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), Lady Gaga (“The Fame Monster,” 2010) and Sam Smith (“In the Lonely Hour,” 2014). All were nominated for Album of the Year. Other artists in recent years have won both awards, like Norah Jones (“Come Away with Me,” 2002), Ray Charles (“Genius Loves Company,” 2004) and Adele (“21,” 2011).
But there have been significant anomalies. In 2013, 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. That opened the door for Bruno Mars to prevail for “Unorthodox Jukebox.”
In 2012, 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.
So the rest of this year’s field should watch out because Clarkson is back with a nomination for her seventh studio album, “Piece By Piece.” Can the powerhouse vocalist pull off another upset against an Album of the Year contender?
This year there is just one Album of the Year nominee in the running for Best Pop Album: “1989” by Taylor Swift. History points to a likely win for her, but sporadic upsets over the years — from Clarkson in particular — mean she shouldn’t be overconfident.
This is Swift’s first nomination in this category because it’s her first strictly pop album. She previously earned three nominations for Best Country Album: “Fearless” (2009), “Speak Now” (2011) and “Red” (2013). She won that award for “Fearless,” which also prevailed as Album of the Year.
Besides Clarkson, there are two other past winners for Best Pop Album in contention. Veteran James Taylor is nominated for “Before This World,” his 17th studio album. But despite a long an illustrious career, Taylor has only won this award once before, for “Hourglass” in 1997.
The other past winner is Mark Ronson, who now contends for “Uptown Special,” but his last victory in this race wasn’t as an artist. Instead, he won as a producer of Amy Winehouse‘s “Back to Black” in 2007.
Florence and the Machine round out the category with “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.” They’re the only nominee who have never won a Grammy, though they were nominated in this category for “Ceremonials” in 2012. This year they’re up for four awards overall, which makes them the second most nominated artist in this category behind Swift, who has seven.
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Kelly Clarkson photo credit: Steve Meddle/ITV/REX
Taylor Swift photo credit: REX