The 60th annual Grammy Awards are quickly approaching, with the ceremony to take place on January 28. This year is special, not only because it’s the 60th anniversary of the Grammys, but also because the show is returning to New York City. Since 2004, the Grammys have been famously held at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles, so the move back to New York will hopefully bring a much-needed burst of life to the award show.
The nominees were announced on November 28, and were followed by strong reactions from the public, most notably for the lack of female nominees, as well as quite a few obvious snubs. Here I will be exploring the main categories, their nominees, and who I think might win in each — and why.
*Note: I have not included all of the categories, as there are too many to discuss. However, I’ve narrowed it to the ones that I feel I can comment on fairly and contain the most general interest to our readers.
Category: Record of The Year
Nominees: “Redbone” – Childish Gambino, “Despacito” – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber, “The Story of OJ” – Jay-Z, “HUMBLE.” – Kendrick Lamar, “24K Magic” – Bruno Mars
Who I want to win: “Redbone” – Childish Gambino
Who I think will win: “24K Magic” – Bruno Mars
While there is no denying the ubiquity and success of 24K Magic by pop superstar Bruno Mars, the understated grooves and unusual vocals that Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) showcases on Redbone deserve recognition. The Grammy voters hopefully went with the latter, however if they go with a safer choice, “24K” or “Despacito” will most likely take this one home. Lamar or Gambino deserve it the most, but these categories rarely go to the most deserving in favour of what was more popular on the radio.
Category: Song of the Year
Nominees: “Despacito” – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee feat Justin Bieber, “4:44” – Jay-Z, “Issues” – Julia Michaels, “1-800-273-8255” – Logic feat. Alessia Cara, “That’s What I Like” – Bruno Mars
Who I want to win: “I-800-273-8255” – Logic feat. Alessia Cara
Who I think will win: “Despacito” – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber
While Bruno is likely to take one of the main song categories, “24K Magic” is the more successful and long-standing song of his that was nominated, so I believe he will win with that for Record of the Year. Song of the year will most likely be a safe choice yet again, with the extremely popular “Despacito” looking to be the winner here. It’s a catchy song, but if the Grammy voters want to take a risk on something a bit more meaningful, Logic and Alessia’s powerful song dedicated to suicide prevention and survivors is the one to choose. That being said, Jay-Z is also a strong contender with “4:44,” a heavily introspective song that tackles his infidelity to wife Beyoncé, and how he will have to face the repercussions of his wrongdoing as his children grow older and learn of his mistakes. While the lyrics of this song are strong, the melody and samples get repetitive. Overall, it’s a tough category and hard to tell who will win.
Category: Best New Artist
Nominees: Alessia Cara, Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert, Julia Michaels, SZA
Who I want to win: Khalid
Who I think will win: SZA
All of the nominees in this category are worthy contenders, so it won’t be much of an upset no matter who wins. It’s unlikely that Lil Uzi Vert will take it, just because there are others in the category who have had their music reach a wider audience. SZA will most likely win, seeing as she is the most nominated female at this year’s awards, and the Grammys seem to favour her. My choice, however, is Khalid. At only 19 years old, he has quickly become one of my favourite new artists. His debut album, American Teen, is good from start to finish, and the sound he has created is new, fresh, and real. Both SZA and Khalid deserve the award the most, but I’m really hoping Khalid walks away with it.
Category: Best Pop Solo Performance
Nominees: “Love so Soft” – Kelly Clarkson, “Praying” – Kesha, “Million Reasons” – Lady Gaga, “What About Us” – P!nk, “Shape of You” – Ed Sheeran
Who I want to win: “Praying” – Kesha
Who I think will win: “Million Reasons” – Lady Gaga
Kesha has never sounded stronger and more powerful than on “Praying,” a song that sends a clear message to her former abuser. Having viewed videos of Kesha singing this live, as well as the recorded version, she never fails to move me with her pure emotion and raw energy on this stunning song. It is the strongest contender of the nominees, and absolutely without a doubt deserves to win (and it’s accompanying music video is one of my favourites of the year). Lady Gaga, another excellent artist, is a Grammy favourite, and her gorgeous song “Million Reasons” also has a good chance of bringing this one home. It’s a tough call between her and Kesha, but I hope that they give this one to “Praying.” The other songs in the category are good, but the ladies on the list are far superior vocal-wise than Sheeran, making him a bit of an oddball on this list. If he wins, it will be a slight upset.
Category: Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
Nominees: “Something Just Like This” – The Chainsmokers & Coldplay, “Despacito” – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber, “Thunder” – Imagine Dragons, “Feel it Still” – Portugal. The Man, “Stay” – Zedd & Alessia Cara
Who I want to win: “Feel it Still” – Portugal. The Man
Who I think will win: “Despacito” – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber
It’s not hard to notice that “Despacito” was one of the most popular on this list radio wise, so I think they will take it home, especially if they don’t win in one of the major song categories mentioned earlier. Portugal. The Man, an excellent alternative rock band who made it mainstream this year with the infectious “Feel it Still,” are the sure fire winner for me. They have the best song out of this bunch and it would be really awesome to see the underdogs win.
