2018 Grammys – Best Spoken Word Album
Over 16,000 Grammys, give or take, will be handed out this weekend, though due to the entertainment nature of the telecast, viewers will see only a handful given to diety-thanking artists live over Sunday’s beefy three hour broadcast on CBS. You may be outraged by, or completely unaware of, 30 percent of these artists, depending on your musical tastes, but there are always unexpected household names that pop up. Did you know Barack Obama is a Grammy winner? And Stephen Colbert?
The most user-friendly (for the over 40s) and bizarrely inclusive of the many, many categories has to be Best Spoken Word Album.
The BSWA has been awarded since 1959, with a few name changes and minor alterations in qualifications along the way. They peevishly kicked out comedy albums in the early 60s and now include poetry, thus justifying the show biz dreams of literature majors across Eastern Seaboard colleges.
Amongst the show’s televised history of saucy performances, rare collaborations and allowing Gwyneth Paltrow to rock out with Cee Lo Green, the handing out of the BSWA may or may not make the actual broadcast (the bulk of the awards are given out earlier in the day and are then recapped in a scroll on the bottom of your screen). Including the BSWA can be done when the presumptive winner is someone the public has actually heard of and is news-worthy, such as when Joan Rivers won posthumously in 2015 for the audiobook of her Diary of a Mad Diva. The award was collected by, of course, her daughter Melissa.
This is a category that last year pitted Elvis Costello against Amy Schumer, Patti Smith and a list of veteran punk rockers who lived long enough to contribute to the audiobook Under the Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk, only to see the bunch beaten by the legendary Carol Burnett. Three US Presidents have won the BSWA: Obama, Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, for reading their memoirs, along with spoken recordings by John F. Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt – kind of a cheat when you think about it, though not in a Milli Vanilli way. Hillary Clinton won for reading It Takes a Village, in 1997, and Martin Luther King, Jr in 1971 for “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam”, a sermon given in at the Ebenezer Baptist Church.
The Best Spoken Word Album Grammy Nominees 2018
This year’s nominees don’t disappoint in terms of diversity.
Put your money down on one of the following: Neil DeGrasse Tyson vs. Carrie Fisher vs. Bruce Springsteen vs. Shelly Peiken vs. Bernie Sanders and Mark Ruffalo. Heavy hitters there. Springsteen’s autobiography was a huge hit, and he devotes 1-2-3-4, no, 18 hours to the entertaining audio version. Shelly Peiken might be the name you don’t know on that list, but you know her work. She penned Christina Aguilera’s “Genie in a Bottle” among other hits, and was Grammy-nominated for the Meredith Brooks song “Bitch”, in 1998. Her book Confessions of a Serial Songwriter covers her long career in the industry, and obviously Grammy voters know, and like, her.
America’s favorite physicist, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, is up for his New York Times Bestseller, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, which one can wonder if Grammy People had enough time to actually listen to. Senator Sanders called in a little help for his book, Our Revolution, in the form of Oscar-nominated actor and widely preferred Hulk, Mark Ruffalo. His book and Tyson’s might be intellectual efforts that people say they have read, or listened to, but actually walked the dog to Sarah Silverman’s book instead (a nominee in 2011), so not front-runners here.
So, surely the favorite in the category has to be the late Carrie Fisher. Previously the author of many novels, The Princess Diarist is our last message from a legend, a memoir that mentioned half of Hollywood, and is delivered with the unflinching humor and honesty for which Fisher was loved and possibly feared. Put your money there, and if so, hopefully we will see collaborator and daughter Billie Lourde accept.
Who will take the award, and join Betty White and Magic Johnson as certified Grammy winners? Tune in Sunday, Jan. 28 7:30 PM ET / 4:30 PM PT on CBS.
A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.