FEARLESSRiOT FORECAST: 2017 Grammy Awards (Rock & Country)

It’s Grammy Awards time again, and I can already see most of you prepping for disappointment from here. The supposed biggest night in music delivers on the performances more often than not, especially with last year showcasing a one-of-a-kind performance from Kendrick Lamar, a rousing collaborative performance from Chris Stapleton, Gary Clark Jr., and Bonnie Raitt, and the sole rock performance of the night coming from the Hollywood Vampires. What, was Megadeth too busy? But as much goodwill as the Grammys tend to gain from performances, they lose just as much when it comes to the actual awards. Look, the Grammys are entitled to their own opinions just like everyone else; however, unlike everyone else, they’re supposed to be held to a standard of awarding what’s generally the unobjectionable best. And a lot of the time, what they consider the best is not in line with the general public, so much so that not only have Justin Bieber, Kanye West, and Drake opted to sit this year’s ceremony out, but even Wendy Williams put the Recording Academy on blast. However, since I love music award shows very, very much, I feel obligated to try to give my two cents in on, as well as try and predict the winners to this year’s Grammys, so spoilers: not all of my opinions will be popular either. The Super Bowl of Music is this weekend, so let’s get a move on with the largest Forecast of the year. How large? It’s three parts long! And we’re starting with country and rock!

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OK, so people made a stink about the fact that Beyoncé was nominated for a rock Grammy due to the fact that she is not, nor has she ever been, a rock musician. Honestly, I would have been a shocked if not for the fact that R&B girl group En Vogue was once previously nominated for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group for a song that does in fact still rock to this day, so it’s not unheard of for this to happen. Plus, certified Grammy-winning rock star Jack White is on “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, providing it with a legit rock edge. Hell, it probably rocks harder than the two live-recorded songs nominated. I’d argue that the Austin City Limits version of Alabama Shakes’ “Joe” that’s nominated is more of an R&B/gospel track. And good on Disturbed for being nominated for a decently performed cover, with David Draiman providing very intense vocal work, but for a band who are usually much heavier, do they really out-rock Beyoncé here? One thing is for sure, though: Bowie and Twenty One Pilots were expected. Both of their tracks fall into the alternative realm, but they’re both done in that dark, brooding spirit that’s usually present in the rock n’ roll genre.
Who I Want to Win: If I can be honest, “Don’t Hurt Yourself”. It was certainly one of the highlights of Lemonade and has me curious to see Beyoncé bring out that side of herself again.
Who Will Win: Twenty One Pilots; they might see giving it to Beyoncé way too risky a move. But if not TOP, it’ll definitely be Bowie.

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I do listen to some metal music, but at the same time, I realize that I’m not an aficionado of the genre. But if you ask select members of the metal community, they’d probably argue that the Recording Academy aren’t either. Ever since their decision to award Jethro Tull over Metallica in 1989, metal has been up there with rap on the list of genres the Academy doesn’t seem to see eye-to-eye with the diehard listeners on. Two years after leaving everyone scratching their head by awarding comedy act Tenacious D with a metal Grammy, we look to see who nabs it this time and whether or not it sits right with metalheads. I like “Rotting in Vain”, but I’m not sure if people are roaring for a Korn Grammy win in 2017. Megadeth are part of metal’s Big 4, so their presence here with a song where lead singer Dave Mustaine crushes, adds a bit of prestige. Baroness, Periphery, and Gojira are acts I’m new to, but in listening to their nominated tracks, I’m digging what they’re offering, especially Gojira.
Who I Want to Win: Gojira, but that was not a tough choice because every track here has a claim.
Who Will Win: Megadeth; if I’ve learned anything about the Grammys is that sometimes, they’ll award an act off of mainly name recognition. This is gonna be one of those times.

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Metallica have eight Grammy Awards, half of which consist solely of Best Metal Performance awards. One award they’ve never won is Best Rock Song, which the highly energetic, but noticeably-profane “Hardwired” has a chance to change this year. They’re one of three legendary artists in this field, the other two being Radiohead, who are singing about a witch hunt basically, and David Bowie, whose lyrics are difficult to decipher, but carry the heavy weight of the themes of death within it’s very core. None of those three songs feature borderline rapping – could you ever imagine Bowie, Yorke, or Hetfield trying to but some rhymes – but the final two do and they both come from younger, more modern bands. Tyler Joseph is warning you about all his (or more specifically, the Suicide Squad‘s) heathen friends and Highly Suspect find themselves forming parallels between the most high and us as humans.
Who I Want to Win: Since this is a songwriting award, I’m handing this one to Bowie.
Who Will Win: Not gonna lie; they’re probably gonna give this one to Radiohead.

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Since when is the Recording Academy such huge fans of pop-punk? This category contains three artists who either fall under the category of the genre or have had direct influence on the sound of it, with Weezer’s latest being the fourth in their line of colored self-titled albums, Blink-182 sparking new life into the band with a new singer after a rough few years (even if the album’s title comes right out of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ playbook), and Panic! At The Disco’s Brandon Urie going at it alone in Death of a Bachelor to tremendously flamboyant results. Meanwhile, Cage the Elephant’s album features = a remarkably fuzzy surf kind of sound that’s drastically different from the song I first heard from them in 2009. And if you don’t mind me asking: Is Kirk Hammett of Metallica a Recording Academy member? If so, Gojira may already have one vote sealed for their album Magma. “I think it’s an incredible piece of art. It’s heavy, it’s vibey, it’s moody; it has all the things you want to hear.” He praises the album. I think those words from a metal God is probably tell the story better than I ever could.
Who I Want to Win: Gojira or Panic! At The Disco.
Who Will Win: This one’s a tough call, but I’m gonna say Cage the Elephant.

