The Week In Pop

Forecasting The 2016 Grammys

Chris DeVille | February 11, 2016 - 1:34 pm

The Grammys are on a Monday this year. Sunday is Valentine’s Day and Monday is Presidents’ Day, so the Grammy people figured they’d be better off putting the ceremony at the end of the long weekend. And as it turns out, that means music fans don’t have to choose between the Grammys and Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger’s new HBO series Vinyl, which premieres Sunday.

My hopes are high for that show, and frankly, they’re high for the Grammys too. Sure, the ceremony will be marred by the usual procession of bullshit: Does anyone really need a Lionel Richie tribute starring Luke Bryan, John Legend, Demi Lovato, and Meghan Trainor? Is the Pitbull/Travis Barker/Robin Thicke collaboration the result of some NARAS bet to see who could come up with the least appetizing combination of performers? But the nominations were surprisingly solid by Grammy standards, so we could be looking at a year when all four of the major categories go to deserving winners.

Speaking of which: Who does deserve to win these trophies, and who is actually likely to win? Let’s break down 12 of the most interesting categories.

Album Of The Year

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Colour
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Chris Stapleton – Traveller
Taylor Swift – 1989
The Weeknd – Beauty Behind The Madness
Who should win? Kendrick Lamar should win. All the AOTY nominees are actual good albums, a rarity at the Grammys, but it’s four very strong releases against one stone-cold classic. To Pimp A Butterfly is so obviously a masterpiece; the thought of any of these competitors defeating it makes me sad.
Who will win? Kendrick, I think? NARAS made showered him with such a gratuitous display of nominations that it would be inconceivable to see them overlook him this time. Sure, he walked into the building with seven nominations two years ago only to leave empty-handed, but they took so much heat for snubbing him, and they’ve gone so above and beyond to pre-anoint him this time around, I will be shocked if he doesn’t walk away with Album Of The Year. Swift won’t even mind!

Record Of The Year

D’Angelo & The Vanguard – “Really Love”
Mark Ronson Feat. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk!”
Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”
Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”
The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face”
Who should win? “Uptown Funk!” I’d have used an exclamation point even if there wasn’t one in the official song title. I already called it the best pop song of 2015, and I stand by that conclusion. Swift or the Weeknd are also acceptable choices.
Who will win? I frankly have no idea here. Four of five nominees are massive hits, so the inclusion of “Really Love” makes me think NARAS might be planning to reward D’Angelo, which I’d feel conflicted about; Black Messiah is great, but “Really Love” doesn’t pack the oomph of “1000 Deaths” or “The Charade.” Since winning AOTY for Fearless in 2010, Swift has not been a totally safe Grammy bet, but that could also mean she’s due to win one of the big awards. The large number of nominations for the Weeknd portends well for his chances, too, unless NARAS is fixing to treat him like Kendrick in 2014. And it’s easy to imagine a Grammys where a competent Ed Sheeran song beats out four truly great tracks for Record Of The Year. So with no confidence whatsoever I’m going to say “Uptown Funk!”

Song Of The Year

Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”
Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
Wiz Khalifa Feat. Charlie Puth – “See You Again”
Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”
Who should win? We recently proclaimed “Alright” the most important rap song of 2015, but does that mean it deserves to win Song Of The Year at the Grammys? That certainly would be cause for celebration. Yet I feel like To Pimp A Butterfly is greater than the sum of its parts, and even with the cultural weight “Alright” has taken on, I’m not sure it’s actually the best song in this songwriting-oriented category. I’d like to see this one go to “Blank Space,” one of the catchiest and most clever tunes in Swift’s well-stocked arsenal.
Who will win? Probably fucking “See You Again.”

Best New Artist

Courtney Barnett
James Bay
Sam Hunt
Tori Kelly
Meghan Trainor
Who should win? Courtney Barnett, duh. I may be the only Tori Kelly fan in America besides Tori Kelly’s corporate benefactors, and I’ve expressed my approval of Sam Hunt on multiple occasions. I even defended “All About That Bass”! But come on. Courtney Barnett deserves to be the next Bonny Bear.
Who will win? I’ve been studiously avoiding James Bay up until now, but boy, he sure has been getting a lot of hype leading up to the ceremony…

Best Alternative Music Album

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
Björk – Vulnicura
My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall
Tame Impala – Currents
Wilco – Star Wars
Who should win? All five of these albums are solid, but Currents is just transcendently good. Give Kevin Parker his statue.
Who will win? Given that Alabama Shakes are up for Album Of The Year, probably them, which is fine.

