NEW YORK – Here at The Associated Press, we’ve written stories for years about how the Grammys have dissed rap, R&B and other evolving genres before others wrote about the hot topic after Beyoncé lost to Adele last year. Check our records.
So you could imagine how vindicated and excited we felt when the nominations rolled out late last year with Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars, Luis Fonsi and Childish Gambino dominating in the top three categories, where rap, R&B and Latin music almost never win.
But because of our expertise in this Grammy game, we know what’s obvious: The Recording Academy is unpredictable.
So, again this year, we try our best at predicting who will win big when the awards are handed out Sunday at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
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ALBUM OF THE YEAR: “Awaken, My Love!,” Childish Gambino; “4:44,” Jay-Z; “DAMN.,” Kendrick Lamar; “Melodrama,” Lorde; “24K Magic,” Bruno Mars.
Fekadu: Let’s just call this a black out. The Grammys clearly want a non-white act to win, because if they didn’t care that much, they would have put Ed Sheeran up for this honor (deservingly). That’s why they chose Lorde — she’s a critical favorite so it’s a not a surprise she’s nominated, but who even remembers that she put out a project last year? Kesha or Harry Styles would have a stronger chance at winning album of the year than she would. With no rock or country nominees here, it makes you wonder where people from those genres will send their votes, and me thinks that’s to Kendrick and Bruno. Bruno plays multiple instruments, has written and produced all of his own songs as well as several hits for others, earning him appreciation from the music community at large, from songwriters to producers to engineers. I think with all of that support, along with Jay-Z and Kendrick splitting some of the votes, Bruno will dripping in finesse with “24K Magic.”
Moody: This is definitely the “let’s correct that Adele win” batch of nominations, and Lamar would be a heavy favorite to win it all, making it the first true rap album to take the top trophy. But this is the Grammys — and that’s why it’s not going to happen. First off, Jay-Z and Lamar will likely split the rap vote, and while Childish and Lorde are critical favorites, they are also underdogs. Grammy voters will more than likely be charmed by an act with huge commercial appeal, an amazing live act, top-notch songwriting capabilities, a multi-instrumentalist — who hails from Hawaii. This is Mars’ for the taking.
RECORD OF THE YEAR: “Redbone,” Childish Gambino; “Despacito,” Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber; “The Story of O.J.,” Jay-Z; “HUMBLE.,” Kendrick Lamar; “24K Magic,” Bruno Mars.
Moody: Even though “Despacito” was the biggest hit of the year compared to its competitors, Grammy voters often ignore the most popular for the “artistic” choice. Here that would seem to be Lamar’s “HUMBLE.,” but I think overall, the record and artist that moved voters most was probably Mars over everyone else. Plus, it also was ubiquitous. Mars wins again.
Fekadu: “Despacito” was much more than your average pop hit of the year. It broke several records on Spotify and YouTube, and opened more doors for Latin music to be integrated on pop radio without watering down or Americanizing its songs. That’s enough for Luis Fonsi and friends to take home the prize.
SONG OF THE YEAR (songwriter’s award): “Despacito,” Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Bieber, Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, Erika Ender and Marty James Garton; “4:44,” Jay-Z and No I.D.; “Issues,” Julia Michaels, Benny Blanco, Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen and Justin Drew Tranter; “1-800-273-8255,” Logic, Alessia Cara, Khalid and Arjun Ivatury; “That’s What I Like,” Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Christopher Brody Brown, James Fauntleroy, Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus and Jonathan Yip.
Fekadu: Normally I would say that Bruno would automatically win this, but do we really think the Academy is going to give this award to eight songwriters? Nah. A couple of songs with four songwriters have won this award, though usually most of the writers count for band members, from Dixie Chicks to U2 to Coldplay. That gives the edge to Jay-Z, who wrote “4:44” with just No I.D. He'll make history and become the first rapper to win song of the year – appropriately a year after he was the first rapper inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Moody: I would agree with your logic typically, but just about everyone in this category has multiple songwriters, so I’m thinking voters are getting used to the fact that there are more songs by committee and fewer single songwriters or duos in this era. Plus, as powerful as “4:44” was it was, I don’t think it resonated with enough of the Academy. I’m thinking Bruno did. I say he takes it with his songwriting entourage.
BEST NEW ARTIST: Alessia Cara; Khalid; Lil Uzi Vert; Julia Michaels; SZA.
Moody: SZA is the most nominated woman of this year’s Grammys and had crossover success, but something tells me voters may have an easier time gelling with the PG-rated verses of some of her counterparts than her raw lyrics. And between Cara, Khalid and Michaels, I say Michaels has the edge, particularly because the “Issues” singer has written plenty of hits for others, and voters may want to reward her for that as well.
Fekadu: Alessia Cara – who some thought would be a best new artist nominee last year – had hits and success with her 2015 debut album and co-starred on more hits with Zedd and Logic last year (and even those songs are nominated for Grammys this year). Despite their success, the other nominees haven’t had the most outstanding debut years like past breakthrough acts have. So to voters, Alessia is the one they’re most familiar with, and that’s why she'll win.
BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM: “Kaleidoscope EP,” Coldplay; “Lust for Life,” Lana Del Rey; “Evolve,” Imagine Dragons; “Rainbow,” Kesha; “Joanne,” Lady Gaga; “Divide,” Ed Sheeran.
Fekadu: Ed Sheeran, here is your consolation prize.
Moody: Sheeran for the win! Also: “Ed Sheeran is not here to accept his trophy, so we will give it to him later…”
BEST ROCK PERFORMANCE: “You Want It Darker,” Leonard Cohen; “The Promise,” Chris Cornell; “Run,” Foo Fighters; “No Good,” Kaleo; “Go to War,” Nothing More.
Moody: I’d normally say the Foo Fighters, but there are two chances to give a posthumous honor, with Cohen, who died in 2016, and Cornell, who died last year. Cornell’s suicide at the age of 52 may have affected more people, and his song, about the Armenian genocide, is resonating now, with an Oscar campaign (it’s from a movie of the same name). I think Cornell takes it — and it’s richly deserved.
Fekadu: Cornell is definitely winning this. It would have been epic to see another great who died last year — Chester Bennington — nominated here for something from Linkin Park’s latest album, “One More Light.”