Last night saw the 57th annual Grammy Awards hosted by LL Cool J take place with a ceremony featuring typically extravagant performances from the likes of AC/DC, Beyonce and Pharrell. Even Electric Light Orchestra – whose back catalog is packed with perennially sample-friendly material (see our recent ‘ELO: The Samples’ mixtape for proof) – were invited to perform ‘Evil Woman’ (famously sampled by Daft Punk) and ‘Mr. Blue Sky’. Missing out on an opportunity to perform his version of Blue Sky with ELO, Common appeared for a duet with John Legend, and other collaborations included Kanye, Rihanna and Paul McCartney performing material from their recent ‘FourFiveSeconds’ project. As with previous years, samples, covers and remixes accounted for a number of the musical highlights. Here’s our run down:
Best Rap Peformance and Best Rap Song: ‘I‘ by Kendrick Lamar
Though not a stellar year for hip-hop releases (other nominees included Drake and Childish Gambino) Kendrick Lamar’s opinion-dividing single ‘I’, released towards the end of last year, was a credible choice to be awarded Best Rap Performance. It was also awarded Best Rap Song (Rap Performance being judged on the vocal performance, Rap Song being measured on song-writing, arrangement, production etc.) for which The Isley Brothers will also be receiving credit based on the recording academy’s guidelines for the award which state “Award to the songwriter(s) of new material; certificate to songwriter(s) of any sampled material”
Record of the Year and Song of the Year: ‘Stay With Me‘ by Sam Smith
Sam Smith swept this year’s Grammys, ‘Stay With Me’ winning both Record and Song of the Year, his album ‘In The Lonely Hour’ winning Best Pop Vocal Album and Smith being awarded Best New Artist. The song has already been covered more than 50 times. Smith’s rise to the top hasn’t been without controversy though. Almost immediately after its release, the chorus of ‘Stay With Me’ was noted as having significant similarity to the top-line melody of Tom Petty’s ‘Won’t Back Down‘ (co-written by ELO’s Jeff Lynne), Petty’s publishing company pursued Smith for compensation and were eventually granted 12.5% of the songwriting royalties. Despite this, a spokesperson for Smith maintains the similarity between the two track was “a complete coincidence”.
Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Music Video: ‘Happy’ by Pharrell
Pharell’s ‘Happy’ has undoubtedly been the most unavoidable pop song of the past year, blaring out of speakers in coffee shops and fast food restaurants all across the world and picked up the awards for Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Music Video. Despite being only a year old the track already has 20 covers and has been sampled 11 times by the likes of DJ Earworm and Kaytranada. It has also been given a speedy reworking by Makoto and even a ‘sad’ re-imagining by Woodkid.
Best Electronic Album: ‘Syro’ by Aphex Twin
‘Syro’ – Aphex Twin’s triumphant return to the world of recorded music – picked up the award for best electronic album. The award was one of many that was presented during the pre-telecast ceremony in the afternoon before the main show. Unfortunate perhaps that Richard D. James was not given the opportunity to give an acceptance speech on live television, although Kanye, in almost predictable style didn’t leave us without a memorable on-stage moment. Classic breaks that appear throughout the record include Hot Pants, Think (About It) and Amen, Brother.
Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Capella: ‘Daft Punk‘ by Pentatonix
A capella group Pentatonix (the majority of whose catalogue consists of covers and medleys) took home the award for Best Arrangement. Their self-explanatory cover medley ‘Daft Punk’ reworks six of the French Duo’s biggest hits; ‘One More Time’, ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’, ‘Technologic’, ‘Television Rules the Nation’, ‘Digital Love’ and ‘Get Lucky’.
Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song: Drunk In Love by Beyonce ft. Jay Z
Another track to take home both the “Performance” and “Song” awards in its genre was ‘Drunk In Love’. The slightly confusing cut off dates for eligibility for the awards (this year’s being Oct. 1, 2013 – Sept. 30, 2014) mean that a 2013 track such as ‘Drunk In Love’ can receive awards at the 2015 edition of the Grammys. J. Cole interpolated Jay-Z’s part in G.O.M.D. from last year’s ‘2014 Forest Hills Drive’. Lil Wayne, Diplo and Future have also taken license with various parts of the track.
Best Dance Recording: ‘Rather Be‘ by Clean Bandit ft. Jess Glynne
Clean Bandit’s ‘Rather Be’ was deemed to be the Best Dance Recording of the past year, surprisingly beating out slightly more established names like Basement Jaxx and Disclosure. The track has already been covered by Best Arrangement-winners Pentatonix (among 13 others) and has also been given an 808-heavy reworking by DJ Mustard.
Best Jazz Instrumental: ‘Trilogy’ by Chick Corea Trio
Legendary Jazz pianist and composer Chick Corea released a live album with his band toward the end of 2013 and was rewarded with his 21st and 22nd (also for best Jazz solo on the rendition of his own composition ‘Fingerprints’) Grammy awards last night. Corea’s virtuoso ability on piano and keys (quite often on a Rhodes) has been sampled by modern-day musical icons such as J Dilla, Madlib and Flying Lotus.
Best Comedy Album: ‘Mandatory Fun’ by “Weird Al” Yankovic
Wierd Al picked up the Best Comedy album award (his 3rd to date) for last year’s ‘Mandatory Fun’, which included skilfully humorous parodies of ‘Blurred Lines’ (Robin Thicke), ‘Royals‘ (Lorde) and the Best Pop Peformance-winning ‘Happy‘ (Pharrell). The albums customary Polka medley ‘NOW That’s What I Call Polka!’ managed to cram hooks from ‘Get Lucky’, ‘Call Me Maybe‘, ‘Wrecking Ball‘ and ‘Gangnam Style‘ into just over 4 minutes.
Best Traditional Vocal Album: ‘Cheek to Cheek’ by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga
Legendary pop-jazz vocalist Tony Bennett is said to have met Lady Gaga backstage after one of her performances back in 2011 and began recording a collaborative album of covers not long afterwards. Comprised entirely of cover versions, tracks featured include ‘Nature Boy‘ (Nat King Cole), ‘I Can’t Give You Anything but Love‘ (Adelaide Hall) and the title track, ‘Cheek to Cheek‘, originally performed by Fred Astaire for the 1935 movie ‘Top Hat’.
Words: Henry Macleod (@airbagmusic)