1963 One Man Academy: Album of the Year

- Rule Zero

Worth checking out:
  • The two OMA winners from 1962. ('63 wasn't a strong year.)

Playlist(s) of music in this post: Spotify
If you only listen to one song: "If It's True", Anais Mitchell feat. Justin Vernon


Five Years of Weird Nominees

1963 is the Album of the Year's fifth anniversary. In those first five years, there were 27 total nominations for Album of the Year. Of those 27 nominations, 8 can be loosely grouped into classical music or soundtrack scores, and 3 were comedy albums[1]. Combined, that's about 40% of the nominations, total.[1:1]

For comparison, let's apply that ratio to 2016... here are your new 2016 Album of the Year nominees!

  • 1989, Taylor Swift
  • Beauty Behind The Madness, The Weeknd
  • Ravel: L'Enfant Et Les Sortilèges, Shéhérazade
  • Sound & Color, Alabama Shakes
  • To Pimp a Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar
  • Traveller, Chris Stapleton
  • Under Stalin's Shadow – Symphony No. 10, Shostakovich

Sorry, Chris Stapleton and The Weeknd... better luck next time.[1:2]

In 2016, this list looks weird. That's not to say that Shéhérazade and Shostakovich didn't produce great albums... but their inclusion is clearly antithetical to how we view the award, today.

The fact that it runs counter to how we perceive the award raises some good questions about how we perceive the award, e.g. it's not the "best" album, and it's not the "most popular" album... is it the "best of the most popular" albums?

It's also worth quickly considering an award like the Oscars. For many people, an Album of the Year list with no albums they've heard of would be a scandal; a Best Picture list with no movies they've heard of is often seen as a reason to go see those movies.[1:3] It's not impossible to imagine music being more like the movies... a year full of Recorded Music Festivals where artists show off their albums and build Grammy buzz -- the folk opera about Orpheus and Eurydice becomes the early leader for Album of the Year, and the blockbuster albums are left with their popularity and the honor of being nominated.


But let's go back to the late 1950s and early 1960s. As much as we (or at least I) find it weird, it's possible comedy and classical albums were so popular that the nominated classical and comedy albums of those five years would actually pass whatever weird-or-not-weird test we might apply to a present day nominee list.

However, that still doesn't quite explain the elephant in the room and the slick haired, hip shaking icon dancing atop: where is rock and roll and the seven Top 5 albums Elvis Presley released in that time frame?

There's still time for Elvis to pick up a nomination and The Beatles will be hitting the scene soon -- 1964 is the first year they'd be eligible for the award. We all know that rock and roll eventually gets noticed by the Grammy's... the only question is when.



  1. Perhaps there's something intentional, or subconsciously influencing, in the naming difference between Album of the Year and Best Picture. Perhaps simply renaming the awards "Best Album" and "Picture of the Year" would bring about a significant shift in who is nominated and awarded. ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎ ↩︎