On Sunday night, the Grammy Awards saw a shift in philosophy for the Grammy voting bloc. Unlike the two previous years, none of this year's Album Of The Year nominees had cumulative sales below the sales threshold of 1 million copies. The Black Eyed Peas' The E.N.D., Beyoncé's I Am... Sasha Fierce, the Dave Matthews Band's Big Whisky And The GrooGrux King, Lady Gaga's The Fame, and the winner, Fearless by Taylor Swift (pictured), were all top-selling albums by big brand-name artists.This statistic is striking in light of recent sales numbers. Fewer than 20 of the albums released during the Grammy eligibility period, between Oct. 1, 2008, to Aug. 30, 2009, had scanned a million copies through the album charts ending Jan. 24.
Industry voters have always prided themselves on being as concerned with artistry as commercial appeal -- but in today's climate, is merely selling records considered an art?
Best Album -- and 5.4 Million Sold
Fearless, co-released by Vivendi's Universal Music Group and independent label Big Machine, was the most obvious choice for Album Of The Year. Swift is a youthful ingenue, as comfortable using Twitter as she is accepting awards (even when getting notoriously bum-rushed by Kanye West). Fearless is selling strong nearly three months after its release -- it was No. 10 on last week's Billboard 200 and has sold 5.4 million copies. (Last night brought was the third Album Of The Year nod for Fearless, following the American Music Awards and the Country Music Awards.)
Swift's performance with Stevie Nicks was one of the awards' many generation-spanning duets, along with Maxwell and Roberta Flack, and the outrageously attired Lady Gaga and Elton John. Swift and Nicks dueted on Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon" and Swift's "You Belong With Me": the show's weakest pairing, due to Swift's shaky pitch and awkward chemistry with Nicks.
Everyone's a Winner
The number of Grammys doled out during the telecast is miniscule, compared with the vast number doled out by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Jazz and gospel honors are shunted to a pre-gala ceremony, clearing the airwaves for more artists to strut their stuff before a worldwide audience. The strategy seems worked for broadcast network CBS: Early numbers show last night's Grammys pulling in the Grammys' biggest audience since the industry's salad days of 2001.
That emphasis on performance also helps sell records even by artists who may not have taken home a top award. The biggest immediate post-Grammys boost went to Lady Antebellum (Best Country Performance by a Duo/Group With Vocals), which performed its single "Need You Now." Having been No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart for a month in December, the single surged to the summit of the iTunes Store chart on Monday morning.
The most surprising beneficiary of the awards: the Black Eyed Peas, whose unkillable party anthem "I Gotta Feeling" -- No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 for a record-breaking 14 weeks last year -- bubbled back up and re-entered the iTunes Store's top 5 on Monday morning. This surge would be slightly less surprising if the track hadn't already sold 4.7 million copies since its release last spring.
The other song the Black Eyed Peas performed Sunday night, "Imma Be," also got a boost that will likely propel it into the Hot 100's Top 10. It's currently at No. 11.
Grammys Boost Sales of Albums That Don't Need the Help