Overall, a very strong night for music and The Recording Academy. There’s no runaway standout when it comes to the nominations. That’s really appropriate for a year where there was really no runaway album. The closest you come to that is Taylor Swift, but that juggernaut came at the end of the year, after the Grammy eligibility cut-off of September 30. Thanks to all of these great new ways of discovering, sharing and listening to music, I think the rise of the niche is accelerating.
The potential biggest winners come Grammy night are fun., Frank Ocean and Black Keys – those are the only three acts that were nominated in both Album and Record of the Year. Fun in particular had a great night. Not only did they score those two but they also were nominated for Best New Artist and Song of the Year giving them a sweep of the cross-genre fields for nominations.
It’s a bit of a coronation night for Hunter Hayes, and he really deserves it. This kid could be the future of country – he’s got a great voice, great looks and great songs. The Grammys do their most important work, I think, when they introduce a larger public to a deserving up-and-coming act and this year that could be Hayes.
There are great songs nominated for song of the year, but let’s be honest: “Call Me Maybe” should run away with it. It’s almost inconceivable to me that the song, which spent nine weeks at number one on the Billboard charts, and was the zeitgeist of the Internet for the better part of the year, didn’t also garner a Record of the Year nod.
I dont think Bieber or Psy got any love either. Combined with the Carly “Record” snub, it wasn’t the best night for Scooter Braun, who manages Bieber and Psy and has Carly on his label. I think he’ll recover: outside of the Academy, Braun really owned the year in a lot of ways.
I was initially outraged that Kendrick Lamar and Jason Aldean were snubbed, but they came after the eligibility period.
Im a little surprised Jack White got the love he did. I love Jack White, but I thought “Blunderbuss” was a little uneven. From memory of the reviews, I didnt think I was alone in that.
I love that Bonnie Raitt’s excellent album Slipstream was nominated as Best Americana. Raitt set up her own label to release it, so she didn’t have the machinery of a major label working for her. It’s a brilliant and beautiful album that deserves an even wider audience than it has received.
Also love that Alabama Shakes show up in Best New Artist and Best Rock Performance. This is just an exaple of the Academy not caring about commercial success and rewarding a critics darling – and deservedly so. Singer Brittany Howard is one of the most captivating voices to emerge in the last few years.
My pick for off-beat field of the year is Spoken Word, where you have Obama vs Clinton – in this case Michelle vs. Bill.
So what did you think? Who got snubbed? Who were you most happy to see get nominated?
Gaga: “I am a feminist.” Thanks for link, @sciliz
Katy Perry tells a roomful of the top female (and plenty of male) music industry executives that she is not a feminist.
On Friday November 30, Billboard hosted its eighth annual Women in Music event. The luncheon was held in lower Manhattan, and honored the top 40 women executives in the music business, along with two top artists - Rising Star Carly Rae Jepsen and Woman of the Year Katy Perry.
The event is absolutely my favorite that we do each year, for a few reasons. One is that the music business, like so many businesses, is rampantly male-dominated in the C-suites. As my boss, Prometheus Global Media CEO Dottie Mattison told the room in her opening remarks, “over half of the college graduates are female but less than one fifth of the executives in businesses of the Fortune 500 and above are female… We are losing the potential and promise of young women’s careers, who are leaving for a variety of reasons. Many of us in this room are old enough to remember a time when it was much worse for young women but are young enough to know that we can…create something better than what we found.”
So it feels good to take a day, have everyone in the music biz set aside competitive differences, and celebrate the accomplishments of the top female executive talent. WIM is also my favorite because every year we get amazing artists to come and accept their awards, and grace the stage for a dialogue that tends to be more intimate and honest than their typical public discourse. This year Jon Stewart led a short conversation with Katy Perry and NBC’s Natalie Morales chatted with Carly Rae Jepsen. In the last three or four years we’ve shared these moments with Taylor Swift, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Blondie, Fergie… I could go on.
So it raised an eyebrow or two in the room when Katy came to the stage to accept her Woman of the Year award, and “I am not a feminist” were among the first words from her mouth.
To be clear, the very next words were “but I do believe in the strength of women.” You can see the full, unedited acceptance speech here.
A few women I respect a lot took exception to her separation from the term. Ann Powers from NPR tweeted the comment w the refrain “AARGH” and when I asked her about it, said that in fairness, she needed to hear the whole speech, but that “Divorcing ‘feminist’ from ‘strength of women’ is sadly a reflex for many female pop stars.” Emily White of Whitesmith Entertainment - a very sharp comer in the business - tweeted “it’s ironic a woman would say she’s not a feminist. Does @katieperry not want equal rights for herself?” More than 200 blogs and sites picked up on the comment in one way or another. In private, several people I spoke with felt the choice of words showed a lack of respect for history: “Without Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinam, there is no Katy Perry.” (My wife observed wryly that it was more accurate to say that without Madonna, there is no Katy Perry.)
