Saturday, June 06, 2015

An early preview of the 2016 Grammys

In what's become an annual pre-summer tradition here at Hectic But Eclectic, I've decided to try my hand at guessing who will be nominated in the general field at the Grammys. The 58th Grammy Awards won't be handed out until next year and nominations will be announced later on in 2015, but we've already been through most of the eligibility period, which means we've already heard a lot of the likely nominees. I will of course share my final predictions in December, so check back in for that.

Album of the Year

1. Taylor Swift - 1989
What's in its favor: She's practically guaranteed an AOTY nod at this point in her career as long as she can deliver a few hits and change her sound with each release. Swift is also the only artist who can be counted on to sell a million in a week, which makes her appealing to have in the biggest category of the night.
What might work against it: Absolutely nothing.

2. Alabama Shakes - Sound and Color
What's in its favor: They're former Best New Artist nominees and it wouldn't hurt the NARAS' credibility to nominate them. A lot of strides have been made to include rock acts that break away from previous mainstream sounds here and they fit the bill best so far this year. Include a #1 album and a great reputation as a live act among their credentials and the blue ribbon panel that picks nominees for the general field will have a hard time saying no.
What might work against it: Despite all the good reviews, they're lacking a song the casual listener can identify them with.

3. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly
What's in its favor: It's a topically relevant album with the year's best reviews and has sold very well. He's also another former Best New Artist nominee that has lived up to their potential.
What might work against it: All the critical acclaim may not matter if it fails to land a single within the top 40 this year.

4. D'Angelo and The Vanguard - Black Messiah
What's in its favor: The album's surprise release had the world buzzing, which happens very rarely in music nowadays. His return after 14 years was as welcome as they come.
What might work against it: The album was released so long ago that it might take a concerted effort to remind voters just how big of a deal it was when it was released.

5. Meghan Trainor - Title
What's in its favor: Outside of Taylor Swift, no one else recently has boasted as many singles that have reached the upper parts of the Hot 100. She's also known for writing her own songs, which will not be lost on the NARAS.
What might work against it: The realization may dawn upon voters that they don't love any of her subsequent songs as much as "All About That Bass."

6. Florence + The Machine - How Big How Blue How Beautiful
What's in its favor: They're the type of group that can be covered by Stereogum and have their songs played in nationwide ads. That sort of appeal keeps the Grammys credible while not having to go too obscure to do so. Early reviews have also been favorable.
What might work against it: They haven't really been able to recapture the momentum of that first album, so they may no longer be seen as able to sit at the big table.

7. Mumford & Sons - Wilder Minds
What's in its favor: They're a familiar name and a perennial Grammy favorite for their last two outings. I'm not ready to remove them from the conversation just yet. 
What might work against it: The response to their latest album hasn't been as enthusiastic as Babel and it's likely the blue ribbon panel will go with someone from the rock field who had a more notable year.

8. Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways
What's in its favor: History has been on their side with their last two LPs receiving AOTY nominations without being among the heavy favorites in predictions. You can always count on a rock act to get in this category and these veterans have a career's worth of goodwill to make them a certifiable contender once again.
What might work against it: Their albums have usually been accompanied by a strong single or two and Sonic Highways has yet to deliver. The story behind the album's creation with the band recording in eight different cities to capture that area's particular vibe would have been a great hook to gain interest, but the results did not make as big an impact as past efforts.

9. Frank Ocean's second album
What's in its favor: If he manages to release the follow-up to Channel Orange within the eligibility period, it's guaranteed that it will be the biggest music news for that week. His recent cover of The Isley Brothers' "At Your Best" was very assuring to those expecting another terrific effort.
What might work against it: He's kept a curiously low profile since 2012 and it would take an extraordinary album to remind people about all the excitement from when he first came along.

10. Kanye West - SWISH
What's in its favor: Two words: Paul McCartney. The endorsement of a Beatle may be too tantalizing to pass up. It's a collaboration that qualifies as historic.
What might work against it: Two words: Kanye West. His penchant for making headlines for all the wrong reasons has made the Grammys sour on him in this category (Ex. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy's snub). West's albums have been some of the most critically acclaimed of our time, but it doesn't matter since people view him as unlikable.

Record of the Year

1. Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars - "Uptown Funk"
What's in its favor: Even more impressive than its fourteen week stay at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 is that  it managed stay within the top 3 for 21 weeks and as of today has yet to leave the top ten since it entered it. Its chart performance is very unique, but it's also a very agreeable song that covers a lot of demographics in the same way that "Get Lucky" and "Rolling In The Deep" did.
What might work against it: I won't even entertain such a foolish notion.

2. Taylor Swift - "Blank Space"
What's in its favor: She's kind of a big deal.
What might work against it: Her team decides to submit another song for this category instead.

