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Weekend To-Do List

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Grammy battle of the ages

What if The Beatles had to battle Adele for a Grammy? What if Simon and Garfunkel had to take on Whitney Houston? Music critic Glenn Gamboa culls through all the winners in Grammy’s prestigious general categories and picks a single winner in each. It’s the Ultimate Grammys, a battle of the best of the best. Do you agree with his winners?

Album of the year

Nominess: The Beatles, "Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band"; Carole King, "Tapestry"; Fleetwood Mac, "Rumours"; Michael Jackson, "Thriller"; Lauryn Hill, "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill"

Winner: "Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band." Look, I don’t think I will ever tire of listening to "Tapestry," "Rumours" or "Thriller." And honestly I’d rather listen to any of them in their entirety than "Miseducation" or the middle of "Sgt. Pepper’s." But "Miseducation" and "Sgt. Pepper’s" both embody what is possible with an album, how worlds can be transformed in 45 minutes or so, especially with stories so intricately drawn that they are only revealed after the 30th or 40th listen. And "Sgt. Pepper’s" only gets better the more you listen to it.

Record of the year

Nominees: Simon & Garfunkel, "Bridge Over Troubled Water"; Billy Joel, "Just the Way You Are"; Whitney Houston, "I Will Always Love You"; U2, "Walk On"; Dixie Chicks, "Not Ready to Make Nice"

Winner: "I Will Always Love You." The greatness of "Walk On" and "Not Ready to Make Nice" comes as much from the events connected to them as the songs themselves. The other three songs are all classics in their own ways, but the late Whitney Houston’s soaring delivery gives "I Will Always Love You" the edge, a tribute as towering and unshakable as the Empire State Building.

Song of the year

Nominees: Carole King, "You’ve Got a Friend"; Marilyn Bergman, Alan Bergman, Marvin Hamlisch, "The Way We Were" by Barbra Streisand; Billy Joel, "Just the Way You Are"; Sting, "Every Breath You Take" by The Police; U2, "Beautiful Day"

Winner: "Every Breath You Take." As great as all the other songs are, Sting manages to take it one incredible step further.

In addition to being immediately memorable and well crafted, "Every Breath You Take" can be read as a sweet love song so gorgeous it’s often used at weddings. It can also be seen as the creepy tale of a delusional stalker, which is kind of what Sting intended.

Best new artist

Nominees: The Beatles; Mariah Carey; Lauryn Hill; Amy Winehouse; Adele

Winner: The Beatles. What is striking about this category is how often Grammy voters have gotten it wrong. (Hi, Milli Vanilli!) But as tempting as it would be to give this award to Adele or Mariah, The Beatles’ arrival was truly undeniable.

Best rap album

Nominees: Fugees, "The Score"; Jay-Z, "Vol. 2 . Hard Knock Life"; Outkast, "Stankonia"; Kanye West, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy"; Drake, "Take Care"

Winner: "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy." The category celebrates its 20th anniversary this year and it is still dealing with its share of embarrassments. Nevertheless, there have been a handful of worthy winners and West’s "Twisted Fantasy" is the best, because of his sprawling artistic vision, but also because hip-hop continues to adapt.

Best rock album

Nominees: Alanis Morissette, "Jagged Little Pill"; U2, "All That You Can’t Leave Behind"; Bruce Springsteen, "The Rising"; Green Day, "American Idiot"; Black Keys, "El Camino"

Winner: "American Idiot." This category turns 21 this year (previously, the Grammys went only to songs and performances) but it’s been showing its age almost from the start. The 9/11 attacks spawned the two best winners, with Springsteen’s "The Rising" focusing on resilience and Green Day’s "American Idiot" focusing on rage.

What could be more rock and roll than that? Especially when it’s in a world with such well-developed "American Idiot" characters.

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