Alabama Shakes‘ “Sound and Color” is the only nominee for Best Alternative Album that is also nominated for Album of the Year at the Grammys. Does that make them a shoo-in in this category? They’re way out front according to our racetrack odds, but there’s reason to believe they’re vulnerable.
We’ve polled nine Expert journalists for the Grammy picks, and all of them are betting on Alabama Shakes to win this award, giving them overwhelming 1/10 odds: Phil Gallo, Glenn Gamboa (Newsday), Tim Gray (Variety), Edna Gundersen, Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Lyndsey Parker (Yahoo Music), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby) and Chris Willman.
However, our Editors, we who cover awards year-round for Gold Derby, aren’t unanimous. While five out of six of us — Chris Beachum, Marcus Dixon, O’Neil, Sheehan and I — favor Alabama Shakes, Rob Licuria is going out on a limb for Bjork‘s “Vulnicura.”
Our Top 24 Users, who got the highest scores predicting last year Grammy winners, are also not unanimous. Of those who have chimed in as of this writing, 18 say Alabama Shakes while one outlier is picking Bjork.
Poor Bjork has been waiting for a Grammy for years. The Icelandic singer has been nominated a whopping 13 times in her career without a single win. If she loses this, her 14th bid this year she will tie jazz musician Toshiko Akiyoshi and country singer Martina McBride as the fourth most nominated artist without a victory. Brian McKnight and Snoop Dogg top that ignoble list with 16 unsuccessful bids apiece.
Six of Bjork’s losses have been for Best Alternative Album. She currently holds the record for the most nominations in this race for a solo artist, and she also has the most bids here without a win.
But both she and Alabama Shakes face another hurdle: the academy’s bias against female alternative artists. Only three women have won this award since it was created in 1990. Sinead O’Connor won the first year it was handed out for “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got.” Meg White won three times as one half of the White Stripes (“Elephant” in 2003, “Get Behind Me Satan” in 2005, “Icky Thump” in 2007). And St. Vincent prevailed for her eponymous fourth album last year.
St. Vincent’s win should especially give Bjork hope, having broken the nearly quarter-century drought for solo women. Also good news for Bjork is that Alabama Shakes’ Album of the Year bid doesn’t necessarily make them invincible here. The last album to compete in both categories was “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire; it won Album of the Year, but paradoxically lost Best Alternative Album to “Brothers” by the Black Keys.
This may strictly be a two-way race since none of our experts, editors or top users are predicting the other three nominees: “Star Wars” by Wilco, “Currents” by Tame Impala or “The Waterfall” by My Morning Jacket.
But Wilco may be more formidable than we think. They’re the only nominees in this category who are already Grammy-winners. They won this prize for “A Ghost is Born” in 2004.
Meanwhile, My Morning Jacket contend for the third time in this race, following “Evil Urges” (2008) and “Circuital” (2011). And the Australian band Tame Impala were previously nominated once before in this category, for “Lonerism” (2013).
Who do you think will win?
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Photo Credits: Alabam Shakes by CBS; “Vulnicura” by One Little Indian Records