Grammy Flashback: Album of the Year

The most prestigious Grammy award is Album of the Year. To be deemed the best album of any genre is the highest honor in popular music, outside of induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In recent years, country albums have become more common in this category, thanks to a Texas trio, a Canadian superstar, a retro soundtrack, and an Oklahoman virtuoso.

 

2008

  • Foo Fighters, Echoes, Silence, Patience and Grace
  • Vince Gill, These Days
  • Herbie Hancock, River: The Joni Letters
  • Kanye West, Dropout
  • Amy Winehouse, Back to Black

While it’s highly unlikely that Vince Gill will triumph here, it’s important to note the history that has been made with his nomination. Besides being the first male country act nominated for this award since Kenny Rogers in 1980, he is also the first country act to be nominated for an album that wasn’t a big seller with crossover appeal. If Kanye West is this year’s version of the Dixie Chicks, and finally wins in his third nomination in this category, he’ll be getting what he deserves. But much credit to Vince anyway, who managed to make a fantastic four-CD set that also challenged the conventional ways of releasing new music to the public.

2007

  • Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way
  • Gnarls Barkley, St. Elsewhere
  • John Mayer, Continuum
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stadium Arcadium
  • Justin Timberlake, Future Sex/Love Sounds

When the Dixie Chicks won Album of the Year, it capped off a night when they won five awards, including the big three: Record, Song and Album. They were the first act to pull this rare feat off since Eric Clapton in 1993. They were certainly due, having been nominated for a third time in this category; no other country artist has had more than one album nominated in this category, though Emmylou Harris did contribute to two nominated projects.

2003

  • Dixie Chicks, Home
  • Eminem, The Eminem Show
  • Norah Jones, Come Away With Me
  • Nelly, Nellyville
  • Bruce Springsteen, The Rising

Since sweeping the big four categories in 2003, Jones has gone on to dabble in country music, participating in tribute albums to Dolly Parton and Waylon Jennings, collaborating with Parton and Willie Nelson, and recording a retro-country album with her side band, The Little Willies.

2002

  • Bob Dylan, Love & Theft
  • India.Arie, Acoustic Soul
  • OutKast, Stankonia
  • Soundtrack, O Brother Where Art Thou?
  • U2, All That You Can’t Leave Behind

The wildly popular country/bluegrass soundtrack to O Brother Where Art Thou? was a surprise winner, as U2 had been favored going into the ceremony. The album would move more than seven million copies by the time it finished its chart run.

2000

  • Backstreet Boys, Millenium
  • Dixie Chicks, Fly
  • Diana Krall, When I Look Into Your Eyes
  • Santana, Supernatural
  • TLC, Fan Mail

Lord knows, Grammy loves a good comeback. The mega-selling Santana set swept the 2000 Grammys, leaving the rest of these albums – all four of which were excellent in their own right – in the dust.

1999

  • Sheryl Crow, The Globe Sessions
  • Garbage, Version 2.0
  • Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
  • Madonna, Ray of Light
  • Shania Twain, Come On Over

1999 was the year where the Grammys realized that current popular music was completely dominated by intelligent and boundary-destroying women. In this category, five different female artists (four solo and one band leader) who wrote their own material were cited for outstanding albums for their respective genres of rock, alternative, hip-hop, dance and country music. Sure, Britney Spears and Ashlee Simpson were waiting in the wings to destroy the progress these women had worked hard for, but in 1999, the future looked bright.

1988

  • Whitney Houston, Whitney
  • Michael Jackson, Bad
  • Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt & Emmylou Harris, Trio
  • Prince, Sign O’ The Times
  • U2, The Joshua Tree

While Emmylou Harris would participate in the album that defeated U2 for this award fourteen years later, her landmark collaboration with Dolly Parton and Linda Ronstadt was passed over for the Irish supergroup’s breakthrough smash.

1980

  • Doobie Brothers, Minute By Minute
  • Billy Joel, 52nd Street
  • Kenny Rogers, The Gambler
  • Donna Summer, Bad Girls
  • Supertramp, Breakfast in America

In recent years, Grammy has smiled only on the country women in this category. Kenny Rogers was the last male country star to garner a nom for Album of the Year until Vince Gill scored a nom in 2008.

1974

  • Roberta Flack, Killing Me Softly
  • Bette Midler, The Divine Miss M
  • Charlie Rich, Behind Closed Doors
  • Paul Simon, There Goes Rhymin’ Simon
  • Stevie Wonder, Innervisions

Charlie Rich is the only country artist to lose to Stevie Wonder during his record-breaking run of domination in this category. He won the trophy in 1974, 1975 and 1977.

1970

  • 5th Dimension, Age of Aquarius
  • The Beatles, Abbey Road
  • Blood, Sweat & Tears, Blood, Sweat & Tears
  • Johnny Cash, At San Quentin
  • Crosby, Stills & Nash, Crosby, Stills & Nash

While it was widely considered the inferior to its predecessor, At Folsom Prison, Cash received his only Album of the Year nomination for his second prison album, At San Quentin, which was pretty darn good in its own right.

