Category Archives: Grammys

Grammy Awards Change Eligibility Period

grammyThe Grammy Awards have made a few changes for 2010’s ceremony. First, the awards show will move to the last week of January, a full week earlier than it has aired in previous years. Second, the eligibility period has changed: Releases must street by August 31 of the previous year to be nominated, a full month earlier than the previous September 30 cut-off.

Thankfully, the eligibility period for the 2010 ceremony will begin on October 1, 2008, so there won’t be the embarrassment of work from September 2008 being nominated again. The CMA moved up their eligibility period by a full month in 1995, but allowed June 1994 releases to compete for a second time. The end result was two consecutive nominations for Album of the Year for Alan Jackson’s Who I Am.

An interview with NARAS head Neil Portnow is quite illuminating, revealing all of the moving parts of this new decision. Still, reaction has been negative in some quarters, as there’s a feeling that this will make the ceremony seem more dated and less relevant, and there is confusion as to why they would make a change that excludes fourth quarter releases completely.

Personally, I disagree. I think that the Grammys are better off having a longer time to consider the quality of those fourth-quarter releases. That way, there won’t be a rush to nominate something that has a lot of hype surrounding it at the time, and  a worthy album that is overshadowed by high-profile releases from the fourth quarter is less likely to get lost in the shuffle.

What do you think?


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Grammy Musings From the West Coast

grammys1As soon as tonight’s awesome Country Universe Live Blog finished, I had the opportunity to watch the Grammy Awards (which were recorded on my DVR – the best and only way to really watch an awards show) out here on the West Coast. Since I couldn’t comment on the country performances earlier, here are a few random musings:

Carrie Underwood (“Last Name”): Thanks to the song and the outfit, I’ve read it a lot in the last few hours: What happened to little miss “Jesus Take The Wheel?” The answer to that question is front and center in the primer on how to turn an American Idol into a country music star, so I’ll just leave you with a tip: If you’ve ever wondered what the Underwood concert experience is like, take her ’09 Grammy Awards performance, multiply it by 14 (or however many songs she sings, minus the first verse of JTTW) and you have it in a nutshell. Loud and rockin’, with tiny nearly non-existent flourishes of country, a powerful overwrought vocal straining, but ultimately failing, to overcome the band, and virtually incomprehensible lyrics. 

Taylor Swift/Miley Cyrus (“Fifteen”): I must say that Taylor Swift’s best performances occur when she is seated. Anyone else notice that? Truthfully, I don’t have the heart to trash her vocal tonight (I’d reserve that for Miley if she were a country singer. My ears are still bleeding!). But, if you are over a certain age, you know what I’m talking about. My only question is: Will that ever change? Probably not. Therefore, when her audience grows up, and her songwriting grows up, what is going to happen to Swift? Will her audience stick with her and continue not to care about her horrible vocals? Or, like my generation, will they graduate to classic acts and more talented newcomers?

Kenny Chesney (“Better As A Memory”): Sweet intro by Morgan Freeman. I’m neither here nor there about Kenny Chesney’s performance. Nicely understated. Solid vocals for Chesney. However, the song does nothing for me, and I’m not sure it did anything for those seated in the audience or those watching from home either.

Sugarland (“Stay”): Jennifer Nettles can S I N G. The facial gestures and the accent aside, she knocked it out of the park. Unlike Chesney, there are more than a few people in the audience and at home wondering why they don’t own a Sugarland album. That’s how you earn a Grammy and how you sell albums and concert tickets. And that’s from someone who doesn’t even like this song … or Sugarland, to be honest.

Alison Krauss and Robert Plant (Medley): When I get the volume on my television fixed, I’ll get back to you on this performance. Both artists sounded like they were singing underwater. Maybe I’m just going deaf, but I could barely hear them. However, I did enjoy this superficial observation from EW’s live Grammys blog: “I like that Krauss has her own gentle-wind machine, which fails to rustle nary a curl on Plant.” So true.

What did you think of the country performances on tonight’s Grammy Awards?


