox) was getting intense MTV airplay (when heavy rotation meant more than nine spins a week), my mother -- a devout Christian who ignored pop -- attempted to start a conversation about him. So, over a couple of brief breakfast back-and-forths, I haltingly made a case for the validity of Springsteen's music vis-a-vis her world -- the world where people worked and attended church and took care of their homes and tried not to make their lives any harder than they already were.

I caved quickly, mostly because my heart just wasn't in it. As a sullen brat, I frankly hated the way the Born in the USA album sounded (stiff and synthetic) and thought Springsteen's regular-guy shtick (t-shirt/ jeans/ populist mumbo-jumbo) was glorified hucksterism. The music that I was obsessed with at the time didn't really need familial discussion (Free Your Mind...and Your Ass Will Follow and Not So Quiet on the Western Front? The less said the better).

But honestly, I wasn't rebelling against mom and dad. They were good, caring people. If anything, I was trying to keep my half-baked societal beefs out of their way. With Springsteen, mom reached out, and I reflexively reached back -- only to please her -- which was ultimately disingenuous. I didn't really give a hoot about the Boss' agenda, and roundtabling about his importance felt phonier than hiding my Dead Kennedys albums in the back of the closet.

But a crucial, fundamentally no-shit lesson stuck with me afterwards: When you try to please your parents, or their various stand-ins, on their terms, you always end up failing. This doesn't mean that acting like a petulant dipshit to people in authority will set you free; on the contrary, it'll probably earn you a career on what's left of the loading dock at Best Buy.

This isn't about ambition and money and how caring about those things make you a "sell-out." It is about not shaping your philosophy and aesthetic to please authority figures who can't possibly understand what you're doing anyway. Which is where the Grammys come in.

Throughout the history of the awards, which started in 1958, the whole schmear has been about Pleasing Your Parents, the famously conservative and painfully behind-the-curve Grammy voting bloc being your parents (or in some cases, Your Grandparents, hence the derisive putdown, "The Grannys") and any artist who wants to win one of those still-coveted (why?) gramophone statues must please them -- on their terms. Winning a Grammy means that mom and dad are happy with your so-called progress, with your report card, with how much money you're making. Which isn't based on the quality of your art or work or life at all; it's based on their comfort and, more specifically, their fear of death.

It's been well-documented that the Grammy Awards rarely get anything right or celebrate anybody at the time they're making their best work. But it's worth re-checking the list.

These artists have never won a Grammy (aside from the stray Lifetime Achievement make-up call or random DVD nod): Bob Marley, Sly and the Family Stone (never even nominated), Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Sam Cooke, David Bowie, the Beach Boys, the Who, Buddy Holly, Public Enemy, AC/DC, Leonard Cohen, the Clash, Curtis Mayfield, the Kinks, on and on and on. Elvis Presley only won for his gospel recordings. The Rolling Stones first won for the 1994 weak-stream tinkle Voodoo Lounge. The first Bob Dylan album to be recognized was 1989's World Gone Wrong, in the folk category. And oh yeah, Springsteen first won in 1985 for "Dancing in the Dark," perhaps his worst song up to that point in his career.

So, all that said, SPIN is instituting the Please Your Parents scale as a predictor of who will prevail in some of the major Grammy categories on Monday. In doing so, we're following the oft-repeated sports mantra that "whoever wants it more" will ultimately triumph. In most athletic contests, this is utter horseshit, but for a utterly horseshit undertaking like the Grammys, then it actually makes sense that those artists who care the most about pleasing the industry powers-that-be will be rewarded. Here we go:

SPIN'S PLEASE YOUR PARENTS (PYP) SCALE
10 – Just don't give a fuck; too rich to care
9 – Former major-label artist who cares only as an f-you to major labels
8 – Might care if advanced age or tragedy befalls
7 – Will eventually care, just biding time for cred
6 – Will care for the right price
5 – Cares more than she/he lets on
4 – Cares to varying degrees, depending on the situation
3 – Entire career is based on caring
2 – The clock is ticking, cares to an embarrassing degree
1 – Parents/Grandparents

CATEGORIES:

Record of the Year
- Adele – "Chasing Pavements" (3)
- Coldplay – "Viva La Vida" (4)
- Leona Lewis – "Bleeding Love" (2)
- MIA – "Paper Planes" (7)
- Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – "Please Read the Letter" (1)

Winner: Plant & Krauss are the quintessential Grammy choice. Voters get to reward Plant for his unrewarded Zeppelin days, and act like they care about quality music. Darkhorse: Lewis -- she's exactly the sort of fleeting, non-career artist Grammy perversely likes to champion to prove that artistic originality means absolutely nothing.

