There isn’t much precedent to consider when predicting Best Rock Performance at the Grammys. The category has only existed in its current form since 2011. Before that, the Grammys divided rock performances between solo artists and duos/groups. And for several years, solo performances were further split between male and female artists. Since the categories were combined women haven’t fared very well, but that has changed in a big way this year.
Despite only four previous years of the consolidated Rock Performance category, there is a past champ in the mix: Foo Fighters, who won in 2011 for “Walk” and now contend for their song “Something from Nothing.” Before the categories were combined they earned three nominations Best Rock Duo/Group and won Best Rock Album a record four times, so we know the recording academy is fond of them. However, despite their dominant track record they underperformed in the nominations: they’re up for only two awards, and their album “Sonic Highways” was snubbed for Album of the Year and Best Rock Album.
But while the Foo Fighters slipped this year, Alabama Shakes and other female-led acts have risen. They’re nominated in this category and Best Rock Song for “Don’t Wanna Fight,” and their album “Sound and Color” is up for Album of the Year. This is their third bid in this category, and their nomination in the general field indicates strong support from the recording academy, though that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll automatically win here. Last year Beck won Album of the Year for “Morning Phase,” but lost this category to Jack White.
White was the first solo artist to win this award since the category was combined in 2011. Duos and groups usually dominate, and true to form there is only one solo artist nominated this year: Elle King for “Ex’s and Oh’s,” which also contends for Best Rock Song. “Ex’s and Oh’s” is the debut single for King, but despite her milestone nomination here — she’s the first solo woman to contend for this award — she was overlooked for Best New Artist.
Florence and the Machine are first-time nominees in this race for “What Kind of Man,” though they have had multiple nominations in the pop field. They have four nominations ain all this year, including Best Pop Album for “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.” They have yet to win a Grammy in any category.
With King and female-fronted bands Alabama Shakes, Florence and the Machine, and Wolf Alice in this mix, this category boasts a better-than-ever representation of woman rockers. In this lineup, only the Foo Fighters are exclusively male.
As yet no woman has won this award, and before this few had been nominated. The only women to compete in this contest in the last four years were Alabama Shakes lead singer Brittany Howard twice before and The Decemberists member Jenny Conlee in 2011.
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Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes photo credit: MediaPunch/REX
Elle King photo credit: Richard Isaac/REX
Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine photo credit: Roger Goodgroves/REX