The Grammys’ eligibility period has already ended last September 30, which means no Frank Ocean, Kanye, and Adele for this year. But as we wait for the nomination announcement this December (though by now, expect Taylor Swift to dominate), let’s take a look at the potential top contenders in the Big 4 General categories with names ranging from Ed Sheeran to Sam Hunt and soundtracks from Selma to Furious Seven.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
While we’re not sure yet if the Grammys will easily reward Taylor Swift with an AOTY win #2 for 1989, chances are, it’s a lock for a nomination in this category already. Being the critical and commercial darling of the past eligibility period, there’s no doubt that the biggest story in music for the past year is Taylor’s domination and she’ll cap it with an AOTY nomination. Then there’s the breakout star The Weeknd (I know he’s been in the industry for a few years already), but the past year has been his biggest break churning out hits one after the other, so expect Beauty Behind the Madness to be in the conversation as well. Foo Fighters came close in 2012 sweeping all their nominations except for AOTY (losing to another juggernaut, Adele’s 21), so Sonic Highways might be their redemption bid. Despite getting some buzz the past few years, alternative genre still hasn’t followed up 2010 winner The Suburbs a representative here. This year, Sound & Color from Alabama Shakes seems like their strongest bid. Mark Ronson can clearly sweep the Big 3 category too, especially if the Academy falls in love with him so much that a Uptown Special nod is still possible.
Then there’s also comebacking artist D’Angelo, whose album Black Messiah, his first in 14 years, was critically well received, and if there’s one thing the Grammys love, it’s none other than a good ole comeback. While her breakout year five years ago didn’t translate to much Grammys, it’s never too late for Florence + the Machine to nab a nod in the top category with their latest release How Big Blue, How Blue, How Beautiful. Then what is an AOTY lineup without a country representative? Kacey Musgraves’ Pageant Material fits the bill even if there’s a group of country acts that can easily replace it too. Another act who enjoyed a big year is Kendrick Lamar which makes me feel confident about his nomination for To Pimp A Butterfly. Lastly, since this is the Grammys we’re talking about (basically the same group who nominated two versions of “How Do I Live” against each other in the same year), then maybe we can see a Ryan Adams version of 1989 competing against Taylor Swift’s version. That would certainly provide more coverage to their group (and it’s not as if Adams isn’t deserving to be nominated).
“1989” (Taylor Swift)
“Beauty Behind the Madness” (The Weeknd)
“Black Messiah” (D’Angelo)
“Sonic Highways” (Foo Fighters)
“To Pimp a Butterfly” (Kendrick Lamar)
RECORD OF THE YEAR
We’re certain a Taylor Swift is gonna figure in this race, so it depends on what her team will submit, but it seems like “Blank Space” is the logical choice — it’s a huge hit that was well received by the critics. This category loves the Hot 100 #1 finishers, so aside from Swift, expect one to two more contenders from top charting hits like “Uptown Funk” from Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, “See You Again” from Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth, and The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” to figure in this race. Oh, and Justin Bieber’s sorta comeback can be rewarded as well with a nod for “Where Are U Now” (instead of his other hit “What Do U Mean“) simply because of the Skrillex and Diplo recognition.
The other collaboration that I see the Academy going for is the triumvirate of Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney with “FourFiveSeconds” especially with the name involved (and the love it received when they performed it at the Grammys earlier this year). Ed Sheeran is a General Field favorite figuring in the last three years with SOTY, BNA, and AOTY nominations respectively. He has yet to be nominated for Record of the Year, but “Thinking Out Loud” seems like a good bet to break in here. Two other crossover hits of the previous year were Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush” and Walk the Moon’s “Shut Up and Dance“, so they’re certainly in the race too. For the random last spot, I’m leaning to Major Lazer’s “Lean On” as it was a huge hit as well as the FIFA World Cup theme song for 2017. Plus I won’t be surprised if an electronic song finally breaks it to the main categories.
