Who Should Win And Who Will Win At The 2021 Grammys

Beth Garrabrant

Who Should Win And Who Will Win At The 2021 Grammys

Beth Garrabrant

Did you know the Grammys are this weekend? They kind of snuck up on me this year, pandemic and all — even though if not for the pandemic they’d have already been over by now. Speaking of the pandemic — because when have we as a society not been speaking of it, really — ye olde COVID has forced the Grammys to completely reinvent its broadcast. Sunday night at an undisclosed location in Los Angeles, a list of artists including Taylor Swift, Cardi B, and Billie Eilish will perform on a circle of five stages with a masked crew in the center. There will be no audience present, and the performances will be a mix of live and pre-taped. First-time Grammys producer Ben Winston tells Rolling Stone it will be “part Grammys, part Abbey Road studio session” and also a “bespoke night of music that I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to repeat.”

Will it be weird? Probably! The part where they hand out the awards will probably be weird too, even beyond the clumsiness witnessed at last month’s all-virtual Golden Globes. This year’s field of nominees feels odd, even by Grammys standards. Still, there are some Very Good Options as well as some Very Grammy Options. Sometimes those categories even overlap. With that in mind, here are some suggestions about who should win several categories, as well as predictions of who will win, starting with the four General Field categories.

Best New Artist

Ingrid Andress
Phoebe Bridgers
Chika
Noah Cyrus
D Smoke
Doja Cat
Kaytranada
Megan Thee Stallion

Who should win: We can toss Ingrid Andress, the reality TV a cappella singer-turned-rising country star who scored a breakthrough hit with the quarantine ballad “More Hearts Than Mine” because that song ain’t anything special. We can also toss Noah Cyrus (LOL) and D Smoke, who won Netflix’s rapper competition Rhythm & Flow and whose album is basically JV Kendrick Lamar. Kaytranada rules, but his nomination is about a decade too late. It’s basically a race between three wildly different deserving woman rappers (Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, and Chika) and Phoebe Bridgers, who, although not a rapper, certainly has bars. Factoring in talent, commercial success, and the built-in triumph-over-adversity narrative with regard to her shooting, Megan feels like the best choice.
Who will win: The Grammys never miss a chance to reward a talented young white woman over Black rappers, so don’t rule out Bridgers here — especially given the recent fame boost from her big controversial SNL moment.

Song Of The Year

Beyoncé – “Black Parade”
Roddy Ricch – “The Box”
Post Malone – “Circles”
Dua Lipa – “Don’t Start Now”
Billie Eilish – “Everything I Wanted”
H.E.R. – “I Can’t Breathe”
JP Saxe – “If The World Was Ending” (Feat. Julia Michaels)
Taylor Swift – “Cardigan”

Who should win: Song Of The Year is strictly a songwriter’s award, whereas Record Of The Year honors the track in its finished recorded form. With that in mind, Post Malone’s “Circles” feels like the most obvious misstep here — although it’s the only #1 single of the bunch, it’s also the one that feels more like a vibe than a song. This same condition befalls “Black Parade”: It’s contagiously fun when it’s on, which can largely be attributed to great production and performance, but it doesn’t exactly get stuck in your head. “If The World Was Ending,” meanwhile, is the kind of song you wish you could get out of your head. “I Can’t Breathe” is timely and heartfelt but also better as poetry or an essay than as a song. “The Box” is deeply catchy, but I have a hard time believing a song with the lyric “I’m a 2020 president candidate” was the best of the year. “Cardigan” is fine but frankly not Taylor Swift’s best work; in terms of folklore songs that got an official single push, they should have nominated “Betty” IMO. “Everything I Wanted” is a perfectly solid Billie Eilish ballad, and it’s no “Bad Guy,” and it would be absurd for her to win this award two years in a row. That leaves “Don’t Start Now,” one of the most winsome pop songs in recent memory, as the best candidate in an underwhelming category.
Who will win: I see this going one of three ways. Dua Lipa could win as part of a dominant night that sees her anointed as the new face of the music industry. Billie Eilish, last year’s new face of the industry, could win. Or H.E.R., who the Grammys have been furiously nominating at every opportunity, will finally take home one of the ceremony’s top trophies. Bet on Dua Lipa.