Best Rap Album

J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive
Dr. Dre – Compton
Drake – If Youre Reading This Its Too Late
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
Nicki Minaj – The Pinkprint
Who should win? Kendrick is the obvious “should win” pick here, though to be honest, you can make a case for Drake or Nicki too. Both of those projects are focused, fleshed-out visions and full of hits to boot. You could reasonably stump for Dr. Dre too, although that album left me cold. (J. Cole stans can GTFO, and this is coming from somebody with begrudging respect for J. Cole.) Some might even argue that To Pimp A Butterfly isn’t even a rap album. Still, Kendrick should win this category…
Who will win? …and undoubtedly, Kendrick will win this category. After all, Best Rap Album was the locus of the entire Macklemore controversy. Even if Kendrick’s grand Grammy sweep doesn’t end up happening, there’s no way they’re snubbing him for Best Rap Album.

Best Dance/Electronic Album

Caribou – Our Love
The Chemical Brothers – Born In The Echoes
Disclosure – Caracal
Jamie xx – In Colour
Skrillex And Diplo – Skrillex And Diplo Present Jack Ü
Who should win? Fascinating category! We can rule out Disclosure’s disappointing sophomore effort up front. The Chemical Brothers and Jack Ü albums have plenty of filler, so they can go too. What to make, then, of the remaining Caribou vs. Jamie xx showdown? Personally I just barely prefer Our Love’s pulsating waves of sound, but only a fool would protest a Grammy win for In Colour.
Who will win? Skrillex and Diplo are performing, so it’ll probably be them.

Best Rock Album

James Bay – Chaos And The Calm
Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi
Highly Suspect – Mister Asylum
Muse – Drones
Slipknot – .5: The Grey Chapter
Who should win? Weirdest category of them all! Let’s get this out of the way up front: Highly Suspect are the industry plantiest industry plant the industry ever planted. Even their nomination here is, you guessed it, highly suspect. Now that we’ve dispensed with that, I guess Death Cab should win? Maybe Muse? Even Slipknot would be an interesting choice. LOL at whichever NARAS committee decided all these bands belong in the same category.
Who will win? The Grammys seem to think Bay is bae, so he’ll likely take home this statue.

Best Pop Vocal Album

Kelly Clarkson – Piece By Piece
Florence + The Machine – How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Mark Ronson – Uptown Special
Taylor Swift – 1989
James Taylor – Before This World
Who should win? Here’s another awkward assemblage of musicians — probably because “Pop Vocal Album” is almost as vague as “Rock Album.” I’m a noted 1989 skeptic, but Swift deserves this award. Of the other four candidates, only Kelly Clarkson’s album even really qualifies as a true-blue pop album. James Taylor stays making folk-pop. Florence + The Machine are a rock band. Mark Ronson affixed a couple pop singles to a heady psych full-length. If 1989 was going up against E•MO•TION we’d have a pickle on our hands, but that’s not the case.
Who will win? Swift will win. 1989 was an unqualified success, and the industry knows who’s paying their rent.

Best Country Album

Sam Hunt – Montevallo
Little Big Town – Pain Killer
Ashley Monroe – The Blade
Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material
Chris Stapleton – Traveller
Who should win? Despite all the rightful hubbub about Chris Stapleton, in my opinion Ashley Monroe did more interesting things with a traditionalist country template last year. And frankly, I love Sam Hunt, corny though he may be. Hunt or Monroe are just as deserving as Stapleton if not more.
Who will win? Stapleton is 100 percent winning this.

Best R&B Album

Leon Bridges – Coming Home
D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah
Andra Day – Cheers To The Fall
Jazmine Sullivan – Reality Show
Charlie Wilson – Forever Charlie
Who should win? D’Angelo, of course. Go back and listen to Black Messiah again and tell me Leon Bridges’ retro shtick deserves to be mentioned in the same breath.
Who will win? Has there ever been a Grammy-er artist than Leon Bridges? (Relatedly, how is he up for all these awards but not Best New Artist?)

