Money talked loudly in the conversation behind this year’s Grammy nominations.
How else to explain why the most mentioned artist of the hour turned out to be Lil’ Wayne, a star better known for guilty-pleasure singles like “Lollipop” than for works of substance and grace.
Overriding that assessment, it seems, was the fact that Wayne’s CD, “Tha Carter III,” generated more coin in this calender year than other disc. It has sold over 2 million copies so far, with half that figure moved in its very first week. (Wayne is the first star to shake that kind of action since the height of 50 Cent back in 2005).
Only an industry in the throes of its last financial wheeze would honor a work whose greatest distinction lies in its popularity.
Grammy voters didn’t do themselves any greater creative service by putting Ne-Yo‘s name in the running in no fewer than six categories. He’s an amiable R&B singer, not a distinctive one. And while it’s admirable that his albums have seen him trying to mature, right now that’s far more of a goal than a realization.
Then again, the sheer number of nominations hardly promises a win. The record books are filled with stars who marched into the hall on Grammy night with a host of shots at the prize only to go home with few, or even no, gold statues. Ask Tracy Chapman,Joan Osborne, and, at least a few years ago, Kanye West.
Only Coldplay has a chance to sweep all three top categories this time, which argues for the actual night belonging more to them than to Wayne.
Were that to occur, it wouldn’t be the most bone-headed move in Grammy history. (There’s unending competition for that distinction).
But it would hardly be a moment of ringing pride. Far more inspiring were the five nods for the highly nuanced duet album between Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. It’s deservedly up for both Best Album and Record. It may well take the former prize, as did another left field “Americana” recording in 2001, the “O Brother, Where Art Thou” soundtrack.
Normally, she’s a Grammy lock. And while she did get some token nods for her latest CD, the star made no headway in the headiest categories.
Of the most coveted categories, Best New Artist features the most frustrating choices. It’s nice, and far from surprising, to see nods for Duffy and Adele (with the latter also getting traction in the Record and Song slots). But the country trio Lady Antebellum isn’t offering anything we haven’t heard out of Nashville a thousand times before. And R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan lacks the innovation of another potential star from her genre, Estelle (who didn’t get tapped, though her single is up for Song of the Year).
Perhaps the biggest stretch in the “new” category is The Jonas Brothers, who have already put out three full CDs. Then again, the guys did sell lots of records this year, and to an audience which represents the industry’s future – at least its financial one. Isn’t that what counts?