According to the NARAS’s own charter, the Grammy Award is meant to “honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to sales or chart position.” And yet, the 2012 Record of the Year nominations seem to be transparently based largely on familiarity. With the exception of Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin Bout You,” the rest of this year’s selections have been shamelessly thrown at us with an almost obsessive abandon, either as fodder for numerous car and sporting event-related commercials (the Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy”) or as mega hits whose popularity goes beyond mere #1 status (Fun’s “We Are Young” and Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”).
The likely victor here will be among one of the artists who are neither too rock nor too pop, but somewhere in the safe, indeterminate middle. That means no Taylor Swift and no Black Keys, as deserving as the latter are of some more Grammy love. And while it’s nice that NARAS threw a bone of recognition to Frank Ocean, “Thinkin Bout You” isn’t even Channel Orange’s best offering. So we’re left with Kelly Clarkson, Gotye, and Fun. “Somebody That I Used to Know” is the more artful of the songs, possesses a more nuanced production, and has the added punch of a famous-in-its-own-right video that’s inspired some fairly brilliant parodies. But “We Are Young” has broader support, features the more critically acclaimed guest spotter in Janelle Monáe, and, being a thinly disguised repackaging of the whole asinine YOLO message, seems to have explicitly captured the musical zeitgeist of the last 12 months.
Will Win: Fun featuring Janelle Monáe, “We Are Young”
Could Win: Gotye featuring Kimbra, “Somebody That I Used to Know”
Should Win: Gotye featuring Kimbra, “Somebody That I Used to Know”