Records of the Year

The Grammy Awards are being presented tonight. Woo. It’s billed as “music’s biggest night,” just as May 7 through May 16 is billed as “the biggest week in American birding,” if only because ten days is a lot for one week. Birders. Am I right, people? Performers at this year’s Grammys include Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak doing their new song, because what better way to celebrate the music of 2020 than with a single that was released last week? Performers I’m looking forward to include Miranda Lambert, Cardi B, HAIM, Megan Thee Stallion, Brittany Howard, Doja Cat, Dua Lipa, and Billie Eilish, whose “Everything I Wanted” is up for Record of the Year. That’s my favorite of the nominees, though I think the award will go to Beyoncé for “Black Parade,” and I have no problem with that. However, if the award goes to that record I never heard of until I started typing this sentence, sneakers will be thrown at my television (though that record may be good for all I know). For Album of the Year my vote goes to Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters, as it was handily the best album of 2020. It probably won’t win, seeing as it wasn’t nominated. What was nominated over Apple’s album? That Coldplay album you forgot about and the Jacob Collier album you never heard of until you started reading this sentence (though that album may be good for all you know). Of the albums nominated, I’d pick HAIM’s. It’s very good. Not Fetch The Bolt Cutters good, but very good nonetheless. If HAIM win I hope they hand their award to Fiona Apple live on the telecast, which would be super impressive, seeing as they won’t be in the same room. I’m sure tonight’s show will include a tribute to dead people done by living people who are no match for said dead people. I’d rather want a montage of clips of the dead people performing when they were living people. <Fill in the blank> screaming is not representative of what made Aretha Franklin amazing. No disrespect to <fill in the blank>, but there’s more to being the Queen of Soul than having a mic and ovaries.

It’s easy to shit on the Grammys, as they are so shittable, but to be fair, not every Record of the Year is as terrible as 1988’s recipient, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Here are thirty of the better winners:

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grammy plaque

Did You Know Sara Bareilles Released An Album This Year?

grammy plaqueI’ve worked on nearly every Grammy compilation release since the first one.

The nominees for the 56th annual Grammy Awards were announced last Friday. The nominations always elicit strong reactions from music fans. I’m pleased with many of the Academy’s selections (Go Kendrick Lamar and Daft Punk!) and puzzled by others (Ed Sheeran is nominated for Best New Artist. Last year he was nominated for Song of the Year. Was he pre-new then?).

Today’s Tunes du Jour playlist consists of some of the tracks that have won Record of the Year. I choose to focus on the positive. I refuse to bash the Grammy voters for when they got it wrong (such as, for example, when they gave Record of the Year to Bobby McFerrin for “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” What the hell was that about? That record won over Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” Are you kidding me?).

Herewith are some of the better Record of the Year winners.

I auditioned for American Idol

In February 2002 my friend Sophie and I auditioned to be the hosts of a new US television series based on the successful UK show Pop Idol. On American Idol, amateur singers competed against each other and the public voted for the winner.

I’ve never seen American Idol. It’s not because I’m bitter I didn’t get the job. I have a different opinion than many of the show’s viewers as to what constitutes good singing. Being loud and hitting high notes do not necessarily make for great singing. A great singer is expressive, feeling the words they are singing. Aretha Franklin and Adele are two singers who can belt and hit a wide range of notes. They also know when to sing softly or when not to let vocal gymnastics get in the way of the song. They are great singers. Bob Dylan and Tom Waits are also great singers. They own their material. They feel their material. They live their material (more accurately, the personas they put forth for each song lives the material).

Dylan and Waits are also great songwriters. Dylan is the better-known of the two, but as today is Waits’ birthday, I’m going to focus on him. His songs have been recorded by a diverse group of artists, including Elvis Costello, Eagles, The Ramones, Johnny Cash, The Pogues, Solomon Burke, Steve Earle, Marianne Faithfull, The Neville Brothers, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Norah Jones, Bette Midler, Bruce Springsteen and Neko Case, the latter two appearing on today’s playlist with Waits covers. His sole US top forty hit on the Billboard Hot 100 was not as an artist, but as the writer of “Downtown Train,” which Rod Stewart took to the top ten in 1990.

Today’s Tom Waits-inspired playlist kicks off with the singer-songwriter’s version of that one hit. Enjoy!