What an amazing year it was for music! In reviewing the charts and essays in our just-published year-end double issue, it was hard to pick a favorite. Taylor Swift’s Red sold 1.2 million copies its first week. Adele sold her 10 millionth copy of 21. And let’s be honest, who knew that either of these things could still happen in the music business?
Adele vindicated her fairy-tale 2012 Grammy night in more ways than one. She was Billboard’s artist of the year for the second year in a row, the first act to accomplish this feat since Destiny’s Child in 2000 and 2001. Even more impressive? 21 was album of the year for the second straight year, becoming the first act to pull off that nifty trick since Michael Jackson did it with Thriller in 1983 and 1984.
Billboard’s Year in Music issue is how we keep score: It’s math, not emotion, and not the beliefs of our editors or critics. It’s what y’all bought, sold, streamed, downloaded, tweeted, Facebooked, waited in line to see . . . we could go on. “The Hunger Games” beat out both “Twilight” and “Glee” for soundtrack of the year. Rock rebounded this year, going from 41 of the top 200 album titles in 2011 to 58 of them in this year’s issue. Coachella was the biggest single boxscore by a margin of almost 20% over runner-up Roger Waters. We know it because we read it in Billboard.
But there’s another very important way to view the year, and that, of course, is the Grammys. It was only a matter of time before two iconic music brands like the Grammys and Billboard got together. OK, so in this case, “only a matter of time” ended up being 52 years, which is how long it took until we launched our first Grammy Voter Guide last year. (The Grammys were first awarded in 1959 when Billboard magazine was a practically nubile 65 years old.) But some things are worth the wait.
I’m a big fan of the Grammys for combining two of my favorite things: historic moments and pop spectacle. My favorite performance of all time is P!nk’s breathtaking 2010 rendition of “Glitter in the Air,” sung as she was gracefully suspended some 40 feet above the Staples Center floor in a silk scarf. Or maybe it was in 2001, when Eminem brought Elton John onstage to sing the hook on “Stan.” Or maybe it was watching Aretha Franklin hit unthinkable notes while filling in for Luciano Pavarotti and singing opera in 1998. Or maybe . . . You get the point. And the Grammys didn’t disappoint last year, either. Who wasn’t moved by the hastily assembled tribute to Whitney Houston, who died only two days earlier? And who didn’t share Adele’s elation at a clean sweep of the major awards?
The category I’m most looking forward to this year is best new artist. The competition is so strong that Billboard’s new artist of the year, One Direction, didn’t get a nomination, despite having not one but two albums sell more than a million copies each in 2012. And yet there’s no arguing that each of the nominees in the category is wholly deserving. The airwaves were dominated by the perfectly crafted hits of fun. The Lumineers have been the Little Indie Band That Could, with their single “Ho Hey” still climbing the charts after nearly 30 weeks. An Atlantic executive told me that Hunter Hayes might be the Stevie Wonder of country music — and he actually wasn’t wrong. Frank Ocean showed meaningful bravery and an unimpeachable ability to write R&B hooks. And who could possibly deny the epic songs of Alabama Shakes, and the sweet, powerhouse soul of singer Brittany Howard. We don’t envy you having to vote!
We don’t envy you, but we do want to help you. So, please, enjoy the colorful stories and history you’ll find on this site. There’s also an overview of the 2013 Grammy Hall of Fame inductees and some early details on what you can expect during this year’s Grammy Week. The homepage for the online version of the booklet is right here; on that page you’ll also find a link to tablet-friendly PDF.
We hope you enjoy our second Voter Guide. Now you have no excuse to pick anything but the best of the best. After all, we’ll all be watching on Feb. 10.