Now I didn’t get the chance to speak with Katy after she made these remarks, so I am not speaking for her, now. (I will ask her management if she’d like to engage in this discourse with me or perhaps one of the women I’ve already mentioned in this post.) But it’s clear that feminism in the context of pop culture - and, specifically, pop music - is complicated and subjective. I’m on a learning mission here, so please, share your thoughts in response to mine. But if you find yourself wanting to yell that I’m wrong, know that I’m starting from a place where I am not sure what is right.
My gut interpretation was that Katy was divorcing herself from the baggage that the word “feminist,” rightfully or wrongfully, conjures for some people. Katy has also run afoul of some self-proclaimed feminists in the past - a particularly ridiculous episode, in my view, came when Naomi Wolf asked people to boycott Katy Perry because of her use of Marines imagery in the “Part of Me” video. So possibly, Katy prefers not to enter a big tent that has been hostile to her in the past.
I also think that there are plenty in Gen Y who prefer to keep their politics to themselves; I was reminded of an October Taylor Swift interview on Letterman where the host and audience applaud her for saying (at about the 1:00 mark) that, at age 22, it’s not her place to tell anyone how to vote.
Katy is a strong, smart woman. Personally, having watched her at work at both the Billboard Music Awards earlier this year and at this Women in Music event, she’s very much in control of her career, very assertive, wickedly funny when she wants to be, and smart as a whip. Most in the room at Women in Music will tell you that some of her quips were too quick for Jon Stewart, who interviewed her on stage. And that’s saying something.
At least some of her songs, such as “Part of Me” or “Firework” contain “thou shall overcome” messaging that, if not feminist, offer some DNA of feminism. Similarly, her movie, “Part of Me,” is built around the notion that if you believe in yourself, anything is possible. In the film, Katy’s (male-run) record label Columbia didn’t believe in her and she had to persevere to wind up on a different (male-run) record label that did. She also showed incredible strength in maintaining her grueling tour, even as she was losing her marriage. Is that inherently feminist? No, I’d think not. But is she a strong role model for young women? That gets more complicated. And if you feel she is, does that make her a feminist?
Is Madonna a feminist? Is Lady Gaga? What about - dare I ask - Rihanna? If feminism is simply defined (as Webster’s would have it) as an interest in equality between the sexes, does anyone who lives their life consistent with that belief become a feminist? Or does one have to embrace the term? And while we’re at it, where do you draw the line between the power of owning your own sexual identity, and exploiting your sexuality and/or objectifying yourself?
Finally, let’s not forget the issue that Katy raises: why would a strong, confident, talented, accomplished women go out of her way to tell a roomful of successful women that she isn’t a feminist? She could have just as easily begun her acceptance by saying “I believe in the strength of women” and omitting the line about feminism. Katy had her speech written by hand, so I don’t think her choice of words was anything other than considered.
More questions than answers in this post, I’m afraid. I hope to hear from folks who are willing to take the time to enlighten me - and perhaps others - on this issue. Sometimes I write because I have something to say. And sometimes I write to try to find my own clarity. This effort is squarely in the latter camp.
One PS: I’m genuinely really interested to see where Katy goes with her third album in this context. In the package we put together on her for the issue of the weekly mag that goes to the Women in Music event, she talked about her musical inspirations and they were Fiona Apple, Bonnie Raitt and Alanis Morissette. Onstage at WIM she spoke about being early in the process of thinking about her next recording and wanting to head in new directions. She’s still so young. Whatever you think of her music today, she has the talent and intelligence to be a very important artist for a long time to come.
amandapalmer asked: hey bill! - re: your last post. there's a really good answer for that. after i'd hit about 100k followers (this was 2009 or so) twitter added me to that default "add people!" list that new users could auto-select from. this meant that my follower count was going up by literally 4-5k people a DAY sometimes, but clearly these people weren't fans (or even real people). twitter took me off the list when i got to about 300k. but that means my whole following btw 100-300k is TOTALLY BOGUS.
Sorry I’m late to this response; I really appreciate that you took the time Amanda. I also love how forthcoming you are in your answer. But then, having watched your art for years, I wouldn’t expect anything different! Best of luck.
dcsuburbanite asked: Have you addressed itunes demographics--will young white economically advantaged hot 100 listeners now skew the r'n'b chart in a way that this did not hapen in the past?
Interesting question. Have you seen reliable data on “iTunes demographics”? Would like to see some myself.
bbnucci asked: Hi Bill, I’m Bibi, I work for a startup, Soundreef, that develops new tools to help the music industry collect, manage & pay out royalties transparently. We recently launched our 1st tool, where right holders can register directly to see where their music is playing on a Google map, how much they are earning and when they'll get paid. We're kind of shaking up royalty collection in the EU. Anyways, think you may find our business interesting, & would love to tell you more about it! Let me know :)
Hi Bibi - sounds interesting. Please drop me an email w more detail to bwerde at billboard [dot] com. Thanks!
