December 05, 2012 8:15pm PT by Shirley Halperin
Grammy Nominations: Rock Acts Rule Album of the Year Category
For all the talk of rock’s imminent death -- pulling the trigger: EDM, Rihanna, Max Martin and Dr. Luke, ProTools and other such co-conspirators -- it’s quite an achievement to note that four out of five of this year’s nominees for album of the year are, in fact, rock acts. They are: The Black Keys’ El Camino, Fun.’s Some Nights, Mumford & Sons’ Babel and Jack White’s Blunderbuss.
It’s certainly a world away from last year’s nominees when Foo Fighters were rock’s sole surrogates in a field that was dominated by female pop artists -- namely: Rihanna, Adele and Lady Gaga.
Also worth noting: only Fun. saw a bondafide hit single emerge from their nominated album (two, actually). Black Keys’ "Lonely Boy" was a No. 1 Rock track but its highest position on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 was 64. Mumford’s “I Will Wait” is still picking up steam at radio, so far peaking at No. 23. White’s “Love Interruption” only made it as far as the rock chart. The one non-rock act, Frank Ocean, fared better, reaching No. 35 on the Hot 100 with “Thinkin’ Bout You.”
Further proving the novelty of this rock-heavy crew, none of the nominees (outside of White, whose career total in Grammy noms is 21 and counting) have ever been recognized in this category before. As for the last time four out of five album of the year nominees were rock acts? Over a decade ago in 2001, when Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature swept the 43rd Grammy awards (for those keeping track, we're on 55 now).
So what does it say about the Grammy Awards? Or, more specifically, the Grammy voters? It should surprise no one that the Recording Academy members skew older than your average pop music fan and that industry professionals, who make up the bulk of the 12,000-plus membership, might have careers that date back to rock’s glory days.
On the other hand, you don’t need to look back nearly as far to see -- or hear -- an appreciation for organic instruments. Remember Dave Grohl’s hotly debated comments during last year’s Foo Fighters win for best rock album?
Need a refresher? The Foo Fighters' singer's soliloquy went a little something like this:
"To me this award means a lot because it shows that the human element of music is what's important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that's the most important thing for people to do. …It's not about being perfect, it's not about sounding absolutely correct, it's not about what goes on in a computer. It's about what goes on in here [your heart] and what goes on in here [your head]."
Indeed, the rock categories (including best rock performance, best hard rock metal performance, rock album and rock song) are a mixed bag of arena packers that include Bruce Springsteen, Muse and Coldplay along with newcomers Alabama Shakes and veterans like Marilyn Manson, Anthrax, Megadeth and Iron Maiden. It all goes to show that, when it comes to guitars that shred, strum and windmill, some things never change.