At the Grammys, it seems as though there’s one every year. That one old fogie, errr … veteran act , who comes in and swipes major Grammy awards away from newer, hipper artists. Remember just two years ago when Herbie Hancock beat out Amy Winehouse for Album of the Year? Or 2009 when Robert Plant and Allison Krause prevailed in the top race over the likes of Coldplay and Lil Wayne?
Sometimes, to the bane of younger fans, the Grammys love to shower their top awards on veteran acts who have been in the industry for a while and made a quality album that particular year. Among those eligible for AARP memberships to win Album of the Year were Santana, Steely Dan, Bob Dylan and Ray Charles.
Who might the prime suspects be to do it this year? Both Santana and Hancock released albums before the cutoff date. But according to a recent Billboard article, music execs think another act that made a big impact in the industry can pull off the trick this year – Carole King and James Taylor.
In May, the pair released “Live at the Troubador,” a live album of a concert the two performed at the L.A. nightclub of the same name in 2007 that was the genesis for their “Troubador Reunion Tour” this spring and summer.
They fit the profile: They’re both well-respected veterans — both are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame — who put out a commercially successful and critically lauded album. Last year, many observers remarked that the Grammys seemed to be embracing acts who are commercially successful. Taylor, 62, and King, 68, have that covered.
Their album debuted at #4, spent a significant amount of time in the top 20, and has sold nearly 500,000 copies to date. Plus, their tour filled arenas, landed them on the cover of Billboard and was one of the top tours of the year, during a time when many other contemporary acts struggled to fill seats.
So what about their Grammy history? Taylor has never prevailed in the General Field (he was nominated for Album of the Year in 1971 and 1978) but has won 5 Grammys in his career, the most recent in 2003. He was also the MusiCares person of the year in 2006, an honor established by the Grammys. This could also be a chance for the Grammys to acknowledge Taylor’s career with the top prize.
King meanwhile, won four Grammys, all in 1972, when she swept the General Field and claimed Pop Female Vocal for her iconic album “Tapestry.” Both seem to be overdue for an outpouring of Grammy love.Even though King has been awarded Grammy’s top prizes, voters’ memories may not stretch that far back. (Krause was part of the 2002 Album of the Year team for her work on the “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” and had collected two dozen other Grammys.)
Eminem is also considered a likely nominee for AOTY, but he’s lost twice and voters, who may be turned off by his controversial image, could turn out in droves for the more conservative choice of King and Taylor. Same goes for Lady Gaga should she be nominated.
Also expect King and Taylor to make noise in the pop field, where they each submitted individual vocal performances from the album, along with their collaboration of “You’ve Got a Friend.” In that field, they’ll likely find themselves pitted against Lady Gaga.
The album itself is essentially the pair’s greatest hits performed live. If voters recall that they awarded King for essentially singing the same songs 38 years ago, they may choose another act. And the last time a live album won the award was 1995, when Tony Bennett won for his “MTV Unplugged” album. No live album has been nominated since. But if King and Taylor can break that streak, don’t be surprised to see them walk up on the stage to close the awards in February.
Fun Fact: King remains the only artist to win both Record and Song of the Year in the same year for different songs. In 1972, she won Record for “It’s Too Late” and Song (a songwriter’s award) for “You’ve Got a Friend,” which Taylor turned into a #1 hit. Many have won both categories for just one song and others have been nominated in both categories for separate songs, like Beyonce last year, but King is the only one who’s pulled off both wins in the same year for different songs.
Image: “Live at the Troubador” album cover (Hear Music)