2016 Grammy Nominations & Predictions

For some, the Grammy Awards are just another awards show. However, it’s the biggest music award in the business. Say what you will, but the Grammys still hold more weight than say an MTV award. Now for all that the Grammy Awards get right in the nominations, there’s still a lot that I have issues with. I probably should’ve done this analysis when the nominations were announced, but hey, now I get to make my predictions (or alternatively, what I WANT to happen).

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

  • Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color
  • Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
  • Chris Stapleton, Traveller
  • Taylor Swift, 1989
  • The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness

The only album I’ve actually listened to of the bunch is Beauty Behind the Madness, and as much as I like it, I don’t think it’s AOTY. I feel like it’s probably going to end up being 1989, which honestly Taylor Swift annoys me so I’d rather not have it win.

RECORD OF THE YEAR

  • D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Really Love
  • Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk
  • Ed Sheeran, Thinking Out Loud
  • Taylor Swift, Blank Space
  • The Weeknd, Can’t Feel My Face

“Uptown Funk” deserves the win, hands down. One year later and I’m still not tired of hearing it. That’s saying something.

SONG OF THE YEAR

  • “Alright” (Kendrick Lamar)
  • “Blank Space” (Taylor Swift)
  • “Girl Crush” (Little Big Town)
  • “See You Again” (Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth)
  • “Thinking Out Loud” (Ed Sheeran)

Remember, this category awards the songwriters. I’d like to see Little Big Town win it here because “Girl Crush” is just such a musically bare but well-written track. Although “Thinking Out Loud” sort of falls in the same category, the fact that it became so overplayed is causing me bias. So ideally, “Girl Crush” wins for me. If not, I’d say “See You Again” should win; you can’t help but get a little emotional when you hear it because you know what it stands for.

BEST NEW ARTIST

  • Courtney Barnett
  • James Bay
  • Sam Hunt
  • Tori Kelly
  • Meghan Trainor

I’m happy to say there’s no “WHO ARE YOU?” in the category. Admittedly, I haven’t listened to Courtney Barnett’s music, but I had heard her name prior to her nomination, so there’s that. Now there’s something about this category this year that makes me feel like it is drastically different from recent years. You look at last year’s nominees┬á and really, you just knew Sam Smith was going to win. In 2014, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won, but it could have been Ed Sheeran, Kendrick Lamar, or Kacey Musgraves; however, it didn’t really matter to me who won. Same goes with 2013 when Fun won. This year, maybe it’s because I have two artists I absolutely love nominated, which means I will be super happy if either James Bay or Tori Kelly win. I’ve been going back and forth about this, but ideally I think I want Tori to win, with James winning for his other categories – that way it spreads the love and recognition!

BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE

  • Kelly Clarkson, Heartbeat Song
  • Ellie Goulding, Love Me Like You Do
  • Ed Sheeran, Thinking Out Loud
  • Taylor Swift, Blank Space
  • The Weeknd, Can’t Feel My Face

Do you even have to ask? I want Kelly Clarkson to win, duh! Second choice would be The Weeknd.

BEST POP DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE

  • Florence + The Machine, Ship to Wreck
  • Maroon 5, Sugar
  • Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk
  • Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar, Bad Blood
  • Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth, See You Again

This is the one category where I’m really conflicted. First choice is Maroon 5, obviously, because I’m forever a M5 fan. I love “Sugar” so frickin’ much and it just always instantly puts a smile on my face when I hear it. “Uptown Funk” is second, because like I said before, it’s still a great song to listen to. “See You Again” is my third because again, still a great song but miscategorized – should’ve been in Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. “Ship to Wreck” really has no faults, I just haven’t listened to it enough. And then “Bad Blood” is just whatever.

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM

  • Kelly Clarkson, Piece by Piece
  • Florence + The Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
  • James Taylor, Before This World
  • Mark Ronson, Uptown Special
  • Taylor Swift, 1989

Odds are 1989 takes it (*groan*). Ideally, Piece by Piece wins. I however, wouldn’t be surprised if James Taylor ends up winning because the Grammys can still surprise sometimes.

BEST ROCK SONG

  • “Don’t Wanna Fight” (Alabama Shakes)
  • “Ex’s & Oh’s” (Elle King)
  • “Hold Back the River” (James Bay)
  • “Lydia” (Highly Suspect)
  • “What Kind of Man” (Florence + The Machine)

Like SOTY, this awards the songwriters (now that I think of it, I’m surprised there isn’t a Pop category equivalent). I don’t know who Highly Suspect are and I don’t listen to Alabama Shakes, which leaves Elle King, James Bay, and Florence. And as stated above, I want James to win, not that there’s anything wrong with the other two, just preference.

