The Grammys have done everything they can this year to prevent the kind of outcry that took place when Taylor Swift beat Kendrick Lamar for Album of the Year in 2016, or when Adele felt compelled to apologize to Beyonce after her album beat “Lemonade” the following year.
In the prestige categories at the 60th Grammy Awards, you’ll find a full roster of hip-hop artists, with precious few white pop singers to steal the spotlight from the urban styles that have been at the center of popular music for years.
That doesn’t mean voters don’t have the opportunity to make a few eyebrow-raising choices — heck, it wouldn’t be the Grammys without awards (and performances) we can complain about.
Here are our best guesses about what will transpire in 10 of the top Grammy categories, including the one where Bernie Sanders is squaring off against a more formidable opponent than Hillary Clinton: Bruce Springsteen.
Warning: There’s not really a single scandalous choice to be found in here.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR Nominees: Childish Gambino: “Awaken, My Love”; Jay-Z: “4:44”; Kendrick Lamar: “DAMN.”; Lorde: “Melodrama”; Bruno Mars: “24K Magic”
Kendrick Lamar has already been the victim of an infamous Grammy snub in this category, losing the Album of the Year award in 2016 to Taylor Swift’s “1989.” It wouldn’t be completely out of character for Grammy voters to look at this lineup of nominees and choose the white artist, Lorde — but if they did that after receiving praise for the way the nominations finally embraced hip-hop in the major categories, voters would be seen as taking a huge step in the wrong direction.
If there’s going to be an upset, it’ll likely come from Bruno Mars, a Grammy favorite since 2011. But this time, it really does feel as if Lamar will prevail. Of course, we thought that in 2016 too.
Winner: Kendrick Lamar, “DAMN.”
RECORD OF THE YEAR Nominees: Childish Gambino: “Redbone”; Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber: “Despacito”; Jay-Z: “The Story of O.J.”; Kendrick Lamar: “HUMBLE.”; Bruno Mars: “24K Magic”
It’s not accurate to say that this award has never gone to a song predominantly in a foreign language, because Domenico Modugno won it for “Nel Blu Dipinto di Blu (Volare)” way back at the first Grammys in 1959. But that 59-year-gap is now staring straight at “Despacito,” in which even Justin Bieber gets to sing in Spanish. (And English, too.) The reggaton-pop confection is a huge worldwide hit – but if voters are looking something a little more familiar, they might well look in the direction of Bruno Mars, whose “24K Magic” is the kind of virtuoso dance tune that has won in this category recently with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Mars’ own collaboration with Mick Ronson, “Uptown Funk.”
Winner: Bruno Mars, “24K Magic”
SONG OF THE YEAR Nominees: Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber: “Despacito”; Jay-Z: “4:44”; Julia Michaels: “Issues”; Logic feat. Alessia Cara and Khalid: “1-800-273-8255”; Bruno Mars: “That’s What I Like”
Here’s where voters are looking for songcraft more than production, where the closest thing to a hip-hop song to ever win is Beyonce’s “Single Ladies.” That should help Julia Michaels, Bruno Mars and Logic, whose songs are arguably less production- and performance-dependent than “4:44” and “Despacito.” Michaels’ “Issues” might be the closest nominee to what the Academy usually looks for her, followed by Logic’s “1-800-273-8255.”
Winner: “Issues,” Julia Michaels
BEST NEW ARTIST Nominees: Alessia Cara; Khalid; Lil Uzi Vert; Julia Michaels; SZA
Although things have cooled down since the stretch from 1994 to 2003 that found solo female performers winning Best New Artist nine times in 10 years, voters do love to reward young women with this award. That’s one of the reasons Alessia Cara is a clear frontrunner and why SZA and Julia Michaels are her strongest competition. Michaels could pull off an upset because of that Song of the Year nomination – but Cara’s represented in that category, too, and she has more nominations overall.
