Bob Schwartz

Tag: Royals

Grammy Nominations Time Again

Neon Philharmonic
It’s Grammy nominations time again, in advance of January’s awards for the best in recorded music.

In some circles, the relevance of the Grammys is beyond question—as in there’s no question that they are irrelevant. In part that’s because of their being behind the times and missing the mark at various points. Of course awards are matters of disagreement and controversy, so it does come with the territory.

Still, there have been some infamously wild choices. Most celebrated, and the emblematic botched call, was Jethro Tull’s winning the 1988 Grammy for Hard Rock/Heavy Metal, over Metallica among others. (When asked about this today, as he always is, Jethro Tull leader Ian Anderson simply notes that he presumes the band got the award for being “nice guys’ who had never won.)

It takes literally an hour to read the entire list of nominations and probably days to listen to all the nominated music. It might be fair and nice to acknowledge what Grammy got right, but that’s no fun. They don’t need anybody’s encouragement and way to gos/att boys. Instead it is more hopefully corrective to list some offbeat nominations or lack thereof.

Lorde is nominated for Record of the Year, Song of the Year (songwriting) and Best Popo Solo Performance for Royals. But she is somehow not in the running for Best New Artist. That single and the album (Pure Heroine) have been monstrously popular across a variety of audiences. By way of bonus, this is genuinely original and interesting music, and she wrote and recorded it when she was only sixteen. So if she shouldn’t win Best New Artist—there are some worthy competitors—she kind of deserved a shot at it.

On the other chronological end we have the oldsters. For that weirdness, you have to check out the Grammy history for Led Zeppelin. They were nominated as Best New Artist in 1970, but lost to Crosby, Stills and Nash (the other nominees were Chicago, Neon Philharmonic and Oliver. Oliver.). Then nothing, no nominations, nada. Even though all the major Zep albums sit somewhere in the all-time 100, not to mention some of the even-more iconic tracks. (To keep from singing Stairway, I listened to Neon Philharmonic’s big hit Morning Girl and Oliver’s Jean. That’ll keep you from getting too crazy heavy.)

The reunited Led Zeppelin performed at a benefit concert in 2007, and the soundtrack of the film of that concert was released, and has resulted in two Grammy nominations: Best Rock Performance for Kashmir and Best Rock Album for Celebration Day, the concert soundtrack.

That’s right. A band that broke up in 1980 (33 years ago), a band that reunited for one performance in 2007 (six years ago) to record a song it first released in 1975 (38 years ago) is up for two Grammys.

Take that you naysayers. Who says Grammy isn’t still “with it”? If that is what the kids are saying these days.

Music: Royals by Lorde

Lorde

When you’re a young pop music fanatic, you spend half your time listening. Music is life, life is music. When you get older, you still love it, but it takes its place among so many other occupiers. Which is why some of us who really do care and appreciate end up as “middle of the day” discoverers instead of early adopters.

I nearly had to pull off the road when I first heard Royals by Lorde on the radio this week. I was transported, transfixed, whatever transcendent pop music word you want to use. I am about the five millionth person to find out about this phenomenon, but I don’t care.

This is from the Billboard 21 Under 21 list, where Lorde comes in at Number 6, just a few spots below Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus:

Why She’s Hot: At this time last year, Ella Yelich-O’Connor was an unknown 15-year-old in New Zealand, still two months away from releasing her debut EP for free on the Internet. Fast forward one calendar frame, and one of the songs on that EP, “Royals,” is a record-setting hit on Billboard’s Alternative chart and a Top 5 single on the U.S. Hot 100. Its creator, now known as Lorde, is one of the most fascinating new talents in pop music, with sold-out shows, a beguiling debut album titled “Pure Heroine,” and an astoundingly level head about her heightened profile. The head of Lorde’s record label says that she could be “the artist of her generation,” and thousands agree. It’s time to hail Lorde with a spot in this year’s Top 10.

And if everything else about Royals isn’t already plus-perfect, the song itself, written by Lorde and Joel Little, offers a message about rich pop stars from the common people perspective: “we’ll never be royals.”

I’ve never seen a diamond in the flesh
I cut my teeth on wedding rings in the movies
And I’m not proud of my address
In the torn up town, no post code envy

But every song’s like:
Gold teeth
Grey Goose
Tripping in the bathroom
Bloodstains
Ball gowns
Trashing the hotel room

We don’t care, we’re driving Cadillacs in our dreams

But everybody’s like:
Crystal
Maybach
Diamonds on your timepiece
Jet planes
Islands
Tigers on a gold leash

We don’t care, we aren’t caught up in your love affair

And we’ll never be royals
It don’t run in our blood
That kind of lux just ain’t for us, we crave a different kind of buzz
Let me be your ruler
You can call me queen bee
And baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule
Let me live that fantasy

My friends and I we’ve cracked the code
We count our dollars on the train to the party
And everyone who knows us knows
That we’re fine with this, we didn’t come from money

This is the dream for every artist and producer, and for music fans too: something so familiar yet different, something so infinitely listenable and desirable that it is a musical drug. Will Lorde go on to be, as her label says, “the artist of her generation”? They have to say that, there’s a long way to go, and one great track doesn’t make a career. But what a great track and what a great way to start.