Halftime Leisure

The 61st Annual Grammy Awards: the Good, the Bad, and the Unlistenable

January 8, 2019

As we approach the dreaded/celebrated season in which celebrities gather in expensive outfits to recognize the best in television, film, and music, the Grammy Awards often stand out as the show for the people. Usually, the Grammys honor a range of music that is both critically acclaimed and commercially successful, an intersection where the Oscars and the Golden Globes often fail. I decided to break down the categories I’m most interested in and give you all the dirt on the snubs, winners, and just plain wack nominees. I realize that no one asked for my opinions here, but unfortunately, Halftime Leisure gives me a platform that I don’t deserve.


Album of the Year

Okay, we have some clear issues here. First of all, how is Beerbongs & Bentleys (2018) side-by-side with Ms. Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer (2018)? Who is nominating Post Malone for all these Grammys? Did he pay someone off? Am I just not hearing the same music as everyone else when “Better Now” plays? Frankly, I am baffled. Also, snubbing the Carters’ Everything is Love (2018) is an absolute crime. Beyoncé and Jay-Z did not release such a raw, emotional album to be edged out by Post Malone and Drake. Despite a few questionable nominees, (ahem, Beerbongs & Bentleys and Scorpion (2018), this is overall a strong category. Black Panther (2018) picked up a nomination for its soundtrack, making it the first movie soundtrack to receive an album of the year nod since O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2002) and once again proving that it’s Ryan Coogler’s world and we’re all just living in it.


My pick: Golden Hour (2018) by Kacey Musgraves. Despite really incredible albums here, I have to go with Kacey’s fourth studio album because it’s just so beautiful. Every time I think I’m tired of listening to it, I turn it on and am back to my yeehaw ways.


Song of the Year

These song of the year nominations are quite a mixed bag, with a few bangers and puzzling choices thrown in. Brandi Carlile’s “The Joke” and Childish Gambino’s “This is America” fall into the former category, while Shawn Mendes’s “In My Blood”, Drake’s “God’s Plan” and Zedd’s “The Middle” fall into the latter. I felt like there were definitely better songs released than these last three in 2018. It feels like the Recording Academy just kind of went through the top 40 radio stations and selected tracks at random. In a year of great music, this category feels much like all of the Grammy nominations: low-effort and uninteresting.


My pick: “All the Stars” by Kendrick Lamar and SZA. Black Panther had an absolutely stunning soundtrack and deserves recognition.


Best Pop Vocal Album

Listen….I have questions. I am rooting for everyone in the music industry. I want everyone to have their moment in the sun. But the nominees for best Pop Vocal Album are simply not it, friends. P!nk, Kelly Clarkson, and Taylor Swift are all up in this category, which makes no sense considering the fact that these three artists released their weakest albums ever this year. Camila Cabello’s underwhelming solo debut, Camila (2018), is also nominated, and Shawn Mendes somehow snuck in there too with Shawn Mendes (2018). Maybe self-titled albums are the big thing for this year’s Recording Academy, but color me unimpressed. Though Cabello and Mendes are both talented, both these albums fell flat for me. There’s some obvious snubs here as well: Troye Sivan’s sophomore album Bloom (2018) was a work of art and deserved a nom.


My pick: Sweetener (2018) by Ariana Grande. Amongst this lukewarm bunch, Ariana’s masterpiece is the clear winner.


Best Alternative Music Album

Are you there, God? It’s me, Katie, and I want to know why Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (2018) by the Arctic Monkeys received a nomination in this (or any) category. This entire album was unlistenable. I wanted it to be good, but this album was one of the worst things I heard this year, and I’ve listened to Joe Scarborough’s music. Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino barely qualified as music. I have never been so excited nor so sorely let down by a collection of music as I was by the Arctic Monkeys this year. I’m also extremely confused as to how Mitski’s Be the Cowboy (2018) didn’t pick up a nomination here or anywhere else of significance (the album is up for Best Recording Package). Leaving Mitski out of the Grammys this year is borderline criminal, and I have half a mind to boycott the televised ceremony because of it.


My pick: MASSEDUCATION by St. Vincent. This album was beautiful, and if it loses to the Arctic Monkeys’ worst work ever, I will throw an absolute fit.


Best Rap Album

Nicki Minaj deserved better from the Recording Academy. Queen (2018) was a great album, and “Barbie Dreamz” alone should qualify it for a nomination somewhere, but unfortunately, the queen of rap was snubbed entirely this year. To be frank, I don’t really understand the hype around Travis Scott’s Astroworld (2018) and Mac Miller’s Swimming (2018). Queen deserved a slot far more than either of these albums. Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy (2018) earned a well-deserved nomination, but my theory is that the Recording Academy doesn’t know that they’re allowed to nominate multiple women in the Best Rap Album Category.


