2020 Grammy Nominations Do What Country Radio Will Not: Honor Female Artists

Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images
Tanya Tucker and Brandi Carlile on Sept. 5, 2019.

Nearly 50 years after her first hit, Tanya Tucker may finally make her way to the winner’s podium at the 62nd Grammy Awards and could lead country music to its first victory in song of the year since 2011’s  “Need You Now,” written by Lady Antebellum and Josh Kear.

Tucker’s “Bring My Flowers Now,” written by Tucker, Brandi Carlile and Tim and Phil Hanseroth, appears on the “Delta Dawn” singer’s first album in 17 years, While I’m Livin’. Produced by Carlile and Shooter Jennings, While I’m Livin’  received a nod for best country album, while “Bring My Flowers Now” is also up for best country solo performance and best country song. At four, Tucker received the most nominations of any country artist, bringing her career tally to 14 (with no wins).   

Aside from Tucker, another country veteran, Billy Ray Cyrus, rode his way into record of the year via his feature on Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road,” but otherwise, country artists were left out of the four general categories (record, song and album of the year and best new artist) leaving no opportunity to follow up Kacey MusgravesGolden Hour album of the year win earlier this year.

At a time when country is brimming with fresh new talent and despite the Recording Academy expanding the general categories to eight finalists for the 61st Grammy Awards, country found itself with no entries for best new artist. Among the artists on the ballot were Jimmie Allen, Blanco Brown, Carly Pearce, Runaway June and Morgan WallenAshley McBryde, who deservedly received two Grammy noms in the country categories and just snagged the CMA Award for new artist of the year, was not on the best new artist final ballot. It’s unclear why she wasn’t, but it’s possible the screening committee decided she reached prominence last year with her 2018 album Girl Goin’ Nowhere. (The Recording Academy might have thought they were representing the genre with Yola's best new artist nomination, but despite her tag as a "country soul" singer, she's not looked at as a mainstream country artist and instead is viewed, as her other nominations attest, as an Americana artist.)

Turning to the four categories in the country field, as women struggle to have their voices heard at country radio, the quartet of categories very fairly represents women. Of the 20 nominated songs, albums and performances, half are from woman artists or groups that include women. 

In best country solo performance -- as is the Grammy voters’ wont through the years -- other than Blake Shelton’s formidable “God’s Country,” which won CMA Awards’ single of the year last week, voters ignored mainstream country radio and instead picked such tasty choices as Tyler Childers “All Your’n” and Willie Nelson’s “Ride Me Back Home.” McBryde's performance nod is for "Girl Goin' Nowhere," which peaked at No. 40 on Billboard's Country Airplay chart and also received a best country song nomination.

For best country duo/group performance, voters selected a combo of established groups and one-off pairings, such as “Brand New Man,” from Brooks & Dunn and Luke Combs, and “Common” from Maren Morris featuring Carlile, ignoring such deserving honorees as Old Dominion, Midland and Lady Antebellum.  And while it’s safe to say that an artist is probably thrilled with any Grammy nomination, Morris and Combs were probably not expecting to get plucked for those selections, while such works as Morris’ Girl and its title track and Combs’ “Beautiful Crazy” were completely ignored. Dan + Shay's "Speechless" earns its spot in this grouping, though also deserved a song of the year nod in the general category.

Girl is the biggest obvious omission in the best country album category, with that slot likely going to Reba McEntire’s Stronger Than the Truth, which, excellent an album as it is, is a bit of a surprise. Eric Church is the veteran in the category, earning his third nod, the most of any of this year's contenders. Looking ahead, the self-titled debut from The Highwomen, which includes Morris and Carlile, came out after the eligibility period closed Aug. 31 and is sure to be a contender here next year.

2020 Grammy Awards


THE BILLBOARD BIZ
SUBSCRIBER EXPERIENCE

The Biz premium subscriber content has moved to Billboard.com/business.


To simplify subscriber access, we have temporarily disabled the password requirement.