1969

  • The Beatles, Magical Mystery Tour
  • Glen Campbell, By the Time I Get to Phoenix
  • Jose Feliciano, Feliciano!
  • Richard Harris, A Tramp Shining
  • Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends

Only two country albums have won this award, and Campbell has the distinction of being the only artist to win, with the other victory being the multi-artist O Brother soundtrack. He also pulled off the rare feat of being nominated for Record of the Year for a single from a different album, as “Wichita Lineman” lost that race the same evening.

1965

  • Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass, Whipped Cream & Other Delights
  • Eddy Arnold, My World
  • The Beatles, Help!
  • Frank Sinatra, September of My Years
  • Soundtrack, The Sound of Music
  • Barbra Streisand, My Name is Barbra

Eddy Arnold was the first artist to win CMA Entertainer of the Year, and also the first actual country artist to receive a nod from NARAS for Album of the Year, though Ray Charles had been nominated in 1963 for his landmark Modern Sounds in Country & Western Music.

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11 Comments

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11 Responses to Grammy Flashback: Album of the Year

  1. Backstreet Boys’ “Millennium” was nominated? Maybe Kevin’s dreaminess charmed the voters.

    I’m not sure who will walk away with it this year. I could see almost any act getting the trophy minus Mayer (now watch — he’ll totally win.)

  2. “Millenium” was a pretty solid pop album. That lead single, “I Want it That Way”, is flawless. BSB made a better Boyz II Men album than the actual Boyz II Men ever did.

  3. Weird Al’s parody of “I Want It That Way” is an all time classic.

  4. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    Most of the Grammy nominees in this category during the 60s and 70s of the often cheesy hybrid referred to as “Countrypolitan” a category that engulf country artists doing pop music (Eddy Arnold, Glen Campbell, Crystal Gayle) , pop artists doing country (Anne Murray, Olivia Newton-John) and artists not otherwise easy to classify (Charlie Rich). At its best “Countrypolitan” could be fairly good; at its worst it was dreck

  5. It’s funny, I see Murray and Newton-John in the same realm as Shania Twain. They record a whole lot of country music, but it’s a genre that’s not native to their country so they sorta do it without realizing it. I find it interesting that since Glen Campbell and Kenny Rogers, only female artists have been able to play on both country and pop stations convincingly. Even Keith Urban, Tim McGraw and Rascal Flatts, who sound pop enough, can’t seem to penetrate anything but AC radio, but Top 40 has given play to LeAnn Rimes, Shania Twain, Faith Hill and even the Dixie Chicks. I wonder why women just have more luck in that regard.

  6. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    Actually Country Music is indigenous to both Australia and Canada and even today, the country music of both countries tends to be “more country” than their Nashville counterparts. Prominent Canadian Country artists of bygone years included Hank Snow and Wilf Carter (a/k/a “Montana Slim”), the next generation included Tommy Hunter, Ray Griff , Ronnie Prophet, Stu Phillips. Since the Canadian west isn’t much different than the American west (aside from being colder) it isn’t surprising that a similar musical culture emerged.

    Similarly with Australia where Slim Dusty, Gordon Parsons (the only G. Parsons worth remembering) , Buddy Williams, etc were bushman balladeers, and Frank Ifield led the phalanx of the second wave.

    The country music of all three countries has its tap root in English, Irish and Scottish music, whatever the secondary influences may have been

    I can’t tell you why country women have been more successful in crossing over to the pop markets – maybe it’s the sex appeal thing (Ms Rimes looks great in a short skirt – I can’t imagine a similar or comparable aesthetic for any of the guys).

    Certainly a Shania Twain or a Faith Hill are no more talented as a vocalists than Tracy Lawrence or a Dierks Bentley (actually a lot less talented than Tracy Lawrence); however it’s been a long time since the Grammys have honored hard country.

    I have my music collections divided into four categories: jazz, country, classical, everything else. Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers and Olivia N-J are filed in the “everything else” sections

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  8. Paul W DennisNo Gravatar

    I don’t especially like Joni Mitchell’s songs, and Herbie Hancock is not my taste in Jazz but Herbie Hancock’s, RIVER: THE JONI LETTERS is the outstanding album of the yeat with Vince Gill and Amy Winehouse being good second bananas.

    Actually, it’s the best non-country album since Norah Jones’ debut a few years ago

  9. Kev – Very nice statement about Vince – too bad they won’t let him perform.

  10. I thought they offered him a slot and he turned it down because it wasn’t long enough?

  11. Right – and as I’ve stated before – NARAS awards “Album of the Year” as the final Grammy of the evening. It is placed on a par with “Best Picture” at the Oscars. It’s their prestige award of the evening. All the nominees in that category should be booked to perform works from their nominated albums – full songs, not 90 seconds. I see the Grammys going out of their way to do whatever it takes to get Amy Winehouse performing on air tonight, but Vince gets tossed aside. It just ain’t right.