"My Grammy nights are so blurry to me. You get, like, snapshots," the rapper T.I. said backstage at last night’s Grammy Nominations Concert in Los Angeles, struggling to recall any details from his three statuette wins over the years.
Minutes earlier, the Atlanta rapper had been onstage at the Nokia Theatre with Robin Thicke, recreating for a live television audience their massive summer hit (with Pharrell Williams), "Blurred Lines," this time with the help of Earth, Wind and Fire. The song is up for two prizes, Record of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance, at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards in L.A. on January 26th.
Dressed in a gray hoodie and shades, T.I. called the Grammys "the stage of stages" for the music industry and a "celebration of those who got it right this year." Pharrell got more right than most in 2013, earning seven total nominations as a performer and producer. "I’m just glad Pharrell and Robin invited me to the party," T.I. said of joining them on the Number One pop single from Thicke’s album of the same name. "It felt like everybody brought their A-game."
Only Jay Z got more nominations with nine, including Best Rap Album for Magna Carta…Holy Grail.
Also earning seven nominations this year was the Seattle hip-hop duo Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, including Best New Artist, for their first studio album as a team, The Heist. The rapper and producer marched through the crowd to open the hour-long show with "Thrift Shop" from that collection, stepping into the opening slot vacated by Drake earlier that day over "scheduling complications."
Backstage afterwards, Macklemore was dressed down from his flamboyant stage gear to a gray suit and gold chains as he stood with Lewis contemplating their follow-up to The Heist.
"There is a lot of pressure, but I feel that as an artist you have control over how much you tack against that pressure, how much you feed into that," Macklemore said. "There’s expectations. I want to take our time. I don’t want to rush it. The biggest mistake that a lot of artists make is they feel they need to immediately remain relevant and push out the first music that comes. I need to live a little bit of life."
The hip-hop duo counted among their nominations for 2013 the same-sex anthem "Same Love," a Top-10 pop hit that included backing vocals from Mary Lambert, who described the track backstage last night as "a song reflecting where we are culturally."
The sentiments of the song, she said, are "a beautiful thing to be a part of as an artist. I feel really lucky to be a part of that – and also to not be apologizing for being gay and getting that across around the world. I didn’t get hate mail or shot or anything. People just naturally nominated it for a Grammy, so that’s really cool."
Presenter Melissa Etheridge hadn’t heard of the duo or the song until her daughter played it, telling her: "Oh, you’ll like this song, mom." Etheridge said the song’s appearance was a revelation, two decades after her own coming out as a lesbian.
"To hear that from that genre, from a straight kid like that from Seattle," said Etheridge, holding a hand to her chest. "I said, we’ve crossed it. We’re past it now. That song is super-amazing."
Etheridge is a 15-time nominee for the Grammys, and the winner twice for Best Rock Vocal. Happily recalling her first nomination, for "Give Me Some Water" from her 1987 self-titled debut, Etheridge said, "Each time, I remember Stevie Wonder in the audience dancing."
The Grammys will be a first-time experience for 17-year-old Lorde, who is up for four awards, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year for "Royals."
The nominations end a busy year for the New Zealand pop singer, who prior to releasing her album Pure Heroine was an unknown teen artist putting her songs online. "It’s probably up there with the best years of my life," Lorde said of 2013 with a smile. "My short life."