BEST MUSICAL THEATER ALBUM

  • An American in Paris
  • Fun Home
  • Hamilton
  • The King and I
  • Something Rotten!

All well-deserved nominations, but let’s be real, Hamilton is TOTALLY winning this one. Not to mention, they get to perform during the telecast? Just give it to them already.

BEST COMPILATION SOUNDTRACK FOR VISUAL MEDIA

  • Empire: Season 1
  • Fifty Shades of Grey
  • Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me
  • Pitch Perfect 2
  • Selma

As much as I love Pitch Perfect 2, I don’t think the soundtrack stacks up as well as the first movie. I say Empire takes it.

BEST SONG WRITTEN FOR VISUAL MEDIA

  • “Earned It” from Fifty Shades of Grey
  • “Glory” from Selma
  • “Love Me Like You Do” from Fifty Shades of Grey
  • “See You Again” from Furious 7
  • “Til It Happens to You” from The Hunting Ground

For the category to say Visual Media, I’ve noticed that there aren’t many nominations from TV. To consider, we have two songs from Fifty Shades of Grey nominated, but nothing from Empire. Not even “You’re So Beautiful”? Really? Lame. All for naught though, because I’m pretty sure “Glory” is going to win, with “See You Again” coming in as a close second.

Other Notable Nominations (or the other nominations that I care about):

  • James Bay’s Chaos and the Calm for Best Rock Album!
  • Amy Poehler is nominated in Best Spoken Word Album for the audiobook of Yes Please. In other words, I think Amy’s winning a Grammy before she wins an Emmy
  • Pentatonix is nominated again in the Best Arrangement category. This time, it’s for “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” from their That’s Christmas to Me album.

To summarize this post, I want all my faves to win (duh) and I’d rather not see Taylor Swift win, even though she probably will. Also, so excited to see James Bay and Tori Kelly perform together during the show! AND, it’s too early to call but Adele is just going to win all the awards next year right? Like no question? ­čÖé

Year in Concerts 2015

I had fun doing a little recap of all my concerts last year, that I wanted to do another one for this year’s many concerts.

1. PENTATONIX – On My Way Home Tour

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When I went to see these guys, I went with an old friend of mine and he said something along the lines of “Isn’t it funny that we’re seeing a group who will sound exactly like the CD?” Legit question because of course, these guys are acapella. What else were we supposed to expect from them at a live concert? And you know what? They delivered a concert, as if they were any other musical act, and just doing their thing. Unfortunately, short people problems so I had a tough time actually SEEING them but still a fun time. I hope next time to come to Toronto, they do the show at Massey Hall, which would be SO PERFECT for them with the acoustics and everything.

2. MAROON 5 – V Tour

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Can you believe this was my 8th time seeing these guys in concert? As always though, the concert never felt long enough, especially considering they are five albums in. I love them dearly, but I’d be happy if they went back to basics on their next album/tour. They put on a great show regardless and makes me a happy fan every time I see them (even if they don’t play my favourite ‘non-M5 but still sung by Adam Levine’ song, “Lost Stars”)

3. JESSIE J – Sweet Talker Tour

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A sign of my skills lacking this year in the concert department, I totally didn’t hear about Jessie J touring. When I finally found out, tickets to the Toronto show was sold out. As luck would have it though, the venue released more tickets a week before the show. DONE! First time seeing Jessie in concert and she did not disappoint at all. I mean, the girl was battling a cold and still KILLED IT with the vocals.

4. THE SCRIPT – No Sound Without Silence Tour

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It has been four years since I last saw The Script in concert. Partially my fault because I didn’t particularly like their #3 album. But in my opinion, No Sound Without Silence was a return to form and I couldn’t miss them coming through Toronto. Great guys, putting on a great show.

5. KELLY CLARKSON – Piece by Piece Tour

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I made it a point to avoid all Toronto traffic this summer because of the PanAm games and knowing that traffic was going to be crazy. My exception was to see Kelly. Not to mention, Pentatonix was opening for her. I thought I was safe heading into the city on the last day of the games but no such luck there. I missed PTX and made it JUST in time to see Kelly. Also, because the show was at the Molson Amphitheater, concerts have to end at a certain time, meaning judging by the setlists of other cities, we got gypped of three songs. Besides all the crummy stuff, it’s effin’ KELLY CLARKSON; she kills it every time. AND she did “Heartbeat Song” with PTX, so I didn’t miss them entirely.

