2015 Grammy Awards: Predictions & Personal Picks

57th Grammy AwardsThis year’s Grammy Awards air on Sunday, February 8, and country music will be represented with performances Eric Church, Miranda Lambert, and the tantalizing pairing of Brandy Clark and Dwight Yoakam.   Most of the awards will be handed out before the show, and we will post the relevant winners here, as part of a Grammy Open Thread where CU readers and writers can share their thoughts on this year’s awards.

Four CU writers, including myself, have shared our predictions and personal picks for the general and country-related categories below.  Of course, one of the coolest things about the Grammys is that it celebrates a wide range of music from the past year, and as you’ll see by our varying levels of participation, our tastes here at CU run the gamut.

This year, I’m as excited about the performances by Madonna, Kanye West (twice!), and that Hozier and Annie Lennox duet as I am about any of the country performers, and I’ll be rooting for West and Childish Gambino to sweep the Rap and Hip-Hop categories.

Who do you think will be the big winners on Sunday night, and who are you hoping will win and looking forward to seeing perform?  As always, share your thoughts in the comments!

Meghan Trainor All About That BassRecord of the Year

Will Win:

  • Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX, “Fancy”
  • Sia, “Chandelier”
  • Sam Smith, “Stay With Me” (Darkchild Version) – Kevin, Leeann, Jonathan, Ben
  • Taylor Swift, “Shake it Off”
  • Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass”

Should Win:

  • Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX, “Fancy”
  • Sia, “Chandelier” – Jonathan
  • Sam Smith, “Stay With Me” (Darkchild Version)
  • Taylor Swift, “Shake it Off”
  • Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass” – Kevin, Leeann

Kevin: In a decent year for pop music, any one of these records could credibly represent the year.  I think Sam Smith is Grammy catnip, so I expect him to win big.  I think “All About That Bass” was the most creative and interesting record of the five.

Leeann: I’m a fan of the Sam Smith song, but I agree with Kevin that “All About That Bass” is the most creative and interesting, not to mention the catchiest.

Jonathan: I actually thought it was a weak year for mainstream pop, as reflected by this fairly poor slate of nominees. Smith is right in that Adele / Norah Jones adult-pop wheelhouse that Grammy voters love, so he’s the most likely winner.  Sia’s “Chandelier” is the most progressive take on pop music among the five, though, if “Shake it Off” were to win anything, this would probably be the least egregious place to recognize Swift’s hit. I would have gladly rooted for the mash-up between Iggy Azalea’s and Reba’s respective takes on “Fancy.”

Beyonce BeyonceAlbum of the Year

Will Win:

  • Beck, Morning Phase Jonathan
  • Beyoncé, Beyoncé
  • Ed Sheeran, X
  • Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour – Kevin, Ben
  • Pharrell Williams, Girl

Should Win:

  • Beck, Morning Phase
  • Beyoncé, Beyoncé – Kevin, Jonathan
  • Ed Sheeran, X
  • Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour
  • Pharrell Williams, Girl

Kevin: It’s a shame that the eligibility window kept “Happy” from being Pharrell’s best shot at a general field Grammy win, so I’m glad his quite good album was given a nomination here.  The Beyoncé project’s ambition and scope has been widely discussed, but the fact that it’s also her best album by a wide margin is also worthy of note.

Jonathan: First Lady Beysus is actively campaigning to win this award, and I think she deserves to win, based upon the middling competition. But veteran rock acts tend to do far better than R&B artists in this category, and Beck fits that bill this year for a sleepier version of his great Sea Change album.

Hozier Take Me to ChurchSong of the Year

Will Win:

  • “All About That Bass” – Kevin Kadish and Meghan Trainor
  • “Chandelier” – Sia Furler and Jesse Shatkin
  • “Shake it Off” – Max Martin, Shellback, and Taylor Swift
  •  “Stay With Me” (Darkchild Version) – James Napier, William Phillips, and Sam Smith – Kevin, Ben
  • “Take Me to Church” – Andrew Hozier-Byrne

Should Win:

  • “All About That Bass” – Kevin Kadish and Meghan Trainor
  • “Chandelier” – Sia Furler and Jesse Shatkin
  • “Shake it Off” – Max Martin, Shellback, and Taylor Swift
  •  “Stay With Me” (Darkchild Version) – James Napier, William Phillips, and Sam Smith
  • “Take Me to Church” – Andrew Hozier-Byrne – Kevin, Jonathan

Kevin:  “Take Me to Church” towers over the rest, making them all sound trivial in comparison.

