Beyonce battles David Bowie in unlikely Grammy contest for Best Rock Performance

When you think rock music the first name that comes to mind is obviously Beyonce … Okay, probably not. Beyonce is one of the most awarded artists in Grammy history with 20 victories to date, but the vast majority of her wins came in R&B races. This year her critically hailed album “Lemonade” has broken genre boundaries, and “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” her collaboration with rock music darling Jack White, has earned her her first ever Grammy nomination for Best Rock Performance. Can she actually win?

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Jack White won this category just two years ago for “Lazaretto,” and Alabama Shakes frontwoman Brittany Howard proved last year with a win for “Don’t Wanna Fight” that this category is hospitable to women of color, but since Beyonce is best known for pop and R&B music it might still be difficult for her to break through in the rock category. Women rarely win when pitted against men — women have trouble even getting nominated, except during the years when the Grammys had a separate category for Best Female Rock Performance (1980-1987, 1989-1991, 1993, 1995-2004) — and primarily R&B artists are also at a disadvantage, though Michael Jackson won a rock award for “Beat It” in 1984. So win or lose, the fact that Beyonce broke through here at all is a testament to her strength this year for “Lemonade,” the current frontrunner for Album of the Year.

If Beyonce wants to win this award she’ll have to get past rock icon David Bowie for “Blackstar,” the title track from his final album, which is up for Best Alternative Album, but not Album of the Year as many expected. Bowie has four nominations this year, including Best Rock Song for “Blackstar” as well, so even though the late legend, who died in January 2016, trails Beyonce in total nominations and lacks recognition in the general field, he might be tough to beat in this category.

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The aforementioned Alabama Shakes are the defending champs and are nominated again this year for “Joe (Live from Austin City Limits).” This is their only 2017 nomination, so perhaps this is merely carry-over from their dominance last year when they won three out of their four nominations (losing only Album of the Year to Taylor Swift’s “1989”).

Twenty One Pilots may also be a strong threat for their song “Heathens” from the film “Suicide Squad.” “Heathens” is also nominated for Best Rock Song and Best Visual Media Song, making it the most nominated song in this category, and Twenty One Pilots are also nominated twice for their number-one hit “Stressed Out,” including Record of the Year. That makes them the most nominated artist in this race, so we mustn’t count them out.

Rounding out the category is Disturbed for “The Sound of Silence (Live on ‘Conan’).” The heavy metal band covered the classic Simon & Garfunkel song on “Conan” in 2016; the song is featured on their 2015 album “Immortalized.” This is their only nomination this year, and it’s only the second nomination of their career, following a Hard Rock Performance nom in 2009 for “Inside the Fire.”

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