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Could Live Cuts or Cover Versions Sneak Back Into Grammy Nominations?

Variety
Variety
 2021-10-21
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Taylor Swift announced some months back that she would not be submitting any of her re-recorded material from her hit “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” album for Grammy consideration — first off, presumably, because she wouldn’t want to split off votes from the all-new “Evermore”… and secondly, because that would just seem ridiculous, right? And yet the Grammys have a history of liking new versions of older material, even if voters’ tolerance for note-for-note recreations like Swift’s has yet to be tested.

Affording honors in major categories to live albums peaked during the heyday of “MTV Unplugged” (see: Tony Bennett and Eric Clapton’s album of the year honors in the ‘90s). Yet giving nominations to live tracks became a way to fill out the undernourished rock categories, if nothing else, as recently as a few years ago, like the 2017 nod for a live cut by Alabama Shakes.

It may not be complete coincidence that not one but two live albums from the Steely Dan camp came out in late September on the final Friday of eligibility. With blue-ribbon committees no longer acting as gatekeepers, if that means older voters are given freer reign again, a lot of them might rather check out “The Nightfly Live” than give the time of day to a Machine Gun Kelly.

The realm of cover versions seems like where we’re most likely to discover that everything old is new again, though, come Grammy time. The Metallica project “The Blacklist,” which has 53 artists doing covers of the 12 songs from the 30-year-old “Black Album,” theoretically could yield candidates in several categories, with versions of the same song: Imagine Phoebe Bridgers being nominated for “Nothing Else Matters” in rock and Darius Rucker getting it for covering the same tune in country.

A recent tribute album devoted to the Velvet Underground could field a candidate. And among individual cover versions, it wouldn’t be inconceivable to see a nom for Brandi Carlile’s cover of John Prine’s recent Grammy winner “I Remember Everything,” or the Robert Plant/Allison Krauss version of the Lucinda Williams classic “Can’t Let Go,” or Lana Del Rey roping in Zella Day and Wyze Blood for a trio version of Joni Mitchell’s “For Free,” if these tracks were submitted by the artists or their labels for Grammy consideration in rock or pop performance categories.

It’s even possible that something from Foo Fighters’ Bee Gees tribute, recorded as the side-length project “Hail Satin” under the nom de plume of the DeeGees, could see Grammy daylight. But, as a project that rivaled Swift’s in soundalike aspirations, it likely went unsubmitted, like Swift’s, as Dave Grohl and company would similarly be unlikely to want to split off any votes from the original material they have in contention.

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