Not a lot of fans knew who Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Lorde were when last we gathered a year ago to celebrate music with the Grammy Award nominations.
Yet thanks to a series of inescapable and smart hits, these upstarts could very well match Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift and other Grammy favorites when nominees are announced Friday night in a television special airing live from Los Angeles on CBS (10 p.m. EST).
Lorde's hit "Royals" and Macklemore's run of "Thrift Shop" and "Same Love" dominated all but a few songs for attention this year, and each act carried a social message that resonated with listeners -- Lorde's "Royals" was about anti-materialism, and Macklemore's "Same Love" about gay acceptance.
Timberlake, Swift, Drake and Imagine Dragons also will be top contenders as the names are announced, but much of the attention will be on the white rap crew from Seattle and the precocious 17-year-old from New Zealand.
Both will be in attendance at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles -- a clue they'll likely be heavily involved in the night. Other stars scheduled to perform or present during the hourlong TV special include Robin Thicke with Earth, Wind & Fire and T.I., Keith Urban and Miguel, Enrique Iglesias and Ed Sheeran. LL Cool J hosts.
Swift will perform live from Australia and Katy Perry will perform from Canada. Perry will sing "Roar," a song some think will bring her a nomination. Perry didn't want to speculate earlier this week, but did acknowledge the song's popularity.
"I'm just happy that `Roar' has kind of taken on a life of its own and touched so many people in a way unexpectedly that I could have ever imagined," she said. "You know, it's become people's mantras. It's become a 3 minute and 30 second time of freedom for them in some ways. So that's my award, essentially. You know, I always look forward to the announcements and I'm playing . . . . It will be exciting."
Perry did have a favorite album to pitch to voters, though: "I think my boyfriend (John Mayer) would be a perfect candidate because he put out an incredible record called `Paradise Valley' that is unlike anything else in the scene right now."
Pharrell Williams is involved with two songs with a chance to be nominated for record and/or song of the year - Thicke's "Blurred Lines" and Daft Punk's "Get Lucky." Drake's "Started From the Bottom" dominated for half a year, as did Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise" remix featuring Nelly. It set records on country radio for longevity at No. 1, spending more than five months atop that chart, and was a true country crossover hit - a rarity. The last time one popped out of the genre to wider acceptance, Lady Antebellum rode "Need You Now" to an all-around win at the 2012 ceremony.
Florida Georgia Line's Tyler Hubbard and Brian Kelley aren't aiming that high, though. They'd be happy just to attend the Jan. 26 ceremony at the Staples Center.
"Ah, man, probably gonna throw a party," Hubbard said when asked what the duo would do if nominated. "We'd just be happy to go, man, that's been a dream of ours for a long time. That'd be awesome. Fingers crossed that one day we can go to the Grammys."