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Michael O’BrienFebruary 02, 2024
Grammy Awards are displayed at the Grammy Museum Experience at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. on Oct. 10, 2017. The 66th annual Grammy Awards will take place Sunday, February 4 at the Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

It has sent stars further into the stratosphere, snubbed some incredibly deserving artists and provided some notorious and iconic moments in pop culture history: It’s the Grammys!

The 66th Annual Grammy Awards will take place this coming Sunday, Feb. 4, at Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena and can be watched live on CBS at 8 p.m. Eastern time.

While readers may already be familiar with music giants like Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus and Olivia Rodrigo, let’s take a look at some other artists who have earned the recognition of the Grammys committee.

While readers may already be familiar with music giants like Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo, let’s take a look at some other artists who have earned Grammy recognition.

Best New Artist Nominee: Fred again..

In the world of electronic dance music, sampling is an intrinsic part of how the genre is produced.

Take Daft Punk’s “Discovery,” which is frequently cited as the greatest electronic dance album ever. The album contains an extensive number of samples from artists like George Duke, Edwin Birdsong, The Imperials, Barry Manilow and more, blending wonderfully to craft an album that both swells with joy and provides slow-dance jams as well.

But even albums like “Discovery” often treat their samples as an afterthought rather than an essential part of the compositions.

The artist known as “Fred again..,” a relative newcomer to electronic dance music, is pushing back against using sampling as simply an auxiliary tool to making great original music, putting his samples squarely in the spotlight.

The tracklists of Fred’s aptly titled “Actual Life” trilogy contain a person’s name followed by a phrase from the vocal snippet he is sampling in parentheses. On his smash hit “Delilah (pull me out of this),” Fred pulls vocals from a video of Delilah Montagu performing her original song “Lost Keys,” sampling the lines: “Touch me, talk to me/ Pull me out of this.” Fred could have paid Montagu for the rights to her song and left it at that, but it’s clear that he values forging relationships while making music. He’s brought Montagu on stage to perform the live vocals of her portion of his song, further emphasizing the importance of an artist’s contribution to another original composition.

But it’s not just fellow artists that Fred finds inspiration from. A common vocal motif among Fred’s songs is a male voice saying the phrases “We gon’ make it through” and “I want you to see me, friend!” The sample came from a chance encounter captured between the D.J. and a construction worker named Carlos in Atlanta.

Fred again.. is giving real life back to electronic music, a genre that sometimes feels robotic and lacks a sense of joie de vivre.

“It was striking me how much musicality there was in the way that [Carlos] spoke, so from there I just dragged it onto Logic on my laptop and put some chords over it. I loved the feeling it gave me; of glorifying that very mundane seeming moment,” Fred said about the sample.

I’ve written before that naming is a sacred act, and by placing the people that he samples squarely in the title and at the heart of the song, Fred again.. is giving real life back to electronic music, a genre that sometimes feels robotic and lacks a sense of joie de vivre, something that the French trailblazers Daft Punk sought to do themselves.

Best Music Video Nominee: “Count Me Out” by Kendrick Lamar, directed by Dave Free and Kendrick Lamar

Dynamic duos of directors and actors are easy to find in Hollywood: think Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro, Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, Greta Gerwig and Saoirse Ronan. It’s less common in the practice of making music videos, where artists bounce around from director to director, seeking out different eyes for different sounds.

But rap icon Kendrick Lamar has maintained a longstanding partnership with Dave Free for his music videos, dating back to Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city” era. Free gave direction to some of Lamar’s most famous music videos such as the social justice anthem “Alright” and the (yes) braggadocious “Humble.”

The vapid nature of many rap music videos has been mocked before, but even the most casual hip-hop fans know that Kendrick Lamar is not a vapid artist.

The Pulitzer-Prize-winning rapper is just as thoughtful about his music videos as he is about his records, which is evident in the video for his song “Count Me Out.”

