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Debating Kanye, Adele, Foo Fighters, Skrillex, Bon Iver and the Grammy Noms and Snubs

REVIEWING THE NOMINEES: As usual, the annual Grammy candidates included trendy surprises, predictable bores and baffling omissions. We discuss, and mostly mock.


By Kenny Herzog and Robbie Woliver
"Wait, I got the most nominations but not album of the year. Shit." (Credit: Island Def Jam)


As you may know, REVIEWniverse editors Robbie Woliver and Kenny Herzog occassionally go tit-for-tat about the latest TV shows, movies, albums, true-crime happenings, celebrity blunders and general pop-culture schrapnel. Call it a great debate, call it a he said/he said, call it whatever you like. Just don't call it Shirley. 

Today, we take a look at the much buzzed-about 2012 Grammy nominations, which polarized music fans as they always do, especially in the Twitter-verse. So, we took it upon ourselves to parse through the honored acts, overlooked artists and public response itself, and see if we can't deduce just what to make of this year's annointed crop. 


KENNY HERZOG: I will admit, it's odd that Kanye would get nominated for seven trophies but not Album of the Year. Still, I'm a bit surprised that people are surprised. It's like bemoaning your middle-aged aunt being out of touch with kids these days.

ROBBIE WOLIVER: I'm sure he'll get up to the podium to accept anyway. But the Grammys sure tapped into their inner folkie and dreamy folk rock, didn't they? Their big live show is gonna be Bon Iver, the Civil Wars, the Decemberists and Mumford & Sons? Where are the Katy Perrys?!

KH: Just to be a bit indulgent for a minute, the Bon Iver revelation kind of took me aback. I understand it's on the heels of his Kanye association and subsequent charting relevance, but on a personal level, he and I were sitting in my then-office four years ago at this time, talking and hanging out before he eventually performed acoustic for a podcast. Four years later, he's a multiple Grammy nominee, and I'm sitting at my laptop navel-gazing about his success. I feel congratulatory toward him, yet somehow sad and comparatively unaccomplished. Depressing, no?

RW: Wow, what a name-dropper. Well, I was once mano y mano with Bob Dylan in his dressing room for an hour (OK, one other person was with us)--and Liberace was outside the door. So there.

KH: Yes, because they were already successful. My encounter is uniquely bittersweet because, at that time, I was theoretically extending exposure to a then-unknown artist who has now comically eclipsed me in his pursuits. Opposite of name-dropping. It's like name-sadness.


RW: Let's set Bon Iver's delicately plucked "Holocene" aside for a second, but "The Cave" by Mumford & Sons as Record of the Year? WTF? Did Liberace ever win a Grammy? 


KH: The list of deserved Grammy snubs far exceeds even the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's. And I definitely equate their mutually insitutionalized randomness. I think the danger in NARAS fogies chasing indie-crossover trends is that a lot of what's coming from that culture is boring. It's a no-win, because most of pop radio in 2011 is pretty soulless, glitchy genre mashing. Adele being a notable exception among the nominated.


RW: The Grammys has always been more known for its schizophrenia than common sense. But it's that crazy nonsensical mix that makes me like the nominations. Adele is certainly expected and deserved, as is Katy Perry's "Firework," I must admit. And although I don't think they are top-tier award-worthy, it is certainly wonderful to see acts like Bon Iver and Mumford in the mix. And there are weird selections all over the place. Take Dance. "Barbara Streisand" by Duck Sauce? That is not a Grammy-worthy nomination, but Robyn is well-earned.


KH: Robyn is well-deserved, although the fawning over uber-trendy flash-in-pan Skrillex is dubious at best. It almost feels like voters either have moles scanning blogs or their college-aged kids are whispering hipness into their ear. It also should be said that, while Bon Iver is great and should be acknowledged, he is not exactly a New Artist. Their definition of that category is still bafflingly self-serving. I also need to ask if all the Foo Fighters love (for a fine record, but one no more distinguished than their best) has anything opportunistically to do with all the Nirvana Nevermind anniversary buzz this year. They're hoping for a "moment" during one of Dave Grohl's speeches, perhaps?

RW: Well, what about Eddie Vedder's nomination for Best Folk Album? And the Best New Artist category has always been baffling. Remember when Shelby Lynne won after, like, a four-decade career? (I love Shelby Lynne by the way, and if she were nominated next year for Best New Artist again, I would be thrilled.) But is the category to watch Best Pop Collaboration, given the inclusion of Tony Bennett and the late Amy Winehouse's duet? Grammys giving her one last goodbye? 

KH: I guess the formula has always been a cynical calculation of timely sentiment, overcorrected belatedness, mainstream complacence and, increasingly, desperate trendiness. But unless Bon Iver sweeps his categories and the night, it'll be hard to imagine anything as astounding as Arcade Fire's coup de ceremony last year. That kind of backfired on the Grammys though, which makes Adele's breakout record the perfect patsy to get things back safely but credibly on track.

RW: The bottom line is that this is Adele's year. There is no bigger music story, or more deserving recording, and we'll all be waiting to see if her throat surgery heals enough for her to perform. Everything else pales in her wake. There are some other great offerings like the Decemberists who are so deserving of wider recognition. And this year's Who is Esperanza Spaulding Award? goes to Americana's Linda Chorney, whom none of my Americana colleagues ever heard of. And for the record, Nicki Minaj won the New York Music Awards' Best New Artist Award a year prior to this Grammy nomination. I'm also sorry Lili Anel's "Every Second In Between" wasn't recognized in Jazz. 

KH: Ugh. The Decemberists. I HATE the Decemberists. And I think they're pretty widely recognized. Even as far back as a few years ago, when they were heavily dropped in a Friday Night Lights episode. I did, however, meet a girl I once dated at a show of theirs someone dragged me to, so there's that. And she was a bit older, so it was something of a May-Decemberists romance, eh? Anyhow, I don't really have anyone I feel was egregiously omitted, to be honest. If I do, they'd either make me look delusional or like someone who simply has poor taste in music. I suppose I can agree that Adele may as well sweep up. Maybe I'm feeling safe too, but it beats a gloating Kanye or nerd revolt when one of their indie-rock heroes triumphs. 


IN OTHER WORDS: Stay tuned for our post-Grammys shakedown after it airs on Feb. 12, 2012. There's a lot of 2s in that date.




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