The 2017 Grammy Awards
8 p.m. Feb. 12 on CBS. Grammy.com.
It’s carnival time again, kids — that evening when pop music goes Hollywood, pats itself on the back in the showiest way possible and tosses one of the biggest self-promotion parties of the year.
Yes, it’s Grammy time. So let’s suck it up, shall we, and attempt to accept the awards for what they are: a reflection of contemporary music exhibited through fields of obvious, commercially recognizable nominees.
We have one homegrown reason to show at least some interest in Sunday night’s Grammy telecast. It comes in the personage of Breathitt County native and onetime Versailles dweller Sturgill Simpson, who was playing Lexington clubs with the alt-country troupe Sunday Valley at the start of the decade. He will compete for two high-profile Grammys: country album of the year and the all-genre album of the year. He will perform, as well.
So who will win? More importantly, who will matter if they do? Here are a few thoughts and predictions.
Record of the year
The upstart in me would like to see Twenty One Pilots’ “Stressed Out” take the top prize, but this will largely be a showdown between the single-name ladies: Adele, Rihanna and Beyoncé. In any other year, Adele would be a guaranteed win. But “Hello” is a year old (eligible due to the Grammys’ screwy nomination process). Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” will win.
Album of the year
Some of us are still clearing our throats over obvious absences in this category, with David Bowie’s “Blackstar” being the most glaring omission. But hey, Justin Bieber’s “Purpose” made it in, so one supposes we should quit whining. The good news, though, is that Simpson’s “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth,” an intelligent, articulate soul-country confessional by one of Kentucky’s own, is in the running. Sadly, it doesn’t stand a chance. This will also go to Beyoncé’s “Lemonade.”
New artist of the year
The nominees: Kelsea Ballerini, The Chainsmokers, Chance the Rapper, Maren Morris and Anderson .Paak. Even for a category that has often devolved into the laughingstock of the Grammys, this is a dismal field. If someone has to walk away a winner from this train wreck, then country star Morris is probably the one. But this lineup is more properly deserving of a shrug of the shoulders and a hearty “Who cares?”
Best country album
Weirdly enough, this is one of the few major categories with a history of artistic credibility. In past years, beach-combing chart-toppers have been passed over in favor of vets like Johnny Cash and Lyle Lovett. This, then, sets the stage for a Simpson win. There are a few worthy contenders, including Brandy Clark’s “Big Day in a Small Town” and Loretta Lynn’s “Full Circle.” But expect Simpson’s “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth” to rightly come up with the Grammy.
Best alternative music album
So this is where we stick Bowie’s “Blackstar,” in a category of worthy contenders (Radiohead, PJ Harvey, Iggy Pop and Bon Iver) that probably won’t get any TV time? To make the matter sadder, a posthumous Bowie win would appear as a sentimental choice. But “Blackstar” is no mere postscript. It’s one of the most daring albums of Bowie’s career and worthy of more than a consolation prize.
Best rock album
This has always seemed one of the vaguest categories. It’s kind of like saying “Best Electric Album.” With a disclaimer stating that 80 percent of the nominated recordings qualify as “rock,” we will again go with what we’ve been given, which isn’t much (Blink-182? Seriously?). Luckily, Bowling Green’s Cage the Elephant is part of this pack. “Tell Me I’m Pretty” is far from the band’s best work, but it’s enough of a party piece to snag a win here.
And the rest
Of course, the most intriguing categories are the ones you never hear about. If you’re lucky, you might get a list of these winners on a warp-speed scroll on the side of your TV screen. Mostly though, this can be considered the “Read About it Later” lineup.
Here are a few prospective winners in categories you should but probably won’t hear about:
▪ Best jazz instrumental album: John Scofield’s “Country for Old Men,” a satisfying set by the guitar great that converts country standards into soul-jazz jams.
▪ Best Americana album: The Time Jumpers’ “Kid Sister,” a swing-savvy session featuring some of Nashville’s finest players.
▪ Best bluegrass album: Blue Highway’s “Original Traditional,” which, as the title suggests, uses original band tunes to recapture the sound of traditionally inclined string music.