2021 Grammy Nominations: Best Rock Performance

2021 Grammy Nominations: Best Rock Performance
Graphics by Kevin Shin

By Riley Greenstein, Web Services Coordinator

The 63rd Grammy Awards are just around the corner, and we wanted to highlight some nominated WERS artists. For the first time ever, everyone competing for the "Best Rock Performance" award is either a woman or a female-fronted band. Let's celebrate these rock goddesses by checking out their critically-acclaimed performances.



The second track of Fiona Apple's instant classic Fetch the Bolt Cutters sees the singer reminiscing on her middle school days. Back then, she was bullied and had a hard time fitting in. This feeling is punctuated by a chaotic soundscape of piano arpeggios and drum flurries. However, the chorus offers a brief moment of clarity when Apple sings "Shameika said I have potential." The sharp piano jabs give her the space to see a light at the end of the tunnel. It's a look into a future where her social rejection is a thing of the past.

Fiona Apple is also nominated for:

  • Best Rock Song ("Shameika") 
  • Best Alternative Album (Fetch the Bolt Cutters)



Lead singer Adrianne Lenker steals the spotlight on the lead single of Two Hands, Big Thief's second album of 2019. Her pained wailing tugs right at the heartstrings, and the cracked screams of the final chorus create a moment of pure catharsis. Everyone is in top gear as they blast away for the song's final two minutes, the distorted noise taking over. It's a perfect ending to the song, in which Lenker spends the verses searching for some deeper meaning in life.

Big Thief is also nominated for:

  • Best Rock Song ("Not")



In "Kyoto," Phoebe Bridgers compares the loneliness she feels both on tour and at home. In both scenarios, she connects the experiences to her estranged father trying to reach back out. You can really hear the loneliness in her voice as she sings, "the band took the speed train, went to the arcade, I wanted to go, but I didn't." Similarly, the pain and frustration of "I don't forgive you, but please don't hold me to it" is palpable. The horns also deserve a special mention. They add a level of ironic triumph to the song and help Bridger's emotional delivery sound even more desperate. 

Phoebe Bridgers is also nominated for:

  • Best New Artist
  • Best Rock Song ("Kyoto")
  • Best Alternative Album (Punisher)



Despite the bitter lyrics about trying to repair a struggling relationship, HAIM sounds full of joy on "The Steps." The bright drums and bouncy guitars sound like a road trip along the coast of California. The sisters' melodies and harmonies are truly the icing on the cake. They sound jubilant, even in spite of their struggles. Their free spirit adds a layer of hope and determination to the 60s-inspired jam, making us believe that maybe everything will work out in the end.

Our listeners voted "The Steps" as the top song of 2020! Read the rest of the list (which includes some other Grammy-nominated faves) here.

HAIM is also nominated for:

  • Album of the Year (Women in Music Pt. III)



Brittany Howard's soulful crooning fills the air on this single from her debut solo album Jaime. The ballad sees the singer, who gained fame as the frontwoman of Alabama Shakes, in conversation with her father. Throughout the song, she details how important he was to their family. Her voice sits atop a lush arrangement of guitars and bell-piano, leading us down a river of memories to her Alabama hometown. She wails, "we work hard and grind and hustle all day" There's just the slightest hint of grit in her voice, as if she's pulling memories straight out of the Earth.

Brittany Howard is also nominated for:

  • Best Rock Song ("Stay High")
  • Best Alternative Album (Jaime)
  • Best R&B Performance ("Goat Head")
  • Best American Roots Performance ("Short and Sweet")

Howard is the fifth most nominated artist at the Grammys this year, behind Beyonce, Dua Lipa, Roddy Ricch, and Taylor Swift. Jaime is nominated for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. 



This bluesy conclusion to Grace Potter's album of the same name is a rollercoaster of emotions. The singer gives as much emotion in the slower, soulful verses as she does in the aggressive, hard-rock inspired chorus. The guitar-driven instrumentation matches Potter's energy, giving her the freedom to belt her heart out as she pleads to some higher power for an end to her suffering. From the very first notes of "Daylight," it's clear that she's baring her soul. Her majestic roar sounds like the sun finally appearing over the horizon. Potter's ability to express pain through different power levels makes hers one of the most captivating performances of the year.

Grace Potter is also nominated for:

  • Best Rock Album (Daylight)

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