While it’s great to see artists like Sam Smith, Hozier, Bastille, Haim, Sia, Ed Sheeran, John Legend and Coldplay and even Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s collaboration nominated in the major categories, the Grammy awards show this year remains controversial. There seem to be many musical artists and various categories that are still Grammy pariahs.
Although nominated in the best rock album category, U2 was one of the big losers this year, before any awards were even given out. Their album Songs of Innocence was criticized for the way it was released for free on iTunes. The group has also been criticized for making what some refer to as boring boomer rock and, to add insult to injury, prior to the group’s tour to promote their new album, lead singer Bono was seriously hurt in a bicycle accident in Manhattan’s Central Park. It’s a shame that the music press reviewed the way the album was released instead of the music. The fact is that the album is one of the group’s best. It is very reflective, with the group looking back at its roots and Bono writes eloquently about his family.
Attesting to the continued healthy state of the British pop music scene, Sam Smith’s debut release Stay With Me was one of the big winners this year, despite the breaking news that he settled out of court with Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne over songwriting credit for the title track. Hozier’s eponymous debut breakthrough reminds one of the Gotye Making Mirrors album from 2011. Hozier has made a quirky passionate album but has clearly broken through to that elusive larger audience.
There were a number of excellent albums worth mentioning that were completely ignored by the Grammy voters. Mutineers (IHT) from David Gray is the Irish artist’s first album in ten years and one that all the young Ed Sheeran fans should check out. Half the City (Thirty Tigers) from St. Paul & The Broken Bones is the debut album from an exciting Alabama-based soul band that marks the beginning of a musical group that is destined for big things. Midnight Sun (Chimera) from Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger proves once again that Sean Lennon and his partner Charlotte Kemp Mull are creating original and exciting music that proves Lennon is making music on his own terms and long ago stepped out of the musical shadow of his late great dad. Thompson Family (Fantasy), from Richard and Linda Thompson, their son Teddy Thompson with various other children and relations is a mostly acoustic roots album from one of the great musical families in British folk history. Radiohead’s Phil Selway’s release Weatherhouse (Bella Union) is an album of lush electronica that fans of Radiohead will love and once again proves that its drummer is an accomplished artist in his own right.