2021 Best Alternative Music Album Grammy Nominees:
• Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple
• Hyperspace, Beck
• Punisher, Phoebe Bridgers
• Jaime, Brittany Howard
• The Slow Rush, Tame Impala
In recent years, Best Alternative Album has emerged as the marquee category at the Grammy Awards, at least in our eyes. Typically, the most creative and ambitious music of the year appears in this category. That’s true again this year, as 3 of our 6 favorite records from 2020 are all competing for the award.
Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters was the buzziest record of the year. From the minute it garnered that ultra-rare 10.0 rating from Pitchfork, the album has been at the top of every critic’s list. And with good reason. It’s sort of like Lana Del Rey meets Radiohead – emotional, introspective songwriting and song structures, with experimental sonic elements thrown in.
Apple’s surprise omission from the Album of the Year category was disappointing, but at least she garnered three nominations overall. She has to be considered the favorite to win Best Alternative Album (and possibly the other two awards as well.)
Our second-favorite album of 2020 was Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher. Bridgers is our upset pick to win Best New Artist at the 2021 Grammys. She has a lot of critical support as well, and her commercial success seems to be growing as more and more folks hear about her. The album demonstrated her versatility in quiet gems like “Graceland Too,” rockier numbers like “Kyoto,” and the all-over-the-map genius of “I Know the End.”
Also in our Top 10 for the year was Tame Impala’s The Show Rush. The Australian band deftly blended elements of synth-pop and psychedelia into its rock music, creating a combination that earned them two more Grammy nods this year. This is their third nom for Best Alternative Album, though they probably won’t win, given the stiff competition.
Two more Grammy favorites round out the category. The Recording Academy has always loved Beck for some reason. Apparently, they see him as being just the right amount of quirky and edgy without being too threatening. Beck has won 7 Grammys, including this award just two years ago.
Finally, rootsy and soulful singer Brittany Howard has picked up 16 Grammy nominations in just the past eight years – 9 as lead singer of Alabama Shakes, and 7 for her solo work. The Academy loves her, and in a non-Apple year, she’d be the favorite in this category. Howard’s Jaime didn’t produce any singles that got rock radio airplay. But then again, neither did Apple or Bridgers.
Best Alternative Album Prediction
Fiona Apple has only one Grammy Award to her name – Best Female Rock Performance for “Criminal” in 1998. She has a good chance of winning all three of her nominations this year, including this category.
However, Howard and Bridgers will both provide strong competition. And there’s definitely a chance that Apple, Bridgers, and Howard could split the vote evenly, which could allow Beck to prevail again if he gets most of the vote from the “rock dudes” of the Academy.
Beck beating out three of the most talented and innovative women in rock would be a bad outcome in every way possible, both from an optics standpoint and simply because his record is the weakest in this category. We’ll give Apple a slight edge over Howard and Beck. Fetch the Bolt Cutters takes Best Alternative Music Album.
2021 Grammy Awards: Best Alternative Album Prediction
Deserves to win: Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple
Will win: Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple
Should have been nominated: Making a Door Less Open, Car Seat Headrest
See also our complete list of 2021 Grammy predictions. And here’s a list of every Best Alternative Album nominee and winner in history.