In the run up to the Grammy awards, Los Angeles is already abuzz with artists, celebrities and music executives attending swanky parties and A-list lunches, and preparing to enjoy the industry event of the year, live on stage. The rest of us will have to make do with the television screen. Sunday night, host LL Cool J will lead us through the 56th edition of the award show, and it is sure to be a night full of highly scrutinized, but enjoyable performances, a handful of corny jokes, guffaws over which nominees steal the show, and if last year is anything to go by – a whole lot of hashtags.
The awards that will be handed out Sunday are as always a long list of genre-specific accolades, ranging from electronica to R&B, bluegrass to blues, and then the most coveted awards of all: Album, Record and Song of the Year, as well as Best New Artist. It’s a recurring theme that year after year critics will inevitably complain that a committee selecting the winners renders the Grammys antiquated and unfair. (Most award shows allow for at least one category vote open to the public these days, what with the Internet and all.) Social numbers can give us a clue as to what the people would want.
Last year it was New York indie band Fun. who took home the Best New Artist award. (This time around lead singer Nate Ruess features on P!nk’s smash hit “Just Give Me A Reason,” nominated for Song of the Year.) This year, the list of 5 nominees spans the genres from country music to hip-hop.
Let’s start with the most obvious choice in terms of overall popularity. Ed Sheeran ranks above the rest of the group, both in number of Facebook page likes, and total Twitter followers. And Sheeran would seem a shoe-in for the award, except that he falls smack-dab in the middle of the pack when it comes to gains on Facebook this past year, and has seen the lowest percentage increase at only 40%. While he has more than 4.3 million page likes at present, he gained about 2 million of those in the past year, less than both Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Kendrick Lamar, who each saw percentage increases in the triple digits.
What is more, while he added more than 3.6 million new followers on Twitter (Kendrick Lamar, who has the second-largest following of the group, has less than that in total), this is in fact a decrease of 2% from the year before. In contrast, fellow nominee Kacey Musgrave saw an increase of close to 840%. The people could argue that Sheeran would have been a better served as a nominee for best new artist last year, when he was still new.
Kacey Musgrave, a young country artist, is an interesting choice for a Best New Artist nominee. Musgrave, with a bit more than 217,000 Facebook page likes, and 143,000 Twitter followers, is light as a feather compared to a list of heavyweight fellow nominees with numbers in the millions. (Closest to her in size of fan base is Mercury Prize winner James Blake. He counts about half a million Facebook page likes, and 164,000 Twitter followers.) Then again, the singer/songwriter carries the largest percentage increases of new followers in the past year on both networks. Close to 200,000 of her Facebook page likes came in the past year, an increase of more than 1200%, making her a true breakout artist.
But if the vote were truly down to voice of the people, it seems the race would be between the two hip hop acts on the list: Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. Both have a comparable number of fans, though Lamar has a slight lead with about 4 million Facebook page likes and 3.1 million Twitter followers. However Macklemore & Ryan Lewis grew faster than Lamar, adding about 85% of their total Facebook following in the past year, and more than 1,7 million Twitter followers is an increase of 472% from the year before.
Come Sunday we’ll find out whether the experts are attuned to the voice of the people. Being almost too close to call, smart money might be on Kendrick Lamar to take it home – the odds would make for a way better pay-out. After all, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis can’t win everything. Or can they?