There's been a lot of talk about the surprises at Sunday's Grammy Awards, from Lady Gaga's egg-cellent adventure to the big wins for the Arcade Fire and Esperanza Spalding. While the charts obviously can't have foretold much about Gaga's performance, a look at this year's recipients in four major Grammy Award categories shows that the winners could have been predicted -- if you were betting on the least likely candidate to win based on their chart histories.
Album Of The Year nominees
WINNER Arcade Fire, "The Suburbs"
Lady Antebellum, "Need You Now"
Lady Gaga, "The Fame Monster (EP)
Katy Perry, "Teenage Dream"
What kind of chart odds did Arcade Fire overcome in winning the coveted award? Here is a comparison of the nominees' Billboard 200 and Nielsen SoundScan sales showings:
Album/weeks in top 40 from debut/sales to-date
"Recovery"/33 (and counting)/3.5 million
"Need You Now"/54 (and counting)/3.2 million
"The Fame Monster" (EP)/38/1.4 million
"Teenage Dream"/24 (and counting)/1.1 million
Not only did the indie rock band not enjoy as much mainstream chart success as its competitors, but the group is also the first album of the year winner without a Billboard Hot 100 hit on its resume in 48 years.
Only three other acts, in fact, have claimed the honor without having reached the Hot 100 since the category originated in 1959 (a year after the Hot 100's launch): Bob Newhart, Judy Garland and Vaughn Meader, in 1961-63.
Best New Artist nominees
WINNER Esperanza Spalding
Florence & the Machine
Mumford & Sons
Similarly, Spalding emerged victorious as the only of this year's rookie hopefuls without having inked a Hot 100 chart entry - or a placement on any Billboard song chart to-date. She is the first Best New Artist champ not to have appeared on a Billboard song survey since French vocal group the Swingle Sisters earned the honor in 1963.
Is it a coincidence that the album of the year and best new artist categories both end droughts dating back 48 years? Perhaps not: the best new artist title was bestowed upon the Beatles following their music-history-altering arrival in 1964, spurring a mid-'60s shift to mostly more mainstream winners since.
Song Of The Year nominees
WINNER "Need You Now" (Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley, Hillary Scott)
"Beg Steal or Borrow" (Ray LaMontagne)
"F**k You (Forget You)" (Cee-Lo Green, Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars)
"The House That Built Me" (Tom Douglas, Allen Shamblin)
"Love the Way You Lie" (Alexander Grant, Skylar Grey, Marshall Mathers)
"Need You Now," performed by Lady Antebellum, is the first former Country Songs No. 1 to claim song of the year since 1983, when Willie Nelson's cover of "Always on My Mind" earned song of the year status. ("Mind," recorded by artists ranging from Elvis Presley to the Pet Shop Boys, was written and first released by country singer Brenda Lee in 1972).
"Need You Now" led the list for five weeks beginning in November 2009. Only one other Country Songs topper has taken the trophy for song of the year, awarded to a composition's writer(s). In the award's second year of existence in 1960, the Jimmy Driftwood-penned "The Battle of New Orleans" won. The story song spent 10 weeks atop Country Songs in 1959 as performed by Johnny Horton.
Record Of The Year nominees
WINNER "Need You Now," Lady Antebellum
"Empire State of Mind," Jay-Z + Alicia Keys
"F**k You (Forget You)," Cee Lo Green
"Love the Way You Lie," Eminem featuring Rihanna
"Nothin' On You," B.o.B featuring Bruno Mars
Never mind a streak stopped after 28 years: "Need You Now" is the first former Country Songs No. 1 feted with record of the year recognition in the award's entire 53-year history.
The previous highest-charting Country Songs chart entry to win record of the year? Olivia Newton-John's "I Honestly Love You" reached No. 6 on the tally in 1974.
Other songs with country roots have won - the Eagles' "Hotel California" (1978; did not chart on Country Songs), Whitney Houston's cover of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" (1994; not promoted to country radio), Dixie Chicks' "Not Ready to Make Nice" (2007; No. 36 peak on Country Songs) - but none made the history that "Need You Now" did Sunday night.
In a year that evokes reminiscences of Bob Newhart, Judy Garland, Vaughn Meader, Johnny Horton and the Swingle Sisters, clearly the 53rd Grammy Awards will be remembered for serving surprises that Billboard charts didn't quite predict.