As a prelude to this year’s Grammy’s, a number of Prefix writers selected a couple of favorite tracks from some of this year’s nominees. With “Side A,” we selected a well-known track while with “Side B” we tried to pull out a deep cut from the nominees work during this year’s eligibility period.
CE LO GREEN
Side A: “Fool For You” (ft. Melanie Fiona)
This is the youthful, warm-hearted cousin to the youthful, embittered “Fuck You.” Two perspectives and one masterfully written tune.
Side B: “No One’s Gonna Love You“
The Lady Killer‘s most direct and stirring ballad, and a Band of Horses cover. Makes you wonder why Cee Lo is a judge on NBC’s ‘The Voice,’ further withholding his own from the public. Really, beautifully sung.
Side A: “Walk”
Showcasing its creators’ longevity by writing a song about looking back and looking forward. R&R, the FF way.
Side B: “Bridge Burning“
“White Limo” aside, this is audio proof that Dave Grohl is dangerously addicted to caffeine. No, seriously. Also one of the best opening tracks for an album released in 2011. ~ David Padula
Side A: “I Might”
After being stuck in the dud doldrums for a few years, Wilco returned with a bang, setting the kids (and their dads) on fire with the muscular, ‘60s-ish fuzz-pop of “I Might.”
Yes, it’s long and quiet (God forbid), but “One Sunday Morning” gets under your skin as its father-son dynamic unfolds over twelve oddly captivating minutes.
Side A: “Lotus Flower”
All embarrassing dance moves aside, “Lotus Flower” might be the funkiest thing Radiohead have ever produced. Who would’ve guessed this from a bunch of fortysomething artists?
Side B: “Bloom”
Turning dubstep into something hummable and catchy—that’s how Radiohead retains its “World’s Biggest Band” crown. ~ Art Levy
DJ KHALED, DRAKE, RICK ROSS & LIL WAYNE
Side A: “I’m On One”
This is only nominated for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, which is total bullshit, because how is this not “Song of the Year?” It was the biggest song of the summer (which makes it a shoo-in to pop up in retrospectives of 2011 in 20 years), it had our most inexplicable rap star (Rick Ross, C.O.), our most inexplicable, “what the hell does he actually do?” music celeb (DJ Khaled), an upstart doing better here than on some of his own work this year (Drake), and the best verse from a fallen hero who didn’t put out many good ones this year (Lil Wayne). And it sounds goddamn expensive, like this is the musical equivalent of the 1 percent. If this doesn’t win the one Grammy it’s nominated for, everyone on the Grammy committee needs to be checked for a pulse.
Side B: “Lord Knows“
Drake, Khaled, Rick Ross & Lil Wayne were this year’s biggest new rap posse, appearing on each other’s tracks & albums with increasing frequency. “Lord Knows,” from Drake’s Take Care is a high watermark for the idea that these guys can be good together, as Rick’s snarled, smoky verses lend the beat’s opulence a real danger that Drake can’t really provide. Deserves extra points for mainstreaming the phrase YOLO (you only live once) into the lexicon.
THE BLACK KEYS
Side A: “Dearest”
This perfectly illustrates the wonkiness with the Grammys’ nomination calendar and desire to heap awards on bands the committee is familiar with: The Black Keys’ huge “Lonely Boy” (I judge my use of “huge” based on the fact that my mom has heard this song) isn’t eligible to win an award because it came out in October, even though it totally bodies all of the (admittedly weak) songs nominated for “Best Rock Song.” Yet their solid cover of Buddy Holly’s “Dearest” (the best song on a full album of Holly covers from this summer) is totally eligible, and is totally nominated for “Best Pop Duo Performance.” Go figure.
Side B: “Dead and Gone”
The Black Keys catch a lot of flak (some of it due) from longtime fans for stretching their sound beyond the cold-as-ice blues of their first three albums, but “Dead and Gone” posits that that can be a good thing, with the backing chorus and the added instrumentation gives their blues more colors. This won’t win a Grammy when El Camino is eligible next year (“Lonely Boy” is a certainty), but this is the strongest track on the album. ~ Andrew Winistorfer
Side A:”Good Man”
This has all the cagey, creepy reverb of a Bond-theme slowdance but totally without the pretense. Saadiq lets his pipes bawl more coarsely on this track than usual, but just restrained enough that we’re seized by the very immediate anger and torment lurking just beneath the lyrics’ defense. It’s a tense, gutsy departure from his usual lovey-dovey Motown impressions.
Side B: “Movin’ Down The Line“
It seems like this song, the first single off Stone Rollin’, was released last summer and then immediately vanished into the ether. It’s less interesting, sure, but definitely a more technically perfect r&b jam than the nominated single. The very first thing out of his mouth is a delightful coo that makes your guts flutter (if you’re the fluttering kind). Also, dig more slick James Bond influence on those final horn punches.
Side A: “Holocene”
I have a working theory that the critical success of the single “Holocene” lies in that it feels like the soundtrack of some really important moment in your life, like a wedding day. Otherwise it kind of defies popularity—it’s long, sentimental, and the lyrics are totally depressing. It just proves that sometimes being hands-down gorgeous is enough to go on.
Side B: “Beth/Rest“
The real secret reason why Bon Iver are perfect Grammy material? The final track on the self-titled, “Beth/Rest.” What inspired them to break out the mellow synths, we’ll never know, but it evokes three-time Grammy winner Bruce Hornsby to a T. It’s somehow both a comfortably epic piano ballad while also experimenting with late-’80s soft-rock tropes like chorus pedals, saxophone, and steel guitar. For all these reasons, it should be a messy saccharine failure. But instead, it’s dignified and magnificent. ~ Natalie Elliott
Side A: “Call Your Girlfriend”
Only Robyn can make taking the moral high road sound like the fun choice.
Side B: “Get Myself Together“
Furthermore, only Robyn can pull off a daily affirmations Jock Jam that’s honest-to-god inspiring.
Side A: “Born This Way”
Side B: “Marry The Night“
Because it’s an equally appropriate soundtrack for a sports training montage, your audition for Fame, a drag show, or a commute. ~ Susannah Young
Side A: “Run This World (Girls)”
What are the chances that Beyonce heard “Pon de Floor” and wanted it sampled for a track of her own? While we can never know for sure, but the track is a smart and crafty stroke of creative genius that incorporates the infectious beat of the Major Lazer hit with the glossy pop of Beyonce. Still the song remains angular and not very melodic. Nevertheless, Beyonce holds her own and delivers a vocal offering that really proves her dexterity as a performer.
Side B: “Party” (F. Andre 3000)
Despite not being an official single from 4, it still earned a Grammy nod. And why not? What is there not to like about this song? Empowering, retro, relatable, sexy, referential and it has Andre 3000 doing what he does best — rapping and being ridiculous. Indeed, this song is dripping “swag-goo.”
JAY-Z & KANYE WEST
Side A: “Otis”
The backlash against the use of Otis Redding’s grunts and hollers pissed off a lot of purists (Otis Redding is untouchable!) and bored those with a short-attention span (there’s no chorus!). While the rest of us embraced it openly and put it on repeat. Whatever side you stand on, the fact that this song caused such intense polarizing views only makes it all that much more of a success, especially as a lead single off an album with such sky-high expectations.
Side B: “Made in America”
This might be the most saccharine pop number Kanye has ever produced and the closest he has come to channeling his hero Michael Jackson’s late career knack for sentimentality and earnestness. Nevertheless, here it became clear that when you cut through all the champagne and Maybachs, these two know the greater meaning of their success in a country that has historically been unkind to African-Americans. ~ Saxon Baird