Album of the Year
- Coldplay – Viva La Vida (4)
- Lil Wayne – The Carter III (10)
- Ne-Yo – Year of the Gentlemen (3)
- Robert Plant & Alison Krauss – Raising Sand (1)
- Radiohead – In Rainbows (7)

Winner: Plant & Krauss

Song of the Year
- Estelle feat. Kanye West – "American Boy" (Estelle, 4) (Kanye, 3)
- Adele – "Chasing Pavements" (3)
- Jason Mraz – "I'm Yours" (3)
- Sara Bareilles – "Love Song" (2)
- Coldplay – "Viva La Vida' (4)

Winner: Bareilles needs it the most, and "Love Song" was written at the insistence of Epic after she turned in her album "without a single," so that's a Please Your Parents bonanza, but she just might be stultifyingly tedious enough that Adele or Estelle could sneak in there with their legitimately terrific tunes, though don't count on it.

Best New Artist
- Adele (3)
- Duffy (5)
- Jonas Brothers (2)
- Lady Antebellum (3)
- Jazmine Sullivan (5)

Winner: Jonas Brothers. Obvs....

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
- Adele – "Chasing Pavements" (3)
- Sara Bareilles – "Love Song" (2)
- Leona Lewis – "Bleeding Love" (2)
- Katy Perry-- "I Kissed a Girl" (2)
- Pink – "So What" (5)

Winner: Bareilles, Lewis, and Perry are all assembly-line drones who would fit the bill, but since Adele's song is the only one here that is actually a masterful pop vocal performance, then who the hell knows?

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance
- Kid Rock – "All Summer Long" (6)
- John Mayer – "Say" (4)
- Paul McCartney – "That Was Me" (1)
- Jason Mraz – "I'm Yours" (3)
- Ne-Yo – "Closer" (3)
- James Taylor – "Wichita Lineman" (1)

Winner: The grandpas could split the vote and allow one of the others to steal it, but God knows why anybody besides the people involved should care, considering the embarrassingly substandard quality of the material in question.

Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals
- Coldplay – "Viva La Vida" (4)
- Eagles – "Waiting in the Weeds" (1)
- Gnarls Barkley – "Going On" (7)
- Maroon 5 – "Won't Go Home Without You" (3)
- OneRepublic – "Apologize (2)

Winner: Eagles. Key lyric from "Waiting in the Weeds": "And I thought I heard some wise man say / That every dog will have his day / He never mentioned that these dog days get so long." Please allow me to speak for everyone who cares about the future of music not becoming completely unbearable when I say, "Fuck you guys."

Best Electronic/Dance album
- Brazilian Girls – New York City (6)
- Daft Punk – Alive 2007 (10)
- Cyndi Lauper – Bring Ya to the Brink (5)
- Kylie Minogue – X (3)
- Moby – Last Night (2)
- Robyn – Robyn (8)

Winner: Though Moby and Minogue need it desperately, I'm rooting for Lauper, who against all odds at age 56 made a remarkably interesting record with an array of savvy producers (Basement Jaxx, Richard "Deep Dish" Morel, Kleerup, Dragonette).

Best Producer
- Danger Mouse (Black Keys, Beck. Gnarls Barkley) (7)
- Nigel Godrich (Radiohead) (5)
- Johnny K (Plain White T's, Staind, Black Tide, 3 Doors Down) (3)
- Rick Rubin (Metallica, Neil Diamond, Ours, Jakob Dylan, Weezer) (1)
- Will.i.am (Random tracks by Estelle, Sergio Mendes, Flo Rida, Fergie, Chris Brown Usher) (2)

Winner: It'd take a lot of balls to give Rubin anything for his phoning-it-in Buddha act, so I'd go with will.i.am, though he's such a high-profile charade that guilt might actually kick in and that means -- Johnny K? "Hey There Delilah," now that's what Grammy calls pop!

Best Solo Rock Performance
- John Mayer – "Gravity" (4)
- Paul McCartney – "I Saw Her Standing There" (1)
- Bruce Springsteen – "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" (1)
- Eddie Vedder – "Rise" (5)
- Neil Young – "No Hidden Path" (10)

Winner: Springsteen. At least his song was recorded in this century.

Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals
- AC/DC – "Rock N Roll Train" (10)
- Coldplay – "Violet Hill" (4)
- Eagles – "Long Road Out of Eden" (1)
- Kings of Leon – "Sex on Fire" (6)
- Radiohead – "House of Cards" (7)

Winner: Eagles

Best Rock Song
- Bruce Springsteen – "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" (1)
- Radiohead – "House of Cards" (7)
- Death Cab for Cutie – "I Will Possess Your Heart" (7)
- Kings of Leon – "Sex on Fire" (6)
- Coldplay – "Violet Hill" (4)

Winner: Springsteen

Best Rock Album
- Coldplay – Viva La Vida (4)
- Kid Rock – Rock N Roll Jesus (6)
- Kings of Leon – Only By the Night (6)
- Metallica – Death Magnetic (6)
- The Raconteurs – Consolers of the Lonely (7)

Winner: Coldplay

Best Alternative Music Album
- Beck – Modern Guilt (5)
- Death Cab for Cutie – Narrow Stairs (7)
- Gnarls Barkley – The Odd Couple (7)
- My Morning Jacket – Evil Urges (8)
- Radiohead – In Rainbows (7)

Winner: Let's call it the Grammy version of the children's table. And Beck wants a special plate. OK, let's just give it to him.

Best Female R&B Vocal Performance
- Beyonce – "Me, Myself and I" (3)
- Keyshia Cole – "Heaven Sent" (10)
- Jennifer Hudson – "Spotlight" (4)
- Alicia Keys – "Superwoman" (3)
- Jazmine Sullivan – "Need U Bad" (5)

Winner: Alicia Keys or Beyonce, though these are largely forgettable moments in their careers, and it'd be nice if poor Jennifer Hudson could look back over the last year and remember something joyful, and not just her family's tragedy and a bunch of assholes pointlessly complaining about her lip-synching at the Super Bowl.

Best Male R&B Vocal Performance
- Eric Benet – "You're the Only One" (2)
- Chris Brown – "Take You Down" (3)
- Ne-Yo – "Miss Independent" (3)
- Trey Songz – "Can't Help But Wait" (3)
- Usher – "Here I Stand" (3)

Winner: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

Best Contemporary R&B Album
- Mary J Blige – Growing Pains (4)
- J Holiday – Back of My 'Lac (6)
- Karina – First Love (Who?)
- Ne-Yo – Year of the Gentlemen (3)
- Jazmine Sullivan – Fearless (5)

Winner: Ne-Yo's a boring choice, even by Grammy standards, so MJB might take it. If Ne-Yo does win, watch out for Jim Jones' Skull Gang goons trying to jack the statue at the after-party. Gentlemen, please, keep your ballin' in the designated areas.

Best Rap Solo Performance
- Jay-Z – "Roc Boys (And the Winner Is...)" (5)
- Lil Wayne – "A Milli" (10)
- Lupe Fiasco – "Paris, Tokyo" (7)
- Nas – "N.I.G.G.E.R. (The Slave and the Master)" (8)
- Snoop Dogg – "Sexual Eruption" (8)

Winner: Jay-Z. Deserves it simply for the line, "Bullet wounds'll stop your buffoonery"; and for sampling the Menahan Street Band.

Best Rap Song
- Lil Wayne – "Lollipop" (10)
- Flo Rida feat. T-Pain – "Low" (2)
- Snoop Dogg – "Sexual Eruption" (8)
- Lupe Fiasco – "Superstar" (7)
- Jay-Z and T.I. feat. Kanye West & Lil Wayne – Swagga Like Us *(6)
*Average of all four performers

Winner: Since this is such a baffling group, Grammy could simply decide to reward the worst song (one of their favorite fallback positions), which would mean either "Lollipop" or "Low." Then again, they might pick the only song featuring a white guy, "Superstar" (Matthew Santos sings the hook). Crafty devils.

Best Rap Album
- Jay-Z – American Gangster (5)
- Lil Wayne – The Carter III (10)
- Lupe Fiasco – The Cool (7)
- Nas – Nas (8)
- T.I. – Paper Trail (8)

Winner: Jay-Z. If Weezy wins, I'll take back everything I've just written.

Best Reggae Album
- Burning Spear – Jah Is Real (1)
- Elephant Man – Let's Get Physical (6)
- Heavy D – Vibes (3)
- Lee Scratch Perry –Repentance (1)
- Shaggy – Intoxication (2)
- Sly & Robbie – Amazing (1)

Winner: All the legends -- Spear, Perry, Sly & Robbie -- have won already, as has Shaggy, so maybe the only of-the-moment dancehall guy on the slate (Elephant Man) will get his due. Nah. Heavy D, who at least was born in Jamaica, actually might have a shot.

Best Spoken Word Album
- Al Gore – An Inconvenient Truth (2)
- Steve Martin – Born Standing Up (6)
- Stephen Colbert (& Various Artists) – I Am America (and So Can You!) (10)
- Sidney Poitier – Life Beyond Measure (1)
- David Sedaris – When You Are Engulfed in Flames (10)

Winner: Poitier and Gore duke it out while the world melts around us.

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