Record Of The Year

Beyoncé – “Black Parade”
Black Pumas – “Colors”
DaBaby – “Rockstar” (Feat. Roddy Ricch)
Doja Cat – “Say So”
Billie Eilish – “Everything I Wanted”
Dua Lipa – “Don’t Start Now”
Post Malone – “Circles”
Megan Thee Stallion – “Savage (Remix)” (Feat. Beyoncé)

Who should win: Again, this is depressing. I promise that even though there was a pandemic, there was a less depressing list of elite singles to choose from here. The Weeknd is not wrong to be furious about “Blinding Lights” getting left off here. In its absence, we get some monstrously popular radio filler (“Rockstar,” “Circles”), some undistinguished throwback soul (“Colors”), a decent disco pastiche that might have ripped off Skylar Spence (“Say So”), the pile of goop at the end of Post Malone’s genre meltdown (“Circles”), the aforementioned good-not-great Eilish and Beyoncé songs (“Everything I Wanted” and “Black Parade”), the aforementioned immaculate Dua Lipa song, and the Beyoncé-less original version of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage.” If they’d nominated the “Savage” remix, I’d have given it the nod here, but I’m going with “Don’t Start Now.” UPDATE: I had that one wrong, they did indeed nominate the “Savage” remix. So Grammy people, please give this trophy to Team Houston.
Who will win: You can never rule out some bizarre popular choice like “Circles” or some bizarre obscure choice like “Colors,” but I’m guessing this one will go to Lipa as well.

Album Of The Year

Jhené Aiko – Chilombo
Black Pumas – Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition)
Coldplay – Everyday Life
Jacob Collier – Djesse Vol 3
Haim – Women In Music Pt. III
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
Post Malone – Hollywood’s Bleeding
Taylor Swift – folklore

Who should win: I don’t think anyone liked the newest Coldplay album more than I did, and even I didn’t remember they released it by the time these nominations dropped. Given the lack of impact it made, Everyday Life is a bizarre inclusion here. Conservatory virtuoso type Jacob Collier and boutique retro soul act Black Pumas at least fit into certain Grammy lanes, even if they deserve to be nowhere near this category. Like every Post Malone album, Hollywood’s Bleeding suffered from way too much filler. Frankly, so did folklore and Chilombo, although I enjoyed both. Future Nostalgia would be a decent choice here: a blockbuster pop album that spun off a bunch of hits, is actually good, and avoided streaming-era bloat. But for reasons described here, Women In Music Pt. III was my actual favorite album of 2020. I worry about how Haim might lean into their worst tendencies after winning a Grammy, but I also can’t advocate against an album I love so much.
Who will win: The big storyline will be, of course, whether the Grammys give this award to Taylor Swift for a third time after snubbing her most recent efforts. Given that folklore helped carry the industry through the pandemic summer, and that it represents a pivot into a certain Grammy-friendly kind of singer-songwriter credibility, it’s easy to imagine that storyline playing out. A Dua Lipa sweep also seems possible, and we can’t ignore the potential for Post Malone to dominate the night. But yeah, I think this will go to folklore, especially since Swift will be on-site to perform.

OK, let’s close this out with a lightning round through some of the genre categories:

Best Pop Vocal Album

Justin Bieber – Changes
Lady Gaga – Chromatica
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
Harry Styles – Fine Line
Taylor Swift – folklore

Who should win: Lady Gaga. (Justice for Chromatica!)
Who will win: Dua Lipa.

Best Rock Song

Phoebe Bridgers – “Kyoto”
Tame Impala – “Lost In Yesterday”
Big Thief – “Not”
Fiona Apple – “Shameika”
Brittany Howard – “Stay High”

Who should win: Big Thief.
Who will win: Phoebe Bridgers.