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Grammy Live Blog

grammys211:28 Kevin: Goodnight all. See ya at the ACM Live Blog!

11:26 Dan: You know what is a surprise? Krauss and Plant both giving completely lucid-sounding speeches. Love ‘em both, but those are two of the loopiest public speakers I’ve ever heard.

11:25 Kevin: So Alison Krauss now has 26 Grammy awards, and has been thanked by Robert Plant for teaching him how to sing better. Wow.

11:24 Album of the Year: Raising Sand, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss. Woah, no way.

11:23 Kevin: I want the new Green Day album more than anything else in 2009.

11:21 Kevin: Fun Fact – Robert Plant turned down millions of dollars to do a Led Zeppelin reunion tour because he wanted to tour with Alison instead.  I wonder if Zed Heads have taken to calling her Yoko?

11:22 Dan: Ah yes, the hand-clap section of the song.

11:20 Kevin: Hey, T-Bone. How about you don’t play the guitar so loud?

11:20 Dan: Awww yeah, “Gone Gone Gone”! But it feels unnaturally fast.

11:19 Kevin: I’m trying to remember when Alison Krauss became gorgeous. Lonely Runs Both Ways?

11:19 Dan: Plant & Krauss doing “Rich Woman.” Groovy stuff.

11:18 Dan: The guys in my room just said some unrepeatable things about Zooey Deschanel.

11:14 Kevin: Can they just toss Plant and Krauss the Album Grammy while they sing? I want to go to bed.

11:12 Dan: I’m with Kevin on that one, though Nettles’ was good stuff, too.

11:11 Kevin: I think Lil Wayne just gave my favorite acceptance speech of the night. Short but sweet.

11:10 Best Rap Album: Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne. As it should be.

11:10 Kevin: Apparently Obama was elected president. Who knew?

11:06 Dan: This is why I like the Grammys: amid all the Katy Perry fruit-dancing, you can still find some real soul in the final stretch. This fusion of rap and jazz feels so organic; what a wonderful tribute to the city.

11:02 Dan: New Orleans tribute with Lil Wayne and Robin Thicke, both of whom I quite like. Cool.

11:00 Dan: My Blink 182-loving roommate is already re-watching the clip of them presenting that award on YouTube. Crazy.

10:56 Kevin: Random Keith Urban is always welcome.

10:56 Dan: Alright, that was pretty cool. Some nice soloing there.

10:55 Dan: Bo Diddley tribute. Keith Urban, John Mayer, and…is that Buddy Guy?

10:54 Dan: Ooo, and Delaney Bramlett!

10:53 Kevin: I really wish they would add an “In Memoriam” to the CMA Awards.

10:52 Dan: In Memoriam. Really cool clips of Jerry Reed, Eddy Arnold and Eartha Kit so far.

10:51 Kevin: Neil Diamond is one of the all-time greats.  Love that song, too.

10:50 Dan: Is it just me, or is no one excited about this performance? It’s kind of like Macca doing a Beatles song earlier. We know it already, man.

10:48 Dan: Neil Diamond. Really can’t decide how I feel about him.

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Grammy Pre-Show Live Blog


The following categories are being announced on the Grammy pre-show.  Winners will be posted as they are announced.

Best Southern, Country, or Bluegrass Gospel Album: Gaither Vocal Band, Lovin’ Life

Best Traditional Folk Album: Pete Seeger, At 89

Best Contemporary Folk Album: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Raising Sand

Best Female Country Vocal Performance: Carrie Underwood, “Last Name”

Best Male Country Vocal Performance: Brad Paisley, “Letter to Me”

Best Country Collaboration with Vocals: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, “Killing the Blues”

Best Country Instrumental Performance: Brad Paisley, Vince Gill, Steve Wariner, etc. “Cluster Pluck”

Best Bluegrass Album: Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder, Honoring the Fathers of Bluegrass

Best Country Song: Jennifer Nettles, “Stay”

Best Country Album: George Strait, Troubadour


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2009 Grammy Wish List

For the third year in a row, I’m sharing my personal Grammy Wish List.

