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2006 Grammy Evaluations Paper

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Song Of The Year

For song of the year, I chose "Devils and Dust" by Bruce Springsteen. The winner was "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" by U2. The overall mood of "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" is dark and filled with angst, but yet with a sense of hope in our need for each other. The overall mood in "Devils and Dust" is very contemplative. The guitar is almost "moaning" as it drones through the verses. There is a very deep sense of struggle with right and wrong in this song. In comparison, "Devils and Dust" communicates the struggle that it deals with in a more meaningful way while "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" has more changes in feel, instrumental texture and intensity. I would give overall mood to "Devils and Dust" because it's arrangement and structure is more moving and expressive while "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" is more produced than felt.

The lyrics of "Devils and Dust" are very typical of Springsteen. I consider him to be one of the premier musical "poets" of our time. He is more than a songwriter or a lyricist, he is a true wordsmith. He creates art with words. It's not that the words are exceptionally thought provoking or intellectually stimulating, but more that they are emotionally raw and they strike a nerve that you can't help but react to. The lyrics of "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" are more intellectually stimulating. I read that this song was written as a reaction to the death of Bono's father, and that would make sense when considering phrases like, "Where are we now? I've still got to let you know a house still doesn't make a home. Don't leave me here alone." While both songs have lyrics that are easy for most people to connect with, "Devils and Dust" should get the nod in this aspect.

I felt that Both vocal performances were very emotional, but not very controlled or polished. Out of the two, Bono is the better singer when it comes to technique. The conundrum comes in discerning which performance is "better" which doesn't necessarily mean more technically proficient. Springsteen conveys the pain of his struggle in his vocal performance of "Devils and Dust." There are times in the performance that you can "hear" his soul splitting down the middle. I would give vocal performance to Springsteen.

The technical proficiency of the musicians on both songs is excellent. I really don't see a clear winner in this area. The styles of the songs are so different that it is like comparing apples and oranges. The technical demand of "Devils and Dust" is not as high as "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" but Springsteen takes the greater risk when it comes to exposure. He is acoustic and alone. It's do or die with nobody else to blame but himself if he crashes. Once again, he gets the nod in my book.

It's very difficult to comment on sound quality because I listened to both as sample downloads and I just don't feel that sample downloads offer the opportunity to make a good sound quality judgment. However, to the best I am able to assess, both songs seem to be well produced by people who are respected in their field.

In closing, I would still make the choice I made. If I were hard pressed I would have to admit that "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own" deserved to win by Academy standards. But beauty is in the "ears" of the beholder, and in my ears, "Devils and Dust" was the winner.

Record Of The Year

For record of the year, I chose "We Belong Together" by Mariah Carey. The winner was "Boulevard of Broken Dreams (amended)" by Green Day. The overall mood of "We Belong Together" is dark and smooth. If I were to expound on that, I would actually say it is smoooooth. The bass line and drum groove are addictive and create a "can't stop bobbing my head" kind of reaction in the listener. In my honest opinion, I think that "Boulevard of Broken Dreams (amended)" is an overproduced assembly line project with very little imagination. I wouldn't have even voted for it as a nominee let alone a winner. The overall mood of "Boulevard of Broken Dreams (amended)" is "here's another pop-punk tune that sounds like everything else we've ever recorded." Any attempt at communicating a mood was forced and fell way short. I thought the song was simply flat.

The lyrics of "We Belong Together" are typical of the "we broke up. I was wrong. We should still be together" love song. The difference is in the treatment of them musically. There is a very smooth transition between legato treatment in the chorus and very rhythmic treatment of verses that are almost stylistically rap but with a "sing songy" up and down pitch to them that is based on arpegiated chords. The lyrics for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams (amended)" are about the same creativity level as a teenager's diary. And I know I'm in the minority on this, but I see no need for the use of the f-word. I don't use it, and don't need to hear it, and don't care for somebody else trying to sell it to my children. While neither song is a lyrical masterpiece, "We Belong Together" is better.

The vocal technique aspect is a runaway win for Carey. She is truly the master of her voice. She is obviously well trained and very well developed. Her pitch control is unmatched by any of her piers and the command she has over every little nuance of her vocal performance is awe inspiring. The lead singer for Green Day sounds like the "before" on a nasal spray commercial. I guess this isn't that much of a problem since what he is asked to sing requires no more talent than he possesses.

As for the technical proficiency of the musicians, once again this should be a no-brainer. "We Belong Together" has a very polished blend of very skilled musicians. The groove sits just behind the beat which is very difficult to do consistently without sounding square. They accomplish it wonderfully. The technical proficiency of the musicians on "Boulevard of Broken Dreams (amended)" isn't poor, but it isn't polished either. In all honesty, I'm a hack guitar player and a mediocre drummer, and I could easily pull off everything I heard in this song at the level it was performed or better.

As you can probably tell, I was quite upset at the result on this one. I don't think these two songs or these two artists are even in the same



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