2021 Grammy for Best Alternative Album could be historic for women

The Grammy for Best Alternative Album often includes some of the recording academy’s most inspired choices in terms of nominations. Past winners like David Bowie’s “Blackstar” and Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” were critical darlings, and often one or two nominees here can cross over into the general field. Let’s take a look at this year’s contenders.

Fiona Apple’s “Fetch The Bolt Cutters” is undoubtedly leading the pack. The album was massively acclaimed, receiving one of the highest MetaCritic scores of all time, and Apple is a consistent nominee for her work, earning eight nominations so far including a win for her breakthrough single “Criminal.” With “Fetch” being hailed as the best album of the year so far by multiple publications like Paste and Stereogum, and being a big contender for Album of the Year, a win for Alternative Album is likely, which would be especially significant because only two solo women have ever won this award before: Sinead O’Connor (“I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got,” 1991) and St. Vincent (“St. Vincent,” 2015).

Perhaps Apple’s biggest competition is Brittany Howard, with her also-acclaimed album “Jaime.” It’s her first solo effort and her first full-length project since the Album of the Year-nominated “Sound and Color” with her band Alabama Shakes. Howard edges out Apple in terms of past wins with four as a member of Alabama Shakes, including a full rock-field sweep in 2016. That said, “Jaime” wasn’t as successful commercially, missing the top 10 on the Billboard 200, and the album could feel a little bit like old news due to its 2019 release date.

Another potential spoiler for the win is indie band Tame Impala. Their most recent album, “The Slow Rush,” isn’t their most acclaimed piece of work, but it is one of the biggest contenders in terms of commercial success, debuting at number-three on the Billboard 200 and notching a rock and alternative radio hit with “Lost In Yesterday.” The band can also benefit from goodwill for front man Kevin Parker, who has produced for many artists in the past like Lady Gaga and The Weeknd.

Beck is back after winning with “Colors” (2019) with his Pharrell-produced album “Hyperspace.” While it wasn’t Beck’s best-reviewed or bestselling, he could be a name-check here since the alternative category isn’t decided by a nomination review committee. There’s also last year’s Best Rock Song nominees The 1975, whose “Notes On A Conditional Form” could get them their first album nomination.

A lot of other women are in contention this year too even though this category usually skews overwhelmingly male. FKA Twigs could get her second career Grammy nomination and her first in this category for the eclectic “Magdalene,” while Phoebe Bridgers could get her first Grammy nom with her sophomore album “Punisher,” which was massively acclaimed upon release.

There’s also Brit pop-rocker Rina Sawayama for her eponymous album “Sawayama,” which has also been hailed as one of the best albums of the year. 2015 Best New Artist nominees Haim may finally get a follow-up nom years later with “Women In Music Pt. III.” And we could see Big Thief get a nomination for “Two Hands” after their surprise bid last year for “U.F.O.F.”

Anyone else? Well, there’s also a surprise or two lurking in this category. Moses Sumney’s “Grae” would be an inspired pick, and we could say the same about Perfume Genius’s “Set My Heart On Fire Immediately.” So were looking forward to an interesting set of nominees to honor this genre, as per usual.

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