When the Grammy Awards are given out at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night, the many pampered Angeleno musicians who’d normally summon an Uber to L.A. Live will be forced to make the treacherous trek eastward to Midtown Manhattan.
With thunderstorms forecast and a low expected to be a piercing 40 degrees, the artists should not only be commended for their nominated work last year, but their fortitude.
Below, an overview of some of the Los Angeles-based nominees who’ll be braving New York this week.
Randy Newman, “Putin.” The Los Angeles native and longtime booster earned a nod in the arrangement, instrument and vocals category for his poke at the Russian leader. And no wonder: “Putin” opens with grandly gloomy washes of strings and a sinister male choir before moving into a show-tune ditty with Mancini-esque flourishes of saxophone, mandolin, harp, triangle and bell.
Along the way, Newman offers evidence of the leader’s skills. Among them: “He can drive his giant tractor/Across the Trans-Siberian plain/He can power a nuclear reactor/With the left side of his brain.”
Tyler, the Creator, “Flower Boy” (Columbia). A long shot to wrestle the rap album award from Kendrick Lamar or Jay-Z (or Migos or Rapsody), the Odd Future founder, producer, rapper, media innovator and empire builder born Tyler Okanma earned a nod for his introspective fourth album. (Warning: the below video contains a lot of cussing.)
The work of an artist entering a new stage of a fascinating career, “Flower Boy” reveals the huge heart behind the blusterous personality as it further confirms an artist pushing at expectations.
La Santa Cecilia, “Amar Y Vivir En Vivo Desde La Ciudad De México, 2017” (Rebeleon/Universal). For its Latin pop album-nominated record, the longtime East Los Angeles-born outfit traveled to Mexico City to record a bunch of classic boleros and rancheras, as well as songs by Mexican rock band Cafe Tacuba, vocalist Smokey Robinson and the late singer Juan Gabriel.
The record was issued as a visual album, with each track accompanied by a clip of them performing at various locations in Mexico City. Though it’s already won a Grammy, La Santa Cecilia is far from a shoo-in. The group is nominated alongside fellow winners Shakira, Juanes and Natalia Lafourcade, as well as thrice-nominated singer Alex Cuba.
Aimee Mann, “Mental Illness” (SuperEgo). The Recording Academy nominated Mann’s wonderfully depressing album in the folk category, but whether Joe Hill or Pete Seeger would have been keen on lyrics such as “a helium cell like a hermit crab shell” and “the animatronic bloodhounds bark” isn’t a conversation to be had here.
She’s competing against British salt-of-the-Earther Laura Marling, the Muscle Shoals-born siblings the Secret Sisters, the Nonesuch Records-backed Portland folk rock group Offa Rex and Yusef, a.k.a. the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens.
Father John Misty, “Pure Comedy” (Sub Pop). The artist born Joshua Tillman earned a surprise folk nomination as Father John Misty for “Helplessness Blues” in 2011, and seven years later he’s working in the so-called “alternative” field, at least according to his nod in the alternative album category for “Pure Comedy.”
Working with a kind of wry, meta-lyricism suggestive of fiction writer George Saunders, Father John Misty and his artfully crafted work will vye for ultimate alt-rock supremacy against a mostly dude lineup that includes LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, the National and Gorillaz.