The 2015 Grammy nominations are in, and there are plenty of familiar faces in the various Rock categories, where even some of the new faces are getting to be too familiar.
It's well known, that despite all the mountains of music released each year, the Grammy Awards tend to nominate the same acts over and over and over. Once a group has established a foothold in the biz, they're bound to return to the award show year after year, particularly in the Rock categories.
While the Grammys often tend to look to past success stories for nominees in the Best Rock Album category — last year's batch featured Black Sabbath, David Bowie, Neil Young and Led Zeppelin — recent winners have been more contemporary. But since 2000, the category has been won by the Foo Fighters three times, and Green Day twice, and even relative upstarts like The Black Keys are starting to get comfortable in the category.
Last year, the Best Rock Album was awarded to a live Zeppelin album (a live Zeppelin album…in 2014), over more adventurous choices like Queens of the Stone Age's “…Like Clockwork” or even Bowie's well-regarded studio comeback “The Next Day.”
This year's group of nominees is another mix of classic rock radio mainstays and mid-career acts headed toward a similar place. Although Tom Petty and U2 are repping acts who hit their highs decades ago, it's a genuine surprise that voters snubbed both longtime faves Paul McCartney and Bruce Springsteen.
This year's nominees for Best Rock Album are Beck's “Morning Phase,” Ryan Adams' self-titled,
The Black Keys' “Turn Blue,” Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers' “Hypnotic Eye” and U2's “Songs of Innocence.”
A closer look:
– One of the weakest albums in their catalog, U2's “Innocence” received lukewarm critical reviews and suffered a significant backlash after being gifted to everyone with an iTunes account. Furthermore, they haven't scored any hit singles from the set. However, they certainly can't be counted out; Bono and the boys earned back-to-back wins in this category with “All That You Can”t Leave Behind” (2002) and “How to Dismantle An Atomic Bomb” (2006), while 2010's “No Line on the Horizon” was also nominated.
– Adams is experiencing a mid-career renaissance of late, and his harder-rocking self-titled nominee was well-recieved. The singer-songwriter hasn't been up for this award since 2002, however, when his bestseller “Gold” was nominated, and “Ryan Adams” has a significantly lower commercial profile than “Gold.” He's definitely a long shot, but it's always nice to be nominated.
– Likewise, although The Black Keys' “Turn Blue” debuted at No. 1 and seems to be a year-end favorite on many critics' lists, it doesn't seem to have quite the same momentum as “El Camino” did going into the nominations a few years ago. Still, it's the duo's second nomination in a row, and they appear to be becoming fixtures here, the same way the Foo Fighters and U2 are automatically nominated with each new release.
– Beck's “Morning Phase” is a critical smash that was released early in the year, and with this nomination, it appears that, like Green Day and the Foo Fighters before him, the Grammys no longer consider Beck “just” an alternative artist. Although both 1996's “Odelay” and 2000's “Midnite Vultures” were nominated for Best Album, and just about everything he's ever released has been nominated in the Alternative categories, this is actually Beck's first time as a Best Rock Album nominee. A win would be a bit of a surprise, but a welcome one.
– Finally, it's still difficult to believe, but “Hypnotic Eye” was the first No. 1 album of Petty's long career, and after several nominations, he's never won for Rock Album (either as a solo or with the Heartbreakers). And with Springsteen out of the running, he'll snag the AARP vote. It could be Petty's time to shine.
The Best Rock Song category reflects a handful of the same artists as the Rock Album section, while mixing in some young(-ish) blood for good measure. Among the latter is Paramore, scoring their first nomination in a Rock category. Recent winners have included Springsteen, Neil Young, Foo Fighters, Black Keys and last year's collaboration between McCartney and former Nirvana members, including fellow Foos Dave Grohl and Pat Smear. It's safe to say that the Grammys play it extra conservatively in this category.
This year's nominees include standbys The Black Keys, with “Fever,” Ryan Adams (“Gimme Something Good”), Jack White (“Lazaretto”), and “newbies” Beck (“Blue Moon”) and Paramore, with “Ain't It Fun.”
“Ain't It Fun” is indeed fun, but doesn't seem like the typical winner in this section, as it leans toward pop. The inclusion of Paramore — who've been around for a decade already — seems like an award in itself. Beck's nominated song isn't among his more raucous efforts, and is quietly adventurous in its own eclectic way. “Lazaretto” and “Fever” seem like the best bets, considering each acts' Grammy history, although White's exclusion from the Rock Album category would be hard to reconcile with a win here.
The Best Rock Performance category looks a lot like Best Rock Song, with Ryan Adams, Beck, The Black Keys, and Jack White making room for the Arctic Monkeys, one of the few Brit acts nominated in any rock category.
Read about the Best Alternative and Best Metal Performance nominees — including Paramore, Arcade Fire, Beck, Motorhead, Mastodon, and Jack White — on page 2.
The Best Alternative Rock Album category is slightly less adventurous than in previous years. The Grammys' use of the catch-all word “alternative” has previously meant that everyone from Bjork to the Beastie Boys, and Bon Iver to Lily Allen could score a nomination in the past, when they would've likely been shut out of other categories. But this year seems to be mostly narrowed down to guitar rock.
The Best Alternative Album include Alt-J's electronic-infused “This Is All Yours,” Arcade Fire's “Reflektor,” Cage the Elephant's “Melophobia,” St. Vincent's self-titled effort, and Jack White's “Lazaretto.”
Why White's “Lazaretto” is here and not in Best Rock Album is a mystery. His 2013 album “Blunderbuss” was nominated for both Best Rock Album and Album of the Year. Likewise, both his albums with The Raconteurs were nominated in the Rock Album category, by-passng the Alternative section entirely.
Arcade Fire, who won Best Album their last time out, are hoping to repeat in the top category (or at least get nominated) with “Reflektor,” but an Alternative Album win would be a decent consolation prize. Oddly, “The Suburbs” went home with a Best Album trophy in 2013, but wasn't even nominated for Best Rock Album or Best Alternative Album.
White and AF are the elder statesman of the category this year, as Alt-J, St. Vincent and the Cage the Elephant are all first-time nominees. They have their work cut out for them in facing such legacy acts.
The ghost of the late Ronnie James Dio hangs over the Best Metal Performance category, where not one, but two cover songs from a Dio tribute album (Tenacious D's “The Last in Line” and Anthrax's “Neon Knights”) are competing with the immortal Motörhead (nominated for “Heartbreaker”), '90s vets Slipknot's “The Negative One,” and, the newest of the bunch, Mastodon's “High Road.” It's a category that infamously passed up Metallica for Jethro Tull in the late '80s, and may be missing out on some of the genre's better offerings once again.
Today's nominations added precious few new pieces to the giant Grammy chessboard, with the same names cropping up again and again. Although the Awards have been slowly turning away from honoring the same tried-and-true classic rock acts for the umpteenth time, they're starting to turn “newer” acts into old faces.
What do you think of they year's Rock categories? Who should've been nominated?