6. KATE VOEGELE & TYLER HILTON

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What’s a year without seeing Tyler Hilton these days? This time, he was joined by another One Tree Hill alum, Kate Voegele! Both very chill music artists and as much as I love the big shows with full band and all that, sometimes all I need is an acoustic show like this one.

7. JANET JACKSON – Unbreakable Tour

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Janet is a complete legend, so who am I to miss out on seeing her perform her greatest hits and new material?

8. MATT NATHANSON

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At this point, I’m pretty sure it’s obvious how much I love seeing Matt Nathanson in concert. Even moreso when he does an acoustic show like this one. For added fun, Matt brought along a Wheel of Songs (see picture)! Songs from all his albums, as voted by fans, were put onto the wheel and fate (sometimes with a little help from Matt lol) decided some of the songs Matt would play. Like I said, fun times!

9. JAMES BAY 

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I got to end off my year going to see one of my favourite new artists this year, James Bay! I once again suffered through going to the Sound Academy (a terrible Toronto concert venue) to see James, only because I had missed him coming through town twice before this year. Again, short people problems, and I couldn’t fully enjoy the concert as a result.

It was once again a great year for concerts; majority of them being relatively inexpensive ones at that! With such a busy concert year, I’m surprised I still got in some travel, two Cons (SDCC and Heroes/Villains Fan Fest), TIFF, and two other shows (Shaping Sound, Cinderella the Musical). Now it’s still too early to call, but I’m guessing that next year won’t be so concert-busy. Trust me though, that’s a good thing, as I’m still planning to do SDCC (even though I didn’t get pre-reg badges) and I’ve got a New York trip on deck as well. So lots of fun times are still to be had in 2016!

Music Monday: Absolute Favourites

If you’ve read the blog or have known me long enough, you probably have a good idea at who my most favourite music artists are – Justin Timberlake, Kelly Clarkson, Maroon 5, Britney Spears, Kyle Riabko, and Delta Goodrem. I could go into detail about why I love them so much, but the simple and vague answer is that, there’s just something about who they are and their music that I connect with. There are also a bunch of other artists whom I am a big fan of and really love – Sara Bareilles, Matt Nathanson, Gavin DeGraw, Christina Aguilera, Kris Allen, The Script, Tyler Hilton, James Morrison, Michelle Branch – though not quite at the same level as the other six. That’s not to mention my love of Vietnamese music as well. For this week’s Music Monday, I share with you my favourite songs from my favourite artists (limited to 3 songs each), plus some additional songs I absolutely love (not including any Vietnamese songs in this playlist though, that’ll be for another day/post).

 

Album Releases: Standard vs. Deluxe Editions

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I don’t know about you but when new albums are released, I more often than not end up getting the deluxe edition of an album. I’m not talking about a re-release deluxe edition; I mean, album gets released and there are two versions available on that day. If it is an artist or band I love, it is an obvious decision for me, but I would still heavily consider it for a regular artist as well. Why? Because for a couple of dollar difference, you get more music! Who doesn’t want that? This music fan absolutely does! I feel like it’s gone are the days where the bonus tracks are just remixes of the songs on the album (though one or two still crop up in the mix from time to time); you legitimately get brand new songs that for some reason didn’t quite make the cut in the standard CD release. But lately, I’ve found that there are a lot of gems in these bonus tracks on the deluxe releases.

Take for instance, Kelly Clarkson’s latest album Piece by Piece. It’s her most pop album yet, with its electro pop inflections, but Kelly’s voice transcends everything and doesn’t make the songs derivative (in lesser hands or voices, some of the songs might not have worked as well). But one of my favourite songs off the album is a bonus track, only found on the deluxe edition, and that’s “Bad Reputation.” It’s a fun and sassy pop/soul/R&B track that invokes a very retro, yet decidedly modern feel to it. In terms of Kelly’s overall discography, it’s like if was a lost track from the Thankful days and upgraded to fit in with Stronger/Piece by Piece.

Maroon 5, with Hands All Over, Overexposed and V, have included a wonderful cover song in each of the deluxe editions (Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You,” Prince’s “Kiss” and Marcy Playground’s “Sex and Candy,” respectively). Again, there are some gems in the other bonus tracks. Hands All Over featured “Last Chance” a song that will serve as a precursor to “Maps”; and “No Curtain Call” which shows off a more arena rock edge. Overexposed got the special distinction of including an updated version of “Wasted Years” – a song the band had written and performed live in between Songs About Jane and It Won’t Be Soon Before Long. V, meanwhile, featured what could be the next phase in the M5 trajectory – pop/dance/rock by way of Mark Ronson – in “Shoot Love”.