2007 was a good year, with my preferences winning in 15 of the 22 categories  I cared about – a 68% success rate.

2008 was less pleasing.  There were only 14 races that interested me last year, and my favorites triumphed in just 4 of them – a 29% success rate.

This year, my wish list features 17 categories.  I’ve voiced opinions on many races in other threads, but these are the ones that I truly care about this year.  I’ll keep a running tally in our annual live blog on Sunday night.

Check out the full list of nominees and add your own wish list in the comments!

Record of the Year: M.I.A., “Paper Planes”

I’ve been waiting a long time for this type of sound to break through into mainstream pop music. My first school community had a large Hindu population, and some of my students had exposed me to the style that is featured on this record. Good stuff.

Album of the Year: Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, Raising Sand

I love the mood of this album. I can put it on and get lost in the grooves.

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance: Pink, “So What”

She’s one of the best pop singers of her generation, so I’m glad to see that Pink is being embraced by radio and record buyers again.  She really should have won this award for “Who Knew,” which missed its chance because of it becoming a hit on its second try. “So What” is nearly as good.

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance: Jason Mraz, “I’m Yours”

A friend of mine made a convincing comparison between Eminem and Jason Mraz in terms of lyrical creativity. I love the idiosyncratic vocal patterns on this.

Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals: Madonna featuring Justin Timberlake and Timbaland, “4 Minutes”

Three artists with very different styles come together for a record that is cohesive without sacrificing any of their signature sounds. I doubt they’ll beat Plant & Krauss, though.

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The 51st Annual Grammy Awards: The Big Four (Staff Favorites)

The fourth and final installment in our Grammy series, staff favorites for the Big Four categories. Check back for our live blog of the Grammy Awards tomorrow!

Record Of The Year

  • “Chasing Pavements,” Adele
  • “Viva La Vida,” Coldplay  (Blake, Lynn)
  • “Bleeding Love,” Leona Lewis
  • “Paper Planes,” M.I.A.  (Dan, Kevin)
  • “Please Read The Letter,” Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

Blake: Coldplay’s anthemic rock ballad just feels like the most important record of the year.  A pure atmospheric wonder, “Viva” is a string-laden symphony that ponders the fear of power, paranoia and eternal purgatory. Here, Chris Martin sings about being king, one with a self-doubting streak. For four intensely brilliant (but confusing) minutes,  he wears the crown well.

Dan: I think these are all pretty exemplary records – even “Bleeding Love” is a cut above a lot of radio pop, and it’s easily the weakest thing here. I’m really tempted to pick Adele’s big inner-conflict number; it has a classic quality to it, and her performance is phenomenal. But I have to give my support to M.I.A.’s weirdly brilliant satire of immigrant stereotypes – there’s just nothing else like it out there.

Kevin: M.I.A. turned in the most wildly entertaining and intellectually challenging hit this year.

Lynn: I’m definitely not a huge Coldplay fan (I believe the operative word I used in the past was b.o.r.i.n.g.), but even I found “Viva La Vida” nearly irresistible this year.

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The 51st Annual Grammy Awards: The Big Four (Staff Predictions)

We continue Grammy week coverage with our predictions on the General Field categories for this year’s ceremony.

Record Of The Year

  • “Chasing Pavements,” Adele
  • “Viva La Vida,” Coldplay   (Blake, Lynn)
  • “Bleeding Love,” Leona Lewis
  • “Paper Planes,” M.I.A.
  • “Please Read The Letter,” Robert Plant & Alison Krauss  (Dan, Kevin)
Blake: In recent history, Record of the Year (and its close cousin, Song of the Year) rewards diva-tude (Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Amy Winehouse) or dead dudes (Warren Zevon, Ray Charles) on the tote board. This year, the only nominee in that equation is Simon Cowell prodigy (and Mariah Carey incarnate), Leona Lewis.  Her ubiquitous “Bleeding Love” dominated VH1 all year, but if “We Belong Together” and “Be Without You” launched unsuccessful bids, Lewis’ chances are next-to-nil.  Pineapple Express anthem “Planes” is too trigger-happy for Grammy voters. This comes down to veteran British forever rock god (Plant) and British wannabe rock god (Chris Martin), with Apple’s daddy the slight fave.

