Country Queer

Lifting up LGBTQ+ voices in country and Americana.

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Alyssa’s Newbie Guide to the 64th Grammy Nominations

By Alyssa Donyae

New to the scene? Welcome, welcome, welcome. Come in, grab a snack, and go ahead and get comfy. We’re in for a ride.

For starters, how much geometry do you remember? None? Completely understandable. But there is one proof of geometry that always stuck with me, the transitive property. And you’re going to see it here and there throughout this article. Here’s how it works: if A = B and B = C, then A = C.

So applied here: If someone straight is cool with someone we stan at CQ. And a queer artist is cool with us at CQ. Then CQ is cool with the straight today for the sake of winning some Grammys, and that’s why you’ll see a track mentioned.

With that mathematical refresher out of the way, this round-up is for anyone like me who just got here and wanted a quick review of who’s who in Queer Country / Americana according to the Grammys. Just my thoughts and (little) knowledge offered up in one place. Free of all pretension. So let’s get started: And the nominees are…


A Honky-Tonk of Our Own

Best Remixed Recording
“Constant Craving (Fashionably Late Remix)”Tracy Young, remixer (k.d. lang, artist)
In this particular category, the award is given to the remixer. And while Tracy Young isn’t queer as far as I know, k.d. lang is an OG CQ! Transitive property, people. If you’re looking for a track to dance around and get ready to when you’re already 10 minutes late and counting, you’ve found it. We’re rooting for them!

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Best Americana Album
Outside Child – Allison Russell
You may not have noticed if you’re new here, but we love love love Allison Russell for a reason. Her songwriting is nothing short of spectacular. From the poetic recollection of first love on “Persephone,” to the chilling melodies on “Hy-Brasil,” and the comforting celebration of “Joyful Motherfuckers,” Outside Child is a carefully crafted story of the peace that healing can bring after experiencing intense childhood trauma. Did I mention this album was Russel’s solo debut? She knocked it out of the park. A must listen.

Best American Roots Song
“Diamond Studded Shoes” – Dan Auerbach, Natalie Hemby, Aaron Lee Tasjan & Yola, songwriters (Yola. artist)
“Nightflyer “- Jeremy Lindsay & Allison Russell, songwriters (Allison Russell, artist)

Our first songwriter(s) award, and thank goodness I’m not responsible for choosing between these two.
“Diamond Studded Shoes” is an upbeat dance track with what I like to call the “Hey Ya! Effect”. On first listen, you just can’t wait to find yourself in the bar again. You want to hear this song blasting and you want to see everyone on the dance floor. Upon second listen though, you realize it’s a call to pay attention, “’cause the promise is never gonna be enough”. Yola killed this track.

And note: also on the songwriters team was Aaron Lee Tasjan, who not only helped Yola write a Grammy-nominated song, but also made a bold statement this year with his album Tasjan! Tasjan! Tasjan!, in which he addressed his bisexuality head on in ways he hadn’t before in his music. According to Hunter Kelly, Tasjan is “doing incredibly important work as we speak” for the community, and I’ve heard it through the timeline that he’ll also be producing Mya Byrne’s next album…so he’s definitely an artist you want to keep your eye on.

On the other hand, we have “Nightflyer.” A composed yet powerful track about Russell’s emotions while confronting her abuser. Within the track she acknowledges that she has been “wounded”, but reminds herself that she is a “solar-flare” that “can’t be counted out”.

In this case…I cannot and will not choose. I’m rooting for everybody Black.

Brandi Carlile and Brandy Clark
Photo by Tracy Gershon (Courtesy of Variety)

Best American Roots Performance
“Same Devil” – Brandy Clark ft. Brandi Carlile
“Nightflyer” – Allison Russell

Here we have our first performance award, which awards the vocal or instrumental recordings (read: the artist(s)), and queers did not come to play.

First up is “Same Devil” by Brandy Clark ft. Brandi Carlile – and hold on to these names. They’ll be back. The track explores a variety of topics, from politics to sexuality, and I don’t know if this was quite the message…but it struck me as a “We all got our demons. Mind your business.” song. Perhaps that’s just me. It opens with a narrator and plays out in harmony, and definitely one to keep in rotation.

And once again, we find “Nightflyer.” That’s the third mention of Allison Russell – have you got the message? Go ahead and buy the album.

Best Country Album
Skeletons – Brothers Osborne

This duo is no stranger to a Grammy nomination lineup, being nominated for at least one award every year since 2016. Usually, they’re nominated in the category of Best Country Duo/Group Performance (and this year is no different), but this year is special as they’ve also picked up a Best Country Album nomination as well.

This album is full of bangers, y’all. “All Night,” “Dead Man’s Curve,” and the title track “Skeletons” amongst my favorites. But if you need a track just to remind you that joker John Osborne can PLAY that guitar, check out “Muskrat Greene.”

