Taylor Swift’s well-received new album, Folklore, could put her back in the running for album of the year at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards, which are set for Jan. 31, 2021.
Swift’s last two albums, Reputation and Lover, were passed over for nominations in that category, which is widely seen as the Grammys’ most prestigious.
Folklore is getting the best reviews of Swift’s career. The album has a robust 93 rating at Metacritic.com, the review aggregation site. This represents a big jump from Swift’s six previous studio albums, all of which had scores in the 70s. (The site does not have a score for Swift’s eponymous debut album, released in 2006.)
If Swift is nominated for album of the year, it would be her fourth nomination in that category as a lead artist — a total topped by only one female artist in history. Barbra Streisand amassed six album of the year nods from 1963 to 1986 — all before Swift was born in 1989.
You may recall that Swift was the first female artist to win album of the year twice (as a lead artist). She won the 2009 award for Fearless and the 2015 award for 1989, her first full-fledged pop album. Adele has since equaled that feat, winning for both 21 (2011) and 25 (2016).
Swift was just 20 when Fearless won album of the year, which made her the youngest artist in Grammy history to win in that category (as a lead artist). Swift’s record was broken earlier this year when 18-year old Billie Eilish won for When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Other albums with a good shot at filling the eight nominations slots include The Weeknd’s After Hours, Post Malone’s Hollywood’s Bleeding, Harry Styles’ Fine Line, Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Luke Combs’ What You See Is What You Get, Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia, Lil Baby’s My Turn, DaBaby’s Blame It On Da Baby, The Highwomen’s The Highwomen, Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake, Bad Bunny’s YHLQMDLG, Roddy Ricch’s Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial and Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways — as well as two albums previously mentioned — Gaga’s Chromatica and The Chicks’ Gaslighter.
That’s 16 albums. There are only eight slots. You can see the challenge faced each year by the nominations review committee, which determines the final nominees in the Big Four categories — album, record and song of the year, plus best new artist.
At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, if Swift were to win for album of the year, she’d become just the fourth three-time winner in that category in Grammy history. She would follow Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon (counting one award he won as one-half of Simon & Garfunkel).
The nominations review committee has a hard enough job to pick the eight most worthy candidates without taking into account which nominees would have a good chance of actually winning and what that might mean for the Grammys’ image. But the committee members are human and probably can’t avoid such conjecture.
How would it look if Swift won her third award for album of the year award before Beyoncé won her first? For that matter, how would it look if, in this year of heightened racial sensitivity, the Grammys gave their top award to a 79-year old white guy — even if that artist, Dylan, is one of the greatest songwriters and performers in music history? Like Swift, Dylan is a two-time album of the year winner, for Time Out of Mind (1997) and as one of eight artists on George Harrison & Friends’ The Concert for Bangla Desh (1972).
Here’s an uncomfortable fact of which the committee members are doubtless aware. No Black artist has won album of the year (as a lead artist) since Herbie Hancock won the 2007 award for River: The Joni Letters. Moreover, no current, contemporary Black artist has won in that category since OutKast took the 2003 award for Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Hancock and Ray Charles, who won the 2004 award for his posthumously-released Genius Loves Company, are inarguably great artists, but many would say these were lifetime achievement awards more than recognition for these specific albums.
The Weeknd’s After Hours is probably this year’s strongest candidate by a Black artist. The Weeknd was nominated for album of the year five years ago for Beauty Behind the Madness. He was passed over for his follow-up album, Starboy.
Will The Weeknd make the finals this year? Will Swift? The nominations will probably be announced right around Nov. 20, which was the date last year’s nods were revealed.