what should have won / what could have won
January 25, 2018 10:54 AM   Subscribe

"Just look at who’s won the most-coveted Grammy, album of the year, over the past three-plus decades. Or really, look at who hasn’t: Beyoncé, the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen, Mariah Carey, Kanye West, Radiohead, Jay-Z. What if the Grammy for album of the year — a prize whose responsibility to bottle the zeitgeist is right there in its name — regularly went to recordings that balanced innovation and timeliness in a way that made them widely resonant?" Repicking the Last 38 Years of the Grammys
posted by everybody had matching towels (72 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Wow, Billy Joel sure was undeservedly popular.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:01 AM on January 25 [7 favorites]


The not so secret secret is that the Grammys are awards for producers. Only way to break that is to sell an ungodly amount of records and make everybody rich.
posted by mpbx at 11:13 AM on January 25


I take the point about making the award into a pseudo-lifetime achievement thing, but Dylan's Time Out of Mind really is a great album.
posted by Chrysostom at 11:14 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


I'm not sure about some of the "should have been nominated" if it's to the exclusion of what was nominated. Like, The Wall still seems like it should've been nominated, although I agree with the albums they said should have been in 1981 also? idk
posted by dismas at 11:19 AM on January 25


*checks 1998*

*Ok Computer isn't chosen*

Ok, this list is trash.
posted by Windigo at 11:21 AM on January 25 [7 favorites]


also, in your favorite band sucks news, i think this person is overrating paramore
posted by dismas at 11:29 AM on January 25 [6 favorites]


If you're shortlisting albums based on a metric that only gives you records that sold or charted well, whittling that down to a winner on the basis of some kind of objective idea of music quality is somewhat at odds with the premise, isn't it? Not that there isn't some good music in there, of course.
posted by pipeski at 11:41 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


A lot of the 80s and early 90s actual nominees are pretty goofy in retrospect, but I'm most stunned that a Fine Young Cannibals album somehow made the shortlist (and with a reference to Claude Levi-Strauss to boot). I didn't even know they had songs other than She Drives Me Crazy.
posted by Copronymus at 11:44 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Wow, Billy Joel sure was undeservedly popular.

As a huge, huge fan of much of his songwriting: I wholeheartedly agree. Seeing Billy Joel and Donald Fagin nominated every goddamn year into the 90s is like ... just a disappointed sigh.

The number of lazy, old-dude rock nominations, generally-speaking, is predictable, but again, sigh-worthy.

i think this person is overrating paramore

I don't think I've ever thought or heard about Paramore except in the context of a snare sample that everybody was using for like 5 years.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:44 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


From the article:

1987:
Actually won: Paul Simon Graceland
Should have won: Janet Jackson Control

....Okay, they couldn't be more wrong and the Grammy's couldn't have been more right.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:47 AM on January 25 [18 favorites]


uncleozzy: there was also one of the intially-unlocked songs in Rock Band 2 and Hayley Williams's vocals on a B.o.B. track
posted by dismas at 11:48 AM on January 25


Pretty sure OK Computer is 1997.

(It's in the running for the current Bestablum9x Twitter poll, I'm very certain it'll be facing off against Homogenic for the title)
posted by Artw at 11:49 AM on January 25


(Can't say I care for the WaPos picks or the actual Grammy winners for 97 more than those TBH)
posted by Artw at 11:50 AM on January 25


Oh, also from the article:

Santana’s “Smooth” certainly felt like the most suffocating song of 1999. Wasn’t there a trophy for that?

Not as such - but MTV did have a "People's Choice Awards" sort of thing that year, and one of the things they had for people to vote on was "create your own award". They gave viewers a chance to think up their own award in advance, and then like a week before the awards they narrowed it down to five finalists - and the viewer-created award that was born was the "Your Song Kicks Ass But Was Played Too Damn Much" award. Which was then given to "Smooth".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:51 AM on January 25 [6 favorites]


.....and nevermind, it's the GRAMMIES for 98, even if the albums are 97, and they are there.
posted by Artw at 11:51 AM on January 25


"Your Song Kicks Ass But Was Played Too Damn Much" award. Which was then given to "Smooth".

