The 62nd Grammy nominations have been released today and make for interesting reading for music nerds like myself. You can read the full list of nominations here and read on for my thoughts from a fan perspective.
Starting with the top prize Album of the Year it is a little disappointing to see that no Americana, folk or country album has made the final shortlist this time around. Even for artists successful in their own genre a nomination in the big category is so important in reaching beyond our somewhat limited sphere. Recognition in this category has been a game changer for artists like Sturgill, Brandi and Kacey in the last few years.
In terms of what is nominated, I love the Lana Del Rey album and the Vampire Weekend record was an enjoyable, if overlong, listen. Lizzo deserves the nomination for her brilliant year, even if I found her album to be occasionally flawed. Ariana Grande is nominated for the weaker of her two recent albums and therefore unlikely to win. I don’t see Bon Iver winning this category either, since his album was not universally well reviewed although maybe he could pull off a Beck style upset if the pop vote is split.
A more probable winner is Billie Eilish, who has become the youngest artist to be nominated for the top four awards. After her success last year HER is nominated for her EP I Used To Know Her pt 2. While I enjoyed this project I really don’t think it deserves a nomination as ‘record of the year’, especially when you compare it to the much more substantial projects from the likes of Yola and Tanya Tucker. The final nomination in this category is another EP, this one from Lil Nas X. Personally I think his music is terrible but at least he didn’t turn up in any of the country categories.
Despite recovering some of her critical support with the Lover album Taylor Swift finds herself shut out of the big nominations. She does pick up some nominations in the lesser pop vocal categories but faces tough competition from Eilish and Grande. Blame ‘London Boy’.
Brandi Carlile is nominated for ‘Song of the Year’ for the second straight year – this time as part of the songwriting team for Tanya Tucker’s ‘Bring My Flowers Now’. It’s unlikely to win this category but great to see such a classic country song gain the nomination (and for anyone wondering the Highwomen project was released outside of the consideration window and is therefore eligible next year.)
Taking a glance over the rest of the pop categories briefly it’s a pretty predictable picture. In contrast the ‘rock’ categories are a completely bewildering mix of random artists. For example Brittany Howard receives two nominations for Best Rock Song and Performance for ‘History Repeats’. The song is almost genreless – a mix of blues, funk and Americana, probably more suited to the general ‘Alternative’ category. Still it’s nice to see her recognised as her album won’t be eligible until next year.
What really baffles me about these ‘rock’ and ‘alternative’ categories is that Sharon Van Etten and Jenny Lewis are both overlooked entirely. No offence to any of the artists listed but none of them have released a song as powerful as ‘Seventeen’ or an album as consistently good as ‘On The Line’.
Best New Artist is a strong category for women and it is so exciting to see the brilliant Yola nominated. Seeing an artist like this who has worked so hard for so long being recognised on the world stage is exactly why these award shows should exist. Maggie Rogers is also deservedly nominated in this category, although the winner will probably be either Lizzo or Eilish.
Moving on to our ‘home’ categories I will start with the country nominations. Country album of the year is a strong category overall with nominations for Pistol Annies, Tanya Tucker, Reba and Eric Church. My heart says Interstate Gospel HAS to win but any of those four are deserving. The final nomination is Thomas Rhett which is frankly embarrassing considering Tyler Childers has been overlooked. If Rhett wins we riot.
Tyler is nominated for Country Performance, alongside Ashley McBryde, Willie Nelson, Blake Shelton and Tanya Tucker. Considering she is also nominated for overall best song of the year I think this one will probably go to Tanya. She is also nominated for Country song of the year alongside Miranda, Eric Church, Dan and Shay and Ashley McBryde. And while I adore ‘Bring My Flowers Now’, I think ‘Girl Goin Nowhere’ is a true classic that I will be listening to for the rest of my life so I’d be happy to see Ashley McBryde win either of these categories too.
Maren Morris picks up her only nomination this year for ‘Common’, her duet with Brandi, in Country Duo/Group Performance, which is a surprise considering she has just won CMA Album of the Year. Girl was not as well reviewed as her last album but the Grammys seemed to like her so it certainly feels like she’s been snubbed this time. I’m pleased to see Little Big Town nominated in this category too for their underrated song ‘The Daughters’.
Moving on to the roots categories Yola’s ‘Walk Through Fire‘ is nominated for Americana Album of the Year, and I really hope she wins this one. A surprise nomination in this category is young songwriter Madison Cunningham whose music I must admit I’m not familiar with but she has worked with Andrew Bird so I’m excited about listening. Yola is also nominated in American Roots Performance which is amazing really considering she’s from Bristol, also in this category are Rhiannon Giddens and I’m With Her, although I don’t think either song is as strong as Faraway Look. Oddly Sara Barielles makes an appearance here, with a song that’s more traditional pop or jazz than roots. In the roots song category Our Native Daughters are nominated for ‘Black Myself’ and I really hope they win this one as it’s a real disappointment that the album misses out completely in the Americana/folk categories.
That snub made me think about how confusing the category definitions are. For example I would say the Our Native Daughters project is much more ‘folk’ than Joy Williams who has received a nomination for ‘Best Folk Album’ when it’s clearly Americana. You wonder if some of the confusion or overlap in categories means artists miss out. Tyler Childers has obviously made a considered choice to submit to the ‘country’ categories rather than Americana, where you would have thought his album stood a better chance.
Beyond these categories the only other relevant nominations to report are Dolly Parton for Song Written for Visual Media and the beautiful Bobbie Gentry boxset is also nominated for Best Historical album.
Overall I think it’s generally a fair set of nominations, especially in the country and Americana genres. I guess we just have to accept that there will always be a few favourites who miss out. Let me know your thoughts on the nominations and predictions for the winners in the comments or on social media.