Winner: Alessia Cara
BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM Nominees: Coldplay: “Kaleidoscope EP”; Lana Del Rey: “Lust for Life”; Imagine Dragons: “Evolve”; Kesha: “Rainbow”; Lady Gaga: “Joanne”; Ed Sheeran: “Divide”
Everybody thought Ed Sheeran was a shoo-in for Album of the Year and Song of the Year nominations, but instead he was shut out of all the top categories. Does that mean the Academy just doesn’t like him anymore, and he’s not going to win in this category either? Or does it mean they owe him, and he’s a lock to win this one?
The truth is probably somewhere in between – and if they really disliked Sheeran, they wouldn’t have nominated him for Pop Vocal Album at all. While Kesha and Lady Gaga and Coldplay are definitely in the running, Sheeran could well save face and take home this award.
Winner: Ed Sheeran, “Divide”
BEST ROCK ALBUM Nominees: Mastodon: “Emperor of Sand”; Metallica: “Hardwired … To Self-Destruct”; Nothing More: “The Stories We Tell Ourselves”; Queens of the Stone Age: “Villains”; The War on Drugs: “A Deeper Understanding”
Remember back in 1989, when they created the Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance category and Metallica’s classic ” … And Justice for All” album lost to the distinctly non-metallic Jethro Tull? No? Well, then you probably remember how the sound was screwed up on their duet with Lady Gaga at last year’s Grammy show. The Academy owes them for that one, too.
Winner: Metallica, “Hardwired … To Self-Destruct”
BEST R&B ALBUM Nominees: Daniel Caesar: “Freudian”; Ledisi: “Let Love Rule”; Bruno Mars: “24K Magic”; PJ Morton: “Gumbo”; Musiq Soulchild: “Feel the Real”
Daniel Caesar and PJ Morton are relative newcomers, while Ledisi and Musiq Soulchild have nine and 12 previous nominations without a win. But Mars has been nominated 21 times and has won four times in the last three years, in addition to being a favorite performer on the Grammys show.
Winner: Bruno Mars, “24K Magic”
BEST RAP ALBUM Nominees: Jay-Z: “4:44”; Kendrick Lamar: “DAMN.”; Migos: “Culture”; Rapsody: “Laila’s Wisdom”; Tyler, the Creator: “Flower Boy”
Even when he was losing Album of the Year to Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar was an easy winner in the rap categories. Jay-Z showed surprising appeal to Grammy voters this year, but it’d be a shock if anybody but Lamar took this one.
Winner: Kendrick Lamar, “DAMN.”
BEST COUNTRY ALBUM Nominees: Kenny Chesney: “Cosmic Hallelujah”; Lady Antebellum: “Heart Break”; Little Big Town: “The Breaker”; Thomas Rhett: “Life Changes”; Chris Stapleton: “From a Room: Volume 1”
Chris Stapleton won this award for his first album, “Traveller,” in 2015, when he was becoming one of the hottest and most adventurous new solo artists in country music. He’s now country’s best-selling artist despite his clear rock leanings – and with his well-regarded competitors all occupying the poppier side of country and perhaps splitting the pop-country vote, Stapleton should go back-to-back in the category.
Winner: Chris Stapleton, “From a Room: Volume 1”
Photo: Rob DeMartin
BEST SPOKEN WORD ALBUM Nominees: Neil Degrasse Tyson: “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry”; Bruce Springsteen: “Born to Run”; Shelly Peiken: “Confessions of a Serial Songwriter”; Bernie Sanders and Mark Ruffalo: “Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In”; Carrie Fisher: “The Princess Diarist”
Bernie Sanders finished second to Hillary Clinton in the competition he had in 2016, and now he gets to finish second (or third, or fourth) to Bruce Springsteen. Obviously you can’t count out the sentimental favorite, the late Carrie Fisher, but it’ll be hard for even Princess Leia to beat Springsteen delivering the audio-book version of the memoir that forms the basis for his acclaimed show “Springsteen on Broadway.” Warning: She might be the least-known nominee to most people, but Shelly Peiken is a very successful songwriter who has written hits for dozens of artists and clearly has lots of friends in the Recording Academy. Maybe even more than Bruce Springsteen.
Winner: Bruce Springsteen: “Born to Run”
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