The Grammys! They’re happening Sunday! As part of our team coverage in the week leading up to music’s big celebration, Popdust’s Maura Johnston will chat with noted pop-watcher Chris Molanphy about the artists and entities who might be a little more on edge than their black-tie-wearing compatriots—whether it’s because they have a lot to gain from a killer performance or a surprise win, or a bit to lose from not measuring up to expectations. Today's topic: The Producer of the Year category, which is stuffed with the year's biggest hitmakers (if not all their best songs).
Chris Molanphy: I'm intrigued by a very geeky category: Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical.
CM: To me it's a case of Smeezingtons—who had a killer year but were nowhere 365 days ago—vs. the Capo di Tutti Capi, Dr. Luke.
CM: None of the prognostication articles I've read seem to think Mr. Gottwald is going to take it, which I find surprising. I half-wonder if there's envy at work.
Maura Johnston: In what sense?
CM: The guy is rolling in it right now? Has a virtual deed to the Top 10?
CM: I mean, I have loved and loathed Dr. Luke at various times. But in theory a year like he's had, it should be a laydown for him.
MJ: But did you see the specific songs he's nominated for compared to the ones the Smeezingtons were up for? Maybe we should go canto a canto.
MJ: Dr. Luke:
California Gurls (Katy Perry Featuring Snoop Dogg)
For Your Entertainment (Adam Lambert)
Kiss N Tell (Ke$ha)
Magic (B.o.B Featuring Rivers Cuomo)
Take It Off (Ke$ha)
Teenage Dream (Katy Perry)
Your Love Is My Drug (Ke$ha)
MJ: The Smeezingtons (Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine:
Billionaire (Travie McCoy Featuring Bruno Mars)
Bow Chicka Wow Wow (Mike Posner)
F*** You (Cee Lo Green)
Island Queen (Sean Kingston)
Just The Way You Are (Bruno Mars)
Nothin' On You (B.o.B Featuring Bruno Mars)
CM: Hrm, you're right. Luke's lineup is studded with some seriously painful stuff alongside the gems.
CM: And a lot of Ke$ha, whom I kind of love. But the near-total lack of nods she received gives a good indication of how NARAS feels about her in general.
MJ: She's the sort of wild card.
MJ: The turd in the punchbowl, if you will.
MJ: LET ME SAY HERE BTW THAT I LIKE HER A LOT OK
CM: OH WORD
MJ: She is so > Katy Perry in my estimation. Plus, she's co-signed by 3 Stacks!
CM: I put Animal in my Top 10 albums and "We R Who We R" in my singles; "Your Love Is My Drug" nearly made it, too.
CM: Smeezingtons would theoretically take it for "Nothin' on You" alone. That song is like revival-Motown catnip for NARAS types.
CM: And then you pile "Fuck You" on that...
CM: Plus Bruno Mars's very Grammy-friendly (coke charge notwithstanding) image...
CM: Here's the thing about Best Producer: It's virtually the most insider-y award they give. It's insiders voting for one of their own, effectively. Over the past decade, it's gone to both inevitable people and hacky people.
MJ: So then let's look at the other three nominees and their slates of recordings? (They're all up for a mix of albums and tracks.)
MJ: Rob Cavallo:
Brand New Eyes (Paramore)
Hang Cool Teddy Bear (Meat Loaf)
Happy Hour (Uncle Kracker)
Music Again (Adam Lambert)
Soaked (Adam Lambert)
Sure Fire Winners (Adam Lambert)
Time For Miracles (Adam Lambert)
When It's Time (Green Day)
CM: Cavallo won in 1999. Which doesn't mean he couldn't win again.
MJ: Danger Mouse:
Broken Bells (Broken Bells)
Dark Night Of The Soul (Danger Mouse And Sparklehorse)
Tighten Up (The Black Keys)
MJ: Which, zzz. But there's "credibility" there.
MJ: And then there's my pick to win.
Alejandro (Lady Gaga)
Bad Romance (Lady Gaga)
The Fame Monster (Lady Gaga)
I Like It (Enrique Iglesias Featuring Pitbull)
We Are The World 25 For Haiti (Artists For Haiti)
Whole Lotta Love (Mary J. Blige)
MJ: Talk about highs and lows.
CM: You're right—if we're going just on lineup, that's the second-strongest list after Smeezingtons. The big low is "We Are The World 25," but remember who's voting. The Quincy posse. These people thought that record was a good idea, and they made a lot of $$ for Haiti with that thing.
MJ: "WATW25" might further damn Luke, actually. Never forget:
MJ: As the music industry knows all too well, it's a fine line between crass and facepalmy. But this might have drunkenly tumbled right over it.
CM: I think you've convinced me. Luke's not taking that statue.
CM: To me, love him or hate him, Luke is like Richard Hatch in season one of Survivor: crass, sometimes loathsome, but he played the game better than anyone. But that's NOT how Grammy peeps vote.
CM: Just look at this list of the last decade's winners:
2010: Brendan O'Brien
2009: Rick Rubin
2008: Mark Ronson
2007: Rick Rubin
2006: Steve Lillywhite
2005: John Shanks
2004: The Neptunes
2003: Arif Mardin
2002: T-Bone Burnett
2001: Dr. Dre
2000: Walter Afanasieff
CM: Now, out of that list, who was up-to-the-minute and current?
CM: I'd argue: Neptunes, Dre and 2007 Rubin (he had Shakira, Dixie Chicks and RHCP that year).
MJ: What about Mark Ronson?
CM: Maybe Ronson, but that was for one record overwhelmingly, not a body of work. Otherwise, it's all journeymen. Walter A. has been around since the Stone Age! Lillywhite! Mardin—he cut his teeth producing the BEE GEES in the '70s!
CM: So out of this year's list? Who knows, it could be Cavallo—the ultimate "company man" pick of the five.
CM: Bottom line, on merits/currency, I'd give it to Dr. Luke. On song selection, Smeezingtons. But my prediction? Probably Smeezingtons, but could be Cavallo.
MJ: I dunno, Cavallo doesn't really have any high points on his list. (Sorry, Glamberts, "Time For Miracles" doesn't count.)
CM: No, I guess not.
MJ: I think RedOne is still the pick.
CM: Because of WATW?
CM: Or Gaga?
MJ: And let's not forget that damn Enrique song.
CM: Yeah, that doesn't hurt.
CM: I guess the question is whether Gaga has a good night in general. If she does, RedOne gets pulled on her coattails. Althogh "Bad Romance" wasn't nominated for Song or Record of the Year, which still surprises me.
CM: So all right: you're placing your money on RedOne. I'm betting Smeezingtons, but will be (pleasantly?) surprised if Dr. Luke takes it.
MJ: It's a bet!