One of the biggest surprises on Grammy nominations morning was the poor showing for alternative artists in the general field. David Bowie was denied a posthumous nomination for Album of the Year for “Blackstar,” which was released last January, just two days before his death at age 69. And fellow Brits Radiohead also failed to make the list for their latest acclaimed effort, “A Moon Shaped Pool.” But they’re both nominated for Best Alternative Album. Will one of them win?
When predicting who will win in the genre fields at the Grammys, we usually look to the general field for evidence of strong support, like last year when Alabama Shakes earned an Album of the Year nom for “Sound and Color” and won Best Alternative Album as a consolation prize before Taylor Swift (“1989”) won the top award. But there is no overlap between the general field and the alternative category this year, so how to determine the frontrunner?
Certainly Bowie and Radiohead are the highest profile nominees. Bowie also has the benefit of the most nominations of any artist in this category; he’s up for four awards, including Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song for the title track from “Blackstar” and Best Engineered Album. “Blackstar” is also nominated for Best Recording Package; Bowie isn’t credited as an art director, but the album’s nomination there nevertheless demonstrates its broad popularity within the recording academy.
Radiohead have only one other nomination this year, Best Rock Song for “Burn the Witch,” which may indicate weaker support from the academy, but they have been shown tremendous support in this category over the years. They’re the most awarded artist with three previous wins — “OK Computer” (1997), “Kid A” (2000), “In Rainbows” (2008) — out of their seven past nominations. But it’s important to note that all of those wins were for albums that were also up for Album of the Year. Every time they’ve been snubbed in the top race, they’ve lost this one.
Bowie and Radiohead certainly aren’t the only plausible contenders in this race. There’s another past winner in the running: Bon Iver, who won for “Bon Iver, Bon Iver” in 2011, the year they also broke through with a victory for Best New Artist. They’re back with their followup, “22, A Million,” which is a strikingly different album but no less accomplished according to critics. But the album’s only other nomination is Best Recording Package, so they may be at a disadvantage this year.
Two overdue veterans round out the category. Iggy Pop is nominated for the first time in this race for “Post Pop Depression,” his 17th studio album. His band The Stooges was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2010, but remarkably he has never won a Grammy before.
British musician PJ Harvey has never won either. She’s nominated for “The Hope Six Demolition Project,” her ninth studio album. This is her first nomination in 12 years and her seventh overall. She was nominated three times before in this category and once for Best Rock Album.
Iggy Pop and PJ Harvey have no other nominations this year, but that was also true of St. Vincent when she won this award in 2014 for her self-titled album, so don’t count them out.
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