This made me really want one of those "Smooth by Santana but it's Just Like the Ocean" videos. It turns out there is one, but it's not very good.
posted by uncleozzy at 11:56 AM on January 25


I didn't even know they had songs other than She Drives Me Crazy.
Good Thing was on the same album, and pretty good too.
posted by The_Vegetables at 11:56 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Hot take on a listicle: let's take this popular album that we're sick of and replace it with another popular album. Lather, rinse, repeat; occasionally let the original choice stand at random.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:10 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


My favorite grammy moment. Also, the very last time I ever took the Grammys seriously on anything, for any reason.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 12:13 PM on January 25 [4 favorites]


Also, the very last time I ever took the Grammys seriously on anything, for any reason.
I remember that, but I also remember that Def Leoppard is (still) considered a heavy metal band, so even then it was a shoulder shrug and not much more.
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:28 PM on January 25


Hot take on a listicle: let's take this popular album that we're sick of and replace it with another popular album. Lather, rinse, repeat; occasionally let the original choice stand at random.

I have to ask - did you read the article? It's nearly unshakeable proof that the AOTY award has been used as a defacto lifetime achievement award since day one, almost always at the expense of innovative releases and new artists. I was also expecting a lot of cheap shots and instead I'm pretty floored at how bad the Grammys are as a record of what music was actually popular, or would be remembered, from the given year.
posted by capricorn at 12:32 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


That said: EmpressCallipygos's comment is spot-on; Graceland is one of the greatest albums ever made in any genre and it wholeheartedly deserved the award.
posted by capricorn at 12:33 PM on January 25 [3 favorites]


Weird seeing an MTV Unplugged that isn’t Nirvana (or Utah Saints).
posted by Artw at 12:35 PM on January 25


Also they should apply their own logic and give Green Day the nod for Dookie in '94, which unlike actually-nominated (albeit perfectly good) American Idiot was totally the defining sound of its time and the reverberations are still heard.
posted by capricorn at 12:40 PM on January 25 [5 favorites]


The Raw and the Cooked is a seriously great album. Even the filler is pretty good.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:40 PM on January 25


Pogo_Fuzzybutt, I knew what that would be before I clicked it, but still clicked, because I knew it would be great to relive it.

I was actually watching live that night and pretty sure I did a spit-take on the announcement. it was even more ridiculous because iirc the front-runner had performed live earlier in the show and blew the place away.
posted by martin q blank at 12:44 PM on January 25


For anyone (like me) who can't read the article because we're not a member, the listings of nominees and winners are in Wikipedia here
posted by The_Vegetables at 12:48 PM on January 25


Wow, Billy Joel sure was undeservedly popular.

...The fuck?

Now, Red Hot Chili Peppers should have won for Californication? That's some straight up bullshit.
posted by Guy Smiley at 12:51 PM on January 25 [7 favorites]


Anthony Kiedis should be launched into the sun.
posted by uncleozzy at 12:52 PM on January 25 [5 favorites]


I owned a fucking t-shirt with the cover to "Ropin' the Wind" on it and even I was a little surprised by that choice.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:12 PM on January 25


Wow, Billy Joel sure was undeservedly popular.

He had help from a Higher Power...

I didn't even know [Fine Young Cannibals] had songs other than She Drives Me Crazy.
Good Thing was on the same album, and pretty good too.


Today I Learned: "Good Thing" was not a song by INXS.
posted by Atom Eyes at 1:16 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


uncleozzy: What did the sun do to you, beat you up and take your lunch money?

