Who will win at the Grammys feels more up in the air than ever, following suspended CEO and president of the Academy Deborah Dugan’s accusation that the show is rigged. If it’s true, and board members have been allowed to mess with who gets nominated, then who even knows why an artist gets a nomination, much less a win? But despite that, we’ll do our best to walk you through which nominees we think will take home Grammy gold, and why, this year so you can win your office pool and whatever bragging rights that brings.
The 62nd annual Grammy Awards nominations brought a lot of surprises and well deserved first-time nominations. Lizzo became the most nominated artist of the year, with Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X, also first time nominees, trailing closely behind. Lizzo and Eilish also nominated in all four major categories: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. Could one of them sweep the awards, or will old-school Academy favorites Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, and Bon Iver steal their thunder? Or is it time for Ariana Grande or Tanya Tucker, women the critics agree made some of the best albums of their career, to take home some statues?
Looking at the top four nominations, it’s only gotten more difficult in the past few years to predict a winner because the Grammys expanded the number of nominees from five to eight. It seems like the Academy voters will have a hard time picking between Lizzo, the life of the party and a voice of positivity who everyone appreciates, and Eilish, who released one of the most unique and unexpected records of 2019.
Eilish may face some backlash for so closely connecting her brother and producer, Finneas, to her story — it takes away the “did it all herself at a young age” glow that landed Swift so many awards early in her career.
Lil Nas X, however, seems the least likely to sweep. He’s the harbinger of a new kind of hit, one that spawns on a social network and goes viral despite the odds and even after being banished by an entire genre of music, which is an appealing story for the world, but maybe not a Grammy story.
Ahead are our Grammy predictions, plus a few more to watch out for.
Best New Artist
Tank and the Bangas, Black Pumas, and my personal favorite Yola are the outliers in this category. They could win, but it’s unlikely. Maggie Rogers is a prodigy with a certain fan base and, clearly, the approval of voting member Pharrell Williams — and a vision for her music that is unlike anyone else in the category, which puts her into a class of her own and gives her an edge.
Rosalía has quickly become a phenomenon and the Academy has shown a penchant for supporting Latin music in the past few years, which benefits them because it is one of the largest growing profit sectors of the music industry.
Lizzo has the edge over both Eilish and Lil Nas X in this category, simply because she has more proven hits. In fact, that is her edge over everyone in the group. Assuming Grammy voters are tired of this award’s legend for being something they give one hit wonders, it will go to Lizzo.
Song of the Year
Seems we can count out Lady Gaga with her A Star Is Born closer track, “Always Remember Us This Way,” and Tanya Tucker with “Bring My Flowers Now.” The former got its rewards last year for “Shallow” and the latter, despite the involvement of Academy fave Brandi Carlile, is more likely to be rewarded in strictly country categories. Taylor Swift and H.E.R. are favorites of the voters, historically, but hit or miss on actual wins. One of them should be a no brainer, but will they effectively cancel each other out?
Lana Del Rey and Lewis Capaldi are a pair of dark horse first-time nominees in the category — LDR is backed by a proven Grammy winner, Jack Antonoff, while Capaldi’s production and songwriting team are also Grammy novices. However, LDR’s project is a critically-lauded album with only one hit single that is neither the nominated song nor an original while Capaldi had an unexpected single with his track “Someone You Loved.” He may just edge her out in this category.
Finally, we have Eilish and Lizzo, who end up in a head-on battle in all these categories despite their stark differences. They’re both nominated for incredibly strong singles, “Bad Guy” and “Truth Hurts,” respectively. I think “Truth Hurts” being a re-release from 2017 will hurt (ha) it with voters in this category and Eilish nudges her out.
So it comes down to Eilish vs. Capaldi: I’ll wager that voters are going to reward Billie Eilish as a career artist with the statue in this category.
Album of the Year
The category starts with a previous winner: Bon Iver. That was the year that the Grammys rejiggered the order of importance of these four awards, shifting the focus from AOTY to Record of the Year as the final prize of the night, after several years of CBS’s older viewers ending the night by asking themselves, “Who…?” Despite the indie cred, this is an extremely out there record and...the Academy loves that. A solid contender.
Our newcomer trifecta face off here as well, with Lizzo, Eilish, and Lil Nas X all nominated. The one who most deserves it for their entire album, in my opinion, is Lizzo. The one most likely to get the Academy’s vote, however, is Eilish.
Then we have first-time nominations for Lana Del Rey and Ariana Grande in the category. Both have previously been banished to the pop categories and not acknowledged in the big four. LDR has zero wins so far, while Grande landed her first W last year when for Best Pop Vocal Album. This is where we see the newly diverse voting body and review committees stepping up at the Grammys — but is it enough for either of them to win?
Vampire Weekend are in a similar boat as the ladies above, having previously won and only been acknowledged in the Alternative categories. It’s kind of a surprise to see them up here for this particular album, and feels like a nomination acknowledging their career so far and giving the Academy permission to bump them up in accolades.
Finally, we have Grammy faves H.E.R., who could easily be the Kacey Musgraves of this category in 2020. Musgraves took the award with similar critical acclaim and buzz but low album sales. Smart money is on this being the year the Academy goes out on a limb and gives the award to H.E.R.
Record of the Year
We come to the last award of the night and, ostensibly, the most prestigious. The field for this one is kind of wild in 2020, with Bon Iver’s “Hey Ma” facing off against H.E.R.’s “Hard Place,” Khalid weighing in with his only nomination in the major categories for “Talk,” and a round of megahits with Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy,” Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts,” Ariana Grande’s “7 rings,” Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road (remix),” and Post Malone’s “Sunflower.” The merits of all these artists are debated in depth above, minus Post Malone who is a beloved musical figure in a world that is entirely his own. Let’s just cut right to it: Grande deserves to win for “7 rings,” which is a masterful reinterpretation of a classic song, a pop juggernaut, and a solid place for the Academy to make up for all the times they’ve snubbed her in the past. This award should land in the hot hands of Ariana Grande.
Other artists to watch
Tanya Tucker: I predict she sweeps in country awards and gets snubbed in the main categories, just as the co-producer of her comeback album, Brandi Carlile, did with her Americana album last year. The woman has been nominated some 14 times and never won, this comeback was not something anyone (including her) expected to happen. The Grammy voters know they need to do right by her.
DaBaby: He’s up against some serious heavy hitters who are favored to win, including the deceased Nipsey Hustle, Chance the Rapper, and J. Cole for Best Rap Album and Song — but if the Academy is serious about getting the future of rap right, they will recognize DaBaby.
The 62nd annual Grammy Awards air on CBS on Sunday, January 26 at 8 p.m. ET.