Lady Antebellum landed an unexpected knockout of Eminem and took the night with five Grammys last year, including record and song of the year for "Need You Now." Taylor Swift and Zac Brown Band broke through in the general categories the year before.
Yet this year only one country nominee made the cut in the prestigious all-genre categories: new artist entry The Band Perry.
Some might suggest a country snub, but Jason Aldean, a first-time nominee who's up for three awards, including country album of the year, doesn't see this year's deficit as out of the ordinary. That the focus is on the likes of Adele, Bruno Mars and Rihanna is not surprising to him, even though he and Swift had two of the year's top-selling albums.
"All those artists are great and having a killer year, so it's hard to argue with what they're doing," Aldean said. "But I think it's something country music has fought for years and years. I don't think it's anything new. I don't think at least from my perspective it's something that I'd be shocked about. It's the way it always is. It's not going to change. It's just how it goes."
Aldean proves himself an astute student of country music history with that statement. The genre's ascendance in the last half of the last decade at the Grammys is an aberration, a statistical oddity based on the overwhelming crossover success of a handful of songs and artists who dominated pop music at the time of their wins.
Mainstream country has scored just 13 general-category trophies since the first Grammys in 1958. Just three of those came before 2000.
Lady A's win in the record of the year category in 2010 was just the second by a country artist. The Dixie Chicks, fresh from the band's excommunication by country radio after remarks about President George W. Bush, won three general category awards at the 2007 Grammys.
Aldean notes all those winners have something in common: crossover success. Especially Swift and Lady A.
"(Swift) was just as big in the pop world as she was in the country world," Aldean said. "That was just one of those you can't really deny. As an awards show you almost look stupid if she's not there. And I think Lady A last year, without a doubt they had one of the biggest songs, if not the biggest song, of the year. ... They had a huge year, a huge record. It's kind of hard to deny that."
Members of Lady A, up for country album of the year, said it didn't really matter in what categories their nominations fell. Hillary Scott, Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley are just happy to be back and able to spend time with good friends like Aldean, country song of the year nominee Dave Barnes, Eric Church and others.
"We'd be lying if we said we wouldn't be disappointed after such an incredible year there last year if we didn't get invited back to the party," Kelley said.
"It's fun to be able to support our friends in the industry, as well," Scott said. "There are a lot of our really close friends in the business who will be there that we can celebrate with and just enjoy the night."
Gary LeVox, lead singer for Rascal Flatts, thinks that's the right attitude to have. Rascal Flatts landed one of those coveted all-genre song of the year nominations for "Bless the Broken Road," but over time he's learned not to take it too seriously. It's in no way an exact science, after all.
"I know some Grammy voters that are actually friends of mine that only listen to country music, but they vote on categories in the rock world," LeVox said. "They don't know anything about the rock world and they'll tell you, 'I don't know. I've just heard of Maroon 5 so I just voted for that.' And those are my friends. I think some of that happens."
AP writer Caitlin R. King in Nashville contributed to this report.
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