3. Ed Sheeran - "Thinking Out Loud"
What's in its favor: This is the only one of the four main categories he has yet to be nominated for and it's the biggest hit of his career. The Grammys love him and it would be baffling if they didn't acknowledge an accomplishment of this scale for one of their favorites.
What might work against it: It comes from an album that was a AOTY nominee last year, so there may be some that feel its time has already come and gone and doesn't need any more accolades.

4. Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar - "Bad Blood"
What's in its favor: It's already established that Taylor's kind of a big deal, but you'd have an intriguing storyline if both herself and Lamar both end up nominated for Album of the Year and strong narratives are often a driving force behind some of these nominations. If it continues its current strong chart showing, it will also have a ton of momentum going into the last quarter of the eligibility period.
What might work against it: Her team decides to submit another song for this category instead. 

5. Rihanna feat. Kanye West & Paul McCartney - "FourFiveSeconds"
What's in its favor: The starpower, for starters. Upon its release, it was as heavily buzzed about as any song this year. For a brief moment, it was one of the most well-liked tracks around.
What might work against it: The moment was just that: brief. It didn't endure the same way that past ROTY nominees have, so it's only saving grace is that it's been a weak year for standout songs.

6. The Weeknd - "Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)"
What's in its favor: The Weeknd represents the new guard of R&B, so acknowledging him will make the blue ribbon panel feel relevant. That the song also has a traditional sound will make it easier to sell to the academy.
What might work against it: Its association with a movie that very few will admit to embracing.

7. Walk The Moon - "Shut Up And Dance"
What's in its favor: The rock voting contingent's only hope at cracking this category.
What might work against it: The song was released before the eligibility period, which could deter its chances. There's also the chance that could be overlooked since it didn't really appear on the radar till much later than that.

8. Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth - "See You Again"
What's in its favor: The race for Song of the Summer will likely come down between this and "Bad Blood." It may not be finished with its stay at the summit of the Hot 100.
What might work against it: As heartfelt as the sentiment behind the song is, support for it is pretty much limited to younger audiences and Fast & Furious fans, neither of which drive the needle for the Grammys.

9. Jason Derulo - "Want To Want Me"
What's in its favor: Plenty of old school flair and a sneaking suspicion that we could see it hit the top of the Hot 100 before summer is over. Not to mention that its flashy touches complement the season well.
What might work against it: It's not in the same league as past huge hits that have shamelessly aped the sounds of past eras ("Get Lucky," "Uptown Funk") and it would have to overtake "See You Again" and "Bad Blood" as 2015's summer song.

10. Little Big Town - "Girl Crush"
What's in its favor: The track is starting to find life on other radio formats outside of country at just the right time and it has a higher potential ceiling than the rest of the songs in the bottom half of this list.
What might work against it: Country music rarely gets into Record of the Year unless it's an undeniable monster hit. At the very least it would have to mimic the success of Lady Antebellum's "Need You Now" to even seriously be in the conversation.

Song of the Year

1. Ed Sheeran - "Thinking Out Loud"
What's in its favor: A guy with an instrument is mandatory for this category. Sheeran is the number one man of the moment who fits that bill.
What might work against it: As I mentioned earlier, there could be backlash for nominating a song on an older album. 

2. Taylor Swift - "Blank Space"
What's in its favor: It's hard to deny that it's one of her most quotable songs ("Got a long list of ex-lovers/They'll tell you I'm insane," "Cause darling I'm a nightmare dressed like a daydream," etc. ).
What might work against it: The only drawback is that it was released such a long time ago and the only recent comparable case of a SOTY nominee released early in the eligibility period is Bruno Mars' "Locked Out Of Heaven." In that case, it can be argued it had a much bigger impact than "Blank Space."

3. Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars - "Uptown Funk"
What's in its favor: If the past few years have been any indication, this category has been more open to embracing infectious songs along with those that are introspective. Lightweight content was once a hindrance, but now it's often overlooked in favor of popularity and catchiness.
What might work against it: Some may see it as too derivative of The Time and there's no chorus, which could play a factor in a category honoring the craft of songwriting.

4. Little Big Town - "Girl Crush"
What's in its favor: Songs that are discussed as heavily as this track tend to not be forgotten come nomination time. There's a quiet power here that I personally find as engaging as any song to land within the top 20 this year.
What might work against it: It has yet to be that undeniable force that even non-country fans are aware of.

5. George Ezra - "Budapest"
What's in its favor: Logic dictates that we get at least one song by a male artist with overt use of a lulling acoustic guitar or piano.
What might work against it: The blue ribbon panel may feel comfortable with that quota being filled by just Ed Sheeran.

6. Rihanna feat. Kanye West & Paul McCartney - "FourFiveSeconds"
What's in its favor: An easy chorus to sing along to, sparse instrumentation and some of the biggest music stars in the world. There's a lot to like here.
What might work against it: The Kanye West factor rears its head again and as I mentioned before, the song seemed like it was forgotten pretty quickly.

7. The Weeknd - "Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)"
What's in its favor: It has that traditional sound I mentioned before and its commercial success should help along the way. He was also a presenter last year, so don't be surprised to see him crack the general field somewhere.
What might work against it: The images of Christian Grey that pop into your head with every listen might be a turn-off.

