The Grammy Whisperer Has a Meeting of the Minds with HITS' Editor in Chief


Grein: I'm going with Beyoncé's Lemonade, Adele's 25, Drake's Views, Paul Simon's Stranger to Stranger and Justin Bieber's Purpose.

Beer: I agree with four of those. I would take out Paul Simon and put in Sia's This Is Acting.

Grein: Is that move more an endorsement of Sia, or do you just think Paul Simon makes no sense?

Beer: I think Paul Simon makes absolutely no sense. I've been a giant Paul Simon fan for his whole career, but I think this was kind of a throwaway album that made no impact in the marketplace after about two weeks. I don't think it's his best work and I don't think it should be honored. There are a lot of things I would pick over Paul Simon. He wouldn't even be in my top 20.

Grein: David Fricke wrote a two-page recap of "Essential Paul Simon" in the current (Dec. 1) issue of Rolling Stone. He doesn't include Stranger to Stranger as one of Simon's "Must-Haves," but he does have it on the second tier, along with Bridge Over Troubled Water, Paul Simon and Still Crazy After All These Years. So it's not like it was universally slagged. On Metacritic.com, it has a solid score of 85. 

Beer: With all due respect to critics, meta- and otherwise, I don’t buy Paul Simon here. Period. It's fine for you to go out on a limb—if you’re right, we’ll trumpet your foresight. If not, we’ll laugh and point.

Grein: The other four albums were all blockbusters. Going with a modest hit like Simon's album would allow the Grammys to say, "We're not the American Music Awards."

Beer: In that case, they shouldn’t be the 1983 Grammys either. If they want something that wasn't a blockbuster, how about The Lumineers or Leslie Odom, Jr.?

Grein: And Sia?

Beer: I just think Sia deserves it.


Grein: I'm going with Adele's "Hello," Twenty One Pilots' "Stressed Out," The Weeknd's "Starboy" (featuring Daft Punk), Lukas Graham's "7 Years" and Justin Bieber's "Love Yourself."

Beer: Once again, I agree with four of those. I would take out Lukas Graham and put in Sia's "Cheap Thrills" (featuring Sean Paul).

Grein: So you have Sia again.

Beer: I think you are underrepresenting Sia. I think this is her year.

Grein: Commercially, it was her year. I don't think "Cheap Thrills" was as distinctive as "Chandelier" (Sia's 2014 hit, which was nominated for Record and Song of the Year). To me, "Cheap Thrills" sounds a lot like P!nk. It could have been a P!nk record. It was the best P!nk record of the year, better than P!nk's record ("Just Like Fire").

Beer: Well, that's not a bad thing.

Grein: In the nominations review committee, someone might say, "This isn't as special as 'Chandelier' was."

Beer: In that case, I would disagree with the committee. I think it deserves it. Period.

Grein: The Weeknd gives the slate of nominees some racial diversity. He would be the only black lead artist in this category this year. The media focus on racial diversity in entertainment awards has become intense in the past two years.

Beer: The Weeknd is a good choice. There is great deal of current heat on him and it could lead to a fun performance with the robots. In the case of Beyoncé's "Formation," which I see you have as an alternate here, I don't think it's a black-white thing; it's a great song vs. a not-great song thing. I think she should be seriously considered for Album, but not Record. If Drake's "Hotline Bling" were eligible, I'd put that in.

Grein: It was eligible, but Drake's camp submitted "One Dance" instead. 

Beer: Is "Stressed Out" the only one possible for Twenty One Pilots, not "Ride"?

Grein: Yes, it's the only one possible.

Beer: I like "Ride" better. I think they went with the wrong song.

Grein: I like "Ride" a lot too, but "Stressed Out" was their breakthrough hit. I also have Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop the Feeling!" as an alternate. It's an excellent record. I thought it was so peculiar that they entered the film version, which credits 10 other voice actors from Trolls (in addition to Timberlake), instead of Timberlake's single.

Beer: I agree.

Grein: The confusion may hurt its chances of landing a Record of the Year nomination. It would be weird if, to single out one of those actors, Kunal Nayyar from The Big Bang Theory wound up with a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year.

Beer: Well, Kunal is a personal friend, so I like him.

Grein: I forget: You know everybody.

Beer: I think The Chainsmokers' "Closer" (featuring Halsey) needs to be in one of these two categories (Record or Song).

