HITS Daily Double


GET IN THE VAN: Branding, marketing and related initiatives must go on, tours or no tours, and artists and labels are bringing their projects to consumers and gatekeepers in whatever ways are available. Travis Scott has a splashy deal with McDonald’s; team Selena Gomez/BLACKPINK deliver ice cream via truck; Miley CyrusRCA crew took their van to influencers with an installation video shoot; and the K-Pop phenomenon, led by BTS, BLACKPINK and SuperM, is pushing the marketing envelope in every respect. It’s clear that forging a new path to the eyeballs and earholes of a quarantined nation is indispensable for success in this strange new world; how might the tools developed during this period translate to whatever comes next?

TAYLOR SELLS THROUGH: It’s fascinating to see Taylor Swift holding onto the #1 spot for six straight weeks with her rootsy, acclaimed Republic set folklore. Taylor’s canny and plentiful D2C offerings have buoyed her set, now at #6 in total U.S. activity YTD with 1.4m+, despite being the only album in the YTD Top 10 to have fewer than 1 billion streams; she’s currently at 660m+. That’s a solid stream count and particularly impressive for a pop artist who broke out more than a decade ago, but her album has roughly half the streams of the #7 entry from Juice WRLD. Taylor is selling lots of albums—she’ll likely be the only artist with 1m in “pure” album sales in 2020—in combination with T-shirts and other fan-pleasing merch, and as orders have shipped out week after week they’ve kept folklore pinned to the top of the chart.

GRAMMY AND THE MOMENT: It seems inevitable that the Grammys will be strongly influenced, in its noms, awards and TV presentation, by the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing battle over racism, police violence and systemic inequality. Meanwhile, the issues raised in the last few years about the representation of women continue to exert their own force. Given these circumstances, will the Academy try to vouchsafe its relevance by anointing artists of color and especially women artists of color? Will Summer Walker, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Baby, DaBaby, Roddy Ricch and other chart hitters make it to the winners’ circle? Will Juice WRLD and Pop Smoke be showered with posthumous honors, including unprecedented Best New Artist noms? The controversy surrounding the latter category continues, meanwhile, as the new rules regarding when an artist “came to prominence” are seen as incredibly subjective—and open to Talmudic interpretation if the committee wants that act included.

How might BTS, who would surely boost viewership on Music’s Biggest Night, fit into the equation? Will Taylor Swift’s big (and critically adored) album get a big look, or will Grammy snub her again? What will the present circumstances mean for established stars like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Harry Styles and Dua Lipa, and for new breakouts like Jhené Aiko, Morgan Wallen and Gabby Barrett? There’s anxiety in Nashville that country’s biggest stars and strongest new arrivals could be shut out of the Big Four because of the moment; the optics of white artists dominating the top categories would undeniably rub against the Academy’s stated goals. Will the TikTok stars currently driving so much of the marketplace be welcomed, and might Grammy find a way to help them begin to establish their brands as artists? Whose agendas will be reflected as nominations roll out and we barrel toward the finish line?

Given the near certainty that COVID conditions will remain in effect at the top of the year, how will Messrs. Mason, Winston and Sussman design their show? Will we see a preponderance of pre-taped performances and other segments, with remote live hosts tying it together? How will Grammy look and feel without the emotional boost of a large, live audience? Will players from NYC, Nashville, London and other outposts have a reason to fly to L.A. and do the yearly boogie?

The Grammys will also transpire after an election some of you might’ve been hearing about. How might the results—and subsequent inauguration—affect the tone? Sure, Bob Woodward’s revelations about Trump’s COVID lies might finally drive a stake through this abomination, but we gotta ask: Can the night really advance an agenda of equality if we’re consigned to four more years of these dismal conditions?