Charlie Cook On Air: Country Earns Grammy Love

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Charlie Cook

In the past, NARAS has not always represented the Country genre either on the show or in nominations and winners but as the format has become increasingly popular and acts like Taylor Swift have so successfully crossed over, the nominations closely resemble what we see from the Country Music Association and Academy of Country Music award shows.

This year the NARAS Country album nominations are very mainstream. In fact, three of the five NARAS nominations were CMA nominations last month. There is no arguing with the two exceptions. Jason Aldean’s Night Train is an incredible album as is Two Lanes of Freedom from Tim McGraw.

The politics of the CMA and NARAS are different enough to explain the trade outs. The Best Country Solo Performances also could have come right from the ACM or CMA shows.

The nomination specials that happen each December have also elevated the profile of the Nashville branch. Taylor has kept her connection to Nashville and Country music so she has been a great ambassador for the format. I also think people on the ground in Nashville have made a big difference. I am a big fan of Nancy Shapiro. We are only acquaintances but I have seen her as an advocate for the format right there in Nashville. She became involved with the Nashville chapter in the mid 80s.

In those days the Grammys went to big hits like The Judds’ “Grandpa” (1987 winner for Best Country Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal) and Randy Travis’ “Always and Forever” (the 1988 Best Male Country Vocal Performance), but we also hit a stretch (2001) when the Best Male Performance was “O Death” by Ralph Stanley and the Best Country Song was “The Lucky One.” I like Alison Krauss but I just don’t remember that selection getting much exposure outside the nomination room at NARAS.

In 2003, the Best Country Male Vocal went to Johnny Cash and “Give My Love to Rose.” I will give you that 2003 was not a banner year for country music but the most recognizable name was often the one chosen by the NARAS voters.

Now names like Jason Aldean and Kacey Musgraves are recognized by more and more music fans and viola, more mainstream nominations. This is good for the format as these stars are getting the additional TV exposure helps spread the format even more.

To be fair this probably also affects some of the other “less than mainstream” formats. Like Rap. The really, really disrespectful Magna Carta led the way for Jay-Z to get nine nominations. The worst part of writing this note was I made myself listen to Magna Carta. Needless to add, I am not the album’s target but the fact that there is a target for the profane lyrics is scary enough. Jay-Z is the name everyone knows, so he must be the best.

Speaking of mainstream, the nominees for Song of the Year could not be more so. The five nominated songs were all huge radio hits. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis had an incredible year on the radio but “Same Love” was not their biggest song of 2013 but this is the one title that is going to get the most attention from the voters in LA and NY. These songs were so big nothing from the Country format was able to break into the category.

Still Kacey Musgraves is nominated as Best New Artist. Nothing I can dispute here as Kacey won the CMA award in the same category last month. I think Florida-Georgia Line had a pretty good year. I apologize if I missed a nomination, if they received one.

I know you might be saying it is good if NARAS steps out and exposes more music to the public. Not just the same old stuff. Well, frequency is really important when trying to brand Country as appealing to the fan base with the best music, not the most adventuresome.

(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of MusicRow.)

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