I take it all back.
Really. Every word. I take it back. Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP is in no way the best record of the year, and I’ll deny ever saying that, even under oath. He’s not perpetrating a grand act of satire, he’s just a mildly retarded white boy who curses a lot and gets off on shock value. He has to be crap, you see, because he’s the odds-on favorite to win the Grammy for Album of the Year, and there’s just no way that any singular talent or new voice would ever be recognized with that prize.
Of all the possible ramifications I’d imagined when I named The Marshall Mathers LP the best of 2000 (including but not limited to several of my long-time friends never speaking to me again), I never thought I’d be faced with agreeing with the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. But there it is, under Album of the Year, and it’s up against some pretty creaky competition.
Beck’s Midnite Vultures? Despite being released in 1999 (a common problem caused by the Academy’s weird eligibility window of September to September), it’s more of a retro funk party than a serious statement, and even his fans consider it a minor achievement. Paul Simon’s You’re the One? Great album, and my second favorite on this list, but second doesn’t cover it. In fact, Academy members are more likely to give the top prize to his 1986 album Graceland. Again. For the third time. Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature? Um, what? Honor two has-beens for sounding like they always have? Pass. That leaves Radiohead’s Kid A, which I think is only on this list because Academy voters look at the Emperor’s naked ass and see Armani.
Poll after poll insists that Marshall Mathers is going to walk away with it, a possible decision that I would, again, blame on the overall lousiness of the year. Plus, the Academy’s gotta be smarting from constant remarks about how out of touch their choices are. Voting Eminem would be a way to seem ahead of the curve, when in actuality it’s only because of the album’s alarmingly high sales figures that most of the Academy knows who he is at all.
In fact, the same can be said of most of this year’s nominees, a list that, for once, is surprisingly diverse. Oh, it’s still inept and just plain wrong in so many ways, but it’s quite a nice, broad selection this time. That U2 could get in for Record and Song of the Year and not Album is pretty mystifying, as is Macy Gray’s nomination for her song “I Try,” released in mid-1999. In all, though, I have very few complaints. Well, a few.
Staring with the compliments, though. It’s good to see Aimee Mann’s name on this list for Best Pop Female Performance. Who do you think she’ll lose to, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera or Macy Gray? Speaking of incongruity, dig these nominees for Best Male Rock Performance: David Bowie, Bob Dylan, Don Henley, Lenny Kravitz and… Nine Inch Nails? Huh? I dig the presence of De La Soul in the Best Rap Duo or Group category, though I don’t think Dr. Dre needs to be there twice. I also love that Billy Bragg and Wilco’s decent Mermaid Avenue Vol. 2 is nominated for Best Contemporary Folk Album.
What I don’t dig are three strange choices, and I’ll leave it at these, because everyone knows these awards aren’t worth bitching about. Still, look at the nominees for Traditional Pop Album. I’m not even sure what this category means, but if the best we can offer up is “standards” tortured by the likes of Bryan Ferry and George Michael, don’t you think it’s time to retire this one? Second, nominating Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Sound Collage for Best Alternative Album is just plain lazy. Yeah, he’s Paul McCartney, but anyone could stitch together traffic sounds for a half hour. There were other, better releases in the alternative (whatever that means) field.
Finally, I’d like to see the rules for Best New Artist. Every year they do something bizarre with this category. If it means the best artist to release his/her first album this year, then Papa Roach, Sisqo and Jill Scott certainly qualify. However, unless it means the best artist to change labels, make a shift in musical direction and garner the best reviews of her decade-long career, I just don’t see how Shelby Lynne belongs here. Just because you’ve never heard of it, that doesn’t mean it’s new. Got it?
Good. New subject.
I’ve got a list of releases for the next few months, and since we have no new music to talk about, I figured I’d just lay ‘em on ya. This is, of course, all information that anyone with net access can get pretty easily, but I’ve taken the time to lay it all out for you and send it right to your inbox. You’re welcome.
There’s three categories I’ve separated them into. The first is those with firm titles and release dates, and there are only nine of those through March. (Now, don’t cry, that just means that many projects just haven’t been announced yet.) Here they are:
Beck’s Perpendicular Crosstalk leads the pack on January 16. This is an album of B-sides and outtakes that’s only available, for the moment, on beck.com. When and if it’ll be released to record stores is anyone’s guess.
On January 30, we get the Orb’s new ambient work Cydonia, and Duncan Sheik’s long-awaited acoustic album Phantom Moon. (Let that Nick Drake influence just hang right out there, Duncan.) The following week, on February 6, we’ll get Tricky’s new EP, Mission Accomplished. After that, it’s a long wait until February 27, when Dave Matthews Band releases Everyday, the follow-up to Before These Crowded Streets, which almost won my Album of the Year in 1998.
March 6 is a good day. We’ll get Amy Ray’s solo album, Stag, as well as the new Kristen Hersh, called Sunny Border Blue, and the hopefully worthy new Semisonic, titled All About Chemistry. Finally, Sepultura, the world’s greatest metal band, returns with Nation on March 13.
The second category is filled with albums that will definitely come out sometime, but we only know the month they’re scheduled for. F’rinstance, Rufus Wainwright’s long (loooooong) awaited second album, Poses, is supposed to come out in February. Dig?
March should see new ones from Aerosmith, Orbital, Stabbing Westward and (get this) the reunited Van Halen, with David Lee Roth. (Jesus, guys, just give up.) April will usher in new ones from Tool and the Verve Pipe. Sometime within April or May, we should get the new R.E.M., Seal’s Togetherland, and the second half of Radiohead’s Kid A sessions, which is called Amnesiac, not, as widely rumored, Kid B. In May comes Bjork’s new full-lengther, Domestika, which I predict will have a lock on my Top 10 List, unless she somehow makes a false move, which she hasn’t yet. And finally, slated for a June release is (yeah, right) the new one from (tee-hee) Guns N’ Roses, called Chinese Democracy. We’ll just see about that one.
The last category is all rumor, although the rumors are probably largely true. These releases may come out, and they may not, but look for them during 2001 just the same: The Chemical Brothers’ Chemical 4, Perry Farrell’s The Diamond Jubilee, Peter Gabriel’s where-the-hell-is-this-album-that’s-been-done-for-two-years release Up, a new Alanis Morissette, a new Liz Phair (hurrah!), P.M. Dawn’s crudely (for them) titled Fucked Music, Prodigy’s Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned, Stone Temple Pilots’ double-disc LP, Travis’ follow-up Afterglow, a new Weezer and yet another Wu-Tang Clan album, called WW2.
There. Happy shopping. Next week, I have no clue what I’ll babble about.
See you in line Tuesday morning.