Grammy Predictions: The Rock/Alternative Fields

Paul Grein
Stop The Presses!

Bruce Springsteen has a good chance to win at least one Grammy this year, and possibly two. The Boss has amassed 20 Grammys to date. If he wins both, he’ll tie U2 for the most Grammys won by a rock act. (That is unless U2 also wins another Grammy this year. The band is nominated for Best Long Form Music Video.)

Let’s take a closer look at the rock and alternative fields.

Best Rock Album

The nominees: The Black Keys’ El Camino, Coldplay’s Mylo Xyloto, Muse’s The 2nd Law, Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball, Jack White’s Blunderbuss.

The discussion: The Black Keys, Springsteen and White are the front-runners. The Black Keys are nominated for both Album and Record of the Year. Springsteen’s album was one of his best-reviewed in years. White is nominated for Album of the Year.

The Black Keys and White are past winners for Best Alternative Music Album. The Black Keys took that award with 2010’s Brothers. With the White Stripes, White won it three times—for 2003’s Elephant, 2005’s Get Behind Me Satan and 2007’s Icky Thump.

Springsteen, Coldplay and Muse are past winners for Best Rock Album—for 2002’s The Rising, 2008’s Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends and 2010’s The Resistance, respectively.

Bottom line: This is a field of heavy-hitters.

The pick: The Black Keys. The duo would become the fourth act to “graduate” from a win for Best Alternative Music Album to Best Rock Album. U2, Green Day and Coldplay previously made this journey.

Best Alternative Music Album

The nominees: Fiona Apple’s The Idler Wheel Is Wiser…, Bjork’s Biophilia, Gotye’s Making Mirrors, M83’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Tom Waits’ Bad As Me.

The discussion: Apple and Gotye are the front-runners. This would be Apple’s first Grammy since “Criminal” won for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance of 1997. Her album reached a career-high #3 on The Billboard 200. Gotye is nominated for Record of the Year for “Somebody That I Used To Know,” his #1 smash featuring Kimbra.

Trivia notes: Apple and Bjork are each vying to become the second female artist to win in this category. Sinead O’Connor won for 1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. Waits is vying to tie Beck’s record as the only solo artist to win this award twice. He won this award for 1992’s Bone Machine.

The pick: Apple.

Best Rock Song

The nominees: Jack White’s “Freedom At 21” (which he wrote); Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait” (which the members of the group wrote), The Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy” (which the members of the duo co-wrote with their producer, Brian Burton, a.k.a., Danger Mouse), Muse’s “Madness” (which the band’s lead singer, Matthew Bellamy, wrote); Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care Of Our Own” (which he wrote).

The discussion: The front-runners are Mumford & Sons, The Black Keys and Springsteen. Mumford & Sons is nominated for Album of the Year. The Black Keys, as noted above, are nominated for Album and Record of the Year. Springsteen is, well, Springsteen.

Springsteen has won four times in this category—for 1994’s “Streets Of Philadelphia,” 2002’s “The Rising,” 2007’s “Radio Nowhere” and 2008’s “Girls In Their Summer Clothes.” White has won once—for 2003’s “Seven Nation Army.”

The pick: Bruce Springsteen. The Boss introduced this song on the Grammy telecast last year. Though it wasn’t a hit, it gained wide exposure as President Obama’s campaign theme song. (The song title alone expressed President Obama’s philosophy of social commitment in just six words.)

Best Rock Performance

The nominees: Alabama Shakes’ “Hold On,” The Black Keys’ “Lonely Boy,” Coldplay’s “Charlie Brown,” Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait,” Bruce Springsteen’s “We Take Care Of Our Own.”

The discussion: Again, the front-runners are Mumford & Sons, The Black Keys and Springsteen. Coldplay and The Black Keys are past winners for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, for 2002’s “In My Place” and 2010’s “Tighten Up,” respectively. Springsteen is an eight-time winner for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Male or its successor category, Best Solo Vocal Performance. Can Springsteen possibly block Mumford & Sons, who are the front-runners to win Album of the Year? I don’t think so. It helps that Mumford’s harmony-rich “I Will Wait” is a million-selling smash.

The pick: Mumford & Sons

Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance

The nominees: Anthrax’s “I’m Alive,” Halestorm’s “Love Bites (So Do I),” Iron Maiden’s “Blood Brothers,” Lamb of God’s “Ghost Walking,” Marilyn Manson’s “No Reflection,” Megadeth’s “Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)”

The discussion: Iron Maiden took Best Metal Performance for 2010’s “El Dorado.” But the band’s live album, En Vivo!, hasn’t made much of an impact. Two of the six nominees are from albums that made the top 10 on The Billboard 200. Marilyn Manson’s song is from an album (Born Villain) that reached #10. Lamb of God’s song is from an album (Resolution) that reached #3. That doesn’t ensure a victory, but it probably won’t hurt.

The pick: Lamb of God.

To My Readers: I’ll preview the other major musical fields as we count down to the Grammys on Feb. 10.