Best Rock Performance

Fiona Apple – “Shameika”
Big Thief – “Not”
Phoebe Bridgers – “Kyoto”
HAIM – “The Steps”
Brittany Howard – “Stay High”

Who should win: Big Thief.
Who will win: Haim.

Best Rock Album

Fontaines D.C. – A Hero’s Death
Michael Kiwanuka – Kiwanuka
Grace Potter – Daylight
Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury
The Strokes – The New Abnormal

Who should win: The Strokes.
Who will win: The Strokes.

Best Rap Album

D Smoke – Black Habits
Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo
Jay Electronica – A Written Testimony
Nas – King’s Disease
Royce Da 5’9″ – The Allegory

Who should win: Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist.
Who will win: D Smoke.

Best Progressive R&B Album

Jhené Aiko – Chilombo
Chloe X Halle – Ungodly Hour
Free Nationals – Free Nationals
Robert Glasper – Fuck Yo Feelings
Thundercat – It Is What It Is

Who should win: Thundercat.
Who will win: Jhené Aiko (and I won’t be mad).

Best Folk Album

Bonny Light Horseman – Bonny Light Horseman
Leonard Cohen – Thanks For The Dannce
Laura Marling – Song For Our Daughter
The Secret Sisters – Saturn Return
Gillian Welch & David Rawlings – All The Good Times

Who should win: Laura Marling.
Who will win: Bonny Light Horseman.

Best Rap Performance

Big Sean – “Deep Reverence” (Feat. Nipsey Hussle)
DaBaby – “Bop”
Jack Harlow – “What’s Poppin”
Lil Baby – “The Bigger Picture”
Megan Thee Stallion – “Savage” (Feat. Beyoncé)
Pop Smoke – “Dior”

Who should win: Pop Smoke.
Who will win: Pop Smoke.

Best Melodic Rap Performance

DaBaby – “Rockstar” (Feat. Roddy Ricch)
Drake – “Laugh Now, Cry Later” (Feat. Lil Durk)
Anderson .Paak – “Lockdown”
Roddy Ricch – “The Box”
Travis Scott – “Highest In The Room”

Who should win: Drake and Lil Durk.
Who will win: Anderson .Paak.

Best Alternative Music Album

Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters
Beck – Hyperspace
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
Brittany Howard – Jaime
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

Who should win: These are all great choices except for the Beck LP, but come on, Fiona Apple.
Who will win: Fiona Apple? Fiona Apple.

CHART WATCH

Projections suggest the arrival of Drake’s new EP and the Bruno Mars x Anderson .Paak project Silk Sonic will finally shake up the Hot 100 next week. In the meantime, the Billboard charts remain in a state of stasis, with the same #1 album and song for the eighth week straight. Things are particularly stuck in the mud on the Billboard 200, where an album has not debuted in the top 10 for the third straight week. According to Billboard, this has happened more recently than you might think, back in the post-Christmas lull of January 2019. The last time it happened outside of the immediate post-Christmas phase was December 2000.

So yes, Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album is still #1 for the eighth straight week, boasting 82,000 equivalent album units and 6,000 in sales — the most weeks at #1 since Taylor Swift’s folklore last year. The rest of the top 10 comprises the Weeknd’s greatest hits album, Pop Smoke, Pooh Shiesty, Lil Durk, Ariana Grande, Lil Baby, Luke Combs, and Juice WRLD.

