Chris Stapleton (“Traveller“) is the only Grammy nominee for Best Country Album who also contends for Album of the Year, so that should make him the clear frontrunner to win this award, right? Indeed, he’s the heavy favorite to win according to our racetrack odds, but he might not be a sure thing.
We’ve polled nine Expert journalists for their Grammy picks, and seven of them bet on Stapleton to win, giving him leading 4/11 odds: Glenn Gamboa (Newsday), Tim Gray (Variety), Edna Gundersen, Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Lyndsey Parker (Yahoo Music), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby) and Chris Willman.
But the other two experts, Phil Gallo and Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), think Kacey Musgraves (“Pageant Material“) will pull off an upset, giving her 10/3 odds. So why are they betting against Stapleton?
It is true that Album of the Year nominees tend to have an advantage in genre categories, and Best Country Album is no exception. When this category has included a nominee for Album of the Year, that album has won six out of eight times: Dixie Chicks (“Fly” in 1999, “Home” in 2002, “Taking the Long Way” in 2006), Vince Gill (“These Days,” 2007), Taylor Swift (“Fearless,” 2009) and Lady Antebellum (“Need You Now,” 2010).
That gives Stapleton a strong statistical advantage, and we already saw how much the industry loves him when he was awarded Album of the Year at the CMA Awards last November.
However, there are two exceptions to this rule. In 1998, Shania Twain was nominated for Album of the Year for “Come on Over,” but lost Best Country Album in an upset to the Dixie Chicks’ breakthrough, “Wide Open Spaces.” And in 2013, Taylor Swift was up for Album of the Year for “Red” but lost the country award to Musgraves for her breakthrough, “Same Trailer, Different Park.”
Now that Musgraves is back for her sophomore album, we mustn’t rule her out.
However, our Editors, we who cover awards year-round for Gold Derby, are unanimous. All six of us — Chris Beachum, Marcus Dixon, Rob Licuria, O’Neil, Sheehan and I — say Stapleton is out front.
Out Top 24 Users, who had the highest scores predicting last year’s Grammy winners, also heavily favor Stapleton, but like our Experts they leave room for an upset. Out of those who have chimed in as of this writing, 18 are backing Stapleton and two say it will be Musgraves.
Two of those remaining nominees are also recognized in the general field, so maybe we’re underestimating them. Sam Hunt only has one other bid this year, but it’s a big one: Best New Artist. Keep in mind that both the Dixie Chicks and Kacey Musgraves were nominated for Best New Artist when they pulled off their upsets in this category.
And while Little Big Town themselves aren’t nominated in the general field, the songwriters behind their hit “Girl Crush” contend for Song of the Year, and the band could ride that wave of support to a win here on their second bid in this category, following “The Road to Here” in 2006.
Who do you think will win?
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Photo credits: Chris Stapleton and Kacey Mugraves by NBC