Editor’s note: This article was originally published January 24, 2014
The 56th annual Grammy Awards airs at 7 p.m. Sunday on CBS, with host LL Cool J. Austin blues-rock singer/guitarist Gary Clark Jr. is among the performers and nominees, joining the likes of Paul McCartney, Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar. Willie Nelson also will appear, in a special performance with Lifetime Achievement Award recipient Kris Kristofferson plus Merle Haggard and Blake Shelton. Here’s a look at the nominees for Record, Album, Song and Best New Artist of the year:
Record of the Year
• "Get Lucky" — Daft Punk Featuring Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers (from "Random Access Memories")
• "Radioactive" — Imagine Dragons (from "Night Visions")
• "Royals" — Lorde (from "Pure Heroine")
• "Locked Out of Heaven" — Bruno Mars (from "Unorthodox Jukebox")
• "Blurred Lines" — Robin Thicke Featuring T.I. & Pharrell (from "Blurred Lines")
DEBORAH SENGUPTA STITH: In my world, this is the Pharrell show. It comes down to "Blurred Lines" vs. "Get Lucky." In an effort to break out of the safe, somewhat dull R&B dude box, Robin Thicke dropped an edgy sex song with a gratuitously racy video that set off a firestorm of controversy exacerbated by the singer’s obtuse attempts to explain himself. All that aside, the song, propelled by Pharrell’s insane production skills, was the ridiculously catchy, inescapable hit of the summer. "Get Lucky" is the more slick, cool and sophisticated of the two sex songs, and as such, more likely to win.
PETER BLACKSTOCK: "Royals" seems a likely winner to me, simply because of how ubiquitous the song was in the latter half of 2013. As mainstream pop songs go, it’s reasonably deserving as well, a track that’s more about the hook than any gimmick. (Can’t say the same for "Blurred Lines," for instance.)
Album of the Year
• "The Blessed Unrest" — Sara Bareilles
• "Random Access Memories" — Daft Punk
• "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City" — Kendrick Lamar
• "The Heist" — Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
• "Red" — Taylor Swift
D.S.S.: I would love to believe that Kendrick Lamar’s epic release "Good Kid, M.A.A.D City," an album that bleeds with raw urgency and gets better with every listen, could become the third hip-hop album in history to take this category — Outkast’s "Speakerboxxx/The Love Below" (2004) and the "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" (1999) are the other two — but I don’t think it’s gonna happen. The trophy will go to"The Heist" or "Red," both significantly safer choices.
P.B.: A fairly eclectic group, with crossover artists coming to the mainstream from hip-hip, electronic, singer-songwriter and country realms. Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis probably have a better shot in the Best New Artist category. It’d be nice to see Bareilles win here, as she’s probably the most musically gifted of the nominees, but Taylor Swift seems a more plausible consensus choice.
Song of the Year
• "Just Give Me a Reason" — Jeff Bhasker, Pink & Nate Ruess, songwriters (Pink Featuring Nate Ruess, from "The Truth About Love")
• "Locked Out of Heaven" — Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine & Bruno Mars, songwriters (Bruno Mars, from "Unorthodox Jukebox")
• "Roar" — Lukasz Gottwald, Max Martin, Bonnie McKee, Katy Perry & Henry Walter, songwriters (Katy Perry)
• "Royals" — Joel Little & Ella Yelich O’Connor, songwriters (Lorde, from "Pure Heroine")
• "Same Love" — Ben Haggerty, Mary Lambert & Ryan Lewis, songwriters (Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Featuring Mary Lambert, "The Heist")
D.S.S.: "Royals" is the obvious favorite, but it’s not my pick. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are likely to win a handful of awards they don’t actually deserve at this ceremony, but this one is rightfully theirs. As the gay rights movement surged forward in 2013, Macklemore made a plainspoken, clear-headed case for equality amplified by an achingly lovely chorus from Mary Lambert that resounds with pure heart.
P.B.: "Royals" could well pull off a sweep of the Song and Record categories, but we’ll go with Katy Perry’s "Roar," which is the kind of powerhouse mega-mainstream track that tends to land right in the Grammys’ wheelhouse.
Best New Artist
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
D.S.S.: The Grammy’s definition definition of "new" defies comprehension. How is James Blake on this list? And how is Lorde, the 17-year-old New Zealander who spent the year skyrocketing from obscurity to international stardom, not on this list? With that glaring omission eliminating the obvious choice, Macklemore & Lewis and Kendrick Lamar are both acts that had incredible years, both in terms of record sales and live performances, but the Grammy voters will probably cut for Macklemore, the reformed addict and sincere activist.
P.B.: This seems to be between Lamar and Macklemore/Lewis. James Blake seems a reach for the "new" category, though the Grammys are notorious for bending the category’s chronological definitions. Kacey Musgraves is probably country’s best new artist (along with Ashley Monroe), but she’s a long shot in the larger realm. We’ll go with Macklemore/Lewis.
Click here (paywall) for more predictions and nominations, including some of local interest.