What a 3rd Taylor Swift Grammy win for Album of the Year would really mean for music

If you’ve been following the 2021 Grammys, you probably know that a big moment expected this year is Taylor Swift scoring her third Album of the Year win for her eighth studio album “Folklore.” Acclaimed upon release, “Folklore” served as a change of pace for Swift, going into a more alternative-pop sound mixed with elements of folk, Americana, and country. It focused on telling stories through music without her usual radio-friendly commercial approach.

But “Folklore” was still a success, not only critically but commercially, ending in the top five of the year-end Billboard 200 chart. With all the buzz in the world, and a well-planned campaign including a whole other new album released during the first week of voting, Swift is a clear front-runner for the top honor.

But what does this mean for her career? Quite a lot actually. If she prevails, Swift will become the first woman ever to win Album of the Year at the Grammys three times, and only the fourth artist of any gender to achieve this, joining Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, and Frank Sinatra.

A win for Album of the Year will additionally solidify her status as one of Grammy’s all-time favorite artists, managing to win an award three times that many of her contemporaries like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé have failed to win even once. Not only that, but a win for “Folklore” in Best Pop Vocal Album would make her the third person after Adele and Kelly Clarkson to win that award more than once.

Swift’s win is also bound to come with some controversy. The singer-songwriter already has faced backlash for beating influential albums by Black artists like Beyoncé’s “I Am … Sasha Fierce” (which lost to Swift’s “Fearless” in 2010) and Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly” (which lost to Swift’s “1989” in 2016), with many arguing Swift’s success is a clear example of a racial and genre bias amongst NARAS members.

Her win for “Fearless” also was quite odd in hindsight since Beyoncé beat her for Song of the Year (“Single Ladies”) and Female Pop Vocal Performance (“Halo”), but not in the top category despite how much the Grammys love sweeps and the fact that Beyoncé won six total trophies that year, a record for female artists.

The recording academy could also be criticized for awarding Swift for a third time over seven other artists who have never won Album of the Year even once. However, given the odd mix of nominees we ended up with (some of the top contenders we were expecting, like The Weeknd, Fiona Apple and Gaga, didn’t even get nominated), “Folklore” might turn out to be Swift’s least controversial Album of the Year win, especially given the intense acclaim the album got.

So what impact would a “Folklore” win have on the whole industry moving forward? You might notice that Swift’s last AOTY win for “1989” was under similar circumstances to “Folklore” in that it was also a change-up in sound (from country music to pure pop). Other artists, especially those that are looking for a second Album of the Year win, might start going the Swift route in changing their sound.

If you think about it too, a couple of other recent AOTY wins have been change-ups. Bruno Mars’s “24k Magic” was his first full pivot into R&B, Daft Punk’s “Random Access Memories” had the group going for more of a disco throwback rather than just their usual electronic music, and Beck’s “Morning Phase” saw the eclectic alternative rocker lean into folk.

So if stars align for Swift come March 14, her third Album of the Year win is going to be a huge moment not only for her but for music in general, and we might see other artists go rogue and change up their style more often. After all, who doesn’t want a Grammy? Well, maybe not The Weeknd anymore, but still.

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