Dan: I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see “Viva La Vida” triumph, but something tells me the older voters will squeak Plant & Krauss to a win here. Coldplay took this award home for “Clocks” when theirs was the tamest song in the category, but now P&K have that distinction.

Kevin: I have serious trouble betting against a Grammy favorite and an overdue legend.  I think that Plant and Krauss will sweep all of their categories.

Lynn: I will be shocked if “Viva La Vida” does not win this category. I haven’t encountered such a universally loved/admired song in a long time.

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The 51st Annual Grammy Awards: Keeping It Country (Staff Favorites)

The second article in our Grammy Awards series, our personal favorites in the country categories at this year’s ceremony.

trisha1Best Country Album

  • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song
  • Patty Loveless, Sleepless Nights  (Blake, Leeann)
  • George Strait, Troubadour
  • Randy Travis, Around the Bend
  • Trisha Yearwood, Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love  (Dan, Kevin, Lynn)

Blake: Strait’s collection is a mixed bag of middlebrow art with the occasional glimpse at his right-as-rain Texas style. Excepting Troubadour, these discs are highwater marks for the genre. Johnson and Loveless finished one-two on my 2008 list, but I’ll root for Loveless to win a long-awaited solo Grammy.

Dan: I actually think Johnson made the best album, but Yearwood’s is my second-favorite, and she’s long overdue.

Kevin: It’s a strong field overall, but Yearwood’s album is the most cohesive. She’s the greatest female album artist since Emmylou Harris, yet she’s never won an album award. It’s time.

Leeann: My choice is Patty Loveless’ album, though Trisha Yearwood’s is a very close second. While Loveless’ is an album of covers, it’s the one I find myself putting in without skipping a track more than Yearwood’s. I really would be happy for either choice, however.

Lynn: Loveless put together my favorite album as a whole, but Yearwood is long overdue and her wonderful album was shamefully ignored. I hope she wins.

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The 51st Annual Grammy Awards: Keeping It Country (Staff Predictions)

In a nod towards diversity, the General Field nominees for the 51st annual Grammy Awards include a shepherd’s pie of musical genres, with Brit soul ingenues (Adele, Duffy) against American pop trios (Jonas Bros., Lady A), Brit pop bands (Coldplay, Radiohead) against American rappers (Ne-Yo, Lil’ Wayne), all with a Brit rock legend (Robert Plant) lording over them. While it’s hard to argue the breadth of recent nominees in these categories, their depth is always up for discussion (see: Herbie Hancock, 2008 Album of the Year; Ray Charles, 2005 Record of the Year).

The country field is filled with critical faves. George Strait enjoys the strongest across-the-board success in his estimable career, newcomer Jamey Johnson is lauded for his neo-outlaw soul, and Randy Travis, Patty Loveless and Trisha Yearwood continue Grammy’s trend of nominating veterans alongside newer artists.

The staff of Country Universe have chosen their personal favorites and predictions for this year’s Grammy ceremony. First up on the docket: our predictions in the country categories.

Best Country Album

  • Jamey Johnson, That Lonesome Song (Blake, Leeann, Lynn)
  • Patty Loveless, Sleepless Nights
  • George Strait, Troubadour  (Dan, Kevin)
  • Randy Travis, Around the Bend
  • Trisha Yearwood, Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love

Blake: Is Jamey Johnson the savior of modern-day country music? I think by placing his name next to four of the format’s legends, the Grammy voters have already voiced their opinion on the matter. The vociferous critical support surrounding this release suggests that Johnson will surpass the veterans in this race.

Dan: I was totally thinking Johnson until just this morning, but I’m having last-minute doubts about his widespread support – he’s still very new to lots of voters, and I’m not confident that his hype will be sufficient to summon confidence from everyone voting in this category. So I’m siding with Kevin’s prediction on Strait.

