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GRAMMY Nominations Behind the Scenes: Lorde Takes a Bow, Arsenio Fires Back at Kanye

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(Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)

(Gabriel Olsen/Getty Images)

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By Scott T. Sterling

With four noms to her name, Lorde was the belle of the backstage ball at the GRAMMY Nominations Live!!! Concert tonight (December 6) at the Nokia Theater.

From the moment “Royals” was announced as a contender for Song of the Year, the 17-year-old newcomer generated the most buzz among the assembled press corps and artists alike.

“She’s incredible,” gushed Keith Urban, who like Lorde was born in New Zealand. “Just deeply, deeply talented.”

Related: GRAMMY Nominees 2014: The Full List

A palpable excitement rippled through the room when Lorde stepped to the microphone, seeming genuinely excited for the nominations. She generated laughs when asked if people in her home country understood the gravity of GRAMMY nominations.

“Yes, for sure,” she smiled. “We have the Internet, so we get it.”

Melissa Etheridge also proclaimed her curiosity about Lorde, but seemed most excited about Pharrell, intermittently proclaiming his name while answering questions.

Photo Gallery: GRAMMY Nominations Concert 2014

Asked about performing with Keith Urban during the show, Miguel noted that crossing over into country music is one of his career goals.

“I was into into that moment in the ’70s when classic rock became a lot more country, with artists like the Eagles and Grateful Dead,” he explained when asked to name some of his favorite country songs. “I just find that the music is honest and really tied to its community.”

Related: GRAMMY Noms Announced: Jay, Kendrick, JT & Macklemore Lead the Pack

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis were queried about their reaction to the passing of Nelson Mandela this week, with Macklemore admitting that when he heard the news, he “went to the Internet and did some reading. I wanted to be informed on the moves he made in the name of justice. It’s the legacy of a brilliant man.”

Ed Sheeran shrugged when asked about his upcoming full-length, saying “there isn’t much to tell” beyond the fact that it’s done and about to be mixed and mastered. The highlight of his year? Being tapped by director Peter Jackson to write the song “I See Fire” for the closing credits of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

The moment of the night, however, belonged to Arsenio Hall, who was excited to talk about nominees like Kendrick Lamar, one of the first musical guests on his new late-night show. He also had kind words for Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, as well as Ed Sheeran.

“I could see the look on his face when I read his name for Best New Artist, and he looked genuinely surprised,” Hall said of Sheeran. “I wish him luck. He seems like a talented, humble man.”

Since there couldn’t be a gathering of this many members of the media without a mention of Kanye West, Hall was asked how it felt when West referenced him during a recent radio interview (“And, then people say you are like Arsenio Hall, and you were turning up too much and now you fired,” ‘Ye said).

Hall started slowly, saying how he didn’t really have a response since West’s reasoning “twists the facts.”Getting warmed up, however, Hall worked himself up into something of his own rant regarding West’s statements.

“Stop making me look like I’m Nat Turner or something,” he said, referencing the black slave in the 1800s who led a Virginia rebellion in 1831. “I know what you heard in the barber shop, but I just left my show. The white man didn’t do nothing this time…don’t muddy the waters of racism with my bulls***. I don’t like to be put in those conversations, because there’s no struggle here. My struggle was in the ghettos of Cleveland.”

Arsenio Hall announces nominees at GRAMMY Nominations Live!!! Concert (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

Arsenio Hall announces nominees at GRAMMY Nominations Concert (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

“I hate the word ‘slave’ used in songs,” he added, an obvious reference to West’s “New Slaves.” Do you know what that word is all about? Nobody uses ‘slave’ in pop culture. If you’re in the music business, you should f*** with that word. It’s too serious an era, too serious a problem in America. No one that’s free to move around this country should use the word ‘slave’ like that.”

As the room kind of stiffened up in an awkward silence, someone asked Hall his stance on the n-word, which made it even more uncomfortable for some in attendance as he answered the query.

“This is simply not the forum for this discussion,” huffed a reporter in a nearby row, rolling his eyes as Hall was eventually escorted from the podium and the press conference was brought to a quick end.

It was a bracing and real moment amidst the pomp and circumstance during this celebration of music’s biggest night, peeling back some of the unspoken racially-charged components within music in 2013, from those who’ve questioned the motive behind Lorde’s anti-materialistic “Royals” to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ current domination in hip-hop-pop.

All of the drama and excitement culminates when the awards are handed out at the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards on Sunday, January 26 at 8 p.m. EST on CBS.

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