Category: Best Pop Vocal Album
Nominees: Kaleidoscope EP – Coldplay, Lust for Life – Lana Del Rey, Evolve – Imagine Dragons, Rainbow – Kesha, Joanne – Lady Gaga, Divide – Ed Sheeran.
Who I want to win: Either Rainbow – Kesha, or Joanne – Lady Gaga
Who I think will win: Joanne – Lady Gaga
Gaga’s shift in sound on Joanne is a milestone in her career. She took a risk by making a more authentic, southern-tinged pop album that allowed fans get to know her in a different, more personal way. Every song on Joanne is excellent, with each having their own personality and effect on the listener. It truly is one of the strongest contenders here, and should have even been in the Album of the Year category. I think Grammy voters saw the authenticity and dedication that Gaga brought to Joanne, and how personal it was for her to create such a diverse body of work. Kesha, too, made a strong shift in her sound for her album Rainbow, another personal and reflective album that is a viable contender in this category. I love both albums, but I think Joanne has the edge.
Snubbed in this category were Demi Lovato’s Tell Me You Love Me, and Miley Cyrus’ Younger Now, both of which are the young singers’ best albums to date. They deliver some of the strongest vocals they’ve done thus far, and both created albums that deserved a nomination in place of the mediocre EP by Coldplay, or the forgettable, uninspired pop-rock that Imagine Dragons put forth on Evolve. Maybe the Grammys don’t favour Disney stars – but it’s hard to ignore these women, especially with the caliber of pop music they’ve been creating over the past several years since departing from their respective childhood television careers.
Category: Best Alternative Music Album
Nominees: Everything Now – Arcade Fire, Humanz – Gorillaz, American Dream – LCD Soundsystem, Pure Comedy – Father John Misty, Sleep Well Beast – The National
Who I want to win: Everything Now – Arcade Fire
Who I think will Win: American Dream – LCD Soundsystem
I’m not well versed on all of these nominee’s latest releases, however I have briefly listened to each from time to time. Everything Now is the only album of the bunch that has become a mainstay on my playlist. It’s quirky and definitely a step out of the box for Arcade Fire. While the album may sound fun and ABBA-like on the surface, the lyrics and messages run deep, especially on songs like “Creature Comfort” that tackles depression and the damaging thoughts that often come with it. LCD Soundsystem are legends, and their latest is a good effort. I think the Grammy voters will go with them for their lasting power in the industry, and the fact that they are still making good music that holds up in the modern music landscape, but seeing Arcade Fire win would be a treat.
Category: Best Urban Contemporary Album
Nominees: Free 6LACK – 6LACK, Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino, American Teen – Khalid, Ctrl – SZA, Starboy – The Weeknd
Who I want to win: American Teen – Khalid
Who I think will win: Ctrl – SZA
Khalid wrote the majority of his debut album, American Teen, while still in high school. Now at 19, he’s seen immense success stemming from the cool and distinct sound he created on this record. He’s a top contender in my books because of how good his songs are – everything from the lyrics, to the melody, to the overall cohesiveness and theme of the album make him a standout among his fellow nominees. While he has a strong chance, newcomer and one of the most popular rising stars of today, SZA, also has a good chance. Her album openly explores the sexuality and romantic life of a millennial woman, all presented via smooth, intoxicating R&B melodies. The Weeknd’s album, Starboy, could take this one also. His album is lengthy, yet is full of hits that showcase his impeccable falsetto and ability to seamlessly cross between R&B and pop. Ultimately, Khalid may be young and arguably the freshest face to the music industry that is included in this category, but his album is solid from top to bottom and deserves recognition.
Category: Best Rap Performance
Nominees: “Bounce Back” – Big Sean, “Bodak Yellow” – Cardi B, “4:44” – Jay-Z, “HUMBLE.” – Kendrick Lamar, “Bad and Boujee” – Migos Feat. Lil Uzi Vert
Who I want to win: “HUMBLE.” – Kendrick Lamar
Who I think will win: “HUMBLE.” – Kendrick Lamar
Jay-Z and Kendrick are a close call for this one, but ultimately Kendrick’s song has had more of a cultural impact this year and gained more popularity. Jay’s song is good with introspective lyrics that are very personal and revealing, however Kendrick’s performance is more powerful. I personally have had “HUMBLE.” on heavy rotation in my music library since its release. The other nominees are all strong contenders, but it would be more unlikely for them to win. “Bodak Yellow” has had immense, undeniable success, but it’s not the best song here and Cardi B is very new to the rap scene. “Bad and Boujee” is beyond catchy, but it’s more of a novelty song and doesn’t really deserve the credibility of a Grammy win. “Bounce Back” is also super catchy and Big Sean has great flow on the track, but it doesn’t have enough substance to be given the Best Rap Performance title.