Both parts of Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience are fully realized, complete albums, but that didn’t stop JT from releasing deluxe versions with additional songs. Three of the bonus tracks – “Dress On,” “Blindness,” and “Electric Lady” – were like throwbacks to 90s R&B, while “Body Count” sounded almost like Justified-era JT.

It has actually been a little funny in regards to album releases, with me being in Canada. When news gets out of releases, I read more from U.S. sources, so my thought processes are quite American-based for such pop culture things, forgetting of course that some things don’t get to Canada in the same way. As luck would have it, that weird difference has sometimes worked in my favour. I believe the deluxe editions of The 20/20 Experience were Target exclusives in the U.S, but here in Canada, that was our standard version. The same goes with the Begin Again soundtrack, wherein the deluxe edition was only available digitally in the U.S., but we got it as our standard.

So anybody like me and prefer buying the deluxe edition of albums? Has it proven to be a worthwhile investment, with songs that are truly gems? Let me know in the comments!

5 Fandom Friday: Songs That Changed My Life

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Music has always been such a huge part of my life. I can’t do anything without having music on in the background. Music has this way of making you feel things: joy, sadness, anger, nostalgia – in a lot of ways, it’s very therapeutic. In any case, this week’s Fandom 5 was a simultaneously fun and daunting task. How am I supposed to pick FIVE songs that changed my life, in any way shape or form? And what songs should I pick? Well, here it goes.

1. Bao Han & Don Ho, Lien Khuc Thien Dang Ai An

Vietnamese music was my gateway to all music and in particular, pop music. As a first generation Vietnamese-Canadian, one of the ways that my parents used to make sure I still knew my Vietnamese background was through Paris By Night. I feel like this was one of the first songs that I actually remember listening to when I was a kid and both of these singers became my favourite Vietnamese singers. Because of my early exposure to it, I still listen to Vietnamese music regularly, which I can’t say the same for a lot of other people my age.

2. Britney Spears, Baby One More Time

It seems a little funny to be including this song, but it did impact my life. Growing up, obviously I listened to music but it was more passively than anything, I feel. Then Britney got introduced to the pop music world, with this song and things changed. 1999 was the height of teen pop music, with NSYNC, Backstreet Boys, Christina Aguilera, among others all making their marks on the scene. With Britney and this song, I became a whole-hearted fan of someone/something.

3. Christina Aguilera, Fighter

For the longest time I was Team Britney all the way. But then I saw Christina Aguilera in concert (when she did the Justified and Stripped tour with Justin Timberlake) and I became a fan with no allegiance to one particular “pop princess”. This song was what turned me into a fan, with its rock-infused pop that makes it a great song to let off some steam. It’s an anthem for all of us, to not let anyone get us down and keep fighting. The sheer power of Christina’s voice mixed with the rock sound of the song is what makes it so amazing, and even more-so when you hear her perform it live.

4. Kelly Clarkson, Because of You

Kelly singing “Without You” on American Idol sealed it for me as a fan. Post-Idol though, I loved her debut album, Thankful, but I think we can all agree that Breakaway, her 2nd album, was a turning point. There was just so much honesty and truths in this album that I could relate to on some level. But with this song, I attached my own experiences at that point in my life to it, and it grew into this big emotional song for me. Honestly, I can’t even hear this song without tearing up, and it gets me EVERY SINGLE TIME.

5. Maroon 5, This Love

This song made me a fan for life, from the very moment I watched them perform this on TRL (hey, remember TRL?) At the time, it was everything I didn’t know I wanted from pop music: the fusion of pop, rock, soul in a completely different way from that of JT or Kelly Clarkson. It’s a definitive M5 sound that’s been an inspiration to other pop/rock bands.

6. Justin Timberlake, Like I Love You

Ok, so I’m cheating a little by adding one more song but I can’t help it! JT made a seamless transition from a member of NSYNC to a solo artist with this song. For me, this song will always hold a special place in my heart because it marked the beginning of my life in high school and my Dance Crew life. As it was, I was already learning the choreography from the music video, and then when I tried out for Dance Crew, as luck would have it, they taught a combo to this song. After that, I spent the remainder of my four years being a part of Dance Crew, who became my second family. All the good and bad memories from my high school years started with this song.