None of this year's nominees for Best Rock Song, a songwriting award, are nominated for Song of the Year, so how do we determine who's out front? It's possible that nominations in other general field categories indicate strong support here, which would mean a duel between Alabama Shakes ("Don't Wanna Fight") and James Bay ("Hold Back the River").
Alabama Shakes compete for the Grammys' top prize, Album of the Year ("Sound and Color"). That didn't hurt recent winners of this award Foo Fighters ("Walk," 2011) and the Black Keys ("Lonely Boy," 2012), who were nominated in that top race and ended up winning Rock Performance as well as Rock Song.
But that doesn't make them a sure thing. Last year, Paramore won Best Rock Song for "Ain't It Fun" on their only nomination, defeating "Blue Moon" by Album of the Year champ Beck as well as Jack White's "Lazaretto," which ended up taking Best Rock Performance.
That could be good news for Bay; "Hold Back the River" isn't nominated in any other category, though Bay, who co-wrote the song with Iain Archer, is up for Best New Artist. But unfortunately for him, this category usually favors more established acts. The last time a Best New Artist contender won this prize was Alanis Morissette for "You Oughta Know" (1995).
However, there aren't any true veterans in this contest. The most established is Florence and the Machine, who themselves contended for Best New Artist just five years ago. They're nominated for "What Kind of Man," which is also up for Best Rock Performance. This is the group's best year yet at the Grammys, with four nominations including Best Pop Album for "How Big How Blue How Beautiful." But they have yet to win a Grammy in any category. "What Kind of Man" was written by lead singer Florence Welch along with John Hill and Tom Hull, all first-time nominees for this award.
Dave Bassett and Elle King are also first-timers, nominated for writing King's "Ex's and Oh's," which is also nominated for Best Rock Performance. King is a newcomer like Bay, but she wasn't nominated for Best New Artist, which may indicate more limited support for her overall. Also, no solo female artist has won this award since the aforementioned Morissette prevailed in 1998 for "Uninvited."
Also new to the rock scene are Highly Suspect, whose nominated song "Lydia" is their debut single from their debut album "Mister Asylum." Written by band members Richard Meyer, Ryan Meyer and Johnny Stevens, "Lydia" wasn't nominated in any other category, but "Asylum" did land a nomination for Best Rock Album, so the academy has shown fondness for the trio.
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Alabama Shakes photo credit: MediaPunch/REX