The always modest Kanye West will undoubtedly be in contention at the Grammys for his CD “Yeezus.”
Music fans, brace yourself.
This Friday at 10 p.m. the Grammy Awards’ 2014 nominees will be announced in a televised CBS special, an event that inevitably leads to teeth-gnashing and tears — and not just among the stars who go unmentioned.
Dedicated fans, too, experience acute Grammy Depression Syndrome, crestfallen at the thought that the CDs and songs they consider the finest aren’t even in the running.
To cushion the blow, keep this in mind: Contrary to its stated goal, the Grammys weren’t conceived to toast the absolute finest in a given year. (An exception: Adele’s sweep in 2011.)
Justin TImberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience” will likely be a contender at the Grammys.
Instead, this industry-dominated self-salute exists mainly to provide extra promotion for whatever it has already managed to sell, or to reward its personal pets. Most nominees the voting body anoints have already gone gold or platinum, and even its darkest horses represent stars the record companies think will reach those plateaus one day. Fans should also be aware of the time eligibility period. The Grammys don’t go by calendar year. This year, only music released between Oct. 1, 2012, and Sept. 30, 2013, can be considered.
JT enjoyed this year’s biggest CD debut, to the tune of 900,000-plus copies with the first of his two discs in 2013, “The 20/20 Experience.” While Kayne’s “Yeezus” has sold barely half that number, even after months on the market, his album inspired the year’s best reviews. It also made the boldest sonic statement, at least among big-name releases. Kanye has also proven to be a Grammy pet in terms of nominations, even if that doesn’t always pan out in wins.
Pitting JT against Kanye also makes for a dramatic contrast. It’s the nice guy against music’s foam-at-the-mouth crank, a match made in media heaven.
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Macklemore (above) & Ryan Lewis may get a Grammy nod this year for their fun and accessible hip hop.
Another likely top nominee plays on Grammy voters’ secret self-loathing. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis made it huge by doing an end run around the industry, selling their wares via YouTube. At the same time they proved so likable, and fun, even the biggest industry insider would have trouble taking genuine offense.
Expect a strong presence for Drake, too. His “Nothing Was the Same” sold huge while presenting a friendly and accessible face for rap. Other likely biggies include razzle-dazzle king Bruno Mars (for “Unorthodox Jukebox”) and Daft Punk for their EDM/art-rock epic “Random Access Memories.”
Taylor Swift could also get big bids for “Red,” though that has more to do with voters trying to channel their inner teen girl, and to promote one of their last mega-sellers, than with genuine respect.
Each year, the Grammys find room for a less obvious star in the top categories, usually a young female. Two artists look likely this year: New Zealand prodigy Lorde and country upstart Kacey Musgraves. The latter found herself up in every big category in this year’s Country Music Awards, even if she lost all of them.
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Lorde has a good shot at getting a Best New Artist nod.
This year, a young male also has the chance to leap to the front ranks. Gary Clark Jr. wowed critics, and tasteful fans, with his bluesy and intuitive guitar leads. Mentions for him would make Grammy voters look like they still care about music in an industry otherwise driven by flash.
Long shots include David Bowie’s first album in 10 years, “The Next Day,” which may suffer for having been released in February, and Alicia Keys’ “Girl on Fire,” which came out a full year ago. Miley Cyrus will likely be penalized for her garishness, as Grammy voters like to see themselves as above such things.
(The Grammys air Jan 26 on CBS at 8 p.m.)
Guitarist-singer-songwriter Gary Clark Jr. is a good bet for a Best New Artist nod for his agile blues playing.
Here are the most likely nominees in the top categories.
Best New Artist: Kacey Musgraves, Lorde, Gary Clark Jr., Tame Impala.
Song of the Year: “Suit & Tie,” Justin Timberlake; “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke; “Get Lucky,” Daft Punk; “Black Skinhead,” Kanye West.
Album of the Year: “Yeezus,” Kanye West; “The 20/20 Complete Experience,” Justin Timberlake; “Unorthodox Jukebox,” Bruno Mars; “Nothing Was the Same” Drake; “Random Access Memories,” Daft Punk.