One of the inevitabilities of getting older is that it gets a lot harder to keep up with today’s music. Part of the reason for this is that the pop music charts historically have been determined by the tastes of younger listeners, which by definition will lead to a disconnect with an older demographic.
Another problem is that when a lot of us were growing up and listening to Top 40 radio stations such as New York powerhouse WABC or Philadelphia’s WFIL, you could hear a diverse array of music ranging from adult contemporary (from such artists as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Perry Como), soul, country, and of course, rock. Sadly, so-called programming experts have since created stringent formats, so the days of a radio station playing a true variety of musical genres has gone the way of television variety shows.
The “Grammy 2014 Nominees” (Atlantic)compact disc is a terrific primer for those of us who enjoy music but have not followed the pop charts since Casey Kasem used to count them down weekly.
The album opens with arguably the hottest male singer today, Bruno Mars, performing his big hit, “Locked Out of Heaven.” The National Football League clearly knew what it was doing when it gave him the vaunted halftime entertainment spot at this year’s Super Bowl. Mars is adept on a catchy slow ballad, “Nothing On You,” as he is on uptempo tunes such as “Locked Out of Heaven.”
Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” is the most controversial song on this album for reasons that had nothing to do with its lyrics but rather potential plagiarism. The family of the late legendary singer Marvin Gaye sued Thicke because they felt that “Blurred Lines” crossed the line from being a Gaye inspiration for Thicke to being a reworking of his gigantic 1977 hit “Got To Give It Up,” thanks to a similar bass line and high-pitch background vocals. The Gaye estate and Thicke settled the dispute a couple weeks ago.
Justin Timberlake took a long sabbatical from recording in order to concentrate on an acting career that has produced both big theatrical hits and flops. There was understandably a world of attention given to him when he put out his first single in years, “Suit & Tie,” which featured a verse by Jay-Z and a stylish video. Even though “Suit & Tie” sold well, it was the follow-up single, “Mirrors,” that got Timberlake a Grammy nomination for best male pop performance.
There is little argument that Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” was the catchiest single of 2013 thanks to Pharrell Williams’ silky smooth vocals and the bass hooks that are played by Nile Rodgers of Chic fame. It is difficult to comprehend some of this song’s lyrics. The way Williams sings the tag line “We’re up all night to get lucky” sounds more like “Mexican lucky.”
You can argue until the cows come home over whether Katy Perry or Taylor Swift is the hottest pop singer on the charts today. (Sorry, Miley Cyrus fans.) Both are represented on this Grammy CD.
Perry’s big hit “Roar” is a classic stadium anthem rock tune, with Perry nicely referencing the 1983 Survivor hit “Eye of the Tiger,” which was used as the theme for the Sylvester Stallone flick “Rocky III.”
Swift has made a career out of writing catchy songs about the flaws of her former paramours. “Begin Again” is another in her litany of tunes in which she makes lyrics out of all the things that the men in her life did wrong.
Sara Bareilles is a throwback to the old school female singer-pianist (think Carole King). In 2007 she had a big hit, “Love Song,” whose upbeat title belied the fact that even though she was a skilled tunesmith, she found it hard to write a love song on demand because of her own rocky relationships. Bareilles is back with “Brave,” a philosophical tune about not being intimidated by anything.
I knew very little about the hip-hop duo of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis until I saw them perform on a recent “Saturday Night Live.” “Same Love” is a song which both shows their support of gay marriage and expresses the dangers of making assumptions about a person’s sexual preferences.
Country fans can listen to tracks by Kacey Musgraves, Tim McGraw, Blake Shelton and Jason Aldean on this album.
The Grammy Awards are conferred by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, whose president is Bayside native Neil Portnow.