The nominations for the 2010 American Music Awards were officially announced yesterday, and fans and critics alike are already sounding off on who they think is most deserving of an award. The nominees for the coveted AMA Artist of the Year award include Justin Bieber, Kesha, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Eminem. Both Justin and Kesha were also nominated for the AMA Breakthrough Artist Award, as well as Lady Antebellum, B.o.B, Taio Cruz and Travis McCoy. Eminem and Lady Antebellum surprised many music industry watchers with five American Music Awards nominations each.
Although I’m not holding my breath, it would be nice to see Eminem take home the Artist of the Year award. Pop culture has lost a lot of its guts in recent years, as fans seem to be looking for simpler forms of entertainment to take their minds off the economical problems and culture clashes that have come to dominate the headlines. A major win for a figure as controversial as Eminem would be a sign that mainstream America still has some guts and does not need a spoonful of sugar to help every pop record go down.
Of course, the whole purpose of the American Music Awards is to let the public decide for themselves who they like the most. Unfortunately, what we need and what we want are rarely the same thing, and, yes, I’m implying that Eminem is good for America. Katy Perry and Lady Gaga both represent steps in the right cultural direction compared to the previous generation of pop divas. However, Eminem is the one nominee who is willing engage the public with all of the hostility and character flaws that made the best jazz musicians, rock bands and hip hop artists of the 20th century so memorable.
Aside from my cultural navel-gazing regarding the matter, Eminem’s new record, Recovery, is simply an excellent album and may represent the rapper’s finest work to date. With his hard-hitting beats and ruthlessly on-the-mark lyrics, Eminem is clearly at the top of his game at a time when many of his contemporaries have long since faded. While many mainstream artists who peak young struggle to hold onto that initial burst of fame, I think Eminem has managed to continue to evolve as a musician and lyricist in a manner that, on this album at least, no longer sounds forced or contrived.
Whether the majority of the public is still willing to meet him halfway in an era when most people just want to take it down a notch remains to be seen.