Grammy nominees: A faint glimmer of hope on the horizon?

Dec 6, 2012 at 3:55 p.m. ET

Commercial music is loved by millions. But a music fan can start to feel alienated by the madness that surrounds the Justin Biebers of the music world. Yeah, we get the hype. But where are the artists we’ll still be listening to 20 years from now? Well, the Grammys found them, and here they are…

Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons perfoming a headline set at the SECC Glasgow, Scotland
Marcus Mumford of Mumford and Sons perfoming in Glasgow, Scotland

Coldplay — "Charlie Brown"

Before there was Gwyneth Paltrow, before there was Apple and Moses, before the Grammy nominations there was Chris Martin, frontman of Coldplay. He restored our faith in real music with Clocks and has been hard at it ever since, doing his thing. Coldplay found a nomination in the competitive category of Best Rock Performance — no small victory in this day and age. I’m not a music critic or expert. I don’t even have a nodding acquaintance with theory and music history. All I know is my grandkids’ iPod library will have Coldplay, a certainty I don’t possess with many musicians these days.

The Black Keys — "Lonely Boy"

There are those that take issue with calling commercial musicians “artists.” There, I said it. I’m not trying to piss people off, all I’m saying is that let’s give credit where it’s due. Justin Bieber needs to be given credit for finding a void and filling it, masterfully. He's good at putting on visually stimulating shows, he’s vocally talented and his marketing people are brilliant. No one can take that away from him or from his peers who share the nominations of fan-based award shows. But do skilled marketing and pricey pyrotechnics make an artist?

When we think of an artist, we tend to think of a unique talent that has mass, but sustainable appeal. We’ll hold up The Black Keys as an example. With a sound that is reminiscent of a beat-up Doors record, vintage and clever videos and thought-provoking lyrics, we gladly apply “artist” to The Black Keys. Even though "Lonely Boy" has a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song, I'm partial to "Next Girl," and have to agree with the record label in this case (read the ad along the bottom of the video). Here you go:

Carly Rae Jepsen — "Call Me Maybe"

This song should drive us nuckin' futs and should be a shining example of the disposable commercialism that some find so distasteful. So why do we have a sneaking suspicion that if the Mayans are right and it’s all over on Dec. 21, that this song will still be around? It has 352,597,558 hits on YouTube at the time of publication. Even the Grammy board can’t ignore that, thus the nomination for Best Pop Solo Performance. It has been parodied by practically every sports team in a minivan, and the video is hilarious. When it comes to transcending time, we still drop what we’re doing when we hear songs like "Whip It" by Devo, so "Call Me Maybe" might be this generation’s "Whip It." Maybe.

Mumford and Sons — Babel

Mumford and Sons is proof that real music still exists, and that people appreciate it. This year, the Grammys are appreciating the hell out of it with a nomination for Album of the Year (for Babel). Yes. And all is right with the music industry once more. As long as groups like Mumford and Sons are out there making music, and as long as they are still being recognized with a nod from Grammy and friends, we can maintain hope that we’ll be able to relate to generations to come through music that never expires. I’m again going to take “artistic” liberties (yes, I see the irony) and plant my favorite Mumford and Sons song in here, though it has nothing to do with this year’s Grammys.

Photo credit: Peter Kaminski/