Saturday, February 13, 2016

Grammy Winner Predictions for 2016

It's time once again for the Grammys to be handed out (the 58th occasion of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences doing so). The hardware will be given on Monday, Feb. 15 this year on CBS, instead of the usual Sunday. The Grammys have slowly made some progress with their nominations in the general field, but could stand to see some changes in other genres and how they vote for winners overall. I think we'll always find something to complain about until we get people in the industry without hidden agendas who are actually aware of new trends to select nominations and for those who have been recent contributors to their genres to have their votes count more than other members when it comes to determining winners within that specified field. Still, it's the most important game in town for musicians and we'll be watching anyway. These are my predictions for who will take home some gold.

Record of the Year

D'Angelo and the Vanguard - "Really Love"
Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars - "Uptown Funk"
Ed Sheeran - "Thinking Out Loud"
Taylor Swift - "Blank Space"
The Weeknd - "Can't Feel My Face"

Should win: As much as I'm a fan of "Really Love," it's rare that we get songs that unite an entire nation like "Uptown Funk." It will be kicking weddings into high gear for the next decade.
Will win: "Uptown Funk," because it did unite a nation after all.
Overlooked: Jason Derulo's "Want To Want Me" was the premier MJ-inspired song of 2015.

Album of the Year

Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
Chris Stapleton - Traveller
Taylor Swift - 1989
The Weeknd - Beauty Behind The Madness

Should win: Kendrick's album was miles ahead of everyone.
Will win: Alabama Shakes. It's only been two years since the Grammys awarded Best New Artist and Best Rap Album to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis over Kendrick Lamar. I doubt their taste in straightforward hip hop has improved that much during that time span. Sound & Color comes from a hip band, allowing the Grammys to maintain credibility with a safer choice. It's also telling that the album's producer, Blake Mills, whose sole credit was Sound & Color got a Producer of the Year nomination. Throw in a nomination for Best Engineered Album, which has previously been won by recent AOTY winners Beck and Daft Punk, and it's looking likelier that the older, rock-leaning members, which make up a good deal of the NARAS, will tip the scales in favor of Alabama Shakes.
Overlooked: Who wasn't rooting for D'Angelo's Black Messiah? Even better, only a minuscule amount found it lackluster.<!--more>

Song of the Year

Kendrick Lamar - "Alright" (songwriters:
Kendrick Duckworth, Kawan Prather, Mark Anthony Spears & Pharrell Williams)
Taylor Swift - "Blank Space" (songwriters:
Max Martin, Shellback & Taylor Swift)
Little Big Town - "Girl Crush" (songwriters: Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose)
Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth - "See You Again" (songwriters: Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charles Puth & Cameron Thomaz)
Ed Sheeran - "Thinking Out Loud" (songwriter: Ed Sheeran)

Should win: "Alright" was not only catchy, but found a second life as a protest anthem, a rarity from today's stars.
Will win: The Grammys have been trying to make Sheeran a thing now for sometime. This is the best time and place to do it with minimal damage to their credibility.
Overlooked: Kanye West's and Paul McCartney's "Only One" was capable of catching anyone in their feels.

Best New Artist

Courtney Barnett
James Bay
Sam Hunt
Tori Kelly
Meghan Trainor

Should win: Courtney Barnett made one of the best albums of 2015. Can't say that for the other nominees.
Will win: Sam Hunt, if only because this feels very similar to 2010 where there was no clear-cut frontrunner (yes, I'm aware of Trainor's popularity, but the Grammys have a strange aversion to female pop stars in this category). The country artist, Zac Brown Band, walked away with it over Keri Hilson, MGMT, Silversun Pickups and The Ting Tings. Kelly will eat into Trainor's votes, Barnett isn't popular enough and Bay is lacking the exposure and is too dull.
Overlooked: Where to start? Shamir? Vince Staples? Maddie & Tae? Kehlani? Wolf Alice?