8. Kanye West feat. Paul McCartney - "Only One"
What's in its favor: Macca's presence to the rescue once again. If it hadn't been for the Beck incident, the tearjerking nature of this song would have moved up a few spots on this list.
What might work against it: It seemed to be forgotten even faster than "FourFiveSeconds."

9. D'Angelo & The Vanguard - "Really Love"
What's in its favor: The consensus is that this is one of the best songs from one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the eligibility period. All his record label needs to do is make sure people remember that in a few months. If there is no Album of the Year nod for D'Angelo, don't be shocked to see him here as a consolation.
What might work against it: Call me crazy, but I see the competition as being tighter for Song of the Year than Record of the Year. One may not have needed a radio hit before in the past, but this year may be different.

10. Common  & John Legend - "Glory"
What's in its favor: The content is relevant to an ongoing dialogue that has dominated headlines over the past few years. What better way to show that the Grammys are contemporary and socially aware than by acknowledging this song? Also, if you recall, they closed out last year's telecast.
What might work against it: The momentum likely reached its peak at the Academy Awards and I get the sense that everyone has moved on.

Best New Artist

1. Meghan Trainor
What's in her favor: She was seen as worthy enough of being nominated for ROTY and SOTY last year. With her follow-up singles performing strongly as well, why wouldn't she get a nod?
What might work against her: The argument could be made that "All About That Bass" was so big that she no longer fits the ideal nominee for BNA, i.e. someone who truly feels new.

2. Hozier
What's in his favor: A lot of the times, this is award is based on the potential to have a long lasting career. For some reason, artists that deal with weightier themes seem to get an automatic pass over pop music in that regard. Hozier is the type of guy that I could definitely see the NARAS as envisioning being around for a while.
What might work against him: Pretty much the same argument I have for Meghan Trainor, minus the follow-up singles, which in this case, a lack of might actually hurt his chances.

3. Sam Hunt
What's in his favor: He's the go-to guy for new country artists. "Take Your Time" has ruled the genre this year.
What might work against him: Brandy Clark's nomination over fellow country singer Cole Swindell is proof that the blue ribbon panel is not bound solely by commercial success when it comes to the Nashville crowd.

4. George Ezra
What's in his favor: Folk is still a hot sound and a nod for him would make the Grammys appear with the times. Not to mention that "Budapest" has a distinct chorus and is still gaining traction.
What might work against him: There's not a ton of appeal besides the whole "guy with guitar" theory I've been making. We haven't really seen enough of him to prevent him from being indistinguishable.

5. Courtney Barnett
What's in her favor: When an album gets rave reviews from all the key publications, you have to take notice. What was even more shocking is that it debuted at #20, considering that her previous release peaked at #165, suggesting an increase in awareness. With a lack of new artists making an impact this year, someone without a big hit like Barnett could easily sneak in.
What might work against her: It's hard to recall the last time the Grammys embraced an artist so clever and sharp. Vocally, it might also be hard to convince casual listeners that she's worth the time.

6. Charli XCX
What's in her favor: She provided the chorus for one of the biggest songs of 2014 and Sucker garnered rave reviews. 
What might work against her: After "Boom Clap," she hasn't had much of a presence on radio. 

7. Jessie Ware
What's in her favor: Her profile increased a little with Tough Love and she's slowly gaining attention as a hip artist to name drop. Her singing prowess isn't in question and the Grammys love to acknowledge those with distinct voices. 
What might work against her: Those small gains of popularity between Devotion and Tough Love may not be enough for the majority to remember her when it comes time to vote. Although widely known, she has yet to cause even the tiniest ripple in the mainstream. 

8. Tame Impala
What's in their favor: The stage is set for them to take it to the next level. Coming off the strong reviews of Lonerism, I expect to see them get a nice push once their next album is released in July. That they'll also have the backing of Interscope should open up doors for them in America that they previously hadn't walked through. The early singles from Currents have been promising and you can expect the hype machine to go out of control once its released.
What might work against them: Their only chance is for my prediction to come true. It would have helped if they had a hit at alternative radio by now like "Elephant," so their chances will lie solely on the press and their festival performances.

 9. Shamir
What's in his favor: He's the new kid on the block that will factor into a lot of top ten lists come year-end time. It's no secret that the NARAS want to be hip and this guy is one of the logical choices. 
What might work against him: Although the NARAS wants to be hip, they can often be a few years behind from when an artist first becomes relevant (Bon Iver, St. Vincent, James Blake).  

10. Tori Kelly
What's in her favor: There are a few other notable burgeoning pop divas such as Elle King and Ella Henderson that have a shot at cracking BNA, but I'm going to place my money on the artist who has a debut executive produced by Max Martin. 
What might work against her: As appealing as her songs are, the Grammys don't respect pop unless it's a major success. "Nobody Love" has only performed moderately on the Hot 100.

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