They say rock is dead. Okay, so it’s not completely buried, but rock is in a bit of a transitional period. It has been quite some time since the genre has had an album winner at the commercial apex and cultural relevance of pop’s Adele or Taylor Swift, R&B’s Rihanna or Frank Ocean, or rap’s Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West. While pop voters have decidedly moved towards fresher faces, rock voters still rely on familiar names — the last three winners were Muse, Beck and Led Zeppelin.
That puts Coldplay in perfect position for a nomination this year. I previously predicted them to score a Best Pop Vocal Album nomination, but now we’re hearing that “A Head Full of Dreams” was submitted to the rock field instead. A previous winner of this category (for “Viva La Vida” in 2008), Coldplay are Grammy staples and had an especially big year, having headlined the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Moving back to the rock field may be a smart move; they had no chance of winning in pop against Adele, but this could bring Coldplay their eighth Grammy win.
Coldplay isn’t the only act we now believe submitted to rock. Despite their sophomore album’s turn toward dance and funk, The 1975 could be nominated for Best Rock Album for their long-titled “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It.” While they received no recognition for their debut album, 2016 raised the band’s profile with a number-one debut on the Billboard 200 album chart and a much-discussed “SNL” performance back in February.
Twelve-time Grammy winner Paul Simon should expect his first nomination in this category. His newest release, “Stranger to Stranger,” has been heavily praised for its musical experimentation and tight songwriting. The narrative of a legend having a late-period jolt of artistic inspiration should allow Simon to be competitive more than 30 years after his Album of the Year win for “Graceland.”
Another pair of aging Grammy vets will fight for a nomination this year. New albums by Wilco and Red Hot Chili Peppers are eligible. They were last nominated together in this category four years ago. While their names remain powerful, last year’s shocking snub of perennial favorites Foo Fighters demonstrates that familiar names can’t count on automatic nominations.
Three generations of pop-punk compete. Late ’90s kings Blink-182 are back, as well as a commercially revitalized Panic! At the Disco. Also in the fray is boy-band-turned-rockers 5 Seconds of Summer. All three acts scored number-one albums during the eligibility period, but it’s likely that only one of them will score a nomination, if any. Panic is the only previous Grammy nominee among them, so they’re the best bet of the three. They have one of the best-selling releases of the year and seem to have the right balance of legacy and spunk.
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