Cold hard vacuum on the other hand...
posted by drfu at 1:30 PM on January 25


I have to ask - did you read the article? It's nearly unshakeable proof that the AOTY award has been used as a defacto lifetime achievement award since day one

Which is why Christopher Cross won over Pink Floyd? And the Grammys actually have an award for Best New Artist, unlike the other major awards, although in the past they've given it out to the likes of Milli Vanilli (later rescinded) and, again, Christopher Cross.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:36 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Hot take on a listicle: let's take this popular album that we're sick of and replace it with another popular album. Lather, rinse, repeat; occasionally let the original choice stand at random.

I didn't even get very far because that seemed like all it was. There weren't many really convincing arguments other than "I like this other album better".

I'm not particularly a Pink Floyd fan, but it's hard to see how you make a revisionist list and don't make "The Wall" your choice. That's just weird. "London Calling" and "Damn the Torpedoes" also in the running that year, but he chooses "The Game". I'm more of a Queen fan than any other of those artists, but come on, that's completely at odds with what he says the list is supposed to accomplish.

Even at the time things like the Christopher Cross win induced a lot of eye rolling.
But I quit watching or caring about awards shows when I was in my teens. They are what they are.

I love talking to people about the lasting influence and popularity of artists, because it's pretty much impossible to see at the time. Billy Joel was on the radio all the damn time and was really popular, it's crazy how much Billy Joel I've heard despite never having owned an album. And then he sort of disappeared.
posted by bongo_x at 1:43 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Christopher Cross beating The Wall is the best Grammy award ever. Sade beating Eric Clapton might've even been better, but you can't have everything, I guess.
posted by octobersurprise at 1:50 PM on January 25


So, are they arguing that these are things which with the benefit of hindsight should have won, or things that from the mindset of the time should have won? Because they're skipping stuff like Nevermind which were basically dropped from consideration on a technicality, but they're also dropping a lot of things that didn't age well but were unquestionably massive at the time.
posted by ckape at 3:04 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]




This is an interesting twist on the 'best of' list argument-making machine and it's fairly well judged all up, but taking Graceland out of the running entirely in 1987 is cuckoo-crazy pants.

I lol'd quietly and 'oh, indeed'd at this though:

Or, “How to Win the Most Important Prize of the Year When You’re a Mega-Famous Rock Band Pushing One of Your Mega-Blandest Albums Simply Because the Grammy Electorate Feels Bad for Snubbing ‘Achtung Baby’ Back in 1993 Which Was the Very Year in Which Eric Clapton’s ‘Unplugged’ Started This Unfortunate Better-Late-Than-Never Domino Effect That Poor Mariah Carey Can Only Hope to Benefit From in Another 15 Years or So.”
posted by Sebmojo at 3:43 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Because they're skipping stuff like Nevermind which were basically dropped from consideration on a technicality, but they're also dropping a lot of things that didn't age well but were unquestionably massive at the time.

I think it's only elegible records. They mention that Nevermind, 10 and Bloodsugarsexmagik all got unfairly done out of an award because of when they blew up.
posted by Sebmojo at 3:44 PM on January 25


also who the fuck is christopher cross
posted by Sebmojo at 3:51 PM on January 25


He was a rapper whose gimmick was wearing all his clothes backwards.
posted by Artw at 4:00 PM on January 25 [7 favorites]


MC Minstrel Gigolo.
posted by octobersurprise at 4:03 PM on January 25


Yeah Gerardo got robbed in 1991.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:22 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


Graceland annoyed me deeply when it was released. Just really came across as another aging white musician standing on the shoulders of POC musicians to boost his career. Control, though, was red hot. No other album from 1987 stands out to me in particular.
posted by Aya Hirano on the Astral Plane at 4:44 PM on January 25 [4 favorites]


The article to which pogo_fuzzybutt linked is hilarious! Alice Cooper making a Springtime For Hitler reference, then Ian Anderson referring to “the poor unfortunate Alice” having to endure everyone’s reactions.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:48 PM on January 25



also who the fuck is christopher cross

Sailing AND Arthur's Theme AND Ride Like the Wind.

