Grammy Awards: Does Taylor Swift (‘1989’) have chart-topping advantage for Album of the Year?

taylor swift

In looking at Billboard’s list of the top selling albums of 2015, we see that all five of this year’s Grammy nominees for Album of the Year are on the chart. So does having one of the year’s best-sellers strongly influence your chances to win?

Taylor Swift‘s “1989” topped the list in the #1 position and also leads our predictions with 4/5 odds. “Beauty Behind the Madness” by The Weeknd came in at #13, followed by “To Pimp a Butterfly” by Kendrick Lamar at #16, “Traveller” by Chris Stapleton at #68 and “Sound and Color” by Alabama Shakes at #92.

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Since Billboard began publishing the year-end album charts in 1969, the highest selling album has won the Album of the Year trophy 18 times over the past 46 ceremonies (39% of the time). Nine of those winners were #1 on the year-end chart: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel(1970), “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac (1977), “‘Saturday Night Fever’: The Original Movie Soundtrack” by the Bee Gees and various artists (1978), “52nd Street” by Billy Joel (1979), “Thriller” by Michael Jackson (1983), “Faith” by George Michael (1988), “‘The Bodyguard’: Original Soundtrack Album” by Whitney Houston (1993), “Fearless” by Taylor Swift (2009) and “21” by Adele (2011).

This bodes extremely well for Swift since those nine wins account for 60% of the year-end #1s to get nominated for Album of the Year. Six others were nominated but ultimately lost the prize: “‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ (London Production)” by the London cast (1971), “Frampton Comes Alive!” by Peter Frampton (1976), “The Wall” byPink Floyd (1980), “Millennium” by Backstreet Boys (1999), “The Eminem Show” by Eminem (2002) and “Confessions” by Usher(2004).

The nine other winners that were the highest charting of the nominated albums were: “Blood, Sweat & Tears” by Blood, Sweat & Tears in 1969 (#3), “Innervisions” by Stevie Wonder in 1973 (#4 the following year), “Double Fantasy” by John Lennon and Yoko Ono in 1981 (#2), “Can’t Slow Down” by Lionel Richie in 1984 (#3), “No Jacket Required” by Phil Collins in 1985 (#6), “Graceland” by Paul Simon in 1986 (#2 the following year), “Falling Into You” by Celine Dion in 1996 (#3), “Taking the Long Way” by the Dixie Chicks in 2006 (#16) and “Babel” by Mumford & Sons in 2012 (#7).

Being the second highest charting of the nominees could help The Weeknd. Should he pull off a victory here, he would join eight other winners (17%) that were the second highest charters: “Tapestry” byCarole King in 1971 (#2), “The Concert for Bangladesh” by George Harrison & Friends in 1972 (#16), “Songs in the Key of Life” by Stevie Wonder in 1976 (#2 the following year), “The Joshua Tree” by U2 in 1987 (#6), “Unplugged” by Eric Clapton in 1992 (#36), “Jagged Little Pill” by Alanis Morissette in 1995 (#14), “Two Against Nature” by Steely Dan in 2000 (#127) and “‘O’ Brother, Where Art Thou?’ Soundtrack” by various artists in 2001 (#23).

However, despite its high chart position “Beauty Behind the Madness” is currently in last place in our predictions with 40/1 odds.

The third highest charting album, “To Pimp a Butterfly,” joins nine previous winners (20%) that have triumphed from that position: “Still Crazy After All These Years” by Paul Simon in 1975 (#14 the following year), “Unforgettable…with Love” by Natalie Cole in 1991 (#18 the following year), “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” by Lauryn Hill in 1998 (#24), “Supernatural” by Santana in 1999 (#20), “Come Away With Me” by Norah Jones in 2002 (#30), “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below” byOutKast in 2003 (#29), “How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb” by U2 in 2005 (#8), “Raising Sand” byRobert Plant & Alison Krauss in 2008 (#39) and “Random Access Memories” by Daft Punk in 2013 (#19).

Lamar is currently in second place in our predictions center (10/3 odds), so he could be a big threat in this category.

Traveller” has the opportunity to join just five other albums (11%) that have won this prize while being in fourth place among the nominated albums: “Christopher Cross” by Christopher Cross in 1980 (#17), “Toto IV” by Toto in 1982 (#41), “Nick of Time” by Bonnie Raitt in 1989 (#55), “Back on the Block” by Quincy Jones and various artists in 1990 (#31) and “Genius Loves Company” byRay Charles in 2004 (#51).

The low percentage of success for albums in this position is a statistical disadvantage for Stapleton, who is currently in fourth place in our predictions center with 28/1 odds of winning.

Alabama Shakes would join only three other albums (7%) that took this honor while being the lowest charting of the nominated albums: “Time Out of Mind” by Bob Dylan in 1997 (#191 the following year), “The Suburbs” by Arcade Fire in 2010 (#80) and “Morning Phase” by Beck in 2014 (#60).

Alabama Shakes are currently third in our predictions center (11/2 odds), so their statistical deficit may not be insurmountable for them, especially after Beck pulled it off just last year.

The three remaining winners (7%) of Album of the Year never charted on Billboard’s list of year-end chart toppers at all: “Fulfillingness’ First Finale” by Stevie Wonder (1974), “MTV Unplugged” byTony Bennett (1994) and “River: The Joni Letters” by Herbie Hancock (2007).

Grammy advantage for chart-topping Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars (‘Uptown Funk’)?

Who do you think will win?

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Taylor Swift photo credit: MediaPunch/REX

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