Jonathan: Hozier’s song, which should have also been nominated for Record of the Year,  is far and away the most interesting nominee in terms of imagery and melody, while the nominations for “All About that Bass” and “Shake it Off” are just kind of appalling. Smith seems like the most likely winner, though I could also see Hozier pulling a Gotye-type win or could imagine that Sia might be recognized as a reliable, go-to hitmaker. I do wonder if Tom Petty’s copyright claim against Smith might come into play here.

Brandy Clark 2Best New Artist

Will Win:

  • Iggy Azalea
  • Bastille
  • Brandy Clark
  • Haim
  • Sam Smith – Kevin, Leeann, Jonathan, Ben

Should Win:

  • Iggy Azalea
  • Bastille
  • Brandy Clark – Kevin , Leeann, Jonathan, Ben
  • Haim
  • Sam Smith

Kevin:  They’ve probably already engraved Sam Smith’s name on this one for sheer efficiency’s sake.  But Brandy Clark’s the best singer-songwriter to come out of Nashville in recent memory, and I’m rooting for the home team.

Leeann: I wouldn’t normally even touch this category if not for Brandy Clark’s inclusion!

Jonathan: Hard to imagine a scenario in which Smith doesn’t win here, though I gladly throw my full support behind Clark. Haim, for what it’s worth, also released a terrific album and would be a deserving winner.

carrie-underwood-something-in-the-waterBest Country Solo Performance

Will Win:

  • Eric Church, “Give Me Back My Hometown”
  • Hunter Hayes, “Invisible”
  • Miranda Lambert, “Automatic”
  • Carrie Underwood, “Something in the Water” – Kevin, , Leeann, Jonathan, Ben
  • Keith Urban, “Cop Car”

Should Win:

  • Eric Church, “Give Me Back My Hometown” – Jonathan
  • Hunter Hayes, “Invisible”
  • Miranda Lambert, “Automatic”
  • Carrie Underwood, “Something in the Water” – Kevin, Leeann, Ben
  • Keith Urban, “Cop Car”

Kevin:  I keep expecting Miranda Lambert to dominate at the Grammys, but that never seems to materialize.  Underwood is the only nominee who’s won since this became a category, and I think that her popularity with NARAS, some crossover votes from the Christian music scene, and, more than anything else, her fiery performance will result in a victory.

Jonathan: NARAS’ adoption of Hayes as their latest “pet” artist is just baffling: Yes, he’s a talented instrumentalist, but singing and songwriting are not among his strengths. But he’s up against an even bigger Grammy favorite in Underwood: If she could win for “Last Name,” there’s no reason to think she won’t win for “Something in the Water.” I would have swapped tracks from Best Country Album nominees Brandy Clark, Dierks Bentley, and Lee Ann Womack for any of these five, and Church is really the only one I could stomach winning for what they’re nominated for in this disappointing line-up.

Leeann: I don’t think this is the strongest set of nominees, but out of the five, “Something in the Water” is the most powerful song, though my personal preference is “Give Me Back My Hometown.”