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Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Younger Me” – Brothers Osborne

Remember how I mentioned Brothers Osborne has been nominated for Best Country Duo at the Grammys for years now? Well, they’ve WON Best Duo over at the CMAs, count them – one, two, three, four times now. Out of everything that happened that night, Brothers Osborne taking home another trophy was not supposed to be that big of a deal. But then TJ Osborne (who had just come out in February, making him the first musician on a prominent country label to come out as gay) kissed his boyfriend before joining his brother onstage to accept their award. And suddenly, they’re the talk of the show (or as much talk as you can be when Jennifer Hudson blows the house down just 15 minutes before.)

We’re ecstatic to know they’re family at CQ. And I’m wishing them best of luck, and hope they finally get that Grammy for “Younger Me,” a song TJ wrote as a letter to his younger self, shortly after he came out. The video especially was a “bold piece of activism – especially in country music.” according to Hunter Kelly, and I have to agree. Filming the video on the steps of the Tennessee State Capitol building in Nashville, a building where anti-LGBT legislation has been flying left and right – that takes more than guts. And it more than deserves to be rewarded.

Best Pop Solo Performance
“Right On Time” – Brandi Carlile
This one came with some heartache. While we’re all excited to see yet another nomination for Brandi Carlile, and she herself was honored to be recognized, there was some confusion that came with seeing her name in the “Pop” category. Caused quite a frenzy on the socials. The debates went on for days.

Some saw this as a win: Brandi is now considered “popular,” though she may not be making pop music. In some folks’ opinion (maybe even the Grammys) this is a promotion. A graduation, if you will. You’re a star and everyone knows it, so let’s put you in a category with stiff competition. Others saw this as just another example of the Grammys being problematic and making a decision that benefits no one in the end. While we LOVE us some Brandi Carlile in Americana, going up against the likes of Justin Bieber, Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, and Olivia Rodrigo and coming out victorious would be no small feat.

Carlile also seemed hurt by this decision, saying on Instagram “Americana/American Roots music is more than a genre to me.” She then went on to say, “The importance of staying and working within Americana is greater than just me…I feel a responsibility in representing marginalized queer people in rural America who are raised on country and roots music but are repeatedly and systematically rejected by the correlating culture.” While she emphasized how honored she was to be recognized, she made it clear she wants folks to know this wasn’t her decision.

Controversy of Grammy categorization aside, the whole Americana scene is very proud, and rooting for her.

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Best Music Video
“Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” – Lil Nas X

I know what you may be thinking. “Montero was not a country record. What is Lil Nas X doing on this list?”, and you would not technically be wrong.

So, let’s be frank: we love Lil Nas X in this house. “Old Town Road” was iconic. The “Montero” video will go down in queer history. Lil Nas X will always have a home here.

And to quote our EIC, Lilli Lewis, “Not only did he bring an incredible degree of visibility to Black queers in the country space, he is a queer icon who literally just got endorsed by Dolly Parton for his cover of ‘Jolene.’” And that seems like a good enough reason for us.

We’ve all seen the video. Personally – and this is Alyssa Donyae speaking – I actually refuse to hear any arguments for any other nominee. Lil Nas X must win this award, and if he doesn’t, I may just start a riot. It was that important to pop culture.

Record of the Year
Right On Time” – Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb & Shooter Jennings, producers; Brandon Bell & Tom Elmhirst, engineers/mixers; Pete Lyman, mastering engineer
“Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” – Lil Nas X, Omer Fedi, Roy Lenzo & Take A Daytrip, producers; Denzel Baptiste, Serban Ghenea & Roy Lenzo, engineers/mixers; Chris Gehringer, mastering engineer

This list is coming to a close, and we’re hanging with the big boys. While ROTY is an award usually awarded based on the Producer(s), Recording Engineer(s) and/or Mixer and Mastering Egineer(s) – and none of them are queer as far as we know – ROTY is still a huge honor to receive as the performer and recording artist. (Fun fact: If you check the Grammys website right now, ROTY is actually listed before AOTY – Album of the Year. That’s how big of a deal this category is, folks.) Both “Right on Time” and “Montero” were huge records this year that were more than deserving of a shot for this honor, and so we’re wishing both Brandi and Lil Nas X the best of luck.

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Song of the Year
“A Beautiful Noise” – Ruby Amanfu, Brandi Carlile, Brandy Clark, Alicia Keys, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Linda Perry & Hailey Whitters, songwriters (Alicia Keys & Brandi Carlile, artists)
“Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” ­- Denzel Baptiste, David Biral, Omer Fedi, Montero Hill & Roy Lenzo, songwriters (Lil Nas X, artist)
“Right on Time” – Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth & Tim Hanseroth, songwriters (Brandi Carlile, artist)

For songwriters, this is the big one. This is the ring. And by gosh, Brandi Carlile has two nominations in the category. It’s not uncommon (at least these days) for a record that was nominated for ROTY to also have a swing at SOTY, but to have two songs in a category of this caliber? Brandi Carlile has had a hell of a year. Alongside Carlile on “A Beautiful Noise,” we also have Brandy Clark and Linda Perry who both identify as lesbian. We love them here.

But don’t count Lil Nas X out! We’re overjoyed to see him getting his flowers for arguably the most talked about song of the season.

Fingers crossed for them both and everyone else in the lineup!