BILLBOARD.COM – James Taylor Could Match a Grammy Feat Achieved Only by Lady Gaga & Joni Mitchell
By Paul Grein
His “American Standard” album is a likely nominee for best traditional pop vocal album.
The nominations for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards won’t be announced until November, but we have a front-runner in at least one category: best traditional pop vocal album. James Taylor’s American Standard, which enters the Billboard 200 at No. 4 this week, features the veteran balladeer singing such prized songs as “Moon River” and “It’s Only a Paper Moon.”
Taylor has won five Grammys over the years: three for best male pop vocal performance (2001’s “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”), one for best pop album (1997’s Hourglass) and one for best country collaboration with vocals (2003’s “How’s the World Treating You,” a collab with Alison Krauss).
If American Standard wins a Grammy, Taylor would be just the third artist to win for both best pop vocal album and best traditional pop vocal album. The first two were Joni Mitchell and Lady Gaga. Mitchell won best pop album for Turbulent Indigo (1995) and the trad pop award for Both Sides Now (2000). Gaga won best pop vocal album for The Fame Monster (2010) and the trad pop award for Cheek to Cheek (2014), a collab with Tony Bennett.
Many other recipients of the traditional pop award had enjoyed success in other genres before they won for trad pop. It’s certainly not a prerequisite, but it often seems to be a plus factor. Elvis Costello, who won in the traditional pop category on Jan. 26 for Look Now, which he recorded with his band The Imposters, had previously been nominated for album awards in four distinct fields: contemporary folk, pop, rock and alternative music.
Willie Nelson, who won the 2016 trad pop award for Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin, and the 2018 prize for My Way, a salute to Frank Sinatra, had won seven Grammys in the country field before he won for trad pop.
Paul McCartney, who won the 2012 trad pop award for Kisses on the Bottom, had won multiple Grammys in both pop and rock.
Rod Stewart, who won the 2004 award for Stardust…The Great American Songbook Volume III, had never previously won a Grammy, but he had amassed a dozen nominations spanning pop, rock and even disco.
k.d. lang, who shared an award with Bennett for A Wonderful World (2003), had won two Grammys in country and one in pop before winning in trad pop.
Natalie Cole, who first won in the trad pop category with “Unforgettable,” her silky 1991 collab with her father, Nat “King” Cole, had won back-to-back awards for best R&B vocal performance, female for 1975-76. She later won a second award in trad pop for Still Unforgettable (2008).
While voters in this category often seem attracted to artists who have had success in other genres, the top two winners in the category, Bennett (13 wins) and Michael Bublé (four wins) are known primarily for traditional pop. So are Sinatra, the 1995 winner; Patti Page, the 1998 winner; and Harry Connick, Jr., the 2001 winner.
If American Standard wins a Grammy, Taylor will become the fifth artist who has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to win a traditional pop Grammy. The first four were Stewart (who was inducted into the Rock Hall in 1994), Mitchell (1997), McCartney (1999, as a solo artist) and Costello (2003).
American Standard, which is Taylor’s 20th studio album, includes two Rodgers & Hammerstein songs (“You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught” from South Pacific and “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top” from Oklahoma!) and two by Lerner & Loewe (“Almost Like Being in Love” from Brigadoon and “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” from My Fair Lady—the latter is available only on the Target-exclusive edition.)
Taylor was nominated in the trad pop category 13 years ago for James Taylor at Christmas.