Not a lot of fans knew who Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Lorde were when last we gathered a year ago to celebrate music with the Grammy Award nominations.
Yet thanks to a series of inescapable and smart hits, these upstarts could very well match Justin Timberlake, Taylor Swift and other Grammy favorites when nominees are announced Friday night in a television special airing live from Los Angeles on CBS (10 p.m. EST).
Lorde's hit "Royals" and Macklemore's run of "Thrift Shop" and "Same Love" dominated all but a few songs for attention this year, and each act carried a social message that resonated with listeners — Lorde's "Royals" was about anti-materialism, and Macklemore's "Same Love" about gay acceptance.
Timberlake, Swift, Drake and Imagine Dragons also will be top contenders as the names are announced, but much of the attention will be on the white rap crew from Seattle and the precocious 17-year-old from New Zealand.
Both will be in attendance at the Nokia Theatre in downtown Los Angeles — a clue they'll likely be heavily involved in the night. Other stars scheduled to perform or present during the hourlong TV special include Robin Thicke with Earth, Wind & Fire and T.I., Keith Urban and Miguel, Enrique Iglesias and Ed Sheeran. LL Cool J hosts.
Swift will perform live from Australia and Katy Perry will perform from Canada. Perry will sing "Roar," a song some think will bring her a nomination. Perry didn't want to speculate earlier this week, but did acknowledge the song's popularity.
"I'm just happy that 'Roar' has kind of taken on a life of its own and touched so many people in a way unexpectedly that I could have ever imagined," she said. "You know, it's become people's mantras. It's become a 3 minute and 30 second time of freedom for them in some ways. So that's my award, essentially. You know, I always look forward to the announcements and I'm playing. ... It will be exciting."