The nominees for the 52nd annual Grammy Awards were announced last night. How did country music fare overall? Not bad...not bad 'tall. Let's discuss.
First off--we've got Taylor Swift dominating things as has been her privilege this year. She's up for record, song and album of the year (as well as five additional categories, in both the pop and country genres). Are country fans a bit tired of Swift's massive exposure at this point? Well, that's debatable--but what remains inarguable is this has been one crazily successful year for Swift.
In fact, I will go so far as to say it's refreshing to see this kind of pure commercialism reflected in this year's nominations. At least it's fair: The last time we saw a tremendous country sweep at the Grammys, it was when the Dixie Chicks ran away with the show over drastically superior efforts by Justin Timberlake, James Blunt, Mary J. Blige, and Rascal Flatts, all riding on the questionable strength of a politically challenging but musically lukewarm single.
That duly noted, let's go on to the other country highlights in the nominees list. After Taylor Swift's Shania-esque reign, the Zac Brown Band's Best New Artist nod is easily the second-biggest highlight. Country has held its own in this category for the past half-decade--Lady Antebellum was nominated in this category last year, Swift herself in 2007, Carrie Underwood in 2006, Sugarland in 2005, Gretchen Wilson in 2004--but only Underwood actually took home the award. So, although country has in recent years been well-represented, it's been hard-pressed to win here. Will Zac and Co. prevail? My guess is no, but I am happy to see them nominated.
In terms of the official country categories:
Best Album--Zac Brown makes an appearance here as well, and again I will predict the band won't collect the award, although I'm pleased with their inclusion. Taylor Swift's Fearless is the probable bet for winner, although George Strait's critically acclaimed Twang will be a tough contender.
Best Song--Lady Antebellum, fresh and flushed from CMA awards victories, might prevail in this category with "I Run To You." Any category containing Taylor Swift ("White Horse), however, is going to be a crapshoot for all other artists involved.
Best Female Performance--Taylor and "White Horse" make yet another appearance. Who I would like to see win? Miranda Lambert, who stands a bit of a chance due to the considerable buzz around her excellent release this year. Who I think will be Taylor's main competition, however? Carrie Underwood, with the formidable "Just A Dream."
Best Male Performance--Jamey Johnson racks up another Grammy nomination (he had three last year, none of which he won). It's a decent bet he might actually take the award this year with "High Cost Of Living." That said, he is up against George Strait and Keith Urban. My guess is Strait will prevail.
Best Duo/Group Performance--A tough category overall this year. Every song nominated is exceedingly strong. Lady A is here, with "I Run To You," and they are seriously on fire at the moment. Brooks & Dunn's impending retirement fuels the already well-loaded "Cowgirls Don't Cry." Zac Brown's "Chicken Fried" has crossover steam. And, "It Happens" from Sugarland" as well as "Here Comes Goodbye" from Rascal Flatts are both just overall strong tunes. I'll put my money on Lady A--I don't think the Grammys will ignore their momentum this year, but I also am not sure they are going to be able to take the more important Best Song award.
Best Collaboration--Another tough call, but I'll keep it simple and say I will be very surprised if Brad Paisley and Keith Urban don't win this, with "Start A Band."
So, country fans--am I on or off the mark? Let me know all your Grammy thoughts, please!