“Blank Space” (Taylor Swift)
“Can’t Feel My Face” (The Weeknd)
“Lean On” (Major Lazer)
“Thinking Out Loud” (Ed Sheeran)
“Uptown Funk” (Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars)
SONG OF THE YEAR
Song of the Year has a great correlation with Record of the Year so chances are, the same songs vying for that category can also figure out here such as Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space“, Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud“, and Mark Ronson & Bruno Mars collaboration “Uptown Funk.” There isn’t any assurance of which The Weeknd song will be submitted here, but anything between “Can’t Feel My Face”, “Earned It“, or my predicted “The Hills” can be nominated here. For now, let’s call it as The Weeknd spot. If the Academy considers Kendrick Lamar to be a big factor in this race, then we won’t be surprised if “Alright” finds its way into the top five.
Oscar winning classics have been a mainstay in this category too, so this bodes well for current winner “Glory” from John Legend and Common. Working for it is that it’s more than just an Oscar winning song, as it’s been a statement and a powerful one at that. Working against it is that lately, Grammy isn’t much open to Oscar winning tunes in the General Field just like Adele’s “Skyfall” or the gigantic hit “Let It Go” from last year. That said, there’s the other hit soundtrack in contention: “See You Again” which is also one of the year’s biggest hits. From classics such as Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” to fluffs such as Katy Perry’s “Roar“, Song of the Year has also been the home of inspirational anthems. This year, Rachel Platten can be in the conversation for her uplifting “The Fight Song” even if the record was more low-key than those that got nominated here. As for that country representative, Sam Hunt’s “Take Your Time” is viable but we expect “Girl Fight” from Little Big Town to be the bigger contender.
“Blank Space” (Taylor Swift)
“Girl Crush” (Little Big Town)
“The Hills” (The Weeknd)
“See You Again” (Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth)
“Thinking Out Loud” (Ed Sheeran)
Image courtesy of: billboard.com
BEST NEW ARTIST
Always the trickiest to predict, with all the eligibility rules changing every now and then, to say that Best New Artist predictions is a daunting task can be considered as an understatement. With his great chart performance the past year, one can count Fetty Wap a contender this year, regardless of how we personally feel about him. This is the same group that nominated Iggy Azalea last year, so there are literally no excuses. Sure girl groups are rare, but the chances of them getting nominated is rarer (Haim got in last year but we have to go back to 1998 when Dixie Chicks got in). Maybe Fifth Harmony can join the elusive list? The country contingent is really strong in this particular category. In the last nine years, we have Carrie Underwood, Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum, Zac Brown Band, The Band Perry, Hunter Hayes, Kacey Musgraves, and Brandy Clark. The name to be remembered this year is Sam Hunt. Leon Bridges meanwhile reminds me of that new artist whom the Academy really just roots for to happen. It also doesn’t hurt that his song “Coming Home” achieved some sort of a viral status. Swedish singer Tove Lo is also picking up traction, so don’t be surprised if you hear her name come nomination morning.
It’s also hard to go against the Academy’s liking for up and coming young female singer/songwriters especially in a year as wide as this one so expect Tori Kelly figuring in this race. English musician James Bay can also get in just like the other English James — Blake that is — in 2013. Then there’s also that new artist who gets in for that one huge hit they have, which bodes well for Walk the Moon‘s chances. However, it can also be a case of “A Thousand Miles” or “Call Me Maybe” picking up ROTY and/or SOTY nods but the artist is nowhere to found in the BNA category. Stitches is peaking at the right time, so it will help Shawn Mendes‘ chances even though he has to overcome the aversion of this category to young stars (well unless you’re as big as Justin Bieber circa 2010). Lastly, there’s always a reserved slot for that artist who has already been nominated earlier but surprisingly wasn’t eligible for this category because of the Academy’s weird rules. This caused Ed Sheeran’s nominated two years ago, and this year’s recipient is likely last year’s ROTY & SOTY nominee Meghan Trainor or Take Me to Church singer Hozier.
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