REWIND: The best of the 2020 Grammy nominees, including Lizzo and Gary Clark Jr.


Lizzo performs at The Fillmore in San Francisco on Nov. 9, 2017. Staff photo.

As regular readers of my column are well aware, I don’t much like the Grammys.

Sure, occasionally Fantastic Negrito or Weird Al wins a trophy, and they absolutely deserve it. But they win the non-televised awards that only a few knowledgeable people bother voting for. Get to the top of the list, stuff like Song of the Year and Album of the Year, and it’s pretty much a disaster.

That said, the nominees are often good. The best never wins but at least they’re in the conversation. So let’s look at some of the best 2020 Grammy nominees who will probably lose to Jethro Tull or A Taste of Honey.

Lizzo — “Truth Hurts”

Lizzo is great and if you disagree you’re wrong.

The spiritual successor to women like Aretha and Mavis Staples in vocal power and attitude, everything she does is amazing. She deserves the nominations for Record, Album, and Song of the year, and every other nomination she gets from now on.

If I have one complaint it’s that they didn’t figure out a way to nominate the NPR Tiny Desk concert that I embedded above. If Disturbed’s performance of “The Sound of Silence” on “Conan” can get a nomination, this absolutely should.

Altin Gün — Gece

Buried in the nominations, down at Best World Music Album, is a band RIFF has been trying to tell you about all year.

First Aarushi Nanda interviewed them for a profile. Then I raved incessantly about them after their amazing Outside Lands set. It should not be news to you that they’re award-worthy.

But in case you missed all that somehow: They’re a psychedelic Turkish folk rock band from Amsterdam and they’re amazing. I can almost guarantee you’ve never heard anything quite like it, and I mean that in a very good way. Also it involves a stringed instrument I can’t remember the name of but that I want to learn to play.

It’s not too late to get in on the ground floor!

Gary Clark Jr. — “This Land”

Gary Clark Jr. is one of the best living guitar players, but for award purposes it’s hard to classify him. His music has so many genres and influences involved that placing it in a Grammy category is a near-impossible task. It’s a similar situation to what Fantastic Negrito faced; where do you enter music that’s unique and personal rather than designed to fit in a certain box?

When you’re signed to Warner Music the solution is apparently to enter in both Rock and Blues, and get nominated for both. And rightfully so, even if the rock category isn’t what it used to be; if anything’s going to drag rock back to the forefront it’s going to be a socially conscious guitarist bringing it back to its roots.

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram — Kingfish

Let’s stick with the “supernaturally good guitar players” theme and introduce you to Kingfish. Get familiar with this man.

Only 20 years old, out of Mississippi, he was inspired to get into music by Muddy Waters and counts Robert Johnson, B.B. King and Jimi Hendrix as influences. Bootsy Collins, who played with James Brown and George Clinton, championed his videos and he rose to fame as a teenager.

Now that you’re all caught up: The man is incredible. Just amazing. His debut is nominated for Best Traditional Blues Album and he deserves a lot more.

Lil Nas X — “Old Town Road”

First off, shut up. Just because it’s overplayed doesn’t mean it’s not a good song. It’s got a catchy hook and it’s a seamless blend of hip-hop and country, which isn’t easy to do. Plus it was No. 1 in every country that keeps charts—except Sweden, where it peaked at No. 2, so it’s gotta have something going for it.

Second, I mostly included it so I can call out the Grammys for nominating it for Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, plus the album for Album of the Year and Lil Nas X for Best New Artist, but it didn’t get a single nomination in any of the country categories.

Between this and Billboard controversially taking the song off the country charts, is it possible he’s being excluded from country music because he’s a gay black man? Nobody knows for sure. But yes, definitely.

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