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MANILA, Philippines - It’s the second Sunday (US time) of the year again, which is the cue for the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to hand out a new set of 78 Gramophone Awards, a.k.a. the Grammys, to recognize some of the best musical output of the preceding year.
Yes, that’s a whopping 78 (itself down from 109 starting last year) golden gramophone trophies. And just as the Grammy Awards broadcast (Rappler is live blogging about it) does not show all awards handed out, this brief piece will zero in on just four of the top Grammys categories in predicting who the eventual victors might be.
From the looks of it, the night just might be fun for the group of the same name.
Record of the Year
The 2013 nominees for this for-the-producers award—as opposed to the Song of the Year plum, which honors songwriters—are “Lonely Boy” by The Black Keys, “Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson, “We Are Young” by fun. featuring Janelle Monae, “Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye feat. Kimbra, “Thinkin Bout You” by Frank Ocean, and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift.
That’s a curious, six-ditty roster, which includes the hit that made Golden Globes co-host Tina Fey joke-warn Swift to stay away from Michael J. Fox’s son.
In here as well is the soulful, apostrophe-discarding love tune by the fresh R&B sensation whose stage name was inspired by the Frank Sinatra movie “Ocean’s 11”; a newer, angry-lady rouser from the first ever “American Idol” winner; and a frenetic, rockabilly quickie from a critically acclaimed rock duo.
Down the wire, however, this category could be a close race between the Belgian-Australian Gotye (pronounced Gow-ta-yey), whose song’s sparse instrumentation allows for his Sting-resembling tenor to navigate “Somebody That I Used to Know’s” rocky emotional terrain, and the free-spirit-championing anthem by the American trio named fun., which has also been the soundtrack of two TV spots and promptly got covered on “Glee.”
The eventual winner? Could be the more positively charged “We Are Young,” of which the expanded band’s rendition on the late-night show “Conan” looks and sounds even better than the song’s official video.
Album of the Year
The five nominated albums this time are The Black Keys’ “El Camino,” fun.’s “Some Nights,” Mumford & Sons’ “Babel,” Frank Ocean’s “Channel Orange” and Jack White’s “Blunderbuss.”
Much of the past year’s pop fodder thankfully got shut out of this category, the field narrowed down to a largely rock lineup with the exception of the album also known as “channel ORANGE.”
That Frank Ocean debut album is a chockfull of suave, nightcap-worthy slow jams that are mesmerizing in their slow-boil tone and muted feel but which, if studied closely, reveal a complexity of syncopation and fusion of various genres.
Still, it may not be Ocean’s Grammy year just yet. For one thing, the British folk-rock quartet Mumford & Sons have quite an international live-circuit following that has snapped up thousands of copies of their second album “Babel,” despite some critical lashing about the strings-armed band’s supposedly untapped full potential.
But sales are not supposed to matter anymore in picking the ultimate Grammy winners.
And since blues-rock ambassador Jack White’s first ever solo-billing album “Blunderbuss” is excellent but not as memorable as his previous outings with, say, The White Stripes, this round is essentially a matchup between The Black Keys’ seventh album, a play-it-loud amalgam of decades of urgent-sounding rock, and fun.’s own second album, a compendium of largely catchy, theatrical pop-rock that recall Elton John and Queen without sounding retro.
In the end, it’s possible for fun. to bring home this Grammy, too. But if the all-killer-no-filler quality to “El Camino” means anything, it’s fun.’s fellow Americans in The Black Keys (with aid from sought-after producer Danger Mouse) who’ll be running up the stage of the Grammy Awards’ venue, Los Angeles’ Staples Center.
Song of the Year
The nominees are the Ed Sheeran-written-and-sung “The A Team”; Miguel’s self-written “Adorn”; “Call Me Maybe,” which singer Carly Rae Jepsen co-wrote with Tavish Crowe and Josh Ramsay; “Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You),” which, while interpreted by Kelly Clarkson, was written by other folks: Jorgen Elofsson, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin and Ali Tamposi; and “We Are Young,” which was penned by fun. members Jack Antonoff, Andrew Dost and Nate Ruess with “Some Nights” producer Jeff Bhasker.
Ed Sheeran’s mellow drama, his soothing voice tackling a case of drug-fueled desperation, is rather astounding at a time when empty lyricism and vapid musicality are pretty much the norm, yet would be a tough pick for this category.
The slick, suggestive ballad “Adorn” is a pretty interesting nominee as well, especially compared to the more standard radio fare that is “Stronger.”
All told, though, this round will either go to one of the two biggest hits of 2012.
While most of us would rather it go to fun.’s glorious ode to youthful abandon, this prize just might end up in the hands of Canadian Jepsen, who co-concocted the kind of easy-as-1-2-3, lollipop-py sing-along that made for, for better or worse, an indelible hit worthy of a Cookie Monster parody and just one silly dance step short of being a “Gangnam Style” phenomenon.
Plus: Best Short Form Music Video
The contenders: Foster the People’s “Houdini,” Jay-Z & Kanye West ft. Frank Ocean & The-Dream’s “No Church in the Wild,” M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls,” Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris’ “We Found Love” and Woodkid’s “Run Boy Run.”
Foster the People’s vid is the funny one of this lot, which takes the notion of “The show must go on” to ludicrous heights.
Then there’s “No Church in the Wild,” which, compared to FTP’s or even Rihanna’s own entry, does not tell a story as much as vividly depict a protesters-versus-cops riot.
M.I.A.’s own video is both typical and unconventional, a typical sing-and-dance affair made unique by its implied protest against the ban on women drivers in certain parts of the Middle East.
Perhaps the most visually arresting of the lot is the entirely grayscale “Run Boy Run” vid, which looks like a dark echo of “Where the Wild Things Are.”
Yet, given its cinematic, stylized cinematography, filtered in a way that would make Instagram users blush, “We Found Love” is the no-brainer for this not-exactly-musical award.
If it were up to me, though, the “Best Music Video” Grammy ought to go to the official vid for The Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy” (posted above), which features a bare-bones, one-take performance by actor-musician-part-time-security guard Derrick T. Tuggle—a treat that, in the teeth of overproduced music videos, is a repeatable joy to behold.
Who will inherit the throne?
Rappler takes you through the Miss Philippines Earth 2013 competition with these specials: