From Best to Worst: Grammy Album of the Year 2000 – 2012   1 comment

The Album of the Year is what is considered as the highest award that one can get from music’s highest giving body. After all, you are rewarding a whole piece of work, and not just a single from it. In the past, this category has bestowed wins to endless classics such as The Beatles’  Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Carole King’s Tapestry, Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours,  Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill, and Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill among others. Isn’t that a great group to be a part of? With that said, let’s take a look back at the last 13 albums to be rewarded in this category (including this year’s Babel by Mumford and Sons), and see how they hold up in this group:

steely dan
13. “Two Against Nature”  (Steely Dan) | 2000
 Up Against: Beck’s “Midnight Vulture”, Eminem’s “Marshall Mathers LP”, Radiohead’s “Kid A”, Paul Simon’s “You’re the One

While this one is an overall good effort, it’s mostly politics that fueled this win. This is Steely Dan’s comeback album in 20 years, and they have never been rewarded (not even a single Grammy) prior to this. So this one is more of a catch up slash welcome back to one of 70s’ more prominent rock groups.

My vote would have gone to: Radiohead’s “Kid A”. Definitely one of their best albums.

ray charles
12. “Genius Loves Company”  (Ray Charles) | 2004
 Up Against: Green Day’s “American Idiot”, Alicia Keys’ “The Diary of Alicia Keys”, Usher’s “Confessions”, Kanye West’s “The College Dropout

2004 was when we lost music legend Ray Charles, and the lovefest slash tribute to him has resonated throughout the whole awards season both in music (this) and motion pictures (Taylor Hackford’s Ray starring Jamie Foxx). Overall, it seemed as if a choice that was deemed because of the overwhelming love and appreciation to his legacy.

My vote would have gone to: Green Day’s “American Idiot.  A career resurgence of some sort that is filled of cohesive and sold tracks. It’s quite weird that their real Grammy sweep came the year after this nomination.

u2

11. “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb”  (U2) | 2005
 Up Against: Mariah Carey’s “The Emancipation of Mimi”, Paul McCartney’s “Chaos and Creation in the Background”, Gwen Stefani’s “Love.Angel.Music.Baby.”, Kanye West’s “Late Registration

17 years after their first win in this category, U2 nabbed their second win for the 2005’s How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. One can interpret this as a safe and expected choice from the NARAS to give it in a field full of two urban artists, one pop album, and a Beatle’s solid but inferior album. Or maybe it’s a make up win for All That You Can’t Leave Behind (which definitely should have won in its year).

My vote would have gone to: Kanye West’s “Late Registration“. Proving that he is no flash in the pan, Kanye West delivered an even better follow up to an already solid debut effort.

herbie hancock

10. “River: The Joni Letters”  (Herbie Hancock) | 2008
 Up Against: Foo Fighters’ “Echoes, Silence, Pain & Grace”, Vince Gill’s “These Days”, Kanye West’s “Graduation”, Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black

For the record, Herbie Hancock’s collaborations are some of the best created music by musicians. And it’s also nice to see jazz music taking the spotlight. This album, which Hancock dedicates to long friend Joni Mitchell, featured collabs with the likes of Norah Jones and Corrine Bailey Rae. However, as always, it was one of those choices that seemed too safe. Looking at the other nominees in the bunch, this was stuck in the middle of some of these other albums that were nominated and lost to him.

My vote would have gone to: Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black“. It was concise, creative, and transparent. Something that represents Amy’s musical talents as a whole.

mumford and sons

09. “Babel”  (Mumford and Sons) | 2012
 Up Against: The Black Keys’ “El Camino”, fun’s “Some Nights”, Frank Ocean’s “channel ORANGE”, Jack White’s “Blunderbuss

I love it when the Grammys tend to nominate an eclectic bunch of albums for its top prize. This is definitely one of the most inspired line-ups in a long time. Even the weakest, fun’s Some Nights, is different from the usual pop albums that they’ve nominated in the previous years. But when it comes to wins, NARAS goes wit the conservative safe album of the bunch. Mumford and Sons’ Babel is actually good, though it’s really hard to top their previous effort that I consider as more deserving of AOTY recognition.

Who would I have voted for: Frank Ocean’s “channel ORANGE”. Ocean’s debut is near perfection from start to end. Consistent, fresh, and heartfelt. After listening to his album, it’ll make you see how he can top this one.

dixie chicks

08. “Taking the Long Way”  (Dixie Chicks) | 2006
 Up Against: Gnarls Barkleys’ “St. Elsewhere”, John Mayer’s “Continuum”, Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Stadium Arcadium”, Justin Timberlake’s “Future Sex/LoveSounds

If there’s one genre that definitely is the most powerful at the Grammys, it’s definitely country. With that said, this Dixie Chicks victory came at a time when they have been in the midst of a controversy within their own territory. On one hand, it’s nice to see thay they still got overall support to pull off this win. On the other, there are better albums in this category that was unrewarded.

My vote would have gone to: Gnarls Barkleys’ “St. Elsewhere”. If you’re one of those who know that CeeLo Green prior to his Fuck You success, you’d know that he’s half responsible for this genius album which contain’s the decade’s most infectious song, Crazy.

taylor swift

07. “Fearless”  (Taylor Swift) | 2009
 Up Against: Beyonce’s “I Am…Sasha Fierce”, Black Eyed Peas’ “The E.N.D.”, Lady Gaga’s’ “The Fame”, Dave Matthews Band’s “Big Whiskey and the GrooGrux King

From one country act to the other, Taylor Swift has been more known lately as the girl who uses her relationship status as material for her next albums. But prior to that, let me remind you that she was also able to come up with a solid effort that appeals to different genres and shows her multiple skills as a musician, songwriter, and (yes) singer. It also helped that she’s stuck with a mediocre company as co-nominees. So say what you want about her, but Swift’s AOTY win was every inch deserving back then, and even up to now.

