The Album of the Year prize at the Grammys should theoretically be the most important award given out every year, as it would honor a complete collection of excellence. It is still given away last at the show in the same way that Best Picture is handed out at the Oscars, but the impact of it has eroded over time. That’s true for two reasons. The first is because we’re living in a single-centric universe that doesn’t put too much focus on the idea of the album (and even people who buy albums rarely listen to them in their entirety, or even in the correct order), which greatly diminishes the idea of the album. The second reason is because Album of the Year tends to be one of the strangest categories, as it often features winners that appeal to older (or non-existent) audiences (which makes sense, considering the types of people who buy whole albums). For every Taylor Swift’s Fearless (which took home the hardware last year), there are piles of albums like Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ Raising Sand, Herbie Hancock’s The Joni Letters and Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature.
That being said, the nominees this time around are a pretty stout group. They include Eminem’s Recovery, Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now, Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster and Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream.
Who Should Win
Can anybody really argue with Eminem’s Recovery? Taken in a vacuum, it’s an incredibly impressive collection of beats and rhymes that balances Slim Shady’s pop and hardcore sensibilities extremely well. But when you consider that it comes after a middling album and his constantly churning personal life, it’s even more powerful.
Who Will Win
The Grammys seem to really want to reward Lady Gaga on a larger scale than they have (she has two dance-related awards to her name), so this seems like it might be the place to recognize the greatness of The Fame Monster (which is a totally reasonable thing to do).
The inclusion of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream is curious, as most people think of her as a tremendous singles artist and less as somebody who makes albums. Teenage Dream is surprisingly strong and consistent, and she clearly has supporters out there looking to elevate her profile.