Winning Album of the Year at the Grammys is an impressive feat. It takes just the right mixture of commercial success, critical acclaim and momentum. But it is even harder to be a repeat winner of the most prestigious prize in music. Only four acts have ever won more than once as a lead artist: Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon and U2 (other artists have won more than once under different names/bands or as a featured artist). It has been 10 years since Bono & co. picked up their second AOTY trophy, but it may not be too long until we see another winner join the two-timers club.
Contrary to the Album of the Year winners of the 1990s and 2000s, the last handful of champions has been young, hip and smack dab in the middle of their commercial and artistic prime (Beck‘s recent win for Morning Phase being the arguable exception). While NARAS spent the previous two decades using the top prize as a lifetime achievement award (see: Tony Bennett, Bob Dylan, Steely Dan, Ray Charles, Herbie Hancock, etc.), the focus has shifted to shining the spotlight on acts that are driving the music industry forward.
Whether you agree or disagree on the particular winners of the last six years (and trust me, I disagree more often than not), at least they have been representative of what is relevant in the 2010s: the indie-pop-folk boom (Mumford & Sons), the return of more natural and vulnerable pop music (Adele) following a few years of endless Gaga-wannabes, a resurgence of funk and disco (Daft Punk) and the slow-but-steady infiltration of indie into the mainstream landscape (Arcade Fire). And we can’t forget the biggest pop star on the planet, the queen of Billboard, Taylor Swift.
For better or worse, rewarding artists at the top of their games means it is likely they will be back up on the Grammy stage as they continue to orbit the zeitgeist. Some of the aforementioned artists have already released highly successful follow-ups and others have hugely anticipated albums hopefully coming in the next year (though at this rate, Adele’s third album will be called 33).
As I discussed in my rundown of Album of the Year contenders, Swift is first in line to repeat. Her fifth album, 1989, is eligible for next year’s ceremony and it is an easy frontrunner. It was instantly a commercial blockbuster and critical darling and while it’s early release date doesn’t necessarily help matters, the album has longevity on its side, still in the Top 10 and ready to pump out its fourth single in the next month or so.
Mumford & Sons will also have a horse in this year’s race. Their third album, Wilder Mind is due out in just a couple of weeks. The first two singles have caught on quickly at Alternative radio all signs (“SNL,” a new Grammy-friendly sound, their name being Mumford & Sons) point to the album being another huge success.
Adele’s long-awaited follow-up to 21 is reportedly still in the works. After a not-so-cryptic tweet last spring, there was speculation that 25 would be out by the end of 2014 but recent reports indicate that it be a little while longer until we get her next album. During the 21 era, Adele was nominated for seven Grammy awards…and she won them all: Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Best Pop Solo Performance (twice), Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Short Form Music Video. She has voters under her spell and will be an immediate threat to win Album of the Year once she puts out some new music.
In 2013, Arcade Fire released Reflektor, the follow-up to their AOTY winner, The Suburbs. They nabbed a nomination for Best Alternative Music Album but were left out of the general field completely. It would likely take a dramatic musical reinvention or a truly breakthrough pop moment to get Arcade Fire recognized again in the top category.
Perhaps the least likely repeat winner of the recent champs is Daft Punk. They took home the top prize for their 2013 release, Random Access Memories. This was their first studio album in eight years so we probably shouldn’t hold our breath for an immediate follow-up from the elusive robots. The RAM era felt like such a triumphant comeback for the electronic duo with their Grammy wins serving as a final victory lap. I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next but as non-traditional AOTY winners (Daft Punk was the first electronic artist to win Album of the Year) who take their time with each album cycle, I am hesitant to predict they will remain unbeatable Grammy darlings.
Who do you think is most likely to win a second Album of the Year trophy? Or will the Grammys continue to spread the wealth on newcomers and/or “overdue” acts? Vote in our new poll and then sound off in the comments section below.