Grammy hot topic: No more old-timers for Album of the Year?

grammy award herbie hancock robert plant

The Grammy for Album of the Year ostensibly rewards the year’s best music achievement, but sometimes the recording academy uses it as a de facto lifetime achievement award to honor an esteemed veteran artist. Consider the recent wins for Santana (“Supernatural,” 1999), Steely Dan (“Two Against Nature,” 2000), Ray Charles (“Genius Loves Company,” 2004), Herbie Hancock (“River: The Joni Letters,” 2007) and Robert Plant (“Raising Sand” with Alison Krauss, 2008).

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But that was it for old-timers. In 2009, Album of the Year went to a 20-year-old Taylor Swift for “Fearless,” the youngest artist ever to win the award, and that demographic shift has held steady ever since. In the last six years no one from the recording industry’s old guard has even been nominated. The last two Album of the Year prizes did indeed go to the oldest artists nominated, but electronic dance music duo Daft Punk (who were ages 39 and 40 at the time) and alt-rocker Beck (who was 44) are far from grizzled elder statesmen.

This year older artists like Don Henley (“Cass County“) and Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard (“Django and Jimmie“) could be in contention, but maybe the Grammys are done awarding longtime veterans in their top category. We asked our forum posters to weigh in. Read some of their comments below, then click here to join the discussion in our forums and make your Grammy predictions at the bottom of this post.

ProfessorChaos: It depends. Career artists are having trouble getting airplay. But in a few years, artists from the ’90s will hit their 50s. For example, if Madonna were to win AOTY this year (she won’t even be nominated) would we say they awarded an old timer? It’s just a matter of when a multi-decade artist hits that hit tour/critically acclaimed album. Someone like Depeche Mode or Pearl Jam or Ice Cube can do that, but I don’t think it’d be fair to label them as token old timers.

Boidiva02: No. I think it is just a coincidence [that no older artists have been nominated in recent years]. I also think we could see Janet Jackson win AOTY or ROTY in 2017.

PoweR: When was the last time an “old fogey” put out a genuinely acclaimed album that sparked strong sales? “Raising Sand” was one of the most acclaimed albums of that season. I haven’t seen an album by an old veteran that has met such acclaim since. So as long as these artists keep putting out middling albums, the closest thing to an “old fogey” would be someone like Daft Punk or Beck.

Tyler The Awesome Guy: It’s not that they’re “done” with old timers, it’s that most popular music is by artists who are in their 20s and 30s. Give it a few years and those artists will be replaced by new ones and the cycle repeats.

Stripped: The Grammy Awards have gone super commercial over the last five years. I don’t think NARAS is done awarding “old timers.” These veterans have to release a somewhat commercially successful album in order to win AOTY nowadays. NARAS really wants to be looked at as hip and cool.

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Make your own Grammy predictions now to the right or at the bottom of this post, and you could win a $100 Amazon gift card as well as a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year’s Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year’s Grammy nominees).

Last year, our Top 24 Users and all Gold Derby Users tied with an accuracy rate of 58.75% when it came to predicting the Grammy nominations, while Editors trailed with 42.50% (Click on any of these groups to see what they got right and wrong last year.)

Which group will be victorious this year? User jhaddad got the top score predicting the nominations last year with a 75% accuracy rate. As some of our Users turn out to be our smartest prognosticators, it’s important that you give us your predictions. Your picks influence our Users racetrack odds, which also factor into our official combined odds.

Photos: Herbie Hancock and Robert Plant at the Grammys. Credit: Jim Smeal/BEI/REX

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