The Band Perry Gentle on My MindBest Country Duo/Group Performance

Will Win:

  • The Band Perry, “Gentle on My Mind”
  • Miranda Lambert with Carrie Underwood, “Somethin’ Bad” – Leeann
  • Little Big Town, “Day Drinking” – Kevin, Ben
  • Tim McGraw with Faith Hill, “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” – Jonathan
  • Keith Urban with Eric Church, “Raise ‘Em Up”

Should Win:

  • The Band Perry, “Gentle on My Mind” – Jonathan, Ben
  • Miranda Lambert with Carrie Underwood, “Somethin’ Bad”
  • Little Big Town, “Day Drinking”
  • Tim McGraw with Faith Hill, “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” – Kevin, Leeann
  • Keith Urban with Eric Church, “Raise ‘Em Up”

Kevin: In the three previous years where solo artist collaborations have been lumped together with actual duo/group performances, it’s been won by an actual duo or group all three times: The Civil Wars twice, and Little Big Town once.  It really is apples and oranges, but my heart is with that McGraw and Hill track, and I just can’t root against it.

Leeann: I can’t shake the notion that the powerhouse duo of Carrie and Miranda could take this, but I’m hoping for the best performance to win.

Jonathan: Another weak line-up here. Consensus seems to have settled on the correct notion that “Somethin’ Bad” is, at best, a squandered opportunity, and the Urban and Church duet has only recently been tagged as a proper single, so it’s likely the least familiar of the nominees. The Band Perry’s cover of “Gentle On My Mind” is understated and lovely and would get my vote, but there’s another category where nostalgia for Glen Campbell can be recognized. That leaves Little Big Town’s “Pontoon” redux to square off against the McGraw-Hill hit; though it barely registers as a collaboration, I’m betting that the star power on “Meanwhile, Back at Mama’s” gives it the slight edge.

glencampbellBest Country Song

Will Win:

  • “American Kids” – Rodney Clawson, Luke Laird and Shane McAnally
  • “Automatic” – Nicolle Galyon, Natalie Hemby, and Miranda Lambert
  • “Give Me Back My Hometown” – Eric Church and Luke Laird
  • “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” – Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond – Kevin, Leeann, Jonathan, Ben
  • “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” – Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston and Jeffrey Steele

 

Should Win:

  • “American Kids” – Rodney Clawson, Luke Laird and Shane McAnally
  • “Automatic” – Nicolle Galyon, Natalie Hemby, and Miranda Lambert
  • “Give Me Back My Hometown” – Eric Church and Luke Laird
  • “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” – Glen Campbell and Julian Raymond – Kevin, Leeann
  • “Meanwhile Back at Mama’s” – Tom Douglas, Jaren Johnston and Jeffrey Steele

Kevin:  If anybody but Glen Campbell wins this, they should sheepishly accept and then mail him their trophies.

Leeann: I don’t see how anyone other than Campbell will win this.

Jonathan: The best of these five songs could be described as “middling,” while the remainder are all varying degrees of problematic, poorly executed, or both. But, considering some of the other songs that could have been nominated here, I suppose this could have been worse. I find the Campbell song to be mawkish and borderline exploitative, but it’s also up for an Oscar, so it’s likely to win here. It’s possible that Lambert or Church will run the table on the Country field, and it wouldn’t be terribly surprising were either of their songs to win, though both artists have a host of far superior songs in their respective catalogues.

Miranda Lambert PlatinumBest Country Album

Will Win:

  • Dierks Bentley, Riser
  • Eric Church, The Outsiders
  • Brandy Clark, 12 Stories
  • Miranda Lambert, PlatinumKevin, Leeann, Jonathan
  • Lee Ann Womack, The Way I’m Livin’

Should Win:

  • Dierks Bentley, Riser
  • Eric Church, The Outsiders
  • Brandy Clark, 12 StoriesKevin, Leeann, Ben
  • Miranda Lambert, Platinum – Jonathan
  • Lee Ann Womack, The Way I’m Livin’

Kevin:  This is the best slate of nominees this category has seen in many years, and it’s a credit to NARAS that even a lineup this good isn’t historically unprecedented.  Since the category returned twenty years ago(!), it’s usually been a strong balance between excellent commercial country and lesser-known critical favorites.  I’m giving Lambert the smallest of edges because she’s the one who has won a Grammy most recently.  Brandy Clark’s Best New Artist nod might help her out here, but I don’t even want to jinx it by predicting it.

Leeann: It’s an incredible category this year, but if I see Brandy Clark on a list, I all but forget about everyone else.

