The GRAMMYs, till date, remains one of the biggest musical events of the year (even though it has its fair share of detractors) making it a good time to take stock of the biggest artists and music of the past year. With that in mind, we’re doing a quick rundown of the major nominees and their chances to take home that golden gramophone.
#1. Record of the Year
Adele is undeniably one of the most successful musicians on the planet, and Hello is one of her biggest hits. It mostly sticks to her formula of powerful, emotional vocals and sparse instrumentation to deliver a pop behemoth. As with most of her work, this has a solid chance of being a winner.
With similar odds of winning is Beyonce’s Formation – a fierce, political record that uses of-the-moment references and trap production to deliver an unapologetic statement by a Black feminist and a legendary artist. Given the record’s controversial nature, (among angry conservatives, mostly) giving Bey this award would make for quite the moment.
Stressed Out by twenty one pilots – how far Twenty One Pilots have come – arguably the biggest song of their career is probably the least pop song in contention, but also one of the strongest songs. The sparse but fitting production and contemplative mood have tapped into the psyche of the generation its written for – possibly a surprise winner? 7 Years by Lukas Graham and Work by Rihanna, featuring Drake have been inescapable pop songs throughout the year, but their snatching this victory is doubtful.
#2. Album Of The Year
25 by Adele was the fastest selling album of 2015, and a massive success in every way. You know what you get with Adele, and she has few naysayers. Strong contender. Bey’s Lemonade was similarly successful – for multiple reasons – and is considered one of, if not the, best album(s) of her career. And she’s a Grammy favourite, so there’s a solid shot.
Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth is the standard left-of-field contender in the AotY category. A beautiful album with some of the best songwriting of the year, it has the potential to be one of those surprise victories.
Justin Bieber’s Purpose and Drake’s Views were both mediocre albums that were presumably slotted in because of their creators’ stature. Pass.
#3. Song Of The Year
Adele’s Hello is a great song, but its strongest suit isn’t its penmanship. This could go either way. Formation is raw, unfiltered and makes powerful statements in sharply delivered verses. Possible winner. Mike Posner’s I Took a Pill in Ibiza was a smash hit, but owing to the popularity of its remix, the lyrics were (unfortunately) secondary. Still a great song, though. 7 Years by Lukas Graham and Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself aren’t written as strongly as the others – standard pop fare.
#4. Best New Artist
Ideally, this should go to either Chance the Rapper or Anderson .Paak – .Paak came out with one of the best RnB/soul albums in recent times and is incredibly talented, while Chance has finally been recognized as a mainstream artist, along with having an insurmountable year of success. There is, however, a chance that The Chainsmokers will take this one home, given the success of their singles and the Grammy’s tendency to be myopic with these choices.
#5. Best Pop Solo Performance
This is Adele‘s all the way home. No other nominee has her vocal chops, and Hello has her using them at their best. Hold Up is a great song, but it simply doesn’t have the same levity.
#6. Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
This is truly a tough pick. Closer by The Chainsmokers is pop perfection, while Cheap Thrills by Sia featuring Sean Paul and Work were pop songs with distinct dancehall flavour that made for some immensely danceable music. But both 7 Years and Stressed Out were driven largely by their vocal performances, which brings them closer to the victory than the others.
#8. Best Pop Vocal Album
Nearly every contender here (sorry, JB) has a vocal style their own that puts them in contention for the prize, but as with the Pop Solo Performance, the clear victor here is Adele’s 25. You can fault her songwriting and production as much as you’d like, but you cannot deny the emotive strength and range of her voice.
#9. Best Dance Recording
This is one of those categories that doesn’t have much to sift through – fortunately or unfortunately – since it typically goes to the most popular of the lot, the honour here belonging to The Chainsmokers’ Don’t Let Me Down featuring Daya. With that being said, Flume’s Never Be Like You featuring Kai is the better of the successes, with shimmering bass-driven production complementing Kai’s fuller vocals. Maybe the jury will think the same way.
#10. Best Rock Song
Please give this to Blackstar . The David Bowie track is a reminder of Bowie’s genius, with its surrealist lyrics backed by intricate jazz-rock instrumentation – this is a tribute Bowie deserves. With that being said, Burn The Witch and Hardwired are brilliant tracks, w in their own right, by two of the best rock bands around, with the former’s imagery being particularly compelling. Heathens is a solid song, but it simply can’t match up to the other contenders.
#11. Best Rock Album
It would seem, like it’s happened so many times before, that the Grammy committee has missed out on several gems this year in this category. However, among the albums that make the cut, the cult favourite Gojira’s Magma is the strongest contender for the prize, although Cage The Elephant’s Tell Me I’m Pretty could make the cut too – it’s got the alt-rock sound the jury loves, and it’s far more emotive than the other records here.
#12. Best Alternative Music Album
Easily the hardest choice to make here. David Bowie’s Blackstar, Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, and Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool are some of the finest albums of 2016, each uniquely brilliant. Blackstar is an experimental masterpiece, and a fitting close to Bowie’s legendary career. 22, A Million is Bon Iver’s most left-field album yet – which is saying something – and creates a space in music all their own. But A Moon Shaped Pool is perhaps the strongest album here, its atmosphere capturing cosmic moments like none of the others do. The jury is out on this one.
#13. Best Rap Performance
Say what you will about Desiigner and Panda, its energy is undeniable – this is truly a rap performance. No Problem, All The Way Up and That Part are memorable, inspired tracks and some of the best work the respective rappers have been involved with – but purely based on how Desiigner sounds, the winner seems pretty clear.
#14. Best Rap/Sung Performance
Another tough category; while it is clear, unfortunately, that Drake will take this one home with Hotline Bling because of its unparalleled success, Kanye West’s Ultralight Beam is some of the finest music he’s created (Famous was pretty great too, if the jury can get past that Taylor line) and D.R.A.M’s Broccoli, featuring Lil Yachty’s best verse to date, is arguably catchier than even Hotline Bling. Maybe the Grammys will throw up another surprise here, though.
#15. Best Rap Song
Give Drake his Rap/Sung gramophone, but this one must go to Ultralight Beam. There is no other track in this category that matches up to its musicality. Kanyeezy did it again.
#16. Best Rap Album
Drake’s Views, as it happens, might be given the award simply because of his pop appeal, while Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo is a great album, but fat from his best. ScHoolboy Q’s Blank Face LP , on the other hand, is his best work, but it doesn’t have the numbers or notoriety to win, sadly.
But Chance the Rapper has lobbied for, and won the right to be included in the Grammys, a moment that will change the face of the music industry. He’s a trailblazer, and Coloring Book is one of his finest hours. He deserves this trophy.