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THE FIFTH IN A 10-PART SERIES
By Grammy Whisperer Paul Grein

Today, in the latest installment of our 10-part series previewing key Grammy races, our Grammy seer looks at Best Rock Album and Best Alternative Music Album.

Best Rock Album
Last year, four of the six nominees in this category—Black Sabbath, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin and Neil Young with Crazy Horse—had discographies that stretched back to 1970 or earlier. This year’s nominees will probably be more balanced between grizzled veterans (Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Bruce Springsteen and U2) and comparatively newer acts (Beck, The Black Keys and KONGOS).

Petty landed his first #1 album (solo or with the Heartbreakers) in August with Hypnotic Eye, the band’s 13th studio album. Petty has yet to win for Rock Album (again, solo or with his band). He’s overdue for some major-category Grammy love.

Springsteen’s 18th studio album, High Hopes, reached #1 in January. Springsteen has amassed 20 Grammys, including Best Rock Album for 2002’s The Rising.



U2’s 13th studio album, Songs of Innocence, is more of a question mark. The band faced backlash for the way the album was placed in iTunes users music libraries without their consent (though the criticism seemed overblown to many). U2 won in this category with back-to-back studio albums, All That You Can’t Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.

Three other likely nominees, The Black Keys, Beck and KONGOS, are all years away from hearing from the AARP. In May, the Black Keys’ eighth studio album, Turn Blue, became their first to reach #1. "Fever" received a nomination for Best Rock Video at the VMAs. The duo’s previous album, El Camino, won Best Rock Album two years ago.

Beck’s 12th studio album, Morning Phase, received strong critical praise. Two of Beck’s early albums won for Best Alternative Music Album. If he were to win in this category, he’d become the fifth act to "graduate" from an Alternative win to a Rock Album win. He’d follow U2, Green Day, Coldplay and The Black Keys.

KONGOS’ sophomore album, Lunatic, includes the rock radio smash hit "Come With Me Now," which became a sleeper pop hit. It received a nomination for Best Rock Video at the VMAs.

The latest albums by two artists who straddle the fence between pop and rock wound up in different fields this year. Paul McCartney’s New, his 16th solo studio album, is entered for Best Rock Album (and may well move up if any of these front-runners falls short). Coldplay’s Ghost Stories is entered for Best Pop Vocal Album.

Other strong candidates include Pearl Jam’s 10th studio album, Lightning Bolt (which hit #1 in October 2013, in the second week of the eligibility year) and Linkin Park’s sixth studio album, The Hunting Party. Pearl Jam was nominated in this category four years ago for Backspacer. Linkin Park’s album includes "Until It’s Gone," which received a nomination for Best Rock Video at the VMAs.

Jack Bruce’s Silver Rails is a possibility. The rock legend died on Oct. 25. Voters will also ponder another late rock star’s legacy. The tribute album, Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life, is eligible. Dio died in 2010.

Other potential nominees include Ryan Adams Ryan Adams, Robert Plant’s lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar, Morrissey’s World Peace Is None of Your Business, Judas Priest’s Redeemer of Souls, The Pretty RecklessGoing to Hell, Five Finger Death Punch’s The Wrong Side of Heaven and the Righteous Side of Hell Volume 2, Godsmack’s 1000 HP, Slash featuring Myles Kennedy & the ConspiratorsWorld on Fire, Melissa Etheridge’s This Is M.E., Chrissie Hynde’s Stockholm, Phish’s Fuego and Young the Giant’s Mind Over Matter.

A left-field contender is William Shatner’s Ponder the Mystery. The actor is joined on the album by such rock stars as Steve Vai, Rick Wakeman and Edgar Winter.

Best Alternative Music Album
For the first time since this category’s inception in 1990, the Recording Academy has established official guidelines for the category. (Better late than never!) To wit: "This…category is intended for recordings that take as a starting point any existing musical genre or combination of genres, and expand and redefine the boundaries of those genres. (Though there may be considerable overlap with the Alternative radio format, this category is not intended to mirror it.)"

Thanks, Academy. That clears things up.



This year’s two surest bets are Jack White’s second solo album, Lazaretto, and Arcade Fire’s fourth studio album, Reflektor. Both were #1 albums. White won in this category three times with The White Stripes, but his 2012 solo debut, Blunderbuss, was placed in the Rock Album category. (It lost to The Black Keys’ El Camino.) White is back in Alternative with his sophomore album.

Arcade Fire’s previous album, The Suburbs, won Album of the Year. In addition, it was nominated in the Alternative category, but lost to (here they are again) The Black Keys for Brothers.

Broken Bells’ sophomore album, After the Disco, has a good chance at a nomination. The group’s eponymous debut album was nominated in this category four years ago.

Cage the Elephant’s third studio album, Melophobia, and Milky Chance’s debut, Sadnecessary, also have a good chance of being nominated. Both albums spawned #1 hits on the Alternative chart: "Come a Little Closer" and "Stolen Dance," respectively.

Other possibilities include alt-J’s This Is All Yours, Spoon’s They Want My Soul, St. Vincent’s St. Vincent, Phantogram’s Voices, Kid Cudi’s Kid Cudi Presents Satellite Flight: the Journey to Mother Moon, Kimbra’s The Golden Echo, M.I.A.’s Matangi, Interpol’s El Pintor and Eno & Hyde’s High Life.

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