OBVIOUSLY
posted by Chrysostom at 4:52 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


Repicking the Last 38 Years of the Grammys

have I ranted about the Grammys already here? Yes, it appears I have.

What I don't get is why any mature adult would give a shit either way about who wins a Grammy. I mean, I remember being seventeen in 1976 when Captain + Tennille won best record of the year -- that was enough for me. Here was an institution to be ignored. It's not that they don't occasionally recognize great records (and artists) -- it's just that as reliable measure of anything, their batting average is pure minor league.
posted by philip-random at 4:53 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


also who the fuck is christopher cross

a dude who went to high school with Arthur Barrow
posted by thelonius at 4:55 PM on January 25


Looking at this, I was reminded of how much like the Oscars™ these are. Like, Forrest Gump wins, and Pulp Fiction loses. Or Driving Miss Daisy wins, and Do the Right Thing isn't even nominated.

See: Can't Slow Down versus Purple Rain. America, do you want "Hello" or "Darling Nikki"?
posted by the sobsister at 4:57 PM on January 25


Funnily enough, the line in Prince's song that got Tipper Gore's goat finds an odd echo in the Richie video.
posted by the sobsister at 5:07 PM on January 25


I mean, it's 2018, right?

What the fuck is an "album", anyway.
posted by rokusan at 5:44 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Graceland annoyed me deeply when it was released. Just really came across as another aging white musician standing on the shoulders of POC musicians to boost his career. Control, though, was red hot. No other album from 1987 stands out to me in particular.

From the Wiki entry for Ladysmith Black Mambazo: They rose to worldwide prominence as a result of singing with Paul Simon on his 1986 album Graceland, and have won multiple awards, including four Grammy Awards. They were formed by Joseph Shabalala in 1960 and later became one of South Africa's most prolific recording artists, with their releases receiving gold and platinum disc honours.[1] The group has since become a mobile academy, teaching people about South Africa and its culture.
posted by Sebmojo at 5:51 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Graceland annoyed me deeply when it was released. Just really came across as another aging white musician standing on the shoulders of POC musicians to boost his career.

I, too, owned a copy of The Indestructible Beat Of Soweto.
posted by octobersurprise at 5:59 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


Chrysostom: "Sailing AND Arthur's Theme AND Ride Like the Wind."

For a moment I was like WAIT WHAT but different Arthur, different theme
posted by capricorn at 6:11 PM on January 25


It's open knowledge that the Grammys are almost completely absent of artistic integrity; winning or being nominated for one is often a guarantee of one's anti-relevance. I'd actually like to know why the Oscars, as fun as it is to pick on them, often succeed at chronicling works of art that stand the test of time with both audiences and critics in a way the Grammys have never consistently managed. I wonder if anyone has ever done a good piece on that.

Also lol at any universe ranking Tattoo You above Remain in Light.
posted by Palindromedary at 7:18 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


This article seems to be sowing a lot of confusion. Fortunately, there exists a book that is the ultimate argument settler.
posted by lowest east side at 7:24 PM on January 25


Wow, you guys are all super old.

I was skimming through the hip-hop picks and was surprised to find myself in agreement with a lot of them. I laughed at (but didn't necessarily disagree with) picking Tha Carter III and Culture for AOTY of their respective years.

I mean, it's 2018, right?

What the fuck is an "album", anyway.


These days? What Kendrick puts out every year or so.
posted by C^3 at 10:35 PM on January 25


As for the eighties, I'd probably slash my wrists AND hang myself if all of this music was the only thing one could listen to. Still brings me nightmares after 30 years.

Past about 2009 I have no idea who those artists are or what they sound like.
posted by Laotic at 10:59 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


What the fuck is an "album", anyway.

