Music, lights and gold gramophones.
That’s just some of what will come together onstage during the 55th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday.
Two Mustang Daily staff members go head-to-head with their predictions for “music’s biggest night.”
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
KL: “Babel” by Mumford & Sons
“There’ll be no value in the strength of walls that I have grown/There’ll be no comfort in the shade of the shadows thrown/You may not trust the promises of the change I’ll show/But I’d be yours if you’d be mine.” — “Lover of the Light” by Mumford & Sons
That’s the same band that brought you the famous lyric, “where you invest your love, you invest your life.”
Mumford & Sons’ sophomore album “Babel” doesn’t disappoint. The band sold 600,00 copies in the album’s debut week in the U.S., according to Billboard, making it the second-biggest album debut of the year.
“Babel” features songs ranging from the lyrically beautiful “Lover of the Light” and “Below My Feet” (my two favorites on the album) to power songs bursting with adrenaline, such as “Babel” and “I Will Wait.”
And it wouldn’t be Mumford if the band didn’t return to its banjo-strumming roots. Thank goodness.
As Rolling Stone wrote in its review of the album, “… it’s the band’s lyrics, and Mumford’s delivery, that define the album’s sound.”
And then there’s The Huffington Post’s review: “(The band’s) sophomore release is epic for a number of reasons: the gripping emotion, vulnerability, dark moments, the banjo — all elements for a great musical composition. And then there is Marcus Mumford’s voice.”
Yes and yes.
Musicians are storytellers. And Mumford & Sons’ album “Babel” tells stories I could listen to over and over again.
The folk quartet’s songs breathe raw emotion to the point where you’ll find yourself empathizing with the character(s).
Marcus Mumford, Ben Lovett, Country Winston and Ted Dwayne: Prepare your speech.
While The Black Keys’ seventh studio album is no doubt impressive with hits such as “Gold On the Ceiling” and “Lonely Boy,” it isn’t enough to snag a Grammy for this category.
JJ: “CHANNEL Orange” by Frank Ocean
I’ve held a grudge against the Grammys for a long time, especially in its premier category. My disgust was epitomized in 2011 when Arcade Fire’s “The Suburbs” won Album of the Year despite losing the Best Rock Album to The Black Keys’ “Brothers.”
But for the first time in years, I’d be highly surprised if the Academy disappointed me again. As a long-time fan of The Black Keys, a win for “El Camino” would be a much-deserved reconciliation for being snubbed two years ago, but it was “CHANNEL Orange” that truly stood above the rest. Frank Ocean didn’t just redefine a genre, he created a new space between R&B, hip-hop and pop without turning to a plethora of guest vocalists.
Plus, you won’t find a more finely produced album out there. Every time I crank up my headphones on tracks such as “Forrest Gump” and “Super Rich Kids,” another textural gem jumps into my ears and gives the song a new dimension. In any other year, Jack White’s debut solo-album “Blunderbuss” could have made a run for the crown, but it has a few dead spots that create a more uneven listening experience.
SONG OF THE YEAR
KL: “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran
Fun.’s “We Are Young.” Now that is a song — a refreshing beat, great vocals by Nate Reuss and an overall great hit from the indie-pop group.
While Fun. will probably win the award, I can’t help but root for the talented underdog: English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran.
Sheeran penned the lyrics of “The A Team” (being the lyrical genius he is), and delivers its dark tone in ear-pleasing fashion. The song is the story of a woman at a homeless shelter where he once played a gig, Sheeran told Rolling Stone.
A great melody accompanied by dark, truthful storytelling — hello, gramophone.
JJ: “Adorn” by Miguel
A case can be made that Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” deserves a nod in this category for the way it burst onto the scene and became the song of the summer. Heck, when I was in China this summer a driver who didn’t speak a word of English knew the lyrics.
Then again, a similar argument could be made for “Gangnam Style” and I don’t want future songs of the year to be determined by their YouTube views. That’s why my pick is “Adorn” by Miguel. The California-native refocused his style for “Kaleidoscope Dream” after a confused 2010 album, “All I Want Is You.” Adorn sets the tone for a new mellowed-out Miguel, supplemented by hip-hop beats that don’t overpower his vocals.
BEST NEW ARTIST
KL: The Lumineers
Not only does the band have a great hit with its song “Ho Hey,” but with songs such as “Stubborn Love” and “Submarines,” The Lumineers should be able to come out with the win.
And those are just three of the songs this folk rock band graced the rustic music scene with in its 11-track, self-titled album debut.
JJ: Alabama Shakes
The logical choice for Best New Artist would be Frank Ocean, since I already awarded him my Album of the Year, but I like to mix things up. Plus, Ocean has been part of Odd Future and appeared on Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “Watch the Throne,” so he’s not exactly “new.”
Conversely, no one knew about Alabama Shakes a year ago. Heck, drummer Steve Johnson wasn’t far removed from a day job at a nuclear power plant when I started listening to Ocean’s EP “Nostalgia, Ultra.” Alabama Shakes’ lead vocalist Brittany Howard gives the band a powerful female voice that can extend from raspy rock, like on “Hold On,” to sweet and smooth, like on “Goin’ to the Party.”
Only Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys can match her on vocal range from a rock ‘n’ roll group. The Lumineers are finding a niche in the folk-rock scene that Mumford and Sons exploited with “Sigh No More” and “Babel,” but, to me, there isn’t enough variety in that genre to garner too many awards.
BEST ROCK ALBUM
KL: “Mylo Xyloto” by Coldplay
Let me start off by saying I love The Black Keys. The duo’s soulful style is effortless — Auerbach and Carney, you guys are top-notch.
But they’re up against Coldplay. C’mon, now (Sorry, J.J.).
Coldplay’s “Mylo Xyloto” may have received criticism for the band’s new sound, but Coldplay is Coldplay; fans need to be kept on their feet.
And the London crew does just that with colorful beats throughout its 14-track ensemble.
Vocalist Chris Martin’s energy on this album is contagious, especially with songs such as “Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” and “Hurts Like Heaven.”
And then there’s “Charlie Brown” — an electric anthem filled with beats that will get you to play the air guitar while jumping up and down within the first minute.
Coldplay can do no wrong.
Apparently, if you want to stand out in my predictions, be British (I joke).
JJ: “El Camino” by The Black Keys
The genre categories are fairly light on substance this year, especially the rap category since Kendrick Lamar’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city” and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “The Heist” missed the Sept. 30 cutoff date.
And, let’s be honest: If 2 Chainz is nominated, nobody wins.
The rock category should garner the most competition with relative newcomers Jack White and The Black Keys squaring off against mainstays Bruce Springsteen and Coldplay. I’m sure White would be more offended if he won, so my pick here is The Black Keys for “El Camino” based solely on the superiority of their music video for “Lonely Boy.”
ASK THE EXPERTS
Boo Boo Records customer service employee Ryan East and owner Mike White gave their predictions for album of the year and best new artist.
Album of the Year
“I thought there was a lot of hype around (Frank Ocean’s ‘Channel Orange’),” East said.
“I like all of (the nominees for album of the year), but The Black Keys’ (“El Camino”) is such a great album,” White said.
Despite his opinion on “El Camino,” White said Mumford & Sons will probably take home the win based on its current popularity.
Best New Artist
“I’ve got to go with Alabama Shakes just because that debut album was so incredible,” East said. “I have high hopes for their sophomore (album). They have a great sound.”
White said he thinks the award will go to The Lumineers.