Best Pop Solo Performance

Kelly Clarkson - "Heartbeat Song"
Ellie Goulding - "Love Me Like You Do"
Ed Sheeran - "Thinking Out Loud"
Taylor Swift - "Blank Space"
The Weeknd - "Can't Feel My Face"

Should win: "Blank Space" is too fun and clever to not be acknowledged anywhere.
Will win: Swift will get rewarded for her big year here.
Overlooked: Jason Derulo's "Want To Want Me" and Alessia Cara's "Here" prove that we need to break this category back into two separate ones for male and female vocalists. But then again, they'd probably screw it up by nominating James Taylor and Sting on the guys' side.

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Florence + The Machine - "Ship to Wreck"
Maroon 5 - "Sugar"
Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars - "Uptown Funk"
Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar - "Bad Blood"
Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth - "See You Again"

Should win: "Uptown Funk."
Will win: Don't believe me? Just watch.
Overlooked: I'm always going to favor actual groups like Fifth Harmony in these categories. "Worth It" should be here and call me hypocritical, but so should Rihanna, Kanye and McCartney's "FourFiveSeconds."

Best Pop Vocal Album

Kelly Clarkson - Piece by Piece
Florence + The Machine - How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
James Taylor - Before This World
Mark Ronson - Uptown Special
Taylor Swift - 1989

Should win: 1989.
Will win: Swift, but we all the know true winner here is James Taylor who is just happy to finally get some recognition after so long.
Overlooked: The omission of Janet Jackson's Unbreakable is the most egregious with Carly Rae Jepsen's Emotion a close second.

Best Dance Recording

Above & Beyond feat. Zoë Johnston - "We're All We Need"
The Chemical Brothers feat. Q-Tip - "Go" 
Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar - "Never Catch Me" 
Galantis - "Runaway (U & I)"
Skrillex and Diplo (Jack Ü) feat. Justin Bieber - "Where Are Ü Now"

Should win: I didn't need Kendrick Lamar to let me know how dope Flying Lotus was, but whatever.
Will win: The combined starpower of Skrillex, Diplo and Justin Bieber will be too much for anyone else to overcome.
Overlooked: Hudson Mohawke's "Ryderz" would have been a nice change of pace here.

Best Dance/Electronic Album

Caribou - Our Love
The Chemical Brothers - Born in the Echoes
Disclosure - Caracal
Jamie xx - In Colour 
Skrillex and Diplo - Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü

Should win: I'd be happy with either Jamie xx or Caribou taking this since it could at least qualify as some of their strongest work.
Will win: Skrillex and Diplo.
Overlooked: PC Music Vol. 1 was one of 2015's most challenging and rewarding albums and could have expanded this category's reach.

Best Rock Performance

Alabama Shakes - "Don't Wanna Fight"
Florence + The Machine - "What Kind of Man"
Foo Fighters - "Something From Nothing" 
Elle King - "Ex's & Oh's"
Wolf Alice - "Moaning Lisa Smile"

Should win: Wolf Alice, if only because they're the main ones that capture the youth and vitality of rock.
Will win: Alabama Shakes since I get the feeling lots of people are pulling for them and they'll at least win one award on television.
Overlooked: So many female-fronted acts were overlooked: Courtney Barnett's "Pedestrian At Best," Speedy Ortiz's "Raising The Skate," Bully's "Trying." This is also the only year I felt Wilco was truly snubbed with no love for "Random Name Generator."

Best Alternative Music Album

Alabama Shakes - Sound & Color
Björk - Vulnicura
My Morning Jacket - The Waterfall
Tame Impala - Currents
Wilco - Star Wars

Should win: I actually wouldn't mind a legacy/sympathy vote for Björk since she made a strong album, has been nominated thirteen times and never won, and hardly anyone would cry foul if she took it among these nominees.
Will win: The nominations and momentum are on the side of Alabama Shakes.
Overlooked: Sufjan Stevens' Carrie & Lowell was as heartbreaking as anything released in the eligibility period. 