They don't seem to be going away, despite this kind of neophiliac sneering
posted by thelonius at 11:59 PM on January 25 [5 favorites]


also who the fuck is christopher cross?


The yacht rock your Dad had his midlife crisis to in the years before “Graceland” came out.
posted by thivaia at 4:01 AM on January 26 [2 favorites]


Need some ideas or a firm foundation for your alternate history world-building? Start here.
posted by filtergik at 5:55 AM on January 26


Oh god I'm stuck down a yacht rock rabbit hole right now and it's awful. I tolerate a lot of different kinds of music, but I cannot imagine a world in which I would want to listen to this.

I'm still not convinced that Michael McDonald hasn't just been fucking with us all this time.
posted by uncleozzy at 6:27 AM on January 26 [4 favorites]


The yacht rock your Dad had his midlife crisis to ...

My dad had his midlife crisis to "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep." (Oh God, "Where's your mama gone ... where's your papa gone ...) And it occurs to me how unlikely it is that any one now in their twenties had parents who were old enough to have their mid-life crisis to yacht rock. Time keeps on slippin', kids.

I cannot imagine a world in which I would want to listen to this.

Come to my house. I got a fuckton of it. You know that scene in North Dallas Forty where Nick Nolte is lying in the bathtub getting small? That's the perfect moment for some yacht rock.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:54 AM on January 26


Today I Learned: "Good Thing" was not a song by INXS.

INXS has a song called The One Thing which is fairly retro popular and a less popular song called Good Times (originally by the Easybeats whose song Friday on My Mind is insanely good), and both bands have similar ska-lite roots, so the confusion is not your fault.
posted by The_Vegetables at 8:47 AM on January 26


The yacht rock your Dad had his midlife crisis to in the years before “Graceland” came out.

+1.

I have a lot of thoughts about this, but am far too lazy to write them.
In my experience, up until the early 90's youth culture was much more separate from the mainstream. There were absolutely no expectations that anyone hip would win a Grammy, that was sort of impossible by definition. Like most readings of the past, you get in trouble when you try and apply the thinking and standards of the present.

Christopher Cross winning a Grammy was eye rolling, but not outrageous, and mostly in light of the other nominees. "London Calling" winning would have been extremely weird. He lists "Highway to Hell" and "I Love Rock and Roll" as should have been nominated, but that's just crazy talk for the time. You might as well say "Damaged" should have won.
posted by bongo_x at 12:54 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]


"Graceland" was topical at the time and musically excellent for all time; I can't see quibbling with that one. "O, Brother, where art thou?" introduced a lot of people to roots music who otherwise wouldn't have known what they were missing. Christopher Cross.... was once the opener for a rock concert I went to- he seemed like a nice man, let's say.
posted by acrasis at 4:38 PM on January 26 [2 favorites]


I remember seeing some interview with Christopher Cross. He said something like, "I had these enormous hits, won Grammys...and then music videos got big. And I don't exactly have a face for videos."
posted by Chrysostom at 6:02 PM on January 26 [1 favorite]




I can think of one thing I admire about the Grammys: giving Jethro Tull the award for best heavy metal album was either a masterstroke of trolling, or a brilliant piece of conceptual art.
posted by thelonius at 9:40 AM on January 28 [1 favorite]


Confirnation that the Grammys are still garbage.

The rot starts at the top, apparently:

'Women Need to Step Up,’ Says Recording Academy President


Pink and other women beg to differ.
posted by fuse theorem at 5:47 AM on January 30 [1 favorite]


Oh god I'm stuck down a yacht rock rabbit hole right now and it's awful. I tolerate a lot of different kinds of music, but I cannot imagine a world in which I would want to listen to this.


I'm not so sure that "yacht rock" is what your dad had his midlife crisis to - it's more like what your mom listened to while cleaning house.

....I have a soft spot for yacht rock becuase it's what Matercallipygos had playing all the time when I was wee.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:40 AM on January 30




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