This year’s Grammy theme song is “We Are Young.”
Not only is the song by Fun. — man, that period in their name is not getting any less annoying — up for Record and Song of the Year trophies, it’s the prevailing wisdom among the year’s top nominees.
Among the Album of the Year contenders — Jack White, Fun., the Black Keys, Mumford & Sons and Frank Ocean — Jack White is the old man of the bunch, at age 37. The average age of this year’s Album of the Year nominees is 30, which is up from last year’s average age of 28, but it continues this decade’s trend of leaving veterans out of Album of the Year contention.
That’s a stark contrast from 2000-2009, when AOTY winners included Santana, Steely Dan, Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock and the team of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. Since Taylor Swift won Album of the Year for “Fearless” in 2010 at age 20, the oldest performers nominated for the top prize were Dave Matthews and the Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl, who were both 43 when their albums (“Big Whiskey and the Groo Grux King” in 2010, “Wasting Light” in 2012) were up for the show’s top prize.
Record and Song of the Year nominees are similarly youthful, unless you count Gotye (32) and Kelly Clarkson (30) as old.
That’s bad news for Bruce Springsteen and Lionel Richie. Both performers, who are each 63, were left out of the year’s top categories, despite strong works that many thought would be contenders. Richie, whose “Tuskegee” sold 1.05 million copies and was one of the year’s best-sellers, was left out entirely, coming away with zero nominations. (Springsteen received three, including Best Rock Song and Best Rock Album. So much for “We Take Care of Our Own.”)
Youth was by no means a guarantee of nominations, however: teen phenoms Justin Bieber and One Direction were both goose egged, the former causing Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun to tell Grammy voters of “u blew it” via Twitter.
This year’s Album of the Year nominees are also all male, the first time since 2001 that women have been left out of the field entirely. Florence + the Machine’s “Ceremonials” seemingly had all the makings of a contender but was cast aside (it’s up for Best Pop Vocal Album), as was Fiona Apple’s “The Idler Wheel” (it’s up for Best Alternative Music Album). As for Taylor Swift’s sales monster “Red,” it was released outside the period of Grammy eligibility.
In terms of likely winners, the field seems pretty open. A wave of Frank Ocean love could lead to a big night for the R&B newcomer, or if the Grammys go the more traditional route, they could shower Mumford & Sons with awards. Mumford & Sons may be young — frontman Marcus Mumford is 25 — but their rootsy, “authentic” approach to folk music is right up Grammy voters’ alley. Voting Mumford would be a way for the Grammys to look like they’re skewing young while actually sticking to business as usual, so in that case, consider them the frontrunners. Then we’ll know how young the Grammys are really feeling.