“Here for the Grammys?” asks the immigration officer at JFK. “You Brits must be pretty unhappy about Ed Sheeran…”
Try as you might, it’s hard to imagine having the equivalent conversation at Heathrow should the BRIT Awards ever ‘snub’ a leading US artist. But while the UK music biz’s big annual ceremony has the edge over its US equivalent in many ways, one thing the Americans do very, very well is letting everybody – absolutely everybody – know that the Grammy Awards are actually happening.
So, James Corden greets you cheerily on every yellow cab in-car TV to plug the telecast that he’s hosting (having, of course, cut his teeth as a host on the BRITs a few years back). Madison Square Garden – helpfully located in the heart of the city – is lit up days before the ceremony with Spotify ads hyping up the different categories. The pre-Grammy parties and events run for a week before the ceremony. Times Square teems with gigantic electronic billboards for nominees from Spotify, YouTube and the artists themselves. And everybody – from taxi drivers to the big, mainstream media – seems to be talking about it.
That includes the biz of course – although most of the chatter amongst insiders seems to be about the artists who aren’t turning up, rather than the ones who are, and whether the move to New York from the Grammy’s usual LA home is working out (it will return west next year).
Maybe it’s the novelty of a new host city that’s helping the awards burst out of the music biz bubble. Or maybe it’s because the Grammys is a longer ceremony and therefore has the space and time to cover more bases and pull in music fans of every genre. Everyone from Sting to Miley Cyrus and U2 to Childish Gambino features somewhere in the show with the likes of Mura Masa and Bonobo earning nominations.
Whichever it is, it seems to be working, and it makes the Grammys look like a tentpole event to rival anything from sport or the movies. Whether Sunday's show actually delivers on that remains to be seen, but you can’t help but think those winning/performing will likely feel an even bigger benefit as a result. It would be nice to see the BRITs – which looks to be pulling out all the stops performer-wise this year – getting similar treatment from the wider world.