The ringing in of the New Year also signals the beginning of the 2014 awards season, including music’s biggest night, the Grammy Awards, airing Jan. 26.
After reaching its peak influence in the mid-1980s, when the show garnered more 50 million viewers, the 56-year-old institution’s ratings began to plunge in the new millennium, according to Nielsen data. Amidst increased competition from other shows like the Video Music Awards—often called the Super Bowl for youth—the Grammy Awards upped the ante in 2008 with its Grammy Nomination Concert in December. Adding a second night of Grammy programming was designed to convince a watching world and all would-be challengers that the Grammys are at least twice as important as any other common music award show.
The move paid off with a sharp increase in ratings, but the show’s organizers are not resting on their laurels. In a (perhaps belated) bid to stay relevant, they eliminated the Polka category in 2009 and decreased the total number of awards from 109 to 78 in 2011.
In this year’s competition, country couple Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert go up against one another for Best Country Solo Performance. Shelton played down any spousal rivalry, even though he has yet to win a Grammy while Lambert procured one in 2011. Shelton reasoned that “the thing about an actual Grammy is if you set it up high enough on the shelf people can’t read that plaque. And if somebody comes in the house and they’re like, ‘You got a Grammy.’ It’s like, ‘Yeah. Oh yeah, I got one.’ And they don’t actually read that it’s to Miranda.”
Producer/rapper Pharrell Williams is another artist with nominations producing some inner conflict. The composer of the Despicable Me soundtrack seems everywhere in this year’s Grammys, due to wide-ranging collaborations with other artists. With seven nominations, he’ll be facing himself in three categories.
Kanye West and his controversial album Yeezus was mostly ignored in favor of rising rap acts like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis who received seven nominations, among them Song of the Year for their gay rights anthem “Same Love.” Country artists Luke Bryan and Florida Georgia Line also came up short with tough competition from newcomer Kacey Musgraves, whose epicurean album Same Trailer Different Park seems to have captured culture’s anti-traditionalist worldview and critics’ hearts at the same time.
Forerunners of that rebellious spirit are well represented in the Rock Album of the Year category, with nominations going to Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, and Neil Young and Crazy Horse. Black Sabbath’s new album 13 even has a song titled “Zeitgeist” and another one called “Is God Dead?” which was nominated for Best Rock Song and Best Heavy Metal Performance.
Running counter to that theme is Imagine Dragons’ Radioactive, which is up for Record of the Year. ThinkChristian.com notes that the Mormon-influenced rock band does not make obvious references to God or Joseph Smith but “is conspicuous by what is missing: sex, rebellion, nihilism, selfishness and moping.”