In this new feature of the blog, I will periodically revisit a Grammy Awards ceremony decision in which I feel the just winner was overlooked (or perhaps not even nominated!), and state my case.
“It’s a quarter after one, I’m a little drunk and I need you now.”
I am still boggled that this lyric warranted Record and Song of the Year Awards at the 2011 Grammys. Are you kidding me? Are you, Grammy voters? If this were a slow year, I could understand giving Lady Antebellum’s mega-hit Need You Now the hardware; it’s a simplistic but safe and accessible ‘new country’ melody, with a theme everyone relates to: heartbreak. Thing is, there was at least one contender far more worthy of the prize, in terms of lyrical creativity and melodic ingenuity. Can you guess who? For simplicity and brevity, I’ve listed the nominated songs and their performers, not composers:
Beg, Steal Or Borrow – Ray Montagne
Fuck You – Cee Lo Green
Love The Way You Lie – Eminem ft Rihanna
The House that Built Me – Miranda Lambert
Need You Now – Lady Antebellum
Generally, the award seeks to recognize excellence in songwriting – the actual final product is more recognized by Record of the Year, given to the production team and artist. From the Grammys’ own standards:
In both voting rounds, Academy members are to vote based upon quality alone. They are not supposed to be influenced by sales, chart performance, personal friendships, regional preferences or company loyalty. The acceptance of gifts is prohibited. Members are urged to vote in a manner that preserves the integrity of the academy.
Hey, Bieber fans: that means your precious idol should not have won over Esperanza Spalding because he is OMGfamous!!!11 as you kept whining about on Twitter (I still think Florence + The Machine should have taken that award, but I digress).
Let us consider what Need You Now gives us: a simple melody that is unremarkable, and lyrics that, while true for those who miss a lost love, aren’t especially creative or deep. Did I also mention that, like Lady Gaga, Lady Antebellum are accused of swiping a hook from Eye In The Sky by Alan Parsons Project? Yeah… and this award is for original and exceptional songwriting?
Another shot of whiskey, can’t stop looking at the door.
Wishing you’d come sweeping in the way you did before.
And I wonder if I ever cross your mind.
For me it happens all the time.
It’s a quarter after one, I’m a little drunk and I need you now.
I said I wouldn’t call but I lost all control and I need you now.
And I don’t know how I can do without, I just need you now…
What song, you wonder, did I believe most deserving of the prize, based on songwriting? If you guessed the one whose title I yelled when the winner was announced, then pat yourself on the back and enjoy this virtual cookie. Damn right, it’s Cee Lo Green’s Fuck You, Time Magazine’s Song of 2010 and also, a fresh-sounding track in a field of same old, same old from the respective artists.
Why should Fuck You have won? First off, the song’s topic – heartbreak via scorn – is definitely just as relatable and universal as Need You Now. The difference between the two is that Cee Lo delivers the sentiment with sarcasm and humour, coupled with instrumental accompaniment that is in sharp relief to the anger behind the song. It’s an ingenious move on Cee Lo’s part to make a cheery-sounding song about bitterness towards the woman who ‘done him wrong’, and makes the track more striking in a field of crowded ‘done wrong’ contenders.
Second, lyrically, Cee Lo utilizes wordplay far more than Lady Antebellum’s tune, with pop culture references and rhyming couplets that stick in the brain and encourage singing along. And really, shouldn’t an anthem for the dumped make you do precisely that? I wish this song had come out during my last big break-up; I would have been belting it out endlessly as I drowned my sorrows in golden margaritas.
Although there’s pain in my chest, I still wish you the best
With a fuck you!
Yeah, I’m sorry
I can’t afford a Ferrari
But that don’t mean I can’t get you there
I guess he’s an Xbox, and I’m more Atari,
But the way you play your game ain’t far
I pity the fool that falls in love with you
(Oh shit, she’s a gold digger)
(Just thought you should know, nigga)
Bringing me to point three: Cee Lo, normally known for R&B, blends in old-school Motown on this track, taking it more into the pop genre and creating a crossover sound. The use of the background singers and the classic 60s feel of the melody makes this song a pure gem as again, the vibe of the 60s and its innocence clashes with the profanity and rage of the lyrical stylings of the self-proclaimed Ladykiller. The last time I remember the younger set babbling about anything to do with Motown in huge numbers was when Boyz II Men burst onto the scene with Motownphilly.
God, that sentence makes me sound older than I am. For shame!
So why did the Grammys kiss Lady Antebellum’s ass? Simple: the older voters were turned off by the profanity and went for a safer sound and choice. But one’s own preferences, stylistic background and hell, even record sales, are not supposed to matter when voting. Profanity aside, Cee Lo’s tune, co-penned with Bruno Mars, was the more creative outing and thus, far more deserving of the Song of the Year accolades. I would even argue it was robbed for Record of the Year (the production and final product are tight!), but I would have been content with alloting one award to each tune, allowing a ‘safe’ song and a more daring song to both get their dues, thus making everyone happy.
Lady Antebellum, it’s a quarter to 3pm, and I can’t even remotely say you deserved to win. But that’s okay: I’m sure Cee Lo wishes you the best (but he’s too classy to do so with a ‘fuck you’.)