Grammy Burning Questions: Anticipating How TikTok Favorites, Broadway Albums and the Chicks Might Fare

David Byrne appears on stage during the Broadway opening night curtain call of "David Byrne's American Utopia" at the Hudson Theatre on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP)
Greg Allen/Invision/AP

A few burning questions as we look ahead to the 2021 Grammys

Will TikTok hits have a big showing?

TikTok has certainly proven itself to be a hitmaking powerhouse this year, igniting dance crazes and challenges to tunes already building, including Doja Cat’s “Say So” and Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage,” and helping to catapult them to the top of the charts. But TikTok has also elevated the underdog — largely unknown artists such as Saint Jhn and Powfu, whose respective hooks “Roses” and “Death Bed (Coffee for Your Gead)” turned into bonafide cross-platform and radio hits with streaming numbers nearing nine figures. Thus, it stands to reason that TikTok-made artists will appear on the Grammys shortlist, and it won’t be the first time, either, lest we forget that Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” was itself a favorite of TikTokers everywhere.

Has the Broadway cast musicals category been impacted by COVID?

When Broadway went dark on March 12 due to the coronavirus pandemic, most people expected performances to resume within a month. Except they didn’t. And with shows now on indefinite hiatus, it’s meant slim pickings for the musical theater album category. Shows including “Six,” the musical reimagining of Henry VIII’s wives, and “Company,” with Patti LuPone, didn’t make it beyond previews to opening night, while other highly anticipated bows, such as Hugh Jackman’s revival of “The Music Man,” moved to 2021. In the case of “Diana,” which was set to premiere in May, it pivoted to a Netflix debut. So what’s left in contention? David Byrne’s “American Utopia,” which began performances on Oct. 4 and will get a new round of attention via HBO’s Spike Lee adaptation; “Jagged Little Pill,” with songs and lyrics by Alanis Morissette, which launched in December; and dark horses “Broadbend, Arkansas” and “Broadway Sings Blood Rock: The Musical,” the latter album released just two weeks ago. Off Broadway may also factor, with such productions as “Cambodian Rock Band,” “Octet” and even “Golden Boy of Blue Ridge” filling the void for a blacked-out Great White Way.

Now that the Chicks dropped Dixie from their name, are they still considered country?

The Chicks’ “Gaslighter” has a decent shot at an album of the year nomination, given that the group previously won in that category (when they were still “Dixie”), albeit 14 years ago. But down-ballot, will they contend as country or pop artists? It’s an intriguing question with endless wrinkles. The Chicks have worked to distance themselves from mainstream country ever since the George W. Bush dustup in 2003 — and yet in the 2007 ceremony, they did enter, and win, two country categories. General voters who love the trio’s boldness would be highly likely to tick them off for country album of the year again, especially if it’s seen as a consolation prize for the all-genre category. Three things could stand in the way of a country nod, though. The Chicks may finally choose to submit in pop, or they could submit in country only to have a submissions committee decide Jack Antonoff’s production is too poppy and kick them over there anyway. Then there is the chance they make it through preliminary voting for country album but that a nominating committee full of Nashvillians, recognizing the very good chance they’d win, chooses to elevate other artists who have expressed greater degrees of comfort with the genre. Another bet-hedging option would be to submit different songs in different pop and country categories — the way Taylor Swift’s reps could well pick up an extra nod by submitting “Betty” in country and anything else from “Folklore” in pop. (The group’s reps declined to say which genre categories the Chicks are submitting in.)