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The Grammys 2015: Who Should Actually Win

St. Vincent is already a winner in our book.

St. Vincent is already a winner in our book.

On Sunday night, the music industry fêtes (or fellates) itself with the 57th annual Grammy Awards. What CBS and the Recording Academy relentlessly bill as "Music's Biggest Night" features a host of artists that have worn out their welcome for many of us.

For those of us who are actually paying attention to music that doesn't end up soundtracking segments on the Today program, there are plenty of worthy musicians who ought to be celebrated. Here are our picks for the artists, songs, and albums that should be awarded the Grammys this year.

See Also:
The Mercury Music Prize is far superior to the Grammys

Album of the Year:

Nominees:

Beck - Morning Phase
Beyoncé - Beyoncé
Ed Sheeran - X
Sam Smith - In The Lonely Hour
Pharrell Williams - Girl

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Who Should Win:

St. Vincent - St. Vincent

Sure, Annie Clark's futuristic, electro-rock masterpiece is nominated for the Best Alternative Album, but how about we recognize her and her fresh new work as a true alternative to the rest of these albums. Beck and Beyoncé are both deserving of taking home the Grammy, but they have also released better albums in their past that are closely tied to the themes and styles of their current records. St. Vincent's self-titled album (and her icy-cool, robotic live show) took music in a thrilling, edgy new direction that deserves to be recognized as something that transcends the antiquated and obsolete "alternative" designation.

Song of the Year:

Nominees:

Hozier - "Take Me To Church"
Sia - "Chandelier"
Sam Smith - "Stay With Me"
Taylor Swift - "Shake It Off"
Meghan Trainor - "All About That Bass"

Who Should Win:

Wolf Alice - "Moaning Lisa Smile"

It's hard to decide which Grammy category is more embarrassing this year, between Best Rap Album and the forgetful dreck that voters chose for their Song of the Year. "All About That Bass" should be quickly forgotten and relegated to history's one-hit-wonder bin -- not nominated for our most prestigious songwriting prize. And the one sick beat from T Swizzle's "Shake It Off" is the soulless sound of an artist desperately trying to appeal to all music fans at once. Wolf Alice's potent, crunchy jam puts all of these songs to shame (though Sia's stirring "Chandelier" should win). The London quartet packs enough raw urgency into these bristling two and a half minutes to remind everyone who thought rock music had nothing new to say that they are dead wrong. This song absolutely slays, and 2015 will be the year of Wolf Alice as everyone tries to play catch up.

Best New Artist

Nominees:

Iggy Azalea
Bastille
Brandy Clark
Haim
Sam Smith

Who Should Win:

Eagulls

This category is fraught with a wide-array of artists who have lived up to the promise bestowed on them (the Beatles, Adele, Bon Iver), and head-scratching winners who never amounted to much beyond this initial acclaim (Starland Vocal Band, Milli Vanilli, fun.). So this year's list is typically full of artists who are hot now, but most likely won't be in the future. So, instead of trying to figure out why the hell Bastille is even nominated, let's instead focus on a band who shook up the music industry this year, Eagulls. The Leeds post-punk quintet released a scorching self-titled debut album, and backed it up with an equally incendiary set at the Entry back in June that proved that they are unquestionably the real deal, and not the industry concoctions that populate this category (though, if pressed, Haim would make a decent choice this year). Hopefully Eagulls don't burn out and fade away before their their time like so many other past winners of this category.

Best Pop Vocal Album

Nominees:

Eagulls at 7th St. Entry

Eagulls at 7th St. Entry

Coldplay - Ghost Stories
Miley Cyrus - Bangerz
Ariana Grande - My Everything
Katy Perry - Prism
Ed Sheeran - X
Sam Smith - In The Lonely Hour

Who Should Win:

How To Dress Well - What Is This Heart?

It's a testament to how pointless and misguided genre categories are that two-time Best Alternative Album winners Coldplay now find themselves firmly entrenched in the pop vocal category. As their music has grown more accessible, they have become the mainstream that they supposedly used to counteract. A glossy pop sheen drenches this year's hugely successful nominees in an easily palatable tone, but none of them have the soul and emotional depth of How to Dress Well's stunning What Is This Heart? Tom Krell's songs have a genuine vulnerability layered within inventive, intoxicating beats that still manage to soar even as they reveal the heartbreak that inspired them. Pop music is the driving monetary force behind much of the modern music industry, and it would be gratifying if the fans of Miley, Ariana, Katy and the like embraced music that can make you think as well as groove.

