HITS Daily Double
There have been some major new developments in the Grammy picture during the last month.


Our Esteemed Editor in Chief Points Out Several Gripping Music-Biz Storylines

I. In a recent article in HITS, expert Grammy prognosticator and frequent contributor Paul Grein took a look at the first nine months of the year and how the Grammy favorites stack up. There is little to quibble about in his article (after all, last year he went 4-for-4 in the main categories), but there have been some major new developments in the Grammy picture during the last month.

a. Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, which was on Grein’s “keep in mind” list, has exploded onto the scene with mega-press, mega-Samsung-download controversy, a sizable #1 album chart debut, a second week at #1 (unusual in this market, especially in the hip-hop field), one exploding hit single and more waiting on the runway. This project will easily be on the airwaves through the rest of the 2013 nominating process and into the final voting phase in early 2014. Look for across-the-board nominations.

b. Hailing from New Zealand, 16-year-old songstress Lorde has burst onto the scene through her deal with Jason Flom’s Lava Records, and Charlie Walk’s Republic staff has delivered a nearly overnight success story. It’s already blasting off at Alternative and Triple A, with Hot AC starting and Top 40 ready to do their part. “Royals” will be ubiquitous through the entire voting process. A Best New Artist nom, in a category that was rich with contenders last year but thus far in 2013 has been dominated by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Florida Georgia Line, should be a major consideration—as well as placing this production powerhouse as a long shot for Record of the Year.

c. Passenger’s “Let Her Go,” released by Nettwerk and now promoted by Peter Gray’s WBR team, was a one-listen monster for me. Evocative of Cat Stevens, Al Stewart (“Year of the Cat”) and almost as powerful as James Blunt’s “Beautiful,” this song was an instant winner at the recent Clear Channel meetings in New York—and for good reason. It is now the hottest breaking song on the Hot AC charts, and this fall is destined to contend for the top of the Pop charts as well. If you haven’t heard it yet, I suggest you do. Voting in Best New Artist and in Song of the Year categories should be considered.

2. Interscope is hotttttttttttttttttttt. As we approach October and the one-year anniversary of President John Janick’s arrival in Santa Monica, we’re duly impressed by the focus, turnaround and current hot streak of the long-stagnant onetime super-label. With five songs in the current Top 10, a conveyor belt full of hits in waiting and the laser approach employed by the label in making Imagine Dragons into the biggest rock band in the world, we applaud the performance of “Jimmy’s Team” headed by Mr. Janick and the nose-to-the-grindstone, publicity-shy Steve Berman. As with Alabama and Ohio State in college football or Kentucky and Indiana in college basketball, the dominance of labels like Interscope makes the whole music game healthier.

3. As we all await the second Justin Timberlake solo album this year, Justin himself and RCA have chosen to enter the two volumes of The 20/20 Experience as one continuous work for Album of the Year consideration. Two albums from one solo artist have only once before been nominated in the Best Album category, in 1959—when Frank Sinatra did double duty—and the rules have since changed to allow only one album per year by an artist (exceptions are made for collaborations). But how much fun would it have been for Justin to have two this year? Maybe I’m just amusing myself, but the attention in the press and the resulting ratings for the show could have been enormous. I’m sure Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich would’ve made a very big deal of it.

4. I’m still in awe of the marketing performance that Team Columbia, headed by Rob Stringer and Joel Klaiman, delivered on the Daft Punk album. Yes, it was a few months ago, and yes we live in a “what have you done for me lately?” world, but the brilliant job they did of creating awareness pre-radio and scoring big with a legacy act deserves to be mentioned again—especially with the setup for The Civil Wars about to go into full effect. This is another challenging project, as the two-person group of Joy Williams and John Paul White has broken up, but my bet is that Columbia will again deliver a #1 debut. I am curious to see how this project plays out.

5. Finally, some of the stories we will be following in the coming months include:

a. Epic Records, which has recently changed marketing, A&R and promotion departments, has hit the ground running with big debuts by Ciara and Sara Bareilles, has brought back the LaFace label under L.A. Reid’s auspices and reunited with its flagship act, TLC.

b. The yearlong battle for #1 marketshare between Monte and Avery Lipman’s Republic and Peter Edge and Tom Corson’s RCA.

c. Who will perform on and who will be the biggest sales winners from the upcoming VMAs, to be aired this year from Barclays Center in Brooklyn. (Other than the just-announced Lady Gaga, that is.)

d. Warner Bros Records, where Cameron Strang will be assembling a team of key execs and trying to return the glory to Burbank.