2016 Grammy predictions: Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, 'Uptown Funk' and...?
This year’s Grammy Awards race is over.
Well, not exactly — there’s still the whole matter of picking nominations, voting for winners and handing out actual trophies, all of which will take place over the next 4 1/2 months. But Wednesday marked the end of this year’s eligibility period, which means we’ve already seen and heard all of this year’s eventual nominees. Anything that comes out between now and the end of the year? Sorry. See you in 2017, Adele.
Grammy eligibility rules are generally pretty mystifying, which is why you sometimes get an Album of the Year that feels like it came out two years earlier, or a Best New Artist who’s been around for years, or a Song of the Year candidate from an album that won’t be eligible until the following year. There are endless confusing loopholes to these deadlines and eligibility periods, which sometimes makes these early predictions an exercise in futility. But in short: If it didn’t come out between Oct. 1, 2014 and Sept. 30, 2015, it’s not eligible. Got it?
The 2016 Grammy nominations will be announced in early December, but that’s not stopping us from surveying some frontrunners for the top four categories. Let’s take a look!
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
All year, this has been a two-horse race between Taylor Swift’s 1989 and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. But the Grammys are known for making head-scratching picks in this category (see: Beck over Beyonce). That opens the door for some well-received candidates like D’Angelo’s Black Messiah, The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness, Dr. Dre’s Compton, Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color, Mark Ronson’s Uptown Special, Kacey Musgraves’ Pageant Material and Florence and the Machine’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. At this point I think Swift has the edge over Lamar. But it’s close.
Our predictions: Taylor Swift, 1989 (winner); Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly; Florence and the Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful; The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness; D'Angelo, Black Messiah.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
Go ahead and pencil in Ronson and Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk as your winner in this categrory. What even comes close to the kind of year that song had? Okay, fine, I’d also put money on Swift’s Blank Space landing a nomination. An act I think stands a strong shot here is the Weeknd, but for which song? I’d bet on Can’t Feel My Face over Earned It or The Hills, but you never know. More solid candidates include Girl Crush by Little Big Town; FourFive Seconds by Kanye West, Rihanna and Paul McCartney; Fight Song by Rachel Platten; Where Are U Now by Skrillex, Diplo and Justin Bieber; and See You Again by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth; and something by Kendrick Lamar (Alright, King Kunta or The Blacker the Berry). Finally, there’s Fetty Wap’s Trap Queen, which has been around since early 2014 but was re-released as a commercial single last fall. Depending on how Grammy rules shake out, he could easily sneak in.
Our predictions: Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk (winner); Taylor Swift, Blank Space; Little Big Town, Girl Crush; The Weeknd, Can’t Feel My Face; Kanye West, Rihanna and Paul McCartney, FourFive Seconds.
SONG OF THE YEAR
This songwriting category usually aligns with Record of the Year, and Uptown Funk would be a deserving winner, if only for the line “smoother than a fresh jar of Skippy.” But considering it's credited to more than a half-dozen writers, I have a suspicion Grammy voters will see it as pop songwriting by committee and look elsewhere. That opens the door for Swift and mega-producer Max Martin, neither of whom have won in this category, to take home a trophy for Blank Space. If Ed Sheeran's 2014 single Thinking Out Loud is eligible (I'm not sure it is, but other pundits seem to think it might be), it's also a strong contender. I also think Rachel Platten’s feel-good breakthrough Fight Song has a better shot at a nomination here than in the Record of the Year category.
Our predictions: Taylor Swift, Blank Space (winner); Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, Uptown Funk; Little Big Town, Girl Crush; The Weeknd, The Hills; Rachel Platten, Fight Song.
BEST NEW ARTIST
If we’re being honest, shouldn’t this award go to Fetty Wap? How does a brand-new artist land four singles in the Top 10, including arguably the Song of Summer in Trap Queen, and not get a nomination here? But the Grammys may not see it that way. There are plenty of safer candidates with varying degrees of experience, including Walk the Moon, Sam Hunt, Tori Kelly and James Bay. Kelly and Hunt are the safest picks, the ones who best fit the profile of a Best New Artist winner. But over the last few years, the Grammys have given this trophy to a surprising number of bands and duos (Zac Brown Band, Bon Iver, Fun., Macklemore and Ryan Lewis), and so I'm putting my money on energetic Ohio band Walk the Moon. Shut Up and Dance was technically released during last year’s eligibility period, so if it gets shut out of the Song and Record of the Year races, this'll be their consolation prize.
Our predictions: Walk the Moon (winner), Tori Kelly, Sam Hunt, Fetty Wap, James Bay.
-- Jay Cridlin