It must be something in the water. Carrie Underwood has won seven Grammy Awards to date. One of those was Best New Artist in 2007, but the other six were all in country performance categories, and it’s not hard to see why. The season-four “American Idol” winner rose to fame as a powerhouse vocalist, and after she made a name for herself on America’s premier talent competition the recording academy has repeatedly taken notice of her vocal chops, much as they have with triple Grammy champ Kelly Clarkson in pop categories.
Underwood’s most recent victory was Best Country Solo Performance for “Something in the Water” in 2015. She also won Country Solo in 2013 for “Blown Away,” Best Country Collaboration for “I Told You So” with Randy Travis in 2010, and Best Female Country Performance three times, for “Jesus Take the Wheel” (2007), “Before He Cheats” (2008) and “Last Name” (2009). As a singer she’s tough to beat. So can she win Best Country Solo for the third time this year for “Church Bells,” from her latest album “Storyteller”?
Underwood’s track record is undeniable — she has won more Grammys than her competitors combined — but “Church Bells” is her only nomination this year, so perhaps she’s vulnerable to this year’s formidable country newcomer Maren Morris, who competes with “My Church.” Morris has four Grammy noms this year, including Best New Artist and Best Country Album (“Hero”). Underwood’s “Storyteller” was snubbed for Country Album category despite critical and commercial success and an Album of the Year nom from the Country Music Association. Underwood was nominated last year in this category for “Little Toy Guns” but lost to another general-field nominee, Chris Stapleton (“Traveller”), so we know she’s not unbeatable when there’s a strong challenger.
Underwood also faces Keith Urban for “Blue Ain’t Your Color.” He’s the next most awarded artist in this category with four past victories for Best Country Male Vocal, but he hasn’t won since the gender-neutral performance category was established in 2012. This is his third straight nomination in this race, but he’s also nominated for Best Country Album (“Ripcord”), and “Blue Ain’t Your Color” is also up for Country Song (though Urban didn’t co-write it), so perhaps he has more support than Underwood does this year.
Miranda Lambert is nominated for “Vice,” the lead single from her latest critically acclaimed album, “The Weight of These Wings.” Though Lambert is a country industry darling with multiple awards from the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music, she has only won two Grammys: Best Country Female Vocal for “The House That Built Me” (2011) and Best Country Album for “Platinum”(2015). She has two previous nominations in the gender-neutral Country Performance category, but she has yet to win it. “Vice” is also nominated for Best Country Song, but “The Weight of These Wings” was released in November 2016, so it won’t be eligible for Best Country Album until next year.
Rounding out the category is Brandy Clark (“Love Can Go to Hell”), who is also nominated this year for Best Country Album (“Big Day in a Small Town”). Clark is a critics’ darling, and she earned a Best New Artist bid in 2015, but she has yet to win a Grammy in any category despite four previous nominations.
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