Remaining at #1 on the Hot 100 is Olivia Rodrigo’s “Drivers License.” According to Billboard it’s one of only seven singles to debut at #1 and stay there this long:

16 weeks, “One Sweet Day,” Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men, 1995-96
14 weeks, “Candle in the Wind 1997″/”Something About the Way You Look Tonight,” Elton John, 1997-98
11 weeks, “God’s Plan,” Drake, 2018
11 weeks, “I’ll Be Missing You,” Puff Daddy & Faith Evans feat. 112, 1997
10 weeks, “Hello,” Adele, 2015-16
8 weeks, “Drivers License,” Olivia Rodrigo, 2021
8 weeks, “Fantasy,” Mariah Carey, 1995

Cardi B’s “Up” stays steady at #2. The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” is back up to #3, extending its records for most weeks in the top 10 (52) and top 5 (43) while also tying the record for the most weeks in the top 3 (21) alongside the Chainsmokers and Halsey’s “Closer” and Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk!” The rest of the top 10: “34+35,” “Go Crazy,” “Save Your Tears,” “Mood,” “Calling My Phone,” Pop Smoke’s “What You Know Bout Love” (at a new #9 peak), and “Levitating.”

POP FIVE

Maroon 5 – “Beautiful Mistakes” (Feat. Megan Thee Stallion)
At this point even when I don’t care for the music I admire Maroon 5’s ability to jump on trends quickly, in this case a song that sounds like “Mood” with a verse from the hottest rapper going.

Justin Bieber – “Hold On”
Maybe this is a weird thing to say about Justin Bieber’s music, but I can’t get over how much these new singles all sound like product — catchy, sure, but completely lacking in personality or bite.

DJ Snake & Selena Gomez – “Selfish Love”
That same sanitized blandness befalls a lot of the new Selena Gomez material. It’s a bummer from an artist who has made some exhilarating pop music in the past. The surprise sax part here adds a lot.

Bebe Rexha – “Sacrifice”
Speaking of which, this has the breathy joie de vivre of the best Selena Gomez songs. Even if the chorus doesn’t quite live up to the promise of the verse, I can imagine not hating this on pop radio for months.

Girl In Red – “Serotonin” (Prod. Finneas) and Ashe & FINNEAS – “Till Forever Falls Apart”
One of the new queens of alt-pop teams with Billie Eilish’s brother on “Serotonin.” with engaging results. “Till Forever Falls Apart” is a solid theatrical power ballad too — that pedal steel! — but for all his songwriting and producing talents, I just can’t take Finneas seriously in a front-facing role.

NEWS IN BRIEF

  • Jamie Spears “would love nothing more than to see Britney not need a conservatorship,” his lawyer told CNN. [CNN]
  • On OVO Sound Radio, Drake said his delayed album Certified Lover Boy is “currently being chef’d in every way possible.” He added, “I don’t have an exact date, but it’s in the pot and it’s coming soon.” [The Star]
  • Meanwhile former NFL player Chad Ochocinco claims Drake and Rick Ross are working on a joint album. [Twitter]
  • Quavo on filming new movie Wash Me In The River with Robert De Niro: “He was just like, ‘For real. M-I-G-O-S, right?’ … He’s a nice dude.” [Billboard]
  • Ariana Grande and Demi Lovato have teased a new collab. [Billboard]
  • Bruno Mars really wants to perform his new Silk Sonic music with Anderson .Paak at the Grammys (and given that Grammys producer Ben Winston also produced Mars’ 2018 concert special for CBS, it seems not unlikely). [Twitter]
  • Having fulfilled her deal with RCA, Miley Cyrus signed to Columbia. [HITS]
  • Megan Thee Stallion and Rina Sawayama are featured in a new Calvin Klein campaign. [Twitter]
  • Nick Jonas is lending his voice to the upcoming Apple TV+ series Calls. [Variety]
  • Machine Gun Kelly’s drummer Rook was robbed and assaulted, and got hit by a car during the altercation. [TMZ]
  • JP Saxe and Maren Morris did “Line By Line” on Corden. [YouTube]
  • Why Don’t We had a launch party for their new album in Roblox. [YouTube]
  • Blackpink star in a new Adidas campaign. [YouTube]
  • SZA released a video for “Good Days.” [YouTube]
  • Alessia Cara sang “O Canada” at the NBA All-Star Game. [YouTube]
  • Cardi B left Twitter because fans are mad she dropped a doll instead of an album: “How am I supposed to be rich? How am I supposed to build my net worth?” [Twitter]

HOLD ON, WE’RE GOING HOME

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