Grammy Awards: Here's A Preview Before Tonight's Show
LAKSHMI SINGH, HOST:
The Grammys are tonight, and this one features a showdown between two record-breaking artists. NPR music editor Stephen Thompson has the inside scoop on what we can expect at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Welcome, Stephen.
STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Hello, Lakshmi.
SINGH: Let's get right into it. We have rivalries. I don't know if that's fair to say - rivalries - Album of the Year, Song of the Year - they're big ones. We have Queen Bee versus Adele - battle of the juggernauts so what are you expecting from this one?
THOMPSON: Yeah. I think it's certainly possible, and many Grammy Awards telecasts sort of turn out this way where one artist kind of runs the table and kind of takes away the headline for having won the most awards - maybe wins Album of Year and Song of the Year and Record of the Year.
And I think it's certainly possible that that could happen with Adele as has happened in the past or with somebody like Beyonce whose "Lemonade" was probably the most critically acclaimed record of last year, in addition to being very commercially successful. And you've also got artists like Drake and Justin Bieber. All four of the people I just mentioned are nominated for Album of the Year.
SINGH: Now, why are you giggling here?
THOMPSON: I just - Justin Bieber had a bunch of hits this year, and, you know, remember a few years ago like he was up for Best New Artist and didn't win? And I think the Grammys were really afraid of maybe anointing Justin Bieber as like a legitimate performer like too soon. Now this is the anointment of Justin Bieber as an actual like serious performer.
SINGH: OK. Well, let's launch into Song of the Year. Can we play a few of the nominees here? We have a few songs in the mix that we've talked about on this program including Beyonce's "Formation."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FORMATION")
BEYONCE: (Singing) You mix that negro with that Creole, make a Texas bama. I like my baby hair with baby hair and afros. I like my negro nose with Jackson Five nostrils. Earned all this money, but they never take the country out me. I got hot sauce in my bag, swag.
SINGH: And how about in case you haven't heard this one and you're new to this - this little song by Adele?
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HELLO")
ADELE: (Singing) Hello from the other side. I must've called a thousand times to tell you I'm sorry for everything that I've done...
SINGH: Oh, my God, Stephen. How many people do you think at home are going to secretly sort of mouth the words to it and sway on the couch the way that it's actually...
THOMPSON: Are currently swaying to it as we speak. Didn't - is it just me or does that song feel like it came out five years ago?
SINGH: And that's because it had been played over and over and everywhere and - but it's true. It felt like it came out several years ago, not just recently.
THOMPSON: One of the things with the Grammys - their eligibility period is not the calendar year. And so you'll get these records like the Adele record which actually came out in November of 2015. And by the time the Grammys roll around in February of 2017, we've had like almost a year and a half of the very rapidly changing currents of music to sweep us along. And so there'll be rewarding these records that feel like they came out forever ago.
SINGH: All right. So for Album of the Year, you mention two of these heavy-hitters. Can you talk about another one?
THOMPSON: Well, you have your Beyonce and your Adele and your Drake and your Justin Bieber. But the fifth nominee is a dark horse. His name is Sturgill Simpson, and he's - I would describe him as sort of a psychedelic country singer in a way.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BRACE FOR IMPACT")
STURGILL SIMPSON: (Singing) So go and live a little. Bone turns brittle and skin withers before your eyes.
THOMPSON: He's not really been embraced by the Nashville establishment. And so it was pretty surprising when this album popped in. And this past week, I actually wrote an article for NPR Music that basically you have these four pop juggernauts all cannibalizing each other's voting blocks, and a lot of Grammy voters are rockers, you know, like music with guitars in it. And there have been kind of past precedent for an unexpected rock record to beat out a bunch of pop records, but don't be shocked if it happens.
SINGH: That was NPR music editor Stephen Thompson. Stephen, thank you.
THOMPSON: Thank you, Lakshmi.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BRACE FOR IMPACT")
SIMPSON: (Singing) From someone above, for something they did...
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