This year’s Grammy duel between Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar won’t be settled until Jan. 28. But the fact that it will be settled at Madison Square Garden is a result of the biggest Grammy battle waged last year.
That’s when Grammy officials announced that the 60th annual awards ceremony would be in New York for the first time in 15 years, ending the stranglehold Los Angeles has had on music’s biggest night.
As recently as the ’90s, the Grammys alternated between New York and Los Angeles. But depending on who you ask, L.A. may have gotten the upper hand after a public skirmish in 1998 between then New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Grammy leadership or maybe it was because L.A.’s new Staples Center was built to make it easier to host a TV broadcast. Maybe it is some of both, combined with the fact that it generally costs more to host an awards show in New York than L.A. In any case, after the Grammys went to L.A. in 1999, they have only been back once, in 2003.
The Grammys’ return to New York this year has been hailed as a victory for the city. “It is incredibly exciting that ‘Music’s Biggest Night’ will return to the world’s greatest city,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said when the announcement was made. “Playing host to the music industry’s marquee awards show is a unique creative, artistic and economic boon to the rich cultural fabric of our city. We welcome the Grammy Awards back to New York City with open arms and we look forward to continuing to partner with the music industry that supports access and empowerment in the arts.”
City Media and Entertainment Commissioner Julie Menin says that the Grammys and the week of events that come with the awards will generate around $200 million for the city’s economy. “As the birthplace of salsa in East Harlem, hip-hop in the Bronx and punk rock in the East Village, it’s a fitting return to the city that gets the whole world dancing,” said Menin, adding that it had taken a year of negotiations to secure the ceremony.
The Recording Academy’s CEO-president Neil Portnow says that it was important for the Grammys to return to New York considering how half the group’s membership is in the East. However, he admits there are issues with bringing the ceremony to New York.
“The reality is that it’s a major undertaking in many respects,” Portnow told Billboard. “One is that we’re West Coast-based so it means moving essentially a majority or good portion [of the staff] back east. No. 2 is the weather. No. 3 is reinventing not just the Grammy telecast, but the whole week we’ve developed. . . . It’s way more expensive to do anything in New York.”
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However, that has been the case for years. De Blasio and his administration worked with The Recording Academy to defray some of the costs, in part, so that New York can showcase its importance in the music industry. According to Boston Consulting Group, the city’s $21 billion music economy is the most robust and diverse in the world, including the fact that New York’s music venues sold 5.4 million tickets in 2015 — more than Los Angeles, Chicago and Nashville combined.
“Because there’s so much happening every day in New York City, we sometimes don’t take a moment to recognize all that we mean to this country and this world,” de Blasio said on WOR shortly after the announcement. “But the amount of talent in this city and the way that the artists that came out of this city have changed music and changed our culture, it’s just unbelievable. And look, God bless L.A. and we’ve got a little competitive thing going with L.A., that’s OK. But when it comes to music, there’s no comparison. This is the center of the music universe right here.”
Whether or not that is true, L.A. will likely continue to be the regular home for the Grammys. The Recording Academy has announced that the Grammys will be held at L.A.’s Staples Center for at least the next four years.
WHAT The 60th Annual Grammy Awards
WHEN | WHERE 7:30 p.m. Jan. 28, Madison Square Garden, Manhattan
INFO Airing on CBS/2 and streaming on grammy.com
New York is no stranger to star-studded parties, but this week there will be even more than usual, as celebrities gather to celebrate the 60th annual Grammy Awards. Citi has its “Sound Vault” concert series for its cardholders at Irving Plaza from Wednesday to Sunday, with 30 Seconds to Mars (Wednesday), The National (Thursday), Eminem (Friday), Childish Gambino (Saturday), and Dave Matthews & Tim Reynolds (Sunday). The Roots will take over the Gramercy Theater from Wednesday through Saturday for their invite-only The Roots Jam Sessions. Here’s a look at some of the biggest events (and whether you can get in):
- “The Grammys Return to New York” (6 p.m. Monday, The Paley Center for Media, 25 W. 52nd St., Manhattan)
EVENT Grammy CEO Neil Portnow and Grammy telecast executive producer Ken Ehrlich talk about what to expect from this year’s ceremony.
TICKETS $20; 212-621-6600, paleycenter.org
- The Recording Academy Producers & Engineers Wing Honors (7:30 p.m., Thursday, Rainbow Room, Rockefeller Center, Manhattan)
EVENT Power couple Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz are honored for their artistic accomplishments — her hits like “Girl on Fire,” his production skills with Jay-Z and Madonna — and their philanthropic work.
TICKETS Invite only
- 2018 MusiCares Person of the Year: Fleetwood Mac (7:30 p.m. Friday, Radio City Music Hall, 1260 Sixth Ave., Manhattan)
EVENT Fleetwood Mac — Lindsey Buckingham, Mick Fleetwood, Christine McVie, John McVie and Stevie Nicks — becomes the first band ever to receive the prestigious award. John Legend, Harry Styles, Lorde, Miley Cyrus, Keith Urban and more will pay tribute, along with President Bill Clinton.
TICKETS $356-$556; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
- The Pre-Grammy Gala (8 p.m. Saturday, Sheraton New York Times Square)
EVENT Jay-Z will be honored with the 2018 Grammy Salute to Industry Icons award at the annual gala hosted by the legendary Clive Davis. The Recording Academy will celebrate his artistic and philanthropic achievements the night before he finds out how many of the eight nominations he received for his “4:44” album will be converted to wins.
TICKETS Invite only
- “Elton John: I’m Still Standing — A Grammy Salute” (8 p.m. Jan. 30, The Theater at Madison Square Garden, Manhattan)
EVENT Miley Cyrus, Kesha, Miranda Lambert, John Legend, Little Big Town, Chris Martin, Maren Morris, Sam Smith and Keith Urban are set to pay tribute to Elton John for an event that will also air at a later date on CBS.
TICKETS $131-$181; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com — GLENN GAMBOA