By Ray McDonald
Two weeks from Sunday, the 55th annual Grammy Awards ceremony takes place in Los Angeles. Among the 81 categories will be Best Rock Album, one of just four trophies that will be given for Rock (the other three awards for the genre are Best Rock Song, Best Rock Performance, and Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance). There used to be a lot more Rock Grammys — including such subcategories as Best Female Rock Vocal Performance and Best Male Rock Vocal Performance. But as other idioms have proliferated, the Grammy folks have had to trim back on some longstanding categories. (At least Rock is doing better than Polka, a genre that no longer has its own award at all.)
This year, five heavy hitters compete for the Best Rock Album title. First in line are the Black Keys, nominated for their seventh album “El Camino.” They’ve already won three Grammys over the years and are nominated this time around for five more, so I consider them early favorites.
Next comes Jack White, famed for his bands The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and The Dead Weather. Jack’s in the running for his debut solo set “Blunderbuss.” Jack’s a nine-time Grammy winner, while “Blunderbuss” is also up for Album Of The Year…as is “El Camino.” It’s a duel between former Alternative favorites who have now achieved mainstream success.
The other three nominees are just as formidable – in fact, each has already taken home a Best Rock Album win. In 2003, Bruce Springsteen won the category with “The Rising.” This year, he runs on the strength of “Wrecking Ball.” Bruce has 20 Grammy wins – one more, and he ties U2 as the rock act with the most victories. Hot on Bruce’s heels comes Coldplay, who took the trophy in 2009 with “Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends.”‘ This year, the English band’s album is the tongue-twisting “Mylo Xyloto,” (pronounced “MY-low ZY-lo-toe”). Last but certainly not least, we have Muse, the English trio whose following in the United States pales next to its international superstardom. Muse brought home the trophy in 2011 with “The Resistance,” and this year runs on the strength of “The 2nd Law.”
I’m casting my lot with The Black Keys. Their hipness is unquestioned, while at the same time their music is heard widely on U-S radio and television. Who gets your vote?