I’ve been watching the feedback online regarding the Billboard chart policy changes that went into affect today. If you’re unaware of these changes, you can read this. An excerpt:
“Billboard unveils new methodology today for the long-standing Hot Country Songs, Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Hot Latin Songs charts. Each receive a major consumer-influenced face-lift, as digital download sales (tracked by Nielsen SoundScan) and streaming data (tracked by Nielsen BDS from such services as Spotify, Muve, Slacker, Rhapsody, Rdio and Xbox Music, among others) will now be factored into the 50-position rankings, along with existing radio airplay data monitored by Nielsen BDS. The makeovers will enable these charts to match the methodology applied to Billboard’s signature all-genre songs ranking, the Billboard Hot 100.”
While we discussed these changes at length with the music industry, and the feedback from that quarter has been supportive, there is some confusion - and yes, occasional foaming-at-the-mouth outrage - from fan camps who have seen some of their favorite stars drop down the charts. I hear you, fans, and I’m really gratified that our charts are so very meaningful to you. I wanted to take a few minutes to engage on your points, which seem to fall into a couple of baskets. If you’d like we could schedule a Google Hangout to discuss this further. I really love the dialogue.
Basket 1: I really like Brandy, and she just dropped from no. 3 to no. 16 on your Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Chart
Obviously, this isn’t just about Brandy. And if it is, for you, let me assure you, I really like Brandy too! I had a chance to speak with her at the Billboard Music Awards after party in May, and I assure you, I walked away thinking there couldn’t possibly be a more lovely person.
But here’s the way I think about this: the former R&B/Hip-Hop Chart was effectively 100 percent based on radio. And basing the primary chart on radio play only feels out of touch with what’s actually happening with music. The fans have no direct voice with radio. It’s a push format - someone else decides what you’re going to listen to and with what frequency. Are those of you upset about this rule change suggesting that what fans are streaming on Spotify or buying at iTunes shouldn’t count? Fans have the power today - more than they have ever had in the history of the recorded music business - and these chart changes honor that reality, above all else.
Basket 2: Now the country chart will only ever be topped by Tay Tay.
Alternate Basket 2: Now the R&B chart will only ever be topped by Ri Ri.
I have empathy for fans of deeper genre cuts that will likely slide down the charts a bit, to make room for the juggernaut digital track sales of more mainstream stars. This week, for example, Taylor Swift’s “Red” debut’s at no. 2 on the Country Songs chart, based largely on the strength of her digital downloads.
Truth? A hit doesn’t just look like one thing anymore. Mumford and Sons are getting some nice Triple A and Alt Rock radio play, but they are setting streaming records on Spotify. That’s a hit. Psy - and before him, Cee-lo - launched a song that was viewed more than 100 million times on YouTube before radio ever touched it. That’s a hit. And if an established country act like Taylor Swift releases a song like “Red” that sounds like a country song, and that becomes the no. 2 selling digital track in the U.S., well that song is a hit, and yes, by our standards, a country hit, also. Radio remains an important part of the equation, but it’s no longer the only part. A song isn’t a genre hit ONLY if that genre’s radio stations decide or are are incentivized to play it.
3. But I love Carrie Underwood so much that it makes me hate anything that’s good for Taylor Swift, even if it’s only good for Taylor Swift in the short term and, at some point, will almost certainly be good for Carrie Underwood also.
I suggest a deep breath and some therapy. I like chocolate (vegan) ice cream. It’s never once made me launch a campaign against Vanilla. Why can’t we all just get along?
4. Psy as the top rap track?! You are a racist who is trying to gentrify the rap charts.
I’ll spare you my rap cred, and say this: every week, Billboard makes dozens of calls about the various charts a song should be eligible for. Take dance: what makes a track a dance track? Is it the BPM? is it “electronic sounds”? Is it “I don’t know, man, this just sounds like a dance track”? What is a song is a ballad but then has an electro chorus? The point is, we make these calls. We’ve been doing it for 50+ years. We’ll make a bunch more next week. We take it very seriously. We work at codifying the process, so that anyone who assumes the job of a genre chart manager can inherit guidelines for making these decisions.
As for Psy, if you Google “Psy” and “rapper” you get millions of hits. No less an authority than Wikipedia identifies him this way: “en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psy_(rapper)”. So we’re not going out on a limb here. In fact, I’d ask this: how is it anything but racist to exclude Psy from the rap chart?
Always happy to engage further. Let me know in the comments if you’d like to take part in a Google Hangout on the topic. If there’s demand, we’ll get one scheduled. Thanks for reading!