I don’t have cable. So I did not get the chance to watch the Grammys this year. I was, however, happy to hear that Taylor Swift won the Grammy for Album of the Year for 1989 (since I recently wrote a post about how great she is). When I was writing the aforementioned post I did notice that she was nominated, but I felt pretty confident the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences would give it to Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. This is Swift’s second Grammy for Album of the year (she also won for Fearless as we all know).
Since the data have already been scraped from the Billboard Hot 100, I might as well get some mileage out of them. For each week since November of 2014 (around when 1989 and To Pimp a Butterfly were released) I assigned any song by any of the five artists nominated for Album of the Year a point value from 1 to 100 based on its position in the Hot 100. Songs ranked number 1 were given 100 points, and songs ranked 100 were given 1 point et cetera. Then for each artist I added up the point values for each week the results of which you can see below:
Notice someone missing from this visual? None of the songs from the Alabama Shakes’ album Sound & Color made it to the Hot 100. This is despite the fact that their album was on the Billboard 200 for album sales for 26 weeks, peaking at number 1. Chris Stapleton has a little purple blip around December, seven months after Traveller was released. Kendrick makes it on here and there, but the graph is clearly dominated by Taylor Swift and The Weeknd. The Weeknd has by far the highest peaks, but Taylor proves her popularity with the largest total area under the curve, 13,676 “points” vs. The Weeknd’s 11,156 “points”. TSwift also has the highest average per week, though not by much.
Fun fact: Swift’s “Bad Blood” was minimally successful until she added some bars by Kendrick Lamar...which went on to win the Grammy for Best Music Video. Does that say more about Taylor or Kendrick?
We can debate whether song popularity should be the metric by which we measure the value of an album. Obviously a lot of people thought Sound & Color was a world-class album despite its absence from the Hot 100. In fact the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences insists that Album of the Year is to “honor artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence in the recording industry, without regard to album sales or chart position.” However, of those nominated this year, they did pick the one with the best album sales and chart position.