By Vinnie Lione-Napoli
Arts & Entertainment Co-Editor
The music industry’s most anticipated event of the year aired last Sunday night on CBS with familiar fanfare, showcasing and rewarding the best musical talent released between fall 2011 and 2012.
The 55th Grammy Awards drew in an audience of over 28 million people, which is a step down from last year’s viewership of roughly 40 million. The 2012 ceremony aired shortly after Whitney Houston was found dead, causing people to tune in for the inevitable tributes. Last Sunday drew a particularly sizeable crowd compared to other recent years, however.
Much of the excitement of the program stems from both the promise of performances by popular artists and the buzz surrounding the four most laudable award categories—Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best New Artist.
Both Record and Song of the Year chiefly differ in that both performers and producers receive the former, while songwriters and composers receive the latter. This allows singer-songwriters to reap additional rewards for their efforts and also gives due recognition to the writers behind the curtains of the less lyrically-inclined pop stars.
Despite the fact that both the 2011 and 2012 ceremonies featured Lady Antebellum and Adele taking home both Song and Record of the Year, the existence of two separate winners is by no means uncommon, providing welcome relief to competitors.
The four marquee awards largely centered on the musical efforts of Fun. and Frank Ocean, both of whom were nominated for six Grammys each this year. Fun., a group of indie-poppers who burst onto to the scene last year with their sophomore album, “Some Nights,” were nominated for all four major awards.
The band members arguably emerged as some of the most prominent winners of the night, taking home both Best New Artist and Song of the Year for their wildly popular 2011 anthem “We Are Young.”
While Fun.’s “We Are Young” snagged the writing trophy, Belgian-Australian musician Gotye won Record of the Year with his own 2011 smash hit “Somebody That I Used to Know.” Gotye won a Grammy for each of his nominations, which also included Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Alternative Music Album for his third album, “Making Mirrors.”
British indie-folk rockers Mumford & Sons were the recipients of last Sunday’s grand prize, Album of the Year, for “Babel,” their second studio album released last September. The amiable quartet was also nominated for a whopping six Grammys. Once on stage, lead vocalist Marcus Mumford acknowledged the tough competition his band faced as he thanked the audience.
Although the Black Keys also left the Staples Center without any of the main Grammys, lead singer Dan Auerbach managed to take home the most awards of the night, with three going to his band and one going to himself for Producer of the Year. The bluesy rock duo triumphed over the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Coldplay, Jack White and Muse for Best Rock Performance, Song and Album.
White was nominated for three awards, including Album of the Year, but the former member of the White Stripes left empty-handed.
Grammy-favorite Frank Ocean, notable for his debut album “Channel Orange” which features his smooth, falsetto-soaked R&B single “Thinkin’ ’Bout You,” was nominated for all major awards with the exception of Song of the Year.
While Ocean was beat out for these more lustrous prizes, the singer-songwriter managed to score wins for Best Urban Contemporary Album and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for his work with Jay-Z and Kanye West on 2012’s “No Church in the Wild.”
Jay-Z and West were the final heavy-hitting nominees of the night, winning three of six, including Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song. The pair upheaved the rap scene with their 2011 album “Watch the Throne,” which was nominated for Best Rap Album at last year’s ceremony.
As far as live performances go, this year’s Grammys Awards featured a healthy balance of nominees, current Billboard royalty and tribute pieces. Taylor Swift opened the show with her effortlessly catchy breakup song “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” which was also nominated for Record of the Year.
While Fun., Ocean and Mumford & Sons did perform signature pieces, the Black Keys took the audience by storm with an energizing rendition of their nominated song, “Lonely Boy.”
The Lumineers, the increasingly popular Denver-based indie rock band, satisfied viewers with their prevalent hit “Ho Hey,” while Kelly Clarkson displayed astonishing vocal talent during tributes to Patti Page and Carole King.
One of the more exhilarating performances of the night was the collaborative tribute to The Band’s Levon Helm, during which Mumford & Sons, Zac Brown, Elton John and more all enthusiastically jammed to “The Weight” towards the end of the program.
The 55th Grammy Awards were undoubtedly an improvement over last year’s ceremony largely due to stronger nominees, winners and performances. What should be a momentous occasion each winter often includes questionable nominations seemingly chosen purely from the Billboard Hot 100.
With such a fascinating variety of genres currently being popularized and this year’s endlessly exciting outcomes, next year’s ceremony is on the fast track to impress the masses.