Kevin: The only proven vote-getter here is Randy Travis, but I’m doubtful that he’ll be able to triumph with Johnson and Loveless garnering so many of the traditionalist’s votes. Grammy loves its women, which could give Yearwood and Loveless an advantage, but I’m not sure there’s a clear favorite between them. I’m going to go out on a limb and predict George Strait. He’s long overdue for a Grammy, and he has the most commercially successful album of the five. With three of the album’s songs represented in other categories (“Troubadour”, “I Saw God Today, “House of Cash”), this might be his year.

Leeann: I really think Johnson will grab this one. The critics love him and he’s had the most hype in the last year.

Lynn: I agree this will be a tough one for Grammy voters. Yearwood and Loveless both have the sheer talent Grammy voters appreciate and they produced quality albums. However, I think the voters’ penchant and love for multi-talented newcomers with musical integrity will give Johnson his first Grammy.

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Grammy Flashback: Best Female Country Vocal Performance

Revised and Updated for 2009

While the Grammys have honored country music from the very first ceremony in 1959, they did not begin honoring by gender until 1965, when the country categories were expanded along with the other genre categories.

This is a look back at the Best Female Country Vocal Performance category. It was first awarded in 1965, an included single competing with albums until the Best Country Album category was added in 1995. When an album is nominated, it is in italics, and a single track is in quotation marks.

I’ve often made the case that female artists were making the best music in the 1990s, and the Grammys did a great job nominating songs and albums that were ignored at the CMA and ACM awards, which is not surprising, given that those shows have so few categories that are actually for songs and albums.

As usual, we start with a look at this year’s nominees and work our way back.


  • Martina McBride, “For These Times”
  • LeAnn Rimes, “What I Cannot Change”
  • Carrie Underwood, “Last Name”
  • Lee Ann Womack, “Last Call”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “This is Me You’re Talking To”

This year’s lineup includes three former winners and two women looking for their first victory in this category. Martina McBride is in the running for the eighth time in fifteen years, and with one of her more understated performances. Lee Ann Womack returns for a fifth time, having received a nomination for the lead single of her five most recent albums. Both ladies turned in good performances here, but they’ve been overlooked for records bigger and better, so they’re not likely to snap their losing streaks this time around.

As for the previous winners, LeAnn Rimes earned her third consecutive nod, bringing her total to five in this category. She hasn’t won since 1997, when she took home the award for “Blue.” If enough voters hear “What I Cannot Change,” she might have a shot, though the only version of the song that’s been a legitimate hit has been the dance remix.

Trisha Yearwood won in 1998 for “How Do I Live,” her only victory to date. But she’s earned her tenth nomination for “This is Me You’re Talking To,” which is arguably her strongest vocal performance of the ten. Like Rimes, the challenge is getting enough voters to listen to it, but she’s never been more deserving of the victory than she is this year.

Still, the favorite remains Carrie Underwood. She’s quickly become a favorite with Grammy voters, having won this category two years running, along with Best New Artist in 2007. She’s the nominee with the highest profile, and while “Last Name” is nowhere near the same league of “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and “Before He Cheats” in terms of artistry or impact, it was a big hit, something that the other four entries cannot claim.

If Underwood was nominated for “Just a Dream,” she’d have a mortal lock on this one. But the strength of the other nominees will at least keep this race competitive. If Underwood prevails, Grammy queen Alison Krauss better watch her back.


  • Alison Krauss, “Simple Love”
  • Miranda Lambert, “Famous in a Small Town”
  • LeAnn Rimes, “Nothin’ Better to Do”
  • Carrie Underwood, “Before He Cheats”
  • Trisha Yearwood, “Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love”

Looking at this lineup, you’d think that it was a golden age of female country artists, something akin to the mid-nineties. In reality, only one of these songs was a big radio hit, though three others managed to go top twenty. In terms of quality, however, this is the most consistent and thoroughly wonderful set of nominees this category has seen this century.  You’d have to go back to exactly 1999 to find a better lineup.

In a year when any winner would have been deserving, Underwood won for “Before He Cheats,” her second straight win for a signature mega-hit from her debut album.

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