Best R&B Performance

Tamar Braxton - "If I Don't Have You"
Andra Day - "Rise Up"
Hiatus Kaiyote - "Breathing Underwater"
Jeremih feat. J. Cole "Planes" 
The Weeknd - "Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)"

Should win: I think everyone here is worthy, but I'm protesting this category because it reeks of the selection committee getting across personal agendas. Why is "Earned It" the only true hit here?
Will win: The path has been paved for The Weeknd to take this one.
Overlooked: I know it's crass, but Omarion's "Post To Be" was some of the most fun had on radio last year.

Best R&B Song

Miguel - "Coffee" (songwriters: Brook Davis & Miguel Pimentel)
The Weeknd - "Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)" (songwriters: Ahmad Balshe, Stephan Moccio, Jason Quenneville & Abel Tesfaye)
Jazmine Sullivan - "Let It Burn" (songwriters: Kenny B. Edmonds, Jazmine Sullivan & Dwane M. Weir II)
D'Angelo and The Vanguard - "Really Love" (songwriters: D'Angelo & Kendra Foster)
Tyrese - "Shame" (songwriters: Warryn Campbell, Tyrese Gibson & D.J. Rogers Jr.)

Should win: "Really Love" has got the most amount of pure soul and it's also been recognized in Record of the Year.
Will win: The Weeknd. People who don't even follow R&B are allowed to vote in this category. Everyone knew about The Weeknd in 2015.
Overlooked: Janet Jackson's "No Sleeep" was a great return to form that stood as one of R&B's best of the year. Additionally, "Right Now" was as relevant as Mary J. Blige had sounded for some time.

Best Urban Contemporary Album

The Internet - Ego Death
Kehlani - You Should Be Here
Lianne La Havas - Blood
Miguel - Wildheart
The Weeknd - Beauty Behind the Madness

Should win: One of the best looking categories this year. In order of preference: Miguel, The Internet, Kehlani and La Havas.
Will win: The Weeknd.
Overlooked: I mean, if the selection.committee was aware of Kehlani and The Internet, then surely Bilal's In Another Life must have been on the radar.

Best R&B Album

Leon Bridges - Coming Home
D'Angelo and The Vanguard - Black Messiah
Andra Day - Cheers to the Fall
Jazmine Sullivan - Reality Show
Charlie Wilson - Forever Charlie

Should win: D'Angelo.
Will win: D'Angelo.
Overlooked: Mary J. Blige's The London Sessions.

Best Rap Performance

J. Cole - "Apparently"
Drake - "Back to Back"
Fetty Wap - "Trap Queen"
Kendrick Lamar - "Alright"
Nicki Minaj feat. Drake & Lil Wayne - "Truffle Butter"
Kanye West feat. Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom & Paul McCartney - "All Day"

Should win: Kendrick Lamar.
Will win: Lamar is a name that has crossed over with casual observers of rap, but I am wary of "Back 2 Back" causing an upset.
Overlooked: It probably wasn't submitted, but Lupe Fiasco going off for nearly nine minutes on "Murals" was a feat we don't see too often.

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration

Big Sean feat. Kanye West & John Legend - "One Man Can Change The World"
Common & John Legend - "Glory"
Jidenna feat. Roman GianArthur - "Classic Man"
Kendrick Lamar feat. Bilal, Anna Wise & Thundercat - "These Walls"
Nicki Minaj feat. Drake, Lil Wayne & Chris Brown - "Only"

Should win: "These Walls" is the main one that will make us happy when we hear it five years from now.
Will win: "Glory" had a much higher profile and as much as the general public likes Kendrick, "These Walls" wasn't one of his most popular songs.
Overlooked: Donnie Trumpet and The Social Experiment's "Sunday Candy" is the kind of upbeat track that people who don't even like hip hop can appreciate.