Jonathan: Now, this is more like it. This category is pretty well perfect, including three solid to exceptional mainstream albums that were deserving commercial hits and a couple of terrific lower-profile albums that absolutely belong in any conversation about the best of contemporary country. Any of the five would be a worthy and credible winner, and there’s an argument to be made for any of these albums actually pulling off the win.

The across-the-board support of the Lambert and Church albums in the Country field suggests that they’re the two front-runners. Grammy voters have passed over Lambert for both nominations and wins in this category before– those wins for Lady Antebellum are still indefensible– and I think that plays in her favor this year. Platinum may only be her second-or-third-best album, and Church seems like a real threat, but I’m giving the slight edge to Miranda, as this category’s recent history has favored women.

Ben: Brandy Clark would easily be my pick, but I could myself supporting any one of these nominees in a different lineup.

Best American Roots Performance

Rosanne Cash the River & the ThreadWill Win:

  • Gregg Allman and Taj Mahal, “Statesboro Blues”
  • Rosanne Cash, “A Feather’s Not a Bird”
  • Billy Childs with Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas, “And When I Die” – Jonathan
  • Keb’ Mo’ featuring the California Feetwarmers, “The Old Me Better”
  • Nickel Creek, “Destination”

Should Win:

  • Gregg Allman and Taj Mahal, “Statesboro Blues”
  • Rosanne Cash, “A Feather’s Not a Bird” – Jonathan
  • Billy Childs with Alison Krauss and Jerry Douglas, “And When I Die”
  • Keb’ Mo’ featuring the California Feetwarmers, “The Old Me Better”
  • Nickel Creek, “Destination”

Jonathan: You do not bet against Alison Krauss at the Grammys. Even if she’s nominated for the most obscure track in her category. Nickel Creek wouldn’t be a surprising or undeserving winner, but Cash, who has never been a Grammy favorite, would get my vote for the standout track from her latest album.

My Name is New YorkBest American Roots Song

Will Win:

  • “A Feather’s Not a Bird” – Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal
  • “Just So Much” – Jesse Winchester
  • “The New York Trains” – Woody Guthrie and Del McCoury – Jonathan
  • “Pretty Little One” – Steve Martin
  • “Terms of My Surrender” –  John Haitt

Should Win:

  • “A Feather’s Not a Bird” – Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal – Jonathan
  • “Just So Much” – Jesse Winchester
  • “The New York Trains” – Woody Guthrie and Del McCoury
  • “Pretty Little One” – Steve Martin
  • “Terms of My Surrender” –  John Haitt

Jonathan: I like John Hiatt and Steve Martin, but the Americana field at the Grammys rarely reflects the fact that there are artists under 50 who are doing great work, and this is a fairly ho-hum slate of nominees. Cash, again, would get my vote.

Sturgill Simpson Metamodern Sounds in Country MusicBest Americana Album

Will Win:

  • Rosanne Cash, The River & The Thread
  • John Haitt, Terms of My Surrender
  • Keb’ Mo’, Bluesamericana
  • Nickel Creek, A Dotted Line
  • Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music – Jonathan

Should Win:

  • Rosanne Cash, The River & The Thread
  • John Haitt, Terms of My Surrender
  • Keb’ Mo’, Bluesamericana
  • Nickel Creek, A Dotted Line
  • Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music – Jonathan

Jonathan: This is the second time in recent memory that an album with “Country Music” in its title has been shunted off to the Americana category, following Willie Nelson’s Country Music in 2011. Category fraud notwithstanding, Simpson has emerged as perhaps the unlikeliest of stars, and I believe his rapidly growing profile will carry him to a well-deserved win. As with Best Country Album, though, this is a terrific line-up– the kind in which no outcome would be shocking or undeserved.

Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill MonroeBest Bluegrass Album

Will Win:

 

  • The Earls of Leicester, The Earls of Leicester
  • Noam Pikelny, Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe
  • Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Cold Spell
  • Bryan Sutton, Into My Own
  • Rhonda Vincent, Only MeJonathan

Should Win:

  • The Earls of Leicester, The Earls of Leicester
  • Noam Pikelny, Noam Pikelny Plays Kenny Baker Plays Bill Monroe – Jonathan
  • Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Cold Spell
  • Bryan Sutton, Into My Own
  • Rhonda Vincent, Only Me 

Jonathan: Vincent has never been as big a favorite with Grammy voters as she has with Bluegrass fans, but she’s the biggest name nominated this year, and that’s often enough to win in this category. I’m a huge fan of Pikelny’s work: His album may be something of a stunt performance, but it’s one hell of a stunt that he nimbly and capably pulls off.

Old Crow Medicine Show RemedyBest Folk Album

Will Win:

  • Mike Auldridge, Jerry Douglas & Rob Ickes, Three Bells
  • Alice Gerrard, Follow the Music
  • Eliza Gilkyson, The Nocturne Diaries
  • Old Crow Medicine Show, Remedy
  • Jesse Winchester, A Reasonable Amount of TroubleJonathan

Should Win:

  • Mike Auldridge, Jerry Douglas & Rob Ickes, Three Bells
  • Alice Gerrard, Follow the Music
  • Eliza Gilkyson, The Nocturne Diaries
  • Old Crow Medicine Show, Remedy  – Jonathan
  • Jesse Winchester, A Reasonable Amount of Trouble

Jonathan: Winchester is the only nominee who turns up in any of the other Roots field categories, making the solid A Reasonable Amount of Trouble a reasonable choice for the winner. I’ll admit that I’m not familiar with the Auldridge, Gerrard, or Gilkyson sets, but I remain, as ever, in OCMS’ corner. Nobody does rambunctious better, and Remedy is close to their very best.

16 Comments

  1. I guess it’s no surprise that I’m rooting for Brandy Clark for Best New Artist and Best Country Album. 12 Stories should be album of the year. My favorite tracks are still “Hold My Hand” and “What Will Keep Me Out of Heaven”. They’re now in my top ten most frequently played songs on i-Tunes, followed not very far behind by “Just Like Him”.

    Maybe some readers are unaware of a few other songs she’s recorded besides the songs on 12 Stories. (Maybe there are a few i don’t know about.) There’s “I Cried” (solely written by BC), “His Hands”, a live duet with Jennifer Nettles, and “Love in the First Degree”, a duet with Wade Bowen on the Alabama tribute, High Cotton.

  2. I really don’t get “Shake It Off” being in Song of the Year. Voters know that is a writing award, right? “Take Me To Church” is definitely the best song in the line-up, and I can’t wait to hear Annie Lennox song it.

    I still don’t get the hype over Beyonce’s album, and with the lack of a real hit I feel like the hype has died down, actually. The unique release was the most interesting thing about the project. I’m still waiting for Beyonce to figure out how to write a melody, though since she usually just changes a word or two to snatch a writing credit, maybe it’s more that she doesn’t choose songs with a strong melody.

    Rihanna sounds horribly strained in her new song with Kanye, so I can only imagine how she’ll sound live. I may skip that one.

    In some of these predictions, why are there categories where people say who should or will win, but not the other (like Ben for Country Song)?

  3. I pick miranda or church to win for solo performance. I do not think this category is going to be as dominate for underwood now that it includes male and female. The fact that lambert and church have new critically acclaimed albums coupled with the fact underwood just won this award in 2013, i say miranda takes it this year, if not her, church. 2 women have already won here. Darius rucker won last year so i could see chuch winning to even out the genders. Church and lambert are being heavily promoted in the grammy tv commercials so i think one of them is definitely taking it.

  4. If anyone wins The solo performance other than Carrie then I hope it’s Eric Church. GMBMHT and SITW are the best songs on that list and Carrie’s vocal performance puts her on top. I do love Miranda Lambert and Platinum is such a good album but I don’t think I can stomach her winning at yet another award show when we all know how the ACM’s will go. Especially for the grossly over rated Automatic.

