Because the Album of the Year Grammy honors the best achievements across all genres, it stands to reason that a contender in that race would always win its respective genre category, but that’s not always the case. Will this year’s Best Pop Vocal Album race end in another surprise?
Usually, if at least one pop album is nominated for Album of the Year, it wins Best Pop Vocal Album. Consider past victors of this category like Justin Timberlake (“Justified,” 2003), John Mayer (“Continuum,” 2006), Amy Winehouse (“Back to Black,” 2007), the Black Eyed Peas (“The E.N.D,” 2009), and Lady Gaga (“The Fame Monster,” 2010). All were nominated for Album of the Year. And two artists in the last decade have won both awards: Ray Charles (“Genius Loves Company,” 2004) and Adele (“21,” 2011).
But there have been significant anomalies. Last year, for instance, the only pop album nominated for Album of the Year was Sara Bareilles‘s “The Blessed Unrest,” which wasn’t even nominated for Best Pop Album, which opened the door for Bruno Mars to prevail for “Unorthodox Jukebox.”
The year before, Kelly Clarkson won for “Stronger” despite going up against Album of the Year-nominated “Some Nights” by Fun. Clarkson pulled off the same upset victory back in 2005, when her “Breakaway” won Pop Album against Album of the Year contender “Love. Angel. Music. Baby.” by Gwen Stefani.
This year, there are two Album of the Year nominees in the running for Best Pop Album: “X” by Ed Sheeran and “In the Lonely Hour” by Sam Smith. History indicates a likely win for one of those two, but sporadic upsets over the years mean neither should be overconfident.
Sheeran and Smith are new to the Pop Album race, as are most of the nominees. Ariana Grande (“My Everything“) is nominated for her first career Grammys; in addition to Pop Album, she’s also up for Pop Duo/Group for “Bang Bang.” Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus‘s Pop Album bid for “Bangerz” is her only nomination this year.
Coldplay is a first-time Pop Album nominee for “Ghost Stories,” but they’ve been nominated and won several times before in other genres. They competed three times for Best Rock Album, winning for “Viva La Vida, or Death and All His Friends” in 2008. And they won Best Alternative Album twice in a row, for “Parachutes” (2001) and “A Rush of Blood to the Head” (2002).
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