Producer Of The Year, Non-Classical

Jeff Bhasker
Dave Cobb
Diplo
Larry Klein
Blake Mills
Who should win? Diplo.
Who will win? Diplo.

CHART WATCH

By decisively debuting at #1 with his first solo single “Pillowtalk,” Zayn Malik — or, sorry, just ZAYN — now has more US #1 hits than One Direction, whose “Best Song Ever” topped out at #2 in 2013. “Pillowtalk” soars to #1 on the strength of 267,000 downloads and 2.23 million streams, the fourth-highest streaming week ever. Billboard notes that ZAYN the first UK artist to debut their first solo single at #1, and oddly enough, he’s the first artist whose name starts with Z to ever top the Hot 100.

“Pillowtalk” headlines a very busy week in the Hot 100’s upper echelon. Last week’s top tracks — Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” and “Sorry,” Twenty One Pilots’ “Stressed Out,” and Adele’s “Hello” — all bump down one space to round out the top 5. Then comes the moving and shaking: Drake enters at #6 with “Summer Sixteen” largely due to 215,000 downloads, Drake’s best sales week as a lead artist. Rihanna’s Drake-featuring “Work” rises two spots to #7, giving Drake simultaneous top-10 hits. Flo Rida’s “My House” is at #8, the Chainsmokers and Rozes’ “Roses” at #9. And down at #10, G-Eazy and Bebe Rexha’s “Me, Myself & I” ekes its way into the top 10.

Over on the albums chart, Rihanna’s ANTI bounces back from its disastrous, Tidal-sabotaged #27 debut by rocketing to #1 in its second week. Billboard points out that it’s the fastest jump to #1 from elsewhere on the chart since Radiohead’s In Rainbows leapt from #156 to #1 in January 2008. (The #156 showing was not due to Radiohead’s famed direct-to-fans, pay-what-you-want system but because some stores sold the ATO Records version of In Rainbows ahead of its official release date.) ANTI accumulated 166,000 equivalent units (124,000 in pure sales), but just imagine what kind of numbers the album would have put up if Tidal hadn’t botched the thing or if Rihanna hadn’t given a million downloads away for free.

Three more big album debuts this week: At #2 is Kevin Gates with Islah, which notches 112,000 (93,000 in pure sales). Sia’s This Is Acting debuts at #4 with 68,000 units. My nemesis Charlie Puth’s Nine Track Mind enters at #6 with 65,000 units, which is pleasingly much lower than I expected.

HOW ABOUT SOME BEYONCÉ/SUPER BOWL #CONTENT?

#superbowl50 jacket game

A photo posted by Gwyneth Paltrow (@gwynethpaltrow) on

POP FIVE

The Lumineers – “Ophelia”
These guys again, huh? Uh, I mean, “Hey!”

The Chainsmokers – “Don’t Let Me Down” (Feat. Daya)
I will never stop singing the praises of “Roses,” but this Daya collab is the first Chainsmokers single since then to approach that song’s glory. The production duo does justice to Daya’s losing-my-mind imagery by constantly toggling between chaos and serenity and never letting the song settle in one place for too long.

Dua Lipa – “Last Dance”
UK singer Dua Lipa has the same publicist as Adele and Zayn Malik, and as “Last Dance” attests, she’s got an equally powerful team of producers and songwriters at her back. It’s entirely unclear whether “Last Dance” represents any sort of personal vision on her part. Still, if this is pure product, I’ll take more of this product please.

Nelly – “Die A Happy Man” (Thomas Rhett Cover)
A rapper-turnt-sanga who has crossed over to country radio multiple times is now attempting to bring a country hit to pop radio. It’s pleasant, but it ain’t pretty.

Bryan J – “Why?”
This shimmering stunner interpolates Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.”

NEWS IN BRIEF

  • Drake’s got a new Views From The 6 bilboard up in Toronto 👀. [Instagram]
  • Elle King got engaged. [Twitter]
  • Christina Aguilera joined Hayden Panettiere’s “Lady Marmalade” Performance On Lip Sync Battle. [YouTube]
  • Jason Derulo needed 20 stitches after hurting his leg in a dancing accident (yes, there are dancing accidents). [Mirror]
  • A Frozen Broadway musical will open in spring 2018. [Theater Mania]
  • Zedd will move back to Germany if Trump is elected. [Twitter]

HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME