2023 Grammys preview: Country contenders Zach Bryan, Dolly Parton…

The country field of the Grammys is often one of the most interesting. Historically, Grammys voters have shown a more sophisticated taste in their country stars, rewarding some lesser-known songs over huge crossover hits. Artists like Chris Stapleton, Kacey Musgravesand Brandi Carlile were among Grammy favorites in country music. This year, however, a batch of returning champions and a few potential debutants are vying for their place in Grammy history.

The biggest story in country music this year is the success of the newcomer Zach Bryan. His debut album, “American Heartbreak,” debuted at number five on the Billboard 200, earning the biggest streaming week for a country album in 2022 at the time. His raw rock-inspired sound seems to have connected with audiences, as his Hot 100 top 40 song “Something in the Orange” was a hit on Billboard’s country and rock charts. As such, expect him to be all over the nominations. Bryan is also very much in the way of the Grammys, being more authentic and less “bro-country” than most male acts in the genre that voters tend not to choose.

With Brian, Morgan Wallen is the biggest group of its kind this year, continuing the success of its “Dangerous” era with the hit “Wasted on You” as well as three new top 20 hits: “You Proof,” “Don’t Think Jesus,” and “I thought you should know”. While the Grammys completely ignored Wallen last year, likely due to his racial slur controversy, this year he may be welcomed as he was at the ACM and Billboard Music Awards, and may just land. a name or two.

Another big name in country music this year is Taylor Swift, due to the release of his acclaimed re-recorded album “Red (Taylor’s Version)”. The country-turned-pop star could pick up a few nominations in the genre, like Best Country Duo/Group Performance for Chris Stapleton’s collaboration “I Bet You Think About Me” as well as Best Country Solo Performance for “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)” or any of the tracks from the vault, not to mention a Best Country Album nomination.

Swift could be joined by a former collaborator Maren Morris, which has been a consistent nominee in the genre. Morris’ latest album, “Humble Quest,” could be in the conversation for best country album, and his hit “Circles Around This Town” is likely to get a name or two.

There is also Luc Combes. Although his Grammy track record has been inconsistent compared to his commercial success, he still earned nominations most of the years he was eligible. Her latest album, “Growin’ Up,” features the number one country hits “The Kind of Love We Make” and “Doin’ This.” As such, expect nominations for him in at least Best Country Solo Performance and Best Country Album.

We could also see Walker Hayes, another hit-maker who’s had a terrific few years thanks in large part to his Grammy-nominated single “Fancy Like,” which was nominated for last year’s Grammy Awards. His “AA” could be in the running for best country song of 2023, while his album “Country Stuff: The Album” also has a shot at the nomination.

Superstar female country artists are always welcomed by the Grammys, so don’t be shocked to see icons like Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood anywhere in the list of names. Both singers are very regular nominees in the genre, and their albums “Palomino” and “Denim and Rhinestones,” respectively, are among the biggest in country music this year. Lambert also scored a hit with the single “If I Was a Cowboy”, which peaked at number eight on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart.

Other strong contenders come in the form of previously nominated artists who have yet to win. Thomas Rhet‘When We Started’ gave him another hit album, led by the top 2 country airplay hit ‘Slow Down Summer’. Florida Georgia lineit is Tyler Hubbard also made waves with his new solo single “5 Foot 9” which climbed the charts. Likewise, Jason Aldean found success with her double album, “Macon, Georgia,” led by Grammy-nominated “If I Didn’t Love You,” with Underwood.

Don’t count other contenders who may not have eligible or highly relevant albums but have had streaming success. Parmaled“Take My Name” by is one of the biggest hits of the season, topping the country charts and peaking in the top 25 of the Billboard Hot 100. There is also “Damn Strait” by Scotty McCreery, which is set to become number one on country radio by mid-July. And Kane Brown“Like I Love Country Music” was another hit added to her growing catalog.

Finally, you should never underestimate the old souls in the running. Dolly Parton will be eligible with his latest album, “Run, Rose, Run”, which comes after a series of Grammy nominations and wins in recent years in several genres including pop, Christian and country. Another veteran on a hot streak is willie nelson, who is back this year with her critically acclaimed new album, “A Beautiful Time”. Nelson has also won multiple Grammys recently, taking home two trophies for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album in 2017 and 2019, as well as Best Country Solo Performance in 2020.

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Toya J. Bell