Carrie Underwood only has one Grammy nomination this year – Best Country Solo Performance (“Little Toy Guns“) – but that doesn’t necessarily make her an underdog. She’s a powerhouse in performance categories.
This year marks Underwood’s fourth nomination in this category, which was created in 2011 by merging the separate awards for male and female vocalists. She lost that first race to Taylor Swift (“Mean“), but she won in 2012 for “Blown Away” and 2014 for “Something in the Water.”
Before the categories merged, Underwood was dominant, claiming Female Country Performance three years in a row, for “Jesus Take the Wheel” (2006), “Before He Cheats” (2007), and “Last Name” (2008). She also won Best Country Collaboration in 2009 with Randy Travis for “I Told You So.” That’s six performance victories to date for the “American Idol” alum.
But this year’s race is hardly a runaway for Underwood. According to our racetrack odds, she’s locked in a close battle with Chris Stapleton, this year’s most nominated country artist with four bids, including Album of the Year for “Traveller.” He’s nominated in this category for the first time for the title track from that breakthrough solo album, but he’s been nominated before with the band the SteelDrivers, including Best Country Duo/Group Performance for “Blue Side of the Mountain” in 2008.
We’ve polled nine Expert journalists for the Grammy predictions, and five of them are betting on Stapleton, giving him leading 9/10 odds: Phil Gallo, Glenn Gamboa (Newsday), Edna Gundersen, Lyndsey Parker (Yahoo Music) and Chris Willman.
The other four experts predict Underwood: Tim Gray (Variety), Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby) and Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby).
Our Editors, we who cover awards year-round for Gold Derby, disagree with our experts’ consensus. Five out of six of us — Chris Beachum, Marcus Dixon, Rob Licuria, O’Neil and Sheehan — are betting on Underwood. I’m the lone editor backing Stapleton.
Our Top 24 Users, who got the highest scores predicting last year’s Grammy winners, also favor Underwood, but only slightly. Out of those who have chimed in as of this writing, 10 pick Underwood, while nine give the edge to Stapleton. One more forecasts an upset for “Burning House” by newcomer Cam.
None of our experts, editors or top users are predicting the remaining two nominees, but they’re both past Grammy champs, so we mustn’t rule them out completely.
Keith Urban is nominated here for the second year in a row for “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” and like Underwood he has an impressive track record in performance categories. Before this combined category was created in 2011 he won four times out of six nominations for Best Country Male Vocal.
Lee Ann Womack is nominated for “Chances Are.” This is her first bid in this category, but she was a perennial nominee for Best Country Female Vocal, where she contended six times without a win. But she did prevail once in another category: Best Country Collaboration with Willie Nelson for “Mendocino County Line” in 2002, which is her only win to date.
Who do you think will win?
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Photo credits: Carrie Underwood and Chris Stapleton by ABC