The first Grammy Awards occurred on May 4, 1959. On January 26, the 56th ceremony will make some musicians famous. Here's what Lindsay Pereira thinks you should expect
If you weren't around in the 1980s, you may never fully realise just how important the Grammies once were to people who love music. Before things like the Internet, satellite television and frozen yogurt, all we had were 15-minute capsules broadcast on Doordarshan once a year, giving us tantalising glimpses of what used to be nights of star-spangled magic.
The wonders and the blunders
If you weren’t around in the 1980s, you will never feel the thrill so many of us felt in 1984, the night a young Michael Jackson won eight Grammies for the album Thriller. There were other goose bump-inducing moments as the years rolled by -- the standing ovation Marvin Gaye received after winning two Grammies in 1983, Eminem’s duet with Elton John in 2001, or Simon and Garfunkel performing together for the first time in a decade in 2003 -- now safely tucked away somewhere in the labyrinth that is YouTube.There have been blunders too, of course, from the amusing to the monumental. This is, after all, an award show that didn’t pick Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit as 1992’s Record of the Year, failed to nominate the late Jeff Buckley’s gorgeous debut Grace in 1995, picked Celine Dion over The Fugees for 1997’s Album of the Year and, shockingly, overlooked The Beatles twice -- once in 1964 (when the Mary Poppins soundtrack beat A Hard Day’s Night) and again, in 1967!
Watch out for...
All said and done though, it continues to be the biggest night for the music industry in the West. Come January 26, like clockwork, most contemporary artistes will either fight for a seat at the table, or sit back in anger to tweet about the results. For those who have been keeping score, 2013 was an unusually interesting year for music. Consider, as Exhibit A, the diverse nominations for Album of the Year. There’s Random Access Memories, iconic Daft Punk’s extremely danceable return to form; Kendrick Lamar’s hypnotic Good Kid, m.A.A.d City, a nod to old school West Coast rap; and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s sublime The Heist. Going by their safe choices over the past couple of years though, chances are the Academy may ignore all three and simply hand over the prize to teenage heartthrob Taylor Swift. There are some things we can predict with a fair amount of certainty. Seventeen-year-old Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor (better known as Lorde) will probably walk away with Grammies for Record of the Year and Song of the Year for that now hard-to-avoid track called Royals. The talented Pharrell Williams (who ought to score a nomination next year for this year’s Happiest song) may also help Robin Thicke win something for Blurred Lines, unless its controversial video goes against them.
The big draws
Another exciting award to focus on is for Best New Artist, because it draws attention to such diverse, talented newbies. Will Englishman James Blake (not Blunt, please!) win for his soulful, Electronic album, Overgrown? Kendrick Lamar for his equally powerful, madly lyrical debut? Or Macklemore & Ryan Lewis who deserve an award simply for the spirited 3-song performance at the NPR’s Tiny Desk (check YouTube)? It’s hard to predict who will take home a Grammy for Best Rock Performance too, as contenders include David Bowie, Queens of the Stone Age and guitar god Jack White. I would place my bets on Led Zeppelin’s live performance of Kashmir, taken from Celebration Day, a concert DVD all rock fans should invest in at once, if they haven’t already.
I expect Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories to win Best
Dance / Electronica Album. It would also be nice if David Bowie won Best Rock Album for The Next Day but, again, it’s a strong line-up to pick from. Also tricky are the nominees up for Best Alternative Music Album. The National have made a lot of people happy with Trouble Will Find Me, but are up against an equally pleasing Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend and Trent Reznor’s return to form via Nine Inch Nails’ Hesitation Marks. As for Best Country Song and Best Country Album, it’s safe to assume no one cares about them apart from people living in Texas.
Musicians Ezra Koenig, Rostam Batmanglij and Chris Baio of Vampire Weekend. The band has been nominated in the Best Alternative Music Album category. Pics/AFP
A shocking lapse of judgement is the absence of Kanye West’s Yeezus on anything other than the list of nominees for Best Rap Album. If I were in charge, I would hand him a Grammy for Record Of The Year a week or so before the ceremony. Then again, this may be why I haven’t been invited to be part of the judging panel.
1. The first winners for Best Male and Female performances were Perry Como and Ella Fitzgerald.
2. U2 have won more Grammies than The Beatles and Metallica.
3. Rapper Jay-Z and wife Beyoncé have been nominated 42 times each, excluding this year’s nominations.
4. Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, The Who and Bob Marley never won a Grammy.
5. American singer-songwriter Christopher Cross holds a record for winning Album, Song and Record of the Year and Best New Artist in 1981.
6. Nominees are voted by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, comprising over 20,000 musicians and professionals.