My pick: Invasion of Privacy by Cardi B or Daytona (2018) by Pusha T. Each of these albums was back-to-back bangers, and neither would be a disappointing winner. It should be noted, however, that Nicki Minaj was robbed this year, and that’s a hill I’m willing to die on.


Best Country Song

Look, I am from Texas, but I am no country fan, so my takes here are relatively lukewarm. “Space Cowboy” by Kacey Musgraves cured my cold, cleared my acne, and fixed my split ends. It is one of the best songs I’ve heard this year, no contest.


My pick: “Space Cowboy” by Kacey Musgraves. That’s that on that.


Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media

Four of the five albums nominated here absolutely killed me this year. Alas, The Greatest Showman (2017) did not deserve this nomination. Hugh Jackman, Zendaya, and Zac Efron all really brought some much-needed physical beauty to this film and I deeply enjoyed watching it, but as a musical, it is not great. As my theater-kid roommate has pointed out many a time, the songs on this album are simply pop songs crammed into the context of a musical without much thought or effort. “The Other Side” is the only exception, but that definitely doesn’t warrant a spot on this list for The Greatest Showman. That aside, Lady Bird (2017), Deadpool 2 (2018), Call Me By Your Name (2017), and Stranger Things all had poppin’ soundtracks, so it’s a good category overall.


My pick: Call Me By Your Name. It’s been almost a year since I first heard this, and I’m still not over it.


The 61st annual Grammy Awards will take place on February 10, 2019 at 5:00 pm EST in Los Angeles, California. The show will air on CBS.

Katherine Randolph
Katherine is the Voice's editor-in-chief. She enjoys both causing and covering mayhem, following raccoons on Instagram, and making her own scrunchies.

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Hey Katherine,

Album of the Year

To say I’m disappointed in your selections would be an understatement. I know we both heard the same music this year, so I can’t understand how you could choose Kacey’s album over the masterpiece of H.E.R’s vol 1 and Vol 2. Have you listened to them? Have you heard their depth and emotionality. I don’t think so. I think you need to take another listen. As for Monae’s Dirty Computer, it was a great album yet it lacked something fundamental that I can’t put my finger on. I mean I can’t compare Django Jane, I like that, and Pynk to a song like a Take a byte because it doesn’t even compare. As for the Carters album, I completely disagree. That album was okay, not great. I mean Apesh-t was a great song, but everything else seemed to be a repetition of the aforementioned song. It didn’t even have the same raw quality of Beyoncé’s Lemonade or Jay-Z’s 4:44 so no, they were not snubbed. Also they were nominated in another category. When it comes to the Black Panther Soundtrack, I agree it was a great album. I mean I loved it as much as any other black girl in America because of it’s significance, but as a collective whole this album seems completely disjointed without the backing of the movie. I mean I can’t just put on this album and just chill with it. Can you?

Pop Album of the Year
Again let’s talk. I haven’t listened to Grande’s album yet so I won’t comment on it, but I have listened to P!nk’s Beautiful Trauma. Did we listen to the same album? I don’t think so because this was one of P!nk’s most introspective album. I think that songs like Barbies, You get my love, and Wild hearts can’t be broken speak for themselves. Barbies alone maybe me long for the simplicity of childhood. So yes, this album does deserve this recognition even though the album might not win this category.

Song of the Year
This is America hands down. I mean I don’t know why you failed to mention it at all. All the stars is a great song, but we didn’t spend weeks/months analyzing its musicality, meaning, and videography. That alone is why this song stands out above all the other songs in this category. This song made us look inward to try to define what America is/means to us.

I’m going to stop here, but I really think you need to maybe take another listen to some of these albums to truly see their depth. I know that music is subjective, but I don’t think it’s too far fetched to say that we should have agreed on a little more than we did.

All the best,
From one music lover to another


Hello there, God here, Arctic Monkeys were nominated because their album was freaking good and you clearly don’t understand anything music-wise.
Jokes aside, how can you say that TBHC is unlistenable or barely qualifies as music? Those are pretty strong claims considering they’re one of the greatest rock/alternative bands we have nowadays. Also, why were you disappointed and what exactly were you expecting to hear? AM 2.0? All their albums are totally different from each other, each of them creates a unique atmosphere and thus they can’t be compared, so I seriously don’t understand why you say the album was a let down if it was impossible to predict the direction they were going to go. Also, have you ever heard of Mini Mansions? Alexandra Saviour? TLSP? Or even the more famous Submarine soundtrack? These are all side projects Alex Turner has worked on over these last years, and you can see how they clearly influenced TBHC. This album is probably the best one by the Arctic Monkeys, both musically and lyrically, it’s fascinating and visionary, it revolves around the moon colony but somehow manages to go beyond to the point where Alex sings about gentrification, our obsession with social media, consumerism, and even the information action ratio. I feel what you’re missing here is that it’s not something you listen to just for casual consumption.
Give it another chance, I’m sure you’ll understand why it was nominated.