||Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
||Breakout hip-hop stars Macklemore and Ryan Lewis exploded out of Seattle with the seven-times-Platinum hit, “Thrift Shop,” and now the duo continue their award tour by collecting an impressive seven GRAMMY nominations this year, second only to Jay Z’s nine nods. Competing for such high-profile trophies as Best New Artist, Album of the Year (for The Heist) and Song of the Year (for same-sex marriage anthem “Same Love”), Mackelmore and Ryan Lewis are poised to be 2014 Grammy darlings.
||Considering the titan of industry can sell a million copies of his album before his album is even released, there’s an inherit power built in to Hova, Inc. Some math: Magna Carta…Holy Grail is the 6th best Jay Z album according to Jay Z , 16 percent better than The Blueprint 3, which took home six Grammys. If it’s 16% better than The Blueprint 3, Jay Z should win 16% more Grammys this year, which would be seven out of a total nine nominations. This is all according to science, math and most importantly, Jay Z.
||Lorde is not a “white teeth teen,” but Radio.com’s Rookie of the Year could become a GRAMMY winner at the ripe old age of 17 thanks to her debut single, “Royals.” The Pure Heroine track not only earned her four nominations — including Song of the Year — but helped the then 16-year-old become the youngest artist to top the Billboard Hot 100 since fellow 16-year-old Tiffany did it back in 1987, nine years before Lorde was even born.
||This is their year — the silent French electro-robots can actually do it, and all it took for them to be nominated for Album of the Year for the first time was to stop doing everything they were doing before and do something completely different. Well, getting Pharrell to sing the best hook of 2013 doesn’t hurt. Luck? Who needs it when you wrote the indefatigable “Get Lucky,” also nominated for Song of the Year.
||Taylor Swift’s latest GRAMMY-nominated album Red (Album of the Year, Best Country Album) may not be as overtly ‘country’ as her previous efforts (including 2008’s Album of the Year, Fearless), but that hasn’t stopped her continued ascent to new heights as one of the premier musical superstars of our time. Her willingness to collaborate and to push her sound in new directions — from the balladry of GRAMMY-nominated song “Begin Again” to the bouncy fun of “22” — keeps her music fresh and her legions of fans thrilled.
||With the biggest musical comeback of 2013, JT had the largest sales debut as well, with 968,000 copies sold of The 20/20 Experience in its first week. Not to mention this former boy band member reunited with *NSYNC, if only for a minute, and garnered a tie for the most GRAMMY nominations (seven) with Kendrick Lamar, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Pharrell where he’s nominated in three genres: rap (for his collabs with Jay Z), pop (for best vocal album) and R&B (for “Pusher Love Girl”).
||Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar made a name for himself in 2013 by proclaiming death to his competition on his Big Sean “Control” verse. Now with seven GRAMMY noms — which include Best New Artist and Album of the Year for his major label debut, 2012’s Good Kid, m.A.A.d city – under his belt, Kendrick might not only be the self-proclaimed “King of New York” but of the GRAMMYs too.
||Sara Bareilles quietly released her third album, The Blessed Unrest in July, behind the record’s first single “Brave,” which didn’t storm the charts but managed to become an empowerment anthem for the gay community. Five months later, the Recording Academy honored Bareilles’ sleeper record, which took its inspiration (and aspiration) in the stars, with two noms including the biggest night in music’s top prize, Album of the Year.
||What is the future of country music? Spend some time with newcomer Kacey Musgraves’ debut album Same Trailer Different Park and you’ll hear it, from deeply thoughtful songs like the brilliant “Merry Go Round” on up to current single “Follow Your Arrow,” which pushes the genre’s lyrical boundaries (same-sex relationships, for instance) with a positive attitude and a melody that’ll stick in your head for days. No wonder Kenny Chesney tapped her to open his 2013 stadium tour — and GRAMMYs chose her as one of their Best New Artist nominees.
||While Williams is no stranger to GRAMMY love (he’s already won three, including Producer of the Year in 2004 as one half of the Neptunes), the N.E.R.D. frontman enjoyed a stratospheric career revival in 2014, playing a large part in two of the year’s biggest singles, Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” He’s attached to seven nominations this year, including competing against himself with two Album of the Year nods (for work on Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and rapper Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D City), as well as another look for Producer of the Year.
||Before he steps onto the field for the Super Bowl Halftime Show next month, Mars will face a GRAMMY showdown over four awards, including two in the “Big Four” categories (Record of the Year and Song of the Year for “Locked Out of Heaven”). If he wins, the statuettes will join his previous award, the 2011 GRAMMY for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for “Just the Way You Are,” and continue to make his case as not only a dynamic performer but a songwriting force as well.
||After a decade and six studio albums, Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” off his sixth studio album of the same name, broke through to the mainstream thanks to its unrated video, continuous controversy, legal trouble and timely covers. Not only did it give him his first No. 1 song And No. 1 album, it garnered three GRAMMY nominations including Record of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
||The very announcement that Bowie had a new album stunned and excited the music world, and he kept our interest all year long, without doing a single interview or any performances. Instead, he promoted his art with more art and walked away with two GRAMMY noms in rock categories nods. What is power? Getting us to pay attention without begging for that attention.
||One of the most unexpected duets of 2013, Pink and fun. frontman Nate Ruess’ “Just Give Me a Reason went all the way to No. 1, making the song Pink’s fourth No. 1 Hot 100 hit and Ruess’ second. The song, which premiered last February, showcased fiery pop-rocker Pink’s softer side, which turns out to be something the Academy quite liked: the hit is nominated for two GRAMMYs including Song of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance.
||They were the little band that could — could land dozens of recognizable film, TV and commercial syncs; could create a viral video; could help the Miami Heat win the NBA championship. Now “Radioactive,” off their million-selling 2012 debut, could win Record of the Year.
||She’s only 25 but Rihanna has already been named an icon, launched a fashion collection and — oh yeah — taken home seven of her own GRAMMY statues. Where RiRi is nominated, she’s almost a lock to win. This year, she’s up for two: Best Pop Duo/Group Performance (for “Stay” with Mikky Ekko) and Best Urban Contemporary Album (for 2012’s Unapologetic).
||Tim’s been cutting records for two decades now, but he still came out of the gate firing on all cylinders with Two Lanes of Freedom, the first album for his new label Big Machine, which was named a Best Country Album nominee. Among the hits it produced (“Truck Yeah,” “Southern Girl“) was the GRAMMY-nominated “Highway Don’t Care,” which featured Taylor Swift, Keith Urban and one of the catchiest melodies that crossed country radio all year.
||Queens of the Stone Age
||After frontman Josh Homme survived a near-death experience on an operating table, QOTSA went on to produce the brutal and beautiful full-length, …Like Clockwork, a career-defining moment for the rockers particularly as it went to No. 1. Up for three GRAMMYs including Best Rock Album and Best Rock Performance (for single “My God is the Sun”), QOTSA was one of the few rock outfits keeping the genre alive (and relevant) for the kids in the pit and more high-brow public radio listeners alike.
||“Roar” is Katy’s sole nomination for Song of the Year, but she lands on our power rankings anyway because we’re expecting a powerhouse performance. And we already know that wherever Katy goes, the world watches.
||Yeezus didn’t exactly have a pop-friendly toe-tapper on it, and Kanye’s been on record time and time again wagging his finger at the GRAMMYs for never being nominated for an Album of the Year and always being relegated to the rap categories. All we can hope for, for someone who has already won 21 GRAMMYs, is that if Kanye does win Rap Album or Rap Song for “New Slaves,” we will get one superb micro-rant.