2021 Best Country Album Grammy Nominees:
• Lady Like, Ingrid Andress
• Your Life is a Record, Brandy Clark
• Wildcard, Miranda Lambert
• Nightfall, Little Big Town
• Never Will, Ashley McBryde
The Recording Academy takes a lot of heat for many of its decisions, but we have to give them credit for one thing: They’ve always gone out of their way to recognize women in the country categories, which is admirable given that at least 80% of the artists played on country radio are solo men.
Even if country radio remains stuck in the dark ages, the Academy has noticed that most of the best country music of the past 20 years has been recorded by women, from Shania to Carrie to Taylor to Kacey. That was the case again in 2020, as four of the five nominees for Best Country Album are solo women, while the fifth (Little Big Town) is a half-male, half-female group.
This surge of girl power makes the competition for the 2021 Best Country Album Grammy somewhat difficult to predict, since there’s no male act to play spoiler. It would appear that Miranda Lambert is the favorite, given that this is her fifth nomination in the category. But this is the fourth nom for Little Big Town, the third for Brandy Clark, and the second for Ashley McBryde. Only Ingrid Andress is a newcomer to the category.
Lambert has the most commercial success of the women nominated here. Her album Wildcard entered the Country Chart at No. 1 and spawned hits like “Bluebird” and “Settling Down.” Lambert is also the only former winner in this category, having taken the Grammy in 2015 for Platinum.
Still, Little Big Town and Clark could give Lambert a run for her money. Little Big Town have won 4 Grammys among 16 career nominations, so Academy voters love them. But LBT’s Nightfall didn’t produce any major hits. The excellent singles “Daughters,” “Over Drinking,” and “Wine, Beer, Whiskey” experienced very modest success at radio.
Brandy Clark, meanwhile, has been a great story since earning a Best New Artist nomination in 2015 at age 39. As an openly gay singer, Clark doesn’t get much airplay in the socially-conservative world of country music, but she’s renowned for her songwriting talents, particularly the way she crafts intimate stories.
Your Life is a Record was Clark’s third fantastic album in a row, highlighted by “Who You Thought I Was.” She has a lot of industry support and could pull out the win here in a tight race.
Ashley McBryde emerged in 2018 and was expected to be country music’s next breakout star, following in the Kacey Musgraves and Maren Morris tradition. But McBryde has only gotten part of the way there. She’s not quite the household name many predicted she would be at this point.
Her album Never Will produced the only major hit of her career, “One Night Standards,” and even that stalled just outside the Top 10. Voters may feel this is the time to reward the underappreciated McBryde and give her the credit her work deserves.
Finally, newcomer Ingrid Andress is the biggest surprise name in this category. She’s also a Best New Artist nominee, so she definitely has support from voters. But it would be a major upset if she were to vault past McBryde and snag a major award like this so early in her career.
Best Country Album Prediction
Miranda Lambert has the commercial success, the critical acclaim, and the accomplished Grammy history, so everything is lining up for her to win this award.
You can make a case for Little Big Town, Brandy Clark, and Ashley McBryde. But since LBT haven’t been as successful on the charts recently, voters may seem them as “old news” right now.
Clark and McBryde both have huge critical acclaim, and it would be wonderful to see either one win. Because they both fill the “critical favorite” niche, you have to wonder whether they will split that vote, allowing the bigger name Lambert to win.
These are all solid albums, so none of them would be a bad choice. We predict that Wildcard allows Miranda Lambert to emerge victorious and win Best Country Album for the second time.
2021 Grammy Awards: Best Country Album Prediction
Deserves to win: Your Life is a Record, Brandy Clark
Will win: Wildcard, Miranda Lambert
Should have been nominated: What You See is What You Get, Luke Combs