A clear musical alternative

Tired of the same acceptance speeches? Still straining to figure out how Pink’s “Trouble” won a Grammy and why so many bad artists are recognized solely for their album sales? Tune into the Shortlist Music Prize Concert.

Here’s the smart alternative to the Grammys. Rather than watch Nelly or Usher sweep up all the night’s awards, bands such as N.E.R.D., Sigur Ros and Damien Rice are what to look forward to. Musicians that are just bubbling under the radar are finally able to gain the exposure they deserve while producing records that dare to be different from the current trends and themes plaguing the modern music industry.

Greg Spotts (president of Greg Spotts Entertainment) and Tom Sarig (Former Artists & Repertoire of MCA records) created the Shortlist Music Prize, which is presented through the Shortlist organization. This is how SMP works: Fellow musicians nominate the records, but only records that have sold under 500,000 copies can make this esteemed list. In 2001, Sigur Ros walked away with the inaugural award for its album, Agaestis Byrjun, setting the tone for the awards.

On the surface, this year’s panel looks rather pathetic, with emo-heartthrob Chris Carraba of Dashboard Confessional fame, top-40 crooner John Mayer and the attention-loving Dixie Chicks. The three don’t have a single decent record between them, but judging by the final list at least they have good taste. Filling out the panel are Norah Jones, Jack Black, Perry Farrell, Robert Smith, ?uestlove (the Roots) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age).

Each listmaker is allowed to nominate seven albums, which becomes the “long list.” Later, the long list eventually becomes the shortlist, which this year ranges from alt-country to hip-hop to rock.

The ten records are as follows:

The Streets, A Grand Don’t Come For Free — Is it Eminem with a British accent? No, The Streets slightly more creative than the foul-mouthed American with family issues, but similar rhyme styles keep the comparisons alive.

The Killers, Hot Fuss — Finally, a “the” band that is actually worth all the hype; sorry but The Strokes are vastly overrated for my tastes.

Loretta Lynn, Van Lear Rose — Lynn, a country icon, ditches Nashville to make music with one of alternative music’s most gifted producers, Jack White (of The White Stripes). The end product is a country record that isn’t agonizing to listen to.

Franz Ferdinand, Franz Ferdinand — 2004’s “it” band, Franz Ferdinand has unleashed a solid first effort that has slowly begun to catch the eyes and ears of the mainstream public. I’d say the album is a safe bet in this competition.

Wilco, A Ghost is Born — Perfecting the alt-country sound of Yankee Foxtrot Hotel and crafting haunting melodies with introspective lyrics, A Ghost is Born may be able to pull off what the band’s previous effort could not and walk away with: the “shorty.”

Bringing up the rear are Air’s Talkie Walkie, Dizzee Rascal’s Boys In Da Corner, Ghostface’s The Pretty Toney Album, Nellie McKay’s Get Away From Me and TV on the Radio’s Desperate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes. I have yet to cross paths with those, but judging by the critical responses, they might be rewarding for adventurous listeners.

The buzzworthy event — taking place at Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles on November 11 — has already become one of the hottest tickets. But don’t worry, MTV2 will be beaming the concert into millions of homes sometime in November.

Whoever this year’s Shortlist Music Prize winner is, they’ll leave the auditorium with a $10,000 check in hand and a segment on XM Satellite Radio dedicated solely to their work.

Doesn’t sound too shabby.

Contact Entertainment Editor Pablo Saldana at oraclepablo@yahoo.com