The line-up is different than it was just two weeks ago with Justin’s addition, but there are other changes, too, right?
I added Alicia Keys. I don’t know if she was in there when I showed you the board a few weeks ago. That started when I was looking for a way to get Maroon 5 on the show, and to some extent, to get Alicia on the show. I went through Maroon 5’s music and when I did, and I don’t mind saying this, I came across two songs: “Daylight” by [Maroon 5] and “Girl on Fire” by Alicia, and it was almost like an Escher painting, you know? You don’t know if the stairs are going up or if the stairs are going down, and for me it’s the prototype of the truly great mash-ups that we look for. The Grammys should be where you hear things you know but you hear them in new ways and you see pairings that you won’t see anywhere else.
Of the acts that have never been on the Grammy stage before, who are you excited about?
Well, fun. is the one, probably. This kid [lead singer Nate Ruesshas] has got it. It’s distinctive. There’s a little Freddy Mercury there, but it’s different enough that he’s his own thing and really good. They’ve three songs – “We are Young” and “Carry On” and “Some Nights” – that are just hook-y as any pop songs I’ve heard in years. I think it’s going to wind up – and I don’t even mind building a little case for it – that these guys are going to be right in there and maybe competitive with Bruno [Mars] over the next several years. There’s a similarity there, Bruno can write great pop tunes as well.
Fans of Mars and fun. might be surprised to hear them linked. Their music seems fairly different.
What they both do extremely well – and it’s also what Justin does extremely well, and it’s funny because we were just talking about him – all three of these acts have a great ability to go back and borrow from previous incarnations of pop music but also add a layer to them and make them their own in a way that feels natural. I mean, Bruno does it, like the song he’s going to do on the show, “Locked Out of Heaven,” it didn’t take me long to call Sting when I heard that one. There’s a lot of the Police in that song, and he isn’t shy about acknowledging that. “Locked Out of Heaven” grew out of his admiration for the Police and for Sting. And Sting and the Police grew out of the music of the Marleys. It’s all generational and they know it.