Grein: Which one?

Beer: I don't know. I don't know the difference.

Grein: Record of the Year is…

Beer: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But I don't know what the difference is when they get in the room and they want to balance things out and take care of people.

Grein: They do do that.

Beer: Yes, they do. I think Justin Timberlake and The Chainsmokers should each get a nomination in one of these two categories and Sia should get both.


Grein: I'm going with "Hello," "Love Yourself," "Can't Stop the Feeling!," "Formation" and "7 Years."

Beer: I agree with three of those, but I would take out "Formation" and "7 Years" and put in "Cheap Thrills" and "Closer."

Grein: So you're going with Sia in all three categories.

Beer: In case you couldn't tell yet, I'm strongly in the Sia camp. And "Closer" was the biggest song of the year.

Grein: I like it, but it's a little sing-songy and repetitious. I think somebody on the committee may point that out. "Formation" makes some comments about black pride which give it a sense of import and timeliness.

Beer: I think Lemonade is an impressive album.

Grein: So you think the Album of the Year nomination will take care of it?

Beer: Yes, and I think she has a chance to win that. She's definitely in the top two.

Grein: You don't think "7 Years" will be nominated for either Record or Song?

Beer: That record may have peaked too early in the year. Like an Academy Award contender that loses out by being released too early, Lukas Graham could be the deserving entry that just misses out. They could finish sixth in three big categories (Record, Song and Best New Artist). They may have to settle for a nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.


Grein: I'm going with Chance the Rapper, Maren Morris, Alessia Cara, The Chainsmokers and Shawn Mendes.

Beer: The scary part is we agree.

Grein: On all five?

Beer: Yes. And also that they're deserving.

Grein: It is a good group. It's so competitive that I wasn't able to find a spot for Lukas Graham, even though I think they'll be nominated for Record of the Year and that two members of the group will be nominated for Song. That happens sometimes—Lorde was nominated for Record and Song two years ago, but failed to get a Best New Artist nomination—but it's rare.

Beer: It's part of the balancing out—finding a spot for everybody.

Grein: Also, I think the nominations committee might be concerned that Lukas Graham would win if they nominated them.

Beer: That's possible.

Grein: The voters are more conservative than the nominations committee is.


Grein: Do you have any final thoughts on this whole process?

Beer: I hope they get it right—not necessarily that they mirror what we're saying, but that they take care of the right people who have earned it. Getting these key Grammy nominations is really important to the artists. I hope they do the right thing by everybody. I hope we don't get a Justin Timberlake fiasco like we got a few years ago, when The 20/20 Experience was passed over for an Album of the Year nomination.

Grein: Do you wish the nominations in the Big Four categories were still decided by the voting members of the Recording Academy—as they were prior to 1995—or do you think that, on balance, the nominations review committee has been a good thing?

Beer: I think there were flaws before and there are flaws now.

Grein: What were the flaws before?

Beer: I'm not the historian you are, but didn't it take The Beatles and people like that a really long time to win?

Grein: They won Album of the Year on their third nomination, after losing twice to Frank Sinatra.

Beer: It had flaws at that point with the voting being skewed too adult, too old. Currently, it's far too ego-driven by a lot of the people in the room having a bully pulpit.

Grein: Are there some examples you could give of that?

Beer: Yeah, when you give me the answer to why Justin Timberlake didn't get nominated, I'll tell you how I feel. It was the biggest-selling album of the year. I don’t accept any answer other than politics. In college football, when they pick the top four teams at the end of the season, you know who's in the room and those people get to be questioned. The people who are in the room for the Grammys are anonymous.

Grein: Do you want to talk about who you think will win in these four categories or is it too early?

Beer: Let's wait until the nominations come out and then we'll have this conversation again about what happened and who we think is going to win. The only thing I'm willing to state is I think "Hello" is going to win.

Grein: Both Record and Song?

Beer: Yes.

Grein: It is great. Following 21 was one of the biggest challenges any artist has ever faced, and Adele did it very well. It's not easy to do.

Beer: It's not easy at all.

Grein: Well, Lenny this was fun.

Beer: Paul, it has been a musical treat.

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Deck the Grammys with boughs of Holly. (11/24a)
Rolling out our U.K. Special print issue (11/24a)
Putting the audio into audio-visual. (11/29a)

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