Milestones as Grammy Awards turn 60

Rapper Jay Z accepts the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration award for 'Holy Grail' on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images | AFP
Rapper Jay Z accepts the Best Rap/Sung Collaboration award for 'Holy Grail' on January 26, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian | Getty Images | AFP 

In two weeks time, the biggest global music event of the year will take place, honouring the great and good in the recording industry during the last one year.

The Grammy Awards that take place on January 28 is marking a milestone this year with a ceremony celebrating the 60th anniversary of the event.

The first Grammys took place in 1959 and the awards are today recognised as the highest achievement in the music industry. (The name Grammy is an abbreviation of the original name, the Gramophone Awards).

It is the only peer honour awarded by industry professionals for artistic or technical achievement, without regard to sales or chart positions.

The attention of the global audience on Grammy Sunday will be focused on the decisions made by more than 13,000 music professionals.

These are the members of the Recording Academy comprising musicians, producers, recording engineers and other recording professionals. It is this group that decides the winners in 84 categories at the event that this year takes place at the Madison Square Garden in New York.

This is the first time since 2003 that the ceremony is being held outside Los Angeles.

Huge budgets

Besides the celebration of artistic excellence through the Grammy Awards, the Academy honours music history through the Grammy Museum and supports musicians in times of financial need through a charity, MusiCares.

The Grammys honour the best recordings, compositions and artists for the period of October 1, 2016 to September 30, 2017. Grammy contenders aggressively campaign for the awards, which translate into a major boost for sales and online streams.
Artists and their labels splash out huge budgets on media adverts, emails and marketing and promotional activities targeting voters ahead of the awards.

Notable winners

The Grammy voting process is undergoing a transition to reflect the dynamic trends in the music industry. Members are now casting their votes online rather than through paper ballot.

The Academy says the move will not just attract younger votes but also prevent fraudulent “block” voting to boost a nominee.

The definition of an album has also changed to include those with just a single track, as opposed to the previous rule that required no less than five songs.

The changes have been gradual. For instance, in 2016, the Recording Academy changed rules to make online streaming-only music releases eligible for the Grammys. Previously recordings had to be playable on CD player, or at least downloadable to be considered for an award.

The most eagerly awaited categories of the event are the Song of the Year and Record of the Year awards. The Song of the Year is awarded to the people who wrote the music and the lyrics while Record of the Year recognises everyone who contributed, musicians, producers and engineers.

Some of the notable winners of the latter award include timeless songs like Frank Sinatra’s Stranger in the Night in 1966, Beat It by Michael Jackson in 1983 and I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston in 1993.

Adele’s global hit Hello won both the Song and Record of the Year awards at last year’s Grammys.

26 million viewers

Besides the attention on the winners, the spotlight is also on the host of the event that last year run for three and a half hours and was watched by an average of 26 million viewers in the US alone.

British presenter James Corden returns to the role of host for the second consecutive year bringing his trademark humour and comedy sketches to the event.
He becomes just the tenth personality to host multiple Grammy ceremonies following such luminaries like John Denver, Kenny Rogers, Ellen De Generes and LL Cool J.

Re-used trophies

There are also artists who are hitting career milestones at this year’s Grammys.
Jay-Z, who has eight nominations for his album “4:44”, becomes the joint third most-nominated artist in Grammy’s history. The 47- year- old rapper equals the 74 nominations of Stevie Wonder and conductor Georg Solti and is now just behind Quincy Jones with 79 and Paul McCartney with 78.

One of the year’s pop anthems Despacito by Luis Fonsi is the first non-English song to be nominated for both Song and Record of the Year categories since La Bamba by Los Lobos 30 years ago.

The gold-plated trophies in the image of a gilded gramophone that are presented at the ceremony are “stunt” trophies that are re-used each year for the broadcast.

The winners receive a trophy with their names engraved on them after the event.