  5. A bit concern for ya’ll that you think All About That Bass is the most creative and interesting song nominated for Best Record. The lyrics are just that men like curvy women as if that is worthy validation. Plus the production is something that has been done so many times before too. If they felt they had to give it a really successful pop song they could have picked one of Pepper Ann’s at least.

    Rooting for I’m Not Gonna Miss You or Meanwhile Back At Mama’s for Best Song. I will be happy if anyone but Eric Church wins Solo Performance. Similarly I felt the same way last year when Darius Ruckers somehow won. Miranda Lambert for country album too. I was hoping it would have got a nominated for album of the year.

  6. Hunter,
    You have a right to be concerned for my pop sensibilities, because I really don’t have any. I feel like most pop music that I even like are guilty pleasures for me.:)

  7. @bob,
    The Grammys are so diverse that different writers have different levels of knowledge and familiarity, depending on the categories. Having Jonathan on staff allows for us to cover the American Roots categories in ways we otherwise couldn’t. I could’ve picked songs and albums that I like from those categories, but it wouldn’t be an informed choice, because I haven’t heard a lot of the nominees. We abstain when we can’t fairly evaluate.

    @ Hunter,
    I stand by my statement that “All About That Bass” is the most creative and interesting of the five nominees. Sure, there were songs not nominated that would have it pale in comparison by those standards, but we can only go by what’s nominated. That said, I still think “All about that bass, no treble” was a very creative way to make a body positive statement, and using acoustic and reggae elements together made for a fresh sound.

    I disagree that the song is just about men liking curvy women. The song became an anthem because it’s more about those women loving themselves the way they are. The rewards of the male gaze are secondary to the self-validation celebrated in the song. Given the eliminationist rhetoric embedded in most conversations about bigger people, “All About That Bass” is refreshingly radical in its message.

  8. Don’t forget…Carrie has already won in this category for “Blown Away”, and that was just a couple of years ago. I hope she wins tonight! :)

  9. I’m rooting for Sturgill even though he isn’t nominated in the country category. I’m excited for the Dwight Yoakam/Brandy Clark performance and for Juanes.

    That’s probably all I’m gonna watch. I’ll just find out who wins tomorrow on the internet.

  10. Carrie won Country Solo, The Band Perry won Country Duo/Group, and Glen Campbell won Country Song. So, Miranda and Eric are 0-for-3 so far. Country Album will be handed out on the big telecast.

  11. Kevin, I was referring to categories like Country Song where 4 writers participate in Will Win but only 2 participate in Should Win. I was NOT referring to categories like American Roots.

    In other news I like the doo wop influence in “All About That Bass,” and there is some fun creativity in the general message.

  12. Jonathan you do realize Roseanne Cash isn’t under 50, right? Anyway, she just won both American Roots categories so you should be happy.

  13. @Jess

    No need to be snide, and yes, I know Cash will be 60 this year. My point was that the American Roots field has almost exclusively skewed toward nominations for veteran artists– some of whom, like Cash, are doing brilliant work and some of whom aren’t necessarily at their creative peaks– at the expense of younger artists like Jason Isbell, Shovels & Rope, The Carolina Chocolate Drops, and Lydia Loveless who would all be worthy of the recognition.

    And yes, I’m happy to see Cash’s sweep of her categories! Even though I preferred Sturgill Simpson’s album, I had Cash as my #5 album on our year-end list, and she makes for a well-deserved winner.

    From before: I didn’t pick a “Should Win” for Best Country Song because I honestly didn’t think any of those five songs deserved an award for songwriting. That’s not terribly unusual– if you check our CMA / ACM predictions & picks pieces from the past several years, almost no one picks a “Should Win” for the Vocal Duo category. For whatever reason, it looks like I simply forgot to enter my name next to Sam Smith in the “Will Win” section for Song of the Year, but I think my comment made it clear enough that he was my bet for that category.

  14. I felt Cash’s album should have nominated and won in the main Album of The Year category. It simply blew away any of the actual nominees in the category

    I’m not a big Roseanne Cash fan, but this was her best album

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