Most pundits expected Mumford & Sons’ Babel to win Album of the Year. The shocker was that the album didn’t win its “home genre” award: Best Americana Album. The album lost that award to Bonnie Raitt’s Slipstream.
How rare it that—for an album to lose its “home genre” award and then turn around and win Album of the Year? Very rare. It’s only happened once before since the Recording Academy introduced genre album awards in most of the key genres in 1994 and 1995.
It happened two years ago when Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs lost Best Alternative Music Album to the Black Keys’ Brothers, but still managed to win for Album of the Year.
In every other year, the winners for Album of the Year had first won in their “home genre” categories.
So why did this happen this year? I think it shows the affection and respect voters have for Raitt, who had won nine previous Grammys, including Album of the Year for 1989’s Nick Of Time. Raitt hadn’t won a Grammy since 1996. Many voters probably figured that Mumford & Sons would win the big one, but wanted to give Raitt something, too.
Slipstream has done well by Raitt’s recent standards. The album reached #6 on The Billboard 200, becoming her first top 10 album since 1994’s Longing In Their Hearts. The album has sold just under 300K copies to date. (By comparison, Babel sold twice as many—600K—in its first week in September.)
In the case of The Black Keys beating Arcade Fire, that was even more surprising, but there too voters wanted to see the Black Keys go home with something. The fact that the duo won three awards this year, including Best Rock Album, shows that the duo continues to be Grammy favorites. The duo’s Dan Auerbach even won Producer of the Year, Non-Classical.