Posted in 58th GRAMMYs, Country Field

58th GRAMMYs: Predictions for the Country field

In just a matter of hours the nominees for the 58th Annual GRAMMY Awards will be revealed. And before that, it is time to look at the odds for the last of the mainstream fields: Country.

Predicting the nominees for the country field is not too hard: Collect the highlights from previous country music award shows (CMA/ACM); keep in mind former winners and veterans performing traditional country; and forget about the country-pop radio hits. However this year, and rather unusually, two newbies will be dominating this field: Bro-country singer, Sam Hunt and bluegrass musician, Chris Stapleton. Let’s look at each category:

Note: Chris Stapleton did not appear in the submissions’ list for Best New Artist despite being eligible. If he was indeed submitted, he’ll probably take over Sam Hunt’s country spot. Or, both of them could get in making it the very first time when two country acts get nominations for Best New Artist.

Best Country Solo Performance

  1. Chris Stapleton — Traveller
  2. Sam Hunt — Take Your Time
  3. Carrie Underwood — Little Toy Guns
  4. Blake Shelton — Sangria
  5. Dierks Bentley — Riser

Chris Stapleton emerged as the strongest country competitor following winning three CMA Awards last month. Stapleton sings the type of traditional/bluegrass country that the Academy voters like. Therefore, he could easily get more support than his fellow newcommer, Sam Hunt. Hunt has been one of the most successful country acts of the year. But, bro-country singers don’t seem to have a lot of love among the voters. However, he’s been too huge this year to be ignored. The other three bets could include former competitors in this category. Last year winner, Carrie Underwood for her socially-charged song “Little Toy Guns”; Blake Shelton, who had been present three out of five times in this category, with the number-one country hit, “Sangria”; and Dierks Bentley for the critically-acclaimed, “Riser”.

Other likely contenders

  • Luke Bryan — Strip It Down
  • Eric Church — Talladega
  • Hunter Hayes — 21
  • Miranda Lambert — Two of A Crime
  • Kacey Musgraves — Dime Store Cowgirl

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

  1. Little Big Town — Girl Crush
  2. Zac Brown Band — Homegrown
  3. The Band Perry — Live Forever
  4. Don Henley & Dolly Parton — When I Stop Dreaming
  5. Blake Shelton & Ashley Monroe — Lonely Tonight

Unlike its pop counterpart, the Country Duo/Group performance category is dominated by groups. As a matter of fact, a collaboration is yet to win. And the three locks here are groups: 2013 winners, Little Big Town for “Girl Crush”, one of the biggest country hits of the year; the second favourites are 4-time GRAMMY winners, Zac Brown Band with “Homegrown” who are yet to get a nod in this category; and the third favourite group are last year’s winners, The Band Perry for their vibrant “Live Forever” despite the song being more pop than country. The two collaborations we could see contending here include two veteran voices: Twice a winner, Don Henley and 7-time winner, Dolly Parton who joined forces for “When I Stop Dreaming” off Henley’s classic Cass County. Last but not least, the collaboration that made it to every ‘vocal event’ award, Blake Shelton and Ashley Monroe for the country-ballad “Lonely Tonight”. In case you’re wondering where Florida Georgia Line is? Well, the Academy does not like them and they might not even be considered country enough.

Other likely contenders:

  • A Thousand Horses — Smoke
  • The Doobie Brothers & Chris Young — China Grove
  • Lady Antebellum — Long Stretch of Love
  • Maddie & Tae  — Fly
  • Kacey Musgraves & Willie Nelson — Are You Sure?

Best Country Song

  1. Take Your Time — Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally & Josh Osborne (Sam Hunt)
  2. Girl Crush — Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose (Little Big Town)
  3. Dime Store Cowgirl — Kacey Musgraves, Luke Laird & Shane McAnally (Kacey Musgraves)
  4. Little Toy Guns — Carrie Underwood, Chris DeStefano & Hillary Lindsey (Carrie Underwood)
  5. Talladega — Eric Church & Luke Laird (Eric Church)

The Country Song category usually consists of the following: Three competitors from the performance categories (Take Your Time, Girl Crush, Little Toy Guns); one song from a Country Album favourite (Dime Store Cowgirl); and one of Eric Church’s hometown songs (Talladega). It is also not uncommon to see songwriters with multiple nominations. That is why former winners Shane McAnally and Hillary Lindsey could grab double-nods alongside former nominee, Luke Laird. Out of all these potential nominees, Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time” is also in the running for Song of the Year.

Other likely contenders:

  • Homegrown (Zac Brown Band)
  • Sangria (Blake Shelton)
  • Strip it Down (Luke Bryan)
  • Tonight Looks Good On You (Jason Aldean)
  • Traveller (Chris Stapleton)

Best Country Album

  1. Chris Stapleton — Traveller
  2. Kacey Musgraves — Pageant Material
  3. Little Big Town — Pain Killer
  4. Zac Brown Band — Jekkyl + Hyde
  5. Sam Hunt — Montevallo

For the past nine years, the winner of the CMA’s Album of the Year award had made the Best Country Album line-up. That is why Chris Stapleton’s Traveler is a shoo-in. The second favourite is 2014 winner, Kacey Musgraves whose follow-up Pageant Material continues to mock country music stereotypes. The other three potential nominees are the one with the highest chances but are not certain berths. Little Big Town’s Pain Killer was both a critical and commercial success but the trio hadn’t been nominated in this category since 2007. Zac Brown Band’s Jekkyl + Hyde was not very well received within the country music community. However, all of their previous albums had competed here. And last but not least, Sam Hunt’s Montevallo might not be considered country enough for the bid (but remember Taylor Swift’s Red).

Other likely contenders

  • Jason Aldean — Old Boots, New Dirt
  • Luke Bryan — Kill the Lights
  • Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard — Django and Jimmie
  • Thomas Rhett — Tangled Up
  • George Strait — Cold Beer Conversation

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