The 55th annual Grammy Awards attracted 28.4 million viewers on Feb. 10, according to Nielsen, the second-biggest audience in the last 20 years. And as much as CBS was presenting "music's biggest night," the industry treated it as music's biggest launch pad. Within 48 hours of the telecast concluding, performers from the show were flooding the marketplace with music, products and announcements. Bruno Mars had a new tour; a pre-order for Justin Timberlake's new album began at midnight, while Target and Bud Light provided encores for his single "Suit & Tie"; Ziggy Marley set publishing dates for his first children's book; and Jay-Z promoted D'usse Cognac from his seat. Best new artist/song of the year winner fun. announced on-sales for shows between July 9 and Sept. 26.
A year ago, the post-Grammys efforts were limited to the release of new singles from Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry and Chris Brown. This year's show included numerous first-timers--Ed Sheeran, fun., Miguel, Jack White and Frank Ocean--but only a single song debut, Timberlake's "Suit & Tie" (as well as "Pusher Love Girl"). He returned later in the show to assist with the announcement of a new Grammy Music Educator Award. Add the Target and Bud Light spots, and that was a whole lot of airtime for JT.
"I don't think that we should be limited to performing what we call 'Grammy moments' in the context of the nominations," Grammys executive producer Ken Ehrlich said the day after the telecast. "This show should be able to accommodate the creation of great moments and great performances in other circumstances. If Justin Timberlake has his first music project in four years--and the last time he was on the Grammys he saved our ass after the Chris Brown/Rihanna problem--then let him do it on the Grammys. There's huge interest in Justin, justifiably so."
The night's big winner was Dan Auerbach, with four Grammys: three for his Black Keys work in the rock categories as well as producer of the year, non-classical. Additionally, one of his production projects, Dr. John's "Locked Down," was named best blues album.
Gotye won three awards-record of the year, best alternative music album and best pop duo/group performance-as did Skrillex, Jay-Z and Kanye West. Chick Corea, Mumford & Sons, fun. and Matt Redman took home two each.
As usual, 11 awards were presented during the three-and-a-half-hour program with 18 performances featuring more than 30 solo artists and bands. "It's almost like it would seem intuitive, but it was very musical this year--not everything was about production or being the most recognized or best-selling or -played music," Recording Academy president/CEO Neil Portnow said after the show. "There was a lot of discovery on the stage--the edutainment bit of things."
One of the most successful moments was with Mars, Sting, Rihanna, Ziggy and Stephen Marley, moving seamlessly from "Locked Out of Heaven" to "Walking on the Moon" to "Could You Be Loved." Rationale for the performance was the nomination for the soundtrack to the "Marley" documentary, which Ehrlich says, "I don't think we ever mentioned."
Mars, who has become something of a Grammy show staple, asked to skip this year and return next year when his "Unorthodox Jukebox" is eligible. Armed with the knowledge that Mars' favorite track on the album was "Locked Out of Heaven," Ehrlich approached Sting's manager, Kathy Schenker, and Sting agreed to do the show, as Mars had appeared at a recent Rainforest Fund benefit. Ehrlich had the idea that it would ultimately become a Marley tribute and approached Rihanna's manager, Jay Brown, before reaching out to the Marley camp.
More than recent Grammy telecasts that have been heavy on pop and R&B stars and experiments with dance and rap, this year's ceremony emphasized a return to traditional songwriting and pop's cradling of the rustic: Mumford & Sons, the Lumineers, Jack White and the Black Keys, who brought along the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and Dr. John. Mumford & Sons returned for a tribute to Levon Helm of the Band, which featured stand-out vocals from Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard and Mavis Staples. Miguel brought back the classic sexiness of Marvin Gaye, Timberlake went big-band era with his production, and Juanes introduced Frank Ocean with a short rendition of Elton John and Bernie Taupin's "Your Song."
"Honestly," Ehrlich said, "I love acoustic instruments. When it comes down to the debate between performances and set pieces, I say, 'Let me put musicians on the stage. They'll be the sets.'"
That sat well with a few artists. Zac Brown said backstage after winning best country album, "It's great to have people who play their own instruments, write their own songs and form real bands. It's great to see real music is getting the spotlight."
Brown and Mumford & Sons had a particularly busy week, bouncing between rehearsals for the show and participating in the MusiCares Person of the Year event honoring Bruce Springsteen on Feb. 8. Mumford & Sons performed "I'm on Fire"; Brown shared vocal duties with Staples on "My City of Ruins."
Springsteen opened last year's show with "We Take Care of Our Own," a booking with "origins in a mercenary promotional opportunity." He noted that he wasn't sure if the MusiCares honor and the opening slot were conditionally connected.
The producers approached Springsteen to perform this year and were rebuffed. "I think a lot of it was he had such an amazing turn last year that they weren't sure they could top last year," Ehrlich said. "I would book Bruce Springsteen on the show every year if I could. I think, in all candor, they were disappointed with the nominations--as was I."
As always, this year's ceremony included Portnow speaking about the Academy's agenda for the coming year. Aided by Timberlake and Ryan Seacrest, they announced the creation of the Music Educator Award to be given to any current American music teacher from kindergarten through college. Nominations will come from the public and 10 finalists will be flown to Los Angeles during Grammy week where the winner will receive a $10,000 honorarium and the nine finalists will get $1,000 each.
Within 48 hours of the announcement, Portnow reported, the Grammy Foundation had received 10,000 nominations, 1,000 completed applications, 75,000 hits on the website and 2,500 views on the group application.