The opening moments of the video immediately establish the themes Lamar explores on the album: a watch ticks ominously (Lamar reflects on the nature of time in the context of familial trauma on “Father Time”), then he begins to speak with a therapist played by Helen Mirren (Lamar’s relationship with therapy and introspection is fleshed out on much of the album on songs like “United in Grief”). Lamar also places himself at a piano, an instrument he has found solace in learning to play and that appears frequently on his 2022 album “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.” “I’ve found piano,” he told the crowd at Barclays Center in Brooklyn during his tour in 2022.

The rest of the video places an array of visuals between Lamar and Mirren, painting a picture of what Lamar likely speaks about with his therapist in real life.

Nobody in hip-hop has been as vulnerable, emotionally raw and honest with their music as Kendrick Lamar.

'“Please everybody else but myself,” Lamar raps over a visual of himself looking forlorn as a record executive shoves a contract his way. The lyrics “Every emotion been deprived/ Even my strong points couldn’t survive/ If I didn’t learn to love myself, forgive myself a hundred times” coincide with imagery of an angel and Lamar participating in a group pieta. (This echoes the crown of thorns that Lamar wears on the cover of “Mr. Morale.”)

Nobody in hip-hop has been as vulnerable, emotionally raw and honest with their music as Lamar. His music videos display that he (with Free’s assistance) is not just the greatest rapper of this generation but an auteur to boot.

Best Alternative Music Performance Nominee: “Belinda Says” by Alvvays

Over the last couple of years, there has been an outpouring of artists like The Weeknd and Silk Sonic making music that sounds like it came straight out of the 1970s and ’80s. It was fun while it lasted, but hearing so many popular artists try to be James Brown or Stevie Wonder quickly became stale.

The Canadian dream-pop band Alvvays has capitalized on the late 20th-century music revival in a more thoughtful, artistically driven way. And they have done so with the help of ’80s artist Belinda Carlisle, along with the poet John Milton, on the gorgeous “Belinda Says.”

The Venn Diagram of archetypical 80’s music and 17th-century epic poems is tiny, but Alvvays has long been challenging themselves creatively.

“I try to be conscientious of the patterns I naturally fall into, and all my little instincts that have been recycled over time that become same-y and done. So as I’m writing, I’m trying to take left turns. Sometimes the pattern has to remain, but it’s fun to explore and go on a spiritual quest,” Rankin said in a 2022 interview.

Rankin’s philosophy is evident on “Belinda Says.” Rankin adopts a very similar vocal cadence to Carlisle’s, but the band doesn’t fall into typical 80’s music tropes. Alvvays omits synthesizers for fuzzy, distorted guitars and heavy drum fills.

The Canadian band Alvvays has capitalized on the late 20th-century music revival in a thoughtful, artistically driven way.

Bеlinda says that heaven is a place on еarth/ Well, so is hell/ And we’ll all get help paradise/ And we’ll start another life,” lead singer Molly Rankin croons.

It’s clear that Rankin paid attention in her Romantic literature class, as she intentionally swaps the word “heaven” with “paradise.” The lyric is not dissimilar to Milton’s claim in “Paradise Lost” that “When violence was ceas’t, and Warr on Earth,/ All would have then gon well, peace would have crownd/ With length of happy dayes the race of man.”

Rankin’s deft songwriting is displayed even without the influences of Carlisle and Milton. She muses on her youth, writing “Blue Rev behind the rink/ I didn’t really need it/ Circumspect when you call collect/ To see if I would keep it.”

“Blue Rev was a wine cooler that my peers and I drank at rink dances and in graveyards. It really is the taste of my youth in a way,” she told Rolling Stone.

This hit of warm nostalgia is immediately interrupted by a sobering event: She receives a collect call from an inconsiderate former lover as to whether or not she plans on keeping their baby.

“Belinda Says” is ultimately a balancing act in the form of an alternative rock song: between influences and individual pursuits, the past and the present, heaven and hell, good times and bad—they all exist in the song, but if you listen passively , you just may miss it.

Alvvays has already earned an outpouring of praise for the track, but the Grammys committee should have no hesitation in providing the band with yet another accolade.

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