Best Rap Song

Kanye West feat. Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom & Paul McCartney) - "All Day" (songwriters: Ernest Brown, Tyler Bryant, Sean Combs, Mike Dean, Rennard East, Noah Goldstein, Malik Yusef Jones, Karim Kharbouch, Allan Kyariga, Kendrick Lamar, Paul McCartney, Victor Mensah, Charles Njapa, Che Pope, Patrick Reynolds, Allen Ritter, Kanye West, Mario Winans & Cydel Young)
Kendrick Lamar - "Alright" (songwriters:
Kendrick Duckworth, Kawan Prather, Mark Anthony Spears & Pharrell Williams)
Drake - "Energy" (songwriters: Richard Dorfmeister, A. Graham, Markus Kienzl, M. O'Brien, M. Samuels & Phillip Thomas)
Common & John Legend - "Glory" (songwriters: Lonnie Lynn, Che Smith & John Stephens)
Fetty Wap - "Trap Queen" (songwriters: Tony Fadd & Willie J. Maxwell)

Should win: "Alright."
Will win: "Alright" should be able to edge out "Glory" here since it might be more fresher in voters' minds.
Overlooked: "Sunday Candy." Since this has traditionally been a chorus-driven category, I would have liked to see some love for Rae Sremmurd's "This Could Be Us" as well.

Best Rap Album

J. Cole - 2014 Forest Hills Drive
Dr. Dre - Compton
Drake - If You're Reading This It's Too Late
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
Nicki Minaj - The Pinkprint

Should win: Kendrick.
Will win: The first Dr. Dre album in sixteen years scares me a bit, but this is ultimately Kendrick's to lose.
Overlooked: Vince Staples' Summertime '06 and Run The Jewels 2 are the kind of rugged albums that are needed in this category from time to time to show that the NARAS isn't too far removed from what's actually pushing the culture forward.

Best Country Album

Sam Hunt - Montevallo
Little Big Town - Pain Killer
Ashley Monroe - The Blade
Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material
Chris Stapleton - Traveller

Should win: The Blade had some of the catchiest tracks to come out of Music City last year.
Will win: Stapleton already took the CMA Album of the Year over more popular artists and he'll likely do so here as well. His chances are also boosted by a Grammy AOTY nod too.
Overlooked: Dwight Yoakam's Second Hand Heart was the sound of a legend being revitalized.

Best Song Written for Visual Media

The Weeknd - "Earned It" (from Fifty Shades of Grey) - (songwriters: Ahmad Balshe, Jason Quenneville, Stephan Moccio & Abel Tesfaye)
Common & John Legend - "Glory" (from Selma) - (songwriters: Lonnie Lynn, Che Smith & John Stephens)
Ellie Goulding - "Love Me like You Do" (from Fifty Shades of Grey) - (songwriters: Savan Kotecha, Max Martin, Tove Nilsson, Ali Payami, & Ilya Salmanzadeh)
Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth - "See You Again" (from Furious 7) - (songwriters: Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charles Puth & Cameron Thomaz)
Lady Gaga - "Til It Happens to You" (from The Hunting Ground) - (songwriters: Lady Gaga & Diane Warren)

Should win: "Earned It."
Will win: "See You Again" might take it because it was the second biggest song of the eligibility period and while a lot of people liked "Earned It," it's not the type of song people go crazy for.
Overlooked: This includes television, right? No love for Galavant or Empire?

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical

Jeff Bhasker
Dave Cobb
Larry Klein
Blake Mills

Should win: Diplo has been putting out quality tracks for a long time, even if this wasn't among his best years.
Will win: Diplo has more of a name, but if voters get a bit EDM-phobic, look for Bhasker or Mills to swoop in.
Overlooked: Kamasi Washington spearheaded one of the year's most imaginative albums in The Epic.

Best Music Video

A$AP Rocky - "LSD"
The Dead Weather - "I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)" –
Kendrick Lamar - "Alright" 
Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar - "Bad Blood" 
Pharrell Williams - "Freedom"

Should win: "Alright" was not only visually impressive, but a daring piece of work that directly confronted some of the issues America currently faces.
Will win: "Bad Blood" has been seen by more people and that's usually how winners are determined here.
Overlooked: Childish Gambino's "Sober" and Rihanna's "Bitch Better Have My Money" were both top level work that added to the belief that we may be in The middle of another music video renaissance.

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