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The battle for Best Alternative Album reads like a catalog of iconic performers, some of whom you may not have been aware are still musically active. I knew Iggy Pop was still in the business after his feature on Kesha‘s sophomore album, but he’s still very much roaring with his own original material, but if you’re expecting “Lust For Life”-like tracks, you should look at the title Post Pop Depression again. PJ Harvey’s album deals with politically interesting themes and even has a politically interesting title itself. Bon Iver is back with a melancholy collection of auto tuned songs with unusual names. Really, try to pronounce even half of them. Radiohead is a brilliant band who always thinks outside the box, so like they did for their 2007 album In Rainbows, they decided to release A Moon-Shaped Pool in unorthodox fashion and this nomination rewards their work. But could they come out on top over Bowie, whose final album was haunting enough, but gained even more significance due to its release coinciding with his death?
Who I Want to Win: Another tough call, but I’d say let Bowie have this posthumous victory.
Who Will Win: They’re gonna let Bowie have this posthumous victory.

Best Solo Country Performance

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What’s bro-country again? I’m guessing something that even the Recording Academy is tired of because 4/5th of this category are from female artists and the one remaining nominee is a guy who never fell into that particular sub-genre. In one of the two songs in the category obviously influenced by sounds from predominantly black genres, Keith Urban goes semi-R&B with “Blue Ain’t Your Color”, a record so smooth it’s dominated the country charts for months. The other of those two songs, “My Church”, finds Maren Morris getting her gospel on, passionately saluting the tunes that takes her to her happy place. Carrie also takes it to church (sort of) with a cowbell ringing in the background, and since it is Carrie Underwood, you know her vocals are as powerful as they come. Miranda, meanwhile, gives a more subdued performance to sell the pain of a difficult time in her life. Finally comes Brandy Clark delivering a purely country track that totally escaped my lap this year that displays Clark’s vocal ability and musicianship nicely.
Who I Want to Win: “My Church”. Maren Morris took me church on that one.
Who Will Win: Miranda Lambert, especially given how much the connection between her personal life and the song adds to things.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

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Just in case you forgot that one country/pop crossover collaboration after another came out in 2016, here are the Recording Academy to remind you by nominating none other than P!NK and Pentatonix in the country field. Since Pentatonix is an accapella group, there’s not even any instrumentals on it; it’s just their voices (and later handclaps) providing the background music while the legendary Dolly Parton sings one of her all-time biggest hits. The Kenny Chesney and P!NK collaboration sounds fine, but it also sounds rather poppy as well. While I’m not 100% sure how true the claims made by Dierks Bentley and Elle King are in their song, the record is so adequately performed that it’s no wonder the song did so well. Fun Fact: This is Cassadee Pope’s first Grammy nomination. Would she have ever gotten one if Hey Monday was still a thing? Probably not, but her collaboration with Chris Young as some damn fine listening. The only pure group nominated is Brothers Osborne, and while “21 Summer” was fine enough and definitely summery, I’m not sure how wild I am about T.J. Osborne’s vocals on it.
Who I Want to Win: Chris Young & Cassadee Pope, mainly so that I can start referring to Cassadee Pope as a Grammy winner.
Who Will Win: Dierks Bentley & Elle King.

Best Country Song

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If ever there was a genre where you’re not always expected to take things so literally, it’s country. When I first heard about “Blue Ain’t Your Color”, I was certain he was just being critical of her wardrobe choice, only to find out it’s a metaphorical look at what “Treat You Better” would sound like with more thought out into it. And no, Maren Morris isn’t actually singing about the house of the lord. She’s singing about catching the Holy Ghost through the music on her radio. And also, Miranda Lambert isn’t singing about a pair of pliers. Then again, why would she? She’s singing about coping with the current predicament in her life. But if being literal is more your speed, Thomas Rhett and Tim McGraw (or at least Tim McGraw’s songwriter) have you covered, with Rhett singing about how his woman is the only thing he needs in his entire lifetime and Tim McGraw reminding us to be kind to people in our lifetime.
Who I Want to Win: Again, I’m biased for “My Church”.
Who Will Win: “Humble & Kind”. There’s no way this is losing, especially after picking up accolades at the CMAs and AMAs.

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Maybe with a bit more exposure, Loretta Lynn’s latest album would probably be up for Album of the Year given the pedigree of facts running through it. It’s her first album in ten years and is build on remakes and tributes. Speaking of lacking exposure, if you didn’t know Brandy Clark dropped an album this year, that wouldn’t be surprising. It has great writing and music on it, but the lack of airplay doesn’t help it at all. Keith Urban and Maren Morris both got a ton of play for albums containing just as much appeal for pop fans as for country fans. Sure, that’s what cost Taylor Swift in this category when Speak Now and Red were nominated, but these two probably have a shot at winning, assuming the Academy doesn’t want to hold that Pitbull feature against him. And Sturgill Simpson is nominated for Album of the Year. That certifies that he might be the one to beat in this category.
Who I Want to Win: Hero
Who Will Win: A Sailor’s Guide to the Moon
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