First Look: Song Of The Year
(For a complete list of 53rd GRAMMY Award nominees, click here.)
Hail to the songwriter, who can often go unsung while the artists reap the attention of radio, Internet fans and even the paparazzi.
The endless hours of laying down chord progressions and marrying them with lyrical eloquence and melodic sensibilities pay off for the best artists in music. Song Of The Year is the high-profile GRAMMY Award that honors the sometimes overlooked but never-forgotten songwriter, and the creators behind the five nominated songs from 2010 are as diverse and deserving as ever.
This category seemingly has it all covered: the comforting '70s AM radio country-rock feel of "Beg Steal Or Borrow" by Ray LaMontagne And The Pariah Dogs (written by LaMontagne); the nose-thumbing anti-love song, Cee Lo Green's "F*** You" (written by Green, Philip Lawrence and Bruno Mars); country spark plug Miranda Lambert's lilting acoustic lullaby of self-discovery in "The House That Built Me" (written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin); the all-too-real paradox of a needy relationship revealed in thunderous hip-hop tones by Eminem featuring Rihanna in "Love The Way You Lie" (written by Alexander Grant, Skylar Grey and Eminem, aka Marshall Mathers); and the urban cowboy boozy blues of "Need You Now" by country darlings Lady Antebellum (written by Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley, and Hillary Scott).
"Beg Steal Or Borrow," from Ray LaMontagne And The Pariah Dogs' God Willin' & The Creek Don't Rise, hearkens back to another era, but hits on the timeless emotions conveyed within a tale of one man contemplating the courage to escape from some of the meager realities of small-town life. LaMontagne's patented husky drawl drips over the warm melody like molasses and goes down smooth with a dose of pedal steel guitar.
Green's "F*** You" might not be family-friendly, but is extremely ear-friendly, just like the GRAMMY-winning "Crazy," on which Green collaborated with Danger Mouse as part of Gnarls Barkley. A jilted lover gets back at his money-craving ex-lover, with hilarious lyrics that name-drop pop culture artifacts, all to a soaring melody punctuated by Green's virtuosic vocals, which bring a current flavor to the classic doo-wop sound. Co-writers Lawrence and Mars have five and seven GRAMMY nominations, respectively.
It's hard to keep dry eyes during "The House That Built Me," a note-perfect ballad that ponders the age-old question of whether you can go home again. One of the many high points on Lambert's third album, Revolution, "The House…" makes memories of childhood come to life through sorrow and smiles. Collectively, Douglas and Shamblin have written songs for artists such as Lady Antebellum, Tim McGraw, Bonnie Raitt, and Randy Travis.
If you're looking for raw emotion, look no further than Eminem, who delivers a tour de force with the help of Rihanna, who might have a few things of her own to say on the subject of the destructive power of passion. Appropriately taken off the Album Of The Year-nominated Recovery, Eminem and Rihanna's combustible collaboration sears an indelible mark on the listener.
After the huge success of their self-titled debut, the Nashville sensation known as Lady Antebellum have upped the ante with the title track off their sophomore release Need You Now, which is nominated for Album Of The Year. The sweet southern harmonies of Kelley and Scott soar over a guitar-laden arrangement, driving us to reminisce about those nights out when, just as closing time nears, drink-fueled decisions — good or bad — are made. Kear, the group's collaborator on "Need…" has written songs for Tim McGraw and Carrie Underwood, among others.
Who will win the coveted Song Of The Year trophy? Tune in to the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards live from Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on CBS. For updates and breaking news, please visit The Recording Academy's social networks on Twitter and Facebook.
(Matt Sycamore is a Pacific Northwest-based freelance music writer.)