Grammy Real Talk: What You Can Expect To See And Not To See On January 26th

This is not about bubble-bursting. But it is about real talk. And maybe you just don’t care all that much about what happens on “Music’s Biggest Night” (By the way, did you know they have trademarked that phrase? Oh, yes they have). But truth be told, for all the sniping and head-scratching that the Grammy nominations and subsequent ceremony annually provokes, no artist doesn’t want to win one. I’ve spent more than a few years covering M’s BN. In fact, for the past few, I even served as anchor of the Academy’s “Grammy Live” webcast. I’ve been around the golden gramophone rodeo long enough to offer up these predictions on what you will and won’t see beaming your way from downtown Los Angeles on the final Sunday of the month.

1. You Will See: The Third Youngest Grammy Winner of All Time

Ella Yelich-O’Connor will be 17 years and nearly three months old on the big night, which means that when the award for Song of the Year goes to Lorde’s ubiquitous “Royals”, the preternaturally wise Kiwi will take a backseat to only LeAnn Rimes and Luis Miguel as greenest Grammy winner ever (They were both 14 when they first won, showoffs). How could the Academy—who no doubt counts more than a couple Maybach-driving Cristal-sippers among their ranks—not give the award to the young millennial’s stick-in-the-eye of materialism? And if Lorde’s really never seen a diamond in the flesh, she need only look in any direction at Staples Center. And yet…

3. You Won’t See: Lorde Winning Best New Artist


Because in the year’s biggest “huh?” move of all, she wasn’t nominated, though “Royals” is up for Song and Record of the Year. Who is contending for Best “New” Artist? An Englishman who was nominated for Song of the Year last year and is about to release his second album (Ed Sheeran) and an Englishman who’s already looking at his third (James Blake). Ah, the Grammys.

4. You Will See: The Most Worshiped Couple On the Planet, On Stage Together

With the possible exception of Lil Wayne, there’s only two Carters that matter in 2014. And if you think that after handing Jay Z a pack-leading nine nominations this year, and with Queen Bey’s December surprise the hottest record in creation, that Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich and company will not figure out a way to get the two to appear together—most likely to perform—then you don’t know Jack, much less Ken. And while Beyoncé’s self-titled was released far too late to qualify for a nomination (October 1st is the deadline, another “Why must it be that way?” Grammy question for the ages), she is in the running for one Grammy, for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration, for “Part II (On the Run)” from her man’s Magna Carta Holy Grail.

5. You Won’t See: The Other Contender For the Throne

I don’t know where Kanye West will be on January 26th, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be anywhere near Olympic and Figueroa. A measly two nods for one of the boldest, most thrilling records of the year? And neither one for the big prize, Album of the Year? If Yeezus doesn’t deserve to be there, I don’t know what does. He’s had a string of past nominations in that top category, but never won, never, in Kanye’s words, “when I’ve been nominated against a white artist.” Good news for Ye: I like his chances to win Best Rap Song, for “New Slaves”—which it definitely deserves. On the other hand, if as I suspect will happen, Yeezus loses Best Rap Album to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, you just may be able to hear him screaming from across the LA basin.

6. You Will See: Those French Robots, Finally Performing That Song, And Killing It

Considering that by Grammy night it will have been ten months since Daft Punk first teased “Get Lucky” on SNL and at the Coachella festival, isn’t finally getting a live performance of the song at this point a bit anti-climactic? Haven’t the robots made us wait too long? In a word: Non. Thomas and Guy-Homem will take the stage with their wah-wah man Nile Rogers and their honey-voiced crooner Pharrell Williams, it will come rushing back how special this throwback-sounding funk gem really is, and why it really deserves to take Record of the Year (though it could lose out to “Royals”). And to truly make it a performance to remember? A cameo from a man who’s been known to bring the funk, Stevie Wonder.

7. You Won’t See: Pop’s Young Hotshots, Anywhere In Sight

Unless they persuade them to appear as presenters, that is. Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, Selena Gomez and One Direction. Not a Grammy nomination among them. I’ll say this about that: Ariana you can sort of see being overlooked by a voting body not necessarily in touch with the millennial pulse (unless it’s Lorde…) and Justin’s “Music Mondays” singles did not meet meet that Oct 1st deadline (again, too early). But 1D’s “Best Song Ever” was kinda everywhere this summer and would seem to be a contender for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group – but no. And worst of all, to ignore the inescapable power ballad of the year from the tongue-flailing, twerking one? Whatever you thought of it, “Wrecking Ball” was a thing, a significant thing. And it should have gotten Grammy love. Instead, the show will lean in the other demographic direction, because…

8. You Will See: U2, Returning to Perform At the Grammys

Via U2.com

It’s got Grammy written all over it: One of the world’s biggest bands, and the band with the most gramophones to its name (22) premieres a song from their upcoming, still-untitled album. Worked for Justin Timberlake last year, should work for team Bono this year. I might even go one bolder and predict that you’ll see Grammy favorite Bruce Springsteen perform as well. But he played the show two years ago, and was last year’s Grammy MusicCares honoree, so it might be overkill. Or not.

9. You Won’t See: Kendrick Lamar, Taking Album of the Year

Among the five nominees, Kendrick’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City would get my vote. But it simply cannot be repeated enough: the Grammys nominate rap records for the top prize, but they Do. Not. Win. Just ask Lil’ Wayne, Eminem, or Kanye, who was in the running for Album of the Year three times and always came up short. The last time Grammy night ended with a hip-hop artist’s name being read? 2004, for Outkast and Speakerboxx/The Love Below. With each passing year that win looks more and more distant, and while Andre and Big Boi would probably like nothing better than for Kendrick to take that title from them, I would be floored if it did. On the other hand…

10. You Will See: Taylor Swift, Feigning Surprise As She Claims the Big One

I remember, in 2011, talking to Neil Portnow, only minutes after the amazingly improbable had happened: Arcade Fire had won Album of the Year. Lifting my eyes from my phone long enough to chat with the Academy president, I said, “Neil, I’ve got to tell you, my Twitter feed is blowing up with people who are stunned and thrilled!” Portnow replied that there was really no reason to be stunned, that the Grammys represent a wide range of music and that The Suburbs was a deserving record, and…”Oh just stop with the spin, Neil!”, I wanted to say. We all knew that was a watershed moment. Couldn’t we acknowledge it as such?

A similar upset won’t happen this year. Longtime Grammy-watchers know this truth: the Academy plays favorites, and prefers the familiar, nowhere more so than in the top category. Four years ago, Taylor Swift’s Fearless won Album of the Year. Now she’s up again with Red, which feels like it’s old enough to have been in the running last year. In fact a single from it was, “We Are Never, Ever, Ever…” yada yada, and it won her Record of the Year in 2013. Besides, by process of elimination, you can’t take Gramophone Numero Uno if you’re too electronic or perceived as “weird” by the Henry Mancini wing of the Academy (sorry, Daft Punk); if you’re too unknown (we know, Sara Bareilles, it was an honor just to be nominated); and—see above—too hip-hop (meaning no Kendrick or Macklemore, barely). So, Swifties, you can start the celebration now. For the rest of us, hope springs eternal.

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