Local singer-songwriter Beck won album of the year for his quiet, meditative "Morning Phase," an album of hushed orchestrations that was critically lauded for its lush melancholia.
"Morning Phase" was Beck's first album-of-the-year win, but the album was his third nomination for the Grammy top prize since his folk-meets-hip-hop breakout "Odelay" made him a star in the mid-to-late '90s.
Beck was something of an underdog in the category considering that "Morning Phase" had long dropped off the pop charts and was arguably the most down-tempo release of the artist's career. In winning album of the year, Beck bested pop hit "Beyoncé," the artist's surprise late-2013 release, as well as "In the Lonely Hour," the smashing debut of British soul newcomer Sam Smith.
FULL COVERAGE: Grammy Awards 2015
Beck said at the time of its release that his goal for "Morning Phase" was to strip his songs down to "the most essential, elemental sounds."
"I think we can all accept that acoustic guitar, and a piano, and an upright bass and acoustic drum and strings — they're things that are elemental. I felt like for the songs to have a kind of particular quality, something that feels like it breathes or has a warmth to it, that those would be the most suited," Beck said of the album's instrumentation.
The Times was kind in its review of "Morning Phase," even if critic Mikael Wood wrote that Beck heavily cribbed his own 2002 album "Sea Change." The sound of "Morning Phase" was described as "lighter than air," but the album was ultimately deemed a success thanks to an underlying sense of mystery.
In addition to Smith and Beyoncé, "Morning Phase" bested Ed Sheeran's "x" and Pharrell Williams' "Girl" in taking home Grammy's big prize. Williams had the song that was most ubiquitous of 2014 in "Happy," but many saw this as a race between Beyoncé and Smith, the empowering pop star versus the soulful crooner.
And yet the biggest star of 2014 sat out album of the year.
Taylor Swift's "1989" was the top-selling album of last year but was ineligible for Grammy voting due to its late October release. The eligibility period for nominated recordings was Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014. Yet in just nine weeks of release, Swift's "1989" proved to be the year's defining album from a numbers standpoint, selling 3.66 million copies through the end of the year.