Category: Best Country Solo Performance
Nominees: “Body Like a Back Road” – Sam Hunt, “Losing You” – Alison Krauss, “Tin Man” – Miranda Lambert, “I Could Use a Love Song” – Maren Morris, “Either Way” – Chris Stapleton
Who I want to win: “Tin Man” – Miranda Lambert
Who I think will win: “Either Way” – Chris Stapleton
Though Chris Stapleton’s impressive vocals soar on “Either Way,” the song is oddly missing something. It feels incomplete, or lacking in a way that I just can’t pin point. “Tin Man” by Miranda Lambert instantly hits the listener with a wave of genuine emotion. You can feel her immense heartbreak in the delicacy of her vocals and in the simple yet gut-wrenching lyrics. Since this is more of a vocal focused category, I believe Stapleton will win, but Lambert has the upper edge in the Best Country Song category.
Category: Best Country Song (Songwriters award)
Nominees: “Better Man” – Little Big Town (Songwriter: Taylor Swift), “Body Like a Back Road” – Sam Hunt (Songwriters: Zach Crowell, Sam Hunt, Shane McAnally & Josh Osborne), “Broken Halos” – Chris Stapleton (Songwriters: Mike Henderson & Chris Stapleton), “Drinkin’ Problem” – Midland (Songwriters: Jess Carson, Cameron Duddy, Shane McAnally, Josh Osborne & Mark Wystrach), “Tin Man” – Miranda Lambert (Songwriters: Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert & Jon Randall)
Who I want to win: “Tin Man” – Miranda Lambert (Songwriters: Jack Ingram, Miranda Lambert & Jon Randall)
Who I think will win: Either “Tin Man” or “Broken Halos”
As mentioned regarding the last category, Miranda Lambert and her co-writers really captured the simple yet powerful emotion that comes along with heartbreak. Her voice is stunning and the song is one of the best in her entire repertoire. Stapleton’s song is a strong contender and has a good chance of winning as well. His distinct, raspy voice is as present as ever, and the song is very memorable. I’d prefer Miranda to win, just because she clearly poured herself into this song and every live performance of it has captured her audience’s attention in a really beautiful way. If “Better Man” wins this, it’s simply because Taylor Swift wrote it and the Grammy voters tend to favour her. That’s not a knock at the song, because I enjoy the track a lot, however it’s not the best one on this list.
Category: Best Country Album
Nominees: Cosmic Hallelujah – Kenny Chesney, Heart Break – Lady Antebellum, The Breaker – Little Big Town, Life Changes – Thomas Rhett, From A Room: Volume 1 – Chris Stapleton
Who I want to win: The Breaker – Little Big Town
Who I think will win: The Breaker – Little Big Town
Chris Stapleton is a force in the current country music landscape, so his album seems like it would be the obvious choice due to his next-level vocals and personal songwriting. However, From A Room: Volume 1 was a let-down when compared to his previous releases. There are some strong songs on there, but not enough to make it the Best Country Album, in my opinion. The Breaker by Little Big Town is a stunning record that takes the listener on a nostalgia-fuelled summertime journey. It’s a muted and mature sound for Little Big Town, who usually go big with their lush country anthems. This time around, they show their softer side, with a few upbeat tunes in the mix. It’s easy listening, but the lyrics are deep and meaningful. The clean production and solid vocals make for one of the best albums of the year. This is the perfect example of soft-rock melding seamlessly with country.
Category: Album of the Year
Nominees: Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino, 4:44 – Jay-Z, DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar, Melodrama – Lorde, 24K Magic – Bruno Mars
Who I want to win: Melodrama – Lorde
Who I think will win: Melodrama – Lorde
The only woman in the category, Lorde, was only a teenager when she made her debut just a few years ago. Her newest release, Melodrama, is a near perfectly crafted listening experience that evokes emotions that almost anyone – but especially young women – can relate to. It tackles love and loss, all while remaining youthful, vibrant, and at times, dark. Lorde took her time creating this album, which has left an impactful mark in the music world. She truly deserves this award, especially since she was not nominated in any other category (which is insane). The only other albums I can see possibly taking this one may be 24K Magic, or DAMN. Both have had huge success, radio play, and cultural impact since their release, and Bruno and Kendrick are doing some of their best work. I will say that the diversity factor is great this year, however more women should have been considered in the main categories. Overall, Lorde created a body of work that is best experienced in full, making it the absolute clear choice for Album of the Year.
The full list of nominees can be found here: https://www.grammy.com/grammys/news/60th-grammy-awards-full-nominees-list