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Beyoncé vs. Adele Is the Best Grammy Face-off in Ages

And other thoughts on this year’s nominees

(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

And the award for Trolliest Award Show goes to, for the 30th year in a row, the Grammys, which announced their slate of 2017 nominees Tuesday morning, and historically never disappoint in their capacity to disappoint. With due respect to the Oscars, nobody triangulates nominal prestige and total daffiness like these guys, who in recent history have graced us with such delights and atrocities as Beck over Beyoncé, Steely Dan over Eminem or Radiohead, Herbie Hancock over Amy Winehouse or Kanye West, Mumford & Sons over Frank Ocean, and (still delightful) Esperanza Spalding over Justin Bieber.

The Grammys are arbitrary and confused and spiteful and predictable and orderly in their chaos. The show is a zoo, and a slightly different type of zoo every year, albeit with some of the same graceful, majestic, bewildered animals. As you may have forgotten (I did), your reigning Album of the Year champion is Taylor Swift for 1989, a rousing and incendiary and Kanye-baiting moment that now feels like it happened 500 years ago. Something equally bizarre and fascinating and mildly cringeworthy will no doubt happen again this year; the ceremony is set for Sunday, February 12, but let’s comb through the nominations and try to predict what will be disgusting and/or delighting us a few months hence.

Beyoncé vs. Adele is one hell of a main event.

The most reasonable Grammy ceremony of the past decade — the 2012 Adele massacre, wherein her 21 cleaned house and she got to do one of those classic Armful of Grammys poses that some people handle gracefully and some do not — was also easily the dullest. The show’s no fun when it’s impossible to screw up.

Standing alone, either Adele’s 25 and Beyoncé’s Lemonade would run the table this year; as direct competitors, this is the best pure head-to-head Grammys brawl in ages. (Yes, 25 came out in November 2015, which feels like 5,000 years ago; the Grammy eligibility period — October 1 to September 30 — is always shifted a couple months to maximize disorientation.) Beyoncé has been rudely snubbed quite recently, and Adele, elegant and classic-leaning and insanely popular, is basically a Grammy statue incarnate. She’s the favorite for sure. But Lemonade is gonna win every 2016 critics’ poll in existence, and should the voters wish to make a Political Statement — which does happen — this’d be the way to do it.

Album of the Year is rounded out by Drake’s Views (yuck) and Justin Bieber’s Purpose (yikes); your wild card is Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, the year’s best (currently eligible) country record by some distance, and if the voters wished to execute an Ultimate Troll Move — which happens all the time — that’d be the way to do it. Good for him if that happens, even if the BeyHive and whatever Adele superfans call themselves promptly burn down whatever’s left of America.

Lukas Graham’s “7 Years” is a terrible song and should be fired into the sun.

Adele and Beyoncé are duking it out for Song of the Year (which honors songwriting) and Record of the Year (which honors production/performance), too, with “Hello” vs. “Formation” in both instances. Adele’s likely even more of a favorite there. What’s dismaying is that Lukas Graham’s melodramatic and treacly and profoundly bad “7 Years” is clogging up both categories as well. No link, no embed. Do not listen to “7 Years,” again or (even worse) for the first time. It is butt. If he — they — win anything I will personally burn down whatever part of America the BeyHive leaves standing.

Best New Artist is actually stacked/cool this year.

Graham somehow got shut out of Best New Artist, which is the first bit of good news here. Traditionally the Grammys’ goofiest and most anarchic category — this is the one where Esperanza Spalding beat out both Bieber and Drake — it also has a history of legitimately cursing its winner. But this year’s slate is a motlier and more compelling crew than usual: bubbly country star Kelsea Ballerini, less-bubbly (and better) country star Maren Morris, R&B polymath Anderson .Paak, your good friend Chance the Rapper, and (deep breath) your bitter enemies the Chainsmokers. If those dudes win, their acceptance speech will just consist of them belching into the microphone for 45 seconds apiece, which is almost worth rooting for. Almost.

The rock categories remain a roiling morass of confusion and hilarity.

Question for you:

Look at that. What is that? Disturbed, doing a Simon & Garfunkel cover, on late-night television. Amazing. Beyoncé winning a statue with “rock” engraved on it would be spectacular, of course, but the other rock showdowns are murkier and less coherent. David Bowie shows up in the Best Rock Song slate also (for “Blackstar”), and is awfully hard to root against, though he’s up against Metallica, Radiohead, Twenty One Pilots, and, bizarrely, this. Best Rock Album, meanwhile, is an even loopier three-way pop-punk blowout between Blink-182, Weezer, and Panic! at the Disco; nonsensically, Bowie and Radiohead were both tapped for Best Alternative Music Album instead, alongside noted crabby Best New Artist victor Bon Iver.

Don’t think too hard about it, but let’s hope Twenty One Pilots win something (“Stressed Out” is up for Record of the Year, heh), or at least perform at the ceremony and freak out your parents, or maybe just freak out you.

This year’s biggest snub is self-inflicted.

If you’re partial, you can argue that Rihanna didn’t get enough shine (just Record of the Year for “Work” among the big ones), or that Solange, another emerging critical favorite, deserved something more than a nod for Best R&B Performance. But Solange might be better kept as our little secret, and Rihanna doesn’t give a shit. Kanye West, of course, gives more of a shit than anyone alive, and hopefully he’ll be back soon to rail against The Life of Pablo’s absence from the Album of the Year category. But it did make the Best Rap Album field, with both “Ultralight Beam” and “Famous” doubling up for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Performance. “Famous” is a little odd, and sure seems like a subtweet to somebody.

The ghost hovering over this year’s ceremony, though, is Frank Ocean, initially thought to be left out of the running for weird bureaucratic reasons (Kanye cared!), though it turns out he personally declined to submit either Blonde or Endless as “my Colin Kaepernick moment.” That is a lovely idea that doesn’t really make sense in a remarkably Frank Ocean sort of way. You wonder what the climate will be like in February, a month past President Trump’s inauguration, and whether anyone present will have a protest sorta thing in mind. Anyone is welcome to give it a shot. So long as it’s not Lukas Graham.