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Best Alternative Album

Nominees:

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Alt-J - This Is All Yours
Arcade Fire - Reflektor
Cage the Elephant - Melophobia
St. Vincent - St. Vincent
Jack White - Lazaretto

Who Should Win:

Shellac - Dude Incredible

Having already established that "alternative" is an outdated, obsolete genre, this category seems like a catch-all for bands and artists that deserve better (St. Vincent, Arcade Fire), and ones that don't seem to fit in any other category -- but the kids sure do love 'em so we've got to include them somehow (Alt-J, the execrable Cage the Elephant). But if you want to recognize and honor an album that truly lies outside the mainstream and represents a real alternative to the tame, insipid treacle, than there is no better choice than Shellac's Dude Incredible. The Chicago noise-rock trio's (led by sonic mastermind Steve Albini) first album in seven years is a roiling collection of outsider anthems filled with an urgency sorely lacking in most modern rock music. If you are aiming to recognize an undeniably alternative act with this category, Shellac are most assuredly it.

Best Dance/Electronic Album

Nominees:

Aphex Twin - Syro
Deadmau5 - while(1
Little Dragon - Nabuma Rubberband
Röyksopp & Robyn - Do It Again
Matzo - Damage Control

Who Should Win:

Aphex Twin - Syro

Voters and the Academy got this one right. Aphex Twin's celebrated return after a prolonged absence (Syro is Richard D. James's first full-length album under the Aphex Twin moniker in 13 years) should be recognized with any and all awards the industry can offer up. The record is filled with imaginative, futuristic beats and layers of pristine sonic textures. It's an album that can simultaneously appeal to first-time listeners while also pleasing longtime fans who have been waiting more than a decade to hear something new from James. Aphex Twin isn't stopping there, either, having just released the brilliant Computer Controlled Acoustic Instruments pt2 which should be nominated in this very same category next year.

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Best Rock Album

Nominees:

Ryan Adams - Ryan Adams
Beck - Morning Phase
The Black Keys - Turn Blue
Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers - Hypnotic Eye
U2 - Songs of Innocence

Who Should Win:

Ex Hex - Rips

I love Ryan Adams and Beck, but there is very little rock in either of their new albums. As for the other three bands in this category, their best work is long behind them. When the most complimentary thing that someone can say about your album is that they finally figured out how to delete it from their iPhone, you don't deserve any recognition for that aimless tripe. If you want a record that truly rocks, look no further than Rips by Ex Hex. This album has filthy riffs galore, a rousing, unrelenting beat, and packs more excitement into the exhilarating first ten seconds of "Beast" than the rest of these records combined. Mary Timony, Betsy Wright, and Laura Harris formed a potent combination that represents everything that is fun and fiery about rock 'n' roll, something that the Grammys have lost sight of over the years as they continually pay homage to artists who are way past their prime.

Best Rap Album

Nominees:

Iggy Azalea - The New Classic
Childish Gambino - Because the Internet
Common - Nobody's Smiling
Eminem - The Marshall Mathers LP 2
Schoolboy Q - Oxymoron
Wiz Khalifa - Blacc Hollywood

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Who Should Win:

YG - My Krazy Life

The Grammys have been notoriously out of touch since the long-overdue creation of this category in 1996. Take Kendrick's Good Kid, M.A.A.D City losing to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' overly sentimental pop-rap jams. Eminem has won Best Rap Album five damn times already, and he's only made two great records. (The clear-cut best rap record of 2014 was Run the Jewels 2, but it wasn't released in time to be eligible for this year's Grammy.) But really, including Iggy Azalea in this category is an insult to all of the truly talented artists who have devoted their life to the rap game. None more so than YG, whose shameful snub for My Krazy Life makes the ultimate winner in this category irrelevant. The deft lyrical skills of YG and his wild cast of cohorts, along with DJ Mustard's consistently fresh beats found throughout the album, make most of the other nominees (Schoolboy Q would be a worthy winner, though) sound like forgettable Saturday morning cartoons.

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