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Morning Phase (#110 of 4)

Grammy 2015 Winner Predictions: Album of the Year

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Grammy 2015 Winner Predictions: Album of the Year
Grammy 2015 Winner Predictions: Album of the Year

This is a race more of less between two albums: One great and daring, one mediocre and safe. So if the conversation here was related to an institution with any standard for greatness, this might not be such a tough call, but since this is the Grammys, bastion for all that is “pretty okay,” it’s harder to say who will receive the honor. Beyoncé’s surprise-released set seemingly isn’t all that different a candidate from Frank Ocean’s sinewy nü-R&B effort Channel Orange, which lost in this category a few years ago. But not inconsequentially, Beyoncé did basically reinvent both the roll-out strategy for a pop album and expand its borders into a full-blown multimedia experience, its iTunes drop packaged with a music video for each of its songs. Then again, increased real estate in the pop-culture discourse has its drawbacks, with right-wing talking heads like Mike Huckabee spouting off about her music being “mental poison” because she has the audacity to extend her narrative focus to strippers and backseat boofing.

Grammy 2015 Winner Predictions

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Grammy 2015 Winner Predictions
Grammy 2015 Winner Predictions

All this week we’re predicting the winners in the so-called Big Four categories at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, airing this Sunday night on CBS. We kick things off with our picks in some of the smaller genre categories:

Best Rock Album: NARAS loves to reward long-overdue veterans, particularly in categories like Best Rock Album, where past winners include the Rolling Stones (who took home the inaugural trophy back in 1995), U2 (who’ve won twice, and are nominated again this year), and Led Zeppelin (whose live album Celebration Day triumphed over Black Sabbath, David Bowie, and Neil Young last year). It might seem foolish to bet against U2, but the Irish icons only have a 50% success rate in this category, and Songs of Innocence was notable mostly for its controversial rollout—which, unlike Beyoncé, was met with a cool reception. The Black Keys won here two years ago, and while the academy is fond of repeat winners (just ask Foo Fighters, who possess a whopping 20 percent of all of the metal handed out in this category), it will be hard to resist rewarding Beck’s Morning Phase, the Album of the Year-nominated sequel to his beloved 2002 album Sea Change. And yes, he’s a “veteran.” Feel old? Sal Cinquemani

The 20 Greatest Beck Songs Ranked

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The 20 Greatest Beck Songs Ranked

Peter Hapak

The 20 Greatest Beck Songs Ranked

Beck’s “Loser” represented the sound of the nation’s youth wearing their slackerdom as a badge of honor. It’s a rather dubious fate for the workmanlike track, considering that if Gen X ever “had” a sound, it was the slow, snarling grunge roiling out of the Pacific Northwest, a genre far too self-possessed and clumsily aggressive to match the decidedly goofy appeal of Beck’s patchwork style. If anything, “Loser” was a middle finger to the self-serious headbangers, Beck’s own shrug at the angsty masses before ignoring them altogether and staking his career on offbeat lonerism.

The lonesomeness that results from possessing such an individualist streak is explored rather profoundly on Morning Phase, Beck’s first album in six years, but regardless of the personal costs, he’s become a folk hero, having built his legacy on championing near-forgotten strains of Americana at every turn. Constructing a list of his best tracks can thus be likened to assembling a mosaic pieced together from several generations of music. The songs themselves aren’t simply attention-starved amalgams strung together randomly, however: For all his humor, Beck is consistently thoughtful and earnest in building his checkered monuments, empathetic to the point where his creations often cease to be facsimiles at all, but heartfelt creations born from the same cultural conscious that inspired them. You can’t write if you can’t relate, indeed.

House Playlist: Beck, Marissa Nadler, Liars, Lily Allen, & Charli XCX

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<em>House</em> Playlist: Beck, Marissa Nadler, Liars, Lily Allen, & Charli XCX
<em>House</em> Playlist: Beck, Marissa Nadler, Liars, Lily Allen, & Charli XCX

[Editor’s Note: House Playlist is a weekly round-up of all the new music we think you need to hear.]

Beck, “Blue Moon”: Beck has unveiled the first single from the long-awaited Morning Phase, a companion piece to his 2002 opus Sea Change, and his first album since 2008’s Modern Guilt. The album arrives February 25th.