My vote would have gone to: Taylor Swift’s “Fearless.” Listening to this album is probably one of the times where in I was really convinced that I was reading someone’s diary. It was fun, honest, and effectively introduced what Taylor wants us to think of her.

plant krauss

06. “Raising Sand”  (Robert Plant and Alison Krauss) | 2008
 Up Against: Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends”, Ne-Yo’s “Year of the Gentleman”, Radiohead’s’ “In Rainbows”, Lil Wayne’s “The Carter III

By now, we should already accustom ourselves that if there’s a decent safe album from veterans that they love, then it is soooo sooo winning Album of the Year. Rarely though, we also get lucky that the veterans produce better albums, such as this collaboration between Grammy favorites Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Raising Sand might not be my first choice as Album of the Year, but it’s luckily one of the stronger efforts that manage to sweep its way into a win.

My vote would have gone to: Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends”. I’m shocked that this is only Coldplay’s AotY nomination, so it’s an easy pick for me. But it also happened that this is also a coherent solid album (though not my favorite from them).

norah jones

05. “Come Away with Me”  (Norah Jones) | 2002
 Up Against: Dixie Chicks’ “Home”, Eminem’s “The Eminem Show”, Nelly’s’ “Nellyville”, Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising

Pulling off a win (and a sweep that night) is newcomer Norah Jones. I’ve always read and heard comments about how boring Norah Jones is, but I just convinced myself that they don’t get her. Come Away with Me is another of those strong debut efforts, and while she hasn’t come close to the combo of critical and commercial success that this album received, it’s a sweet consolation that this wa rewarded of Grammy’s top honor exactly a decade ago.

My vote would have gone to: Norah Jones, “Come Away with Me.” It’s a combo of liking the album itself and not a fan of the remaining nominees’ albums.

o brother

04. “Original Soundtrack – O’ Brother Where Art Thou?”  (Various Artists) | 2001
 Up Against: India Arie’s “Acoustic Soul”, Bob Dylan’s “Love and Theft”, Outkast’s’ “Stankonia”, U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind

Isn’t it such a pleasure when you see compilation soundtracks get music’s top honor? In this case, yes. And this is the third and last time that it has happened (OSTs of Saturday Night Fever and The Bodyguard are the two other winners here). While I admit preferring other albums in the line up, it’s just one of those albums that stood the test of time and still sounds good even if you listen to it now.

My vote would have gone to: U2’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind“. When you’re gonna reward U2 with a second AotY victory, you could have at least went with this one that contains modern classics from this beloved rock band. The pair of Beautiful Day and Stuck in a Moment is already enough for me to cats my vote for this.

adele

03. “21”  (Adele) | 2011
 Up Against: Foo Fighters’ “Wasting Light”, Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”, Bruno Mars’ “Doo Wops and Hooligans”, Rihanna’s “Loud

Many many years from now, when you’ve decided to take a look at what the music was in 2011, there’s only one name that will be remembered that year: Adele. She was not only everywhere that year, but her music has managed to be the start of the end for the usual auto-tuned dance tracks that dominated the mainstream music for the past few years. It also helps her that she’s up against three inferior pop albums and a decent rock album.

My vote would have gone to: Adele’s “21“. I still listen to this album from start to end, and I still know the lyrics to each and every song in it.

arcade fire

02. “The Suburbs”  (Arcade Fire) | 2010
 Up Against: Eminem’s “Recovery”, Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now”, Lady Gaga’s’ “The Fame Monster”, Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream

Definitely an upset that made more sense that most predictions are telling (it was supposedly Eminem’s delayed AotY win for his successful 2010 comeback), it was bittersweet to see Arcade Fire getting the Album of the Year trophy when they even lost their own genre category at the pre-telecast that year. If anything, The Suburbs is far from Arcade Fire’s best effort, but then again, who cares? Arcade Fire at its weakest is still better than all these co-nominee’s albums combined.

My vote would have gone to: Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs.  Definitely the little album that could from that Billboard Hot 100 lovefest from the other four nominees, but it definitely pulled off that win and deservingly so.

outkast

01. “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”  (Outkast) | 2003
 Up Against: Missy Elliott’s “Under Construction”, Evanescence’s “Fallen”, Justin Timberlake’s’ “Justified”, The White Stripes’s “Elephant

Time and again, the whole conservative branch of Grammy voters aren’t brave enough to give their top honors to urban acts and albums. But then again, every now and then comes an exception. That’s why it was so sweet when OutKast was proclaimed as the winner in 2003. The double disc effort of Speakerboxxx/The Love Below is indeed one of the most definitive albums of the past decade, and it gives us hope that NARAS would open their doors for great urban albums such as this one.

My vote would have gone to: Outkast, “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below”. Clearly the stand out from the group, though I’d give points to Elephant as well, which could have been my winner in any other year.

There you go! Which of these albums is your favorite? Is there anything from the bunch that you still listen to its entirety? And who would you have given your wins in all those years?

As always, you can follow me on Twitter: @nikowl

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One response to “From Best to Worst: Grammy Album of the Year 2000 – 2012

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  1. I agree that some people who say that Norah Jones is boring doesn’t get her. Though I do understand why they say she’s boring.

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