Friday, June 17, 2016

An early preview of the 2017 Grammys

With a few new rule changes in place, I can now give you my early predictions as to who will be nominated in the big four categories at the 59th Grammy Awards which will take place on Feb. 12, 2017. Nominees won't be announced until December, so make sure to come back for my final guesses.

Album of the Year

1. Adele - 25
What's in it's favor: She's one of the most loved and respected pop stars in the world and is likely the last artist in our lifetime to sell two million pure copies in their first week.
What might work against it: Adele is all but assured of a nomination, but if she doesn't, it'll be because everyone has forgotten about the album since it has largely faded from public conscience since its release.

2. Beyoncé - Lemonade
What's in it's favor: Another widely respected artist once again changed the concept of how we view an album release in an age where singles dominate the conversation. Lemonade is also her most personal and daring work to date and she can longer be dismissed as someone who plays it safe.
What might work against it: There may still be some backlash from those who viewed "Formation" and her Super Bowl performance as anti-police. Or basically the people in this SNL skit.

3. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool
What's in it's favor: If recent Album of the Year wins for Beck and Daft Punk are any indication, the Grammys have no qualms about giving artists who were embraced by alternative rock stations in the 1990s their just due. It's basically the equivalent of rewarding Bob Dylan, Santana and Ray Charles, but only fast-forwarded a few generations for what I now call the cool dad slot. Their non-campaign campaign also helped garner them some news and the album has been received warmly so far by critics. And you really can't go wrong if Bob Ludwig is your engineer (past AOTY winners Mumford & Sons' Babel, Daft Punk Random Access Memories and Beck's Morning Phase).
What might work against it: As worthy as an artist Beck is, his win still came with some backlash since it was viewed as a reward for an artist who had released superior work in the past. Letting Radiohead in and possibly winning would make the Grammys more predictable, especially in a year where Beyoncé is once again a heavy favorite.

4. David Bowie - Blackstar
What's in it's favor:  Even in death, Bowie remained a true artist. Blackstar was a rumination on mortality that was intentionally left as a final gift to the world. It was a final act fitting for one of the biggest icons in the music world who constantly pushed boundaries. You can almost surely bet on either this or Radiohead getting in for the rock slot.
What might work against it: The posthumous narrative is one that the Grammys have tried to stay away from in the general field lately, in addition to showing no love to rockers who came to prominence before the '90s during that timeframe as well.

5. Justin Bieber - Purpose
What's in it's favor: It hits on all the key ingredients for the formula to getting an AOTY nod: #1 debut, three #1 singles, solid reviews and cross-season visibility.
What might work against it: Despite Purpose being hailed as a comeback, he's still very much disliked on a personal level. Whether it appears that way or not, the Grammys take themselves very seriously and would have no problem sliding someone else in with critical acclaim and a more favorable approval rating, but with lower sales.

6. Rihanna - Anti
What's in it's favor: It's her most challenging work to date and already boasts one #1 single in "Work."
What might work against it: Beyoncé is pretty much assured a slot and in the name of versatility and not having too many pop/R&B acts, Anti could be the odd album out.

7. Esperanza Spalding - Emily's D+Evolution
What's in it's favor: As a previous Best New Artist winner, she already has the name recognition and it may be too irresistible to bring her back to the general field to show that the Grammys still care about musicianship. Having Tony Visconti on board (producer of many classic Bowie albums) may garner her some votes from older members.
What might work against it: Despite the great reviews, it hasn't made a blip on the radar of casual music listeners.

8. Chance The Rapper - Coloring Book
What's in it's favor: He can claim credit for the NARAS changing their rules to include streaming exclusive projects. Chance is also gaining traction as one of the MCs it's okay to admit you like even if you don't listen to much hip hop (i.e. Common, Yasiin Bey, early Kanye West), if those appearances on Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show didn't convince you enough.
What might work against it: The Grammys usually don't allow hip hop to join the general field without a top 40 hit. He's gotten some attention, but may still be too underground.

9. Kanye West - The Life Of Pablo
What's in it's favor: Up until Lemonade, it was the most talked about album of the year due to its unanimously wavering nature with everything from track listings to final mixes.
What might work against it: Although the critical reception was warm, that constant indecision only gives his opponents more reason to dislike him.

10. Drake - VIEWS
What's in it's favor: It's been one of the biggest success stories in the history of streaming, "One Dance" is poised to be one of the year's dominant singles and his popularity has gotten to a point where it would be tough to ignore him.
What might work against it: The album is kind of a bore and only the diehards believe that it's one of the best things we'll hear in 2016.

Record of the Year

1. Adele - "Hello"
What's in it's favor: Even if love for the album has died down, the success of "Hello" has endured.
What might work against it: If there is a surprisingly lukewarm response to the album from the blue ribbon panel, "Hello" could suffer. I highly doubt it because of the lack of huge agreeable hits we've had in the eligibility period.

2. Justin Bieber - "Love Yourself"/"Sorry"
What's in their favor: Only one of these will be submitted, but they're both acceptable for the grown-ups, which is a positive perception change for someone who previously targeted tweens.
What might work against it: "Sorry" seemed forever ago and "Love Yourself" is possibly too minimal for a category with historically splashy nominees.

3. Justin Timberlake - "Can't Stop The Feeling"
What's in it's favor: It's JT collaborating with emperor of the world Max Martin to create a #1 hit.
What might work against it: Not a ton. It's super appealing and accessible with a recognizable star. That lack of adventure though would be its main undoing.

4. Drake - "Hotline Bling"
What's in it's favor: After multiple hits, one of music's biggest stars finally put together a ubiquitous song that even your parents are familiar with.
What might work against it: The song has been around for so long that it might seem passé to see it nominated for a 2017 awards ceremony.

5. Rihanna feat. Drake - "Work"
What's in it's favor: Nine consecutive weeks at the top of the Hot 100 has made it the biggest song of the year so far.
What might work against it: The enthusiasm surrounding the song itself doesn't match what it was for some of her other hits. There's also the incredibly wrong perception that just because the chorus is indecipherable makes it a bad song, as if patois in dancehall has never existed.

6. Meghan Trainor - "No"
What's in it's favor: The reigning Best New Artist made a case for her longevity with a catchy lead single from her 2nd album.
What might work against it: The lackluster sales of Thank You might signal the public is officially over her.

7. ZAYN - "Pillowtalk"
What's in it's favor: It has a trendy sound and distances itself from his former teenybopper days. Also, just about any song that reaches #1 has to come under consideration.
What might work against it: Voters may not yet be ready to let a former One Direction member take a seat at the big table just yet.

8. Drake feat. Wizkid and Kyla - "One Dance"
What's in it's favor: We might already have our official song of the summer if it keeps its legs through the season.
What might work against it: "Work" has a better shot, which might be Drake's general field reward for having a successful year.

9. Mike Posner - "I Took A Pill In Ibiza (Seeb Remix)"
What's in it's favor: While Record of the Year does pay attention to production, it does favor actual song content from time to time. This one has an honesty that could resonate with the NARAS.
What might work against it: The eligibility is questionable since it was released as a single last year but didn't gain traction until 2016. EDM is also likely still a bad word among the blue ribbon panel.

10. Beyoncé - "Formation"
What's in it's favor: Few songs this year have been as highly quoted. Even though it's not the typical banger we expect from Bey, the message of pride and defiance is proof to casual listeners she can do more than just party anthems.
What might work against it: There was way too much controversy surrounding the video and the Super Bowl appearance, which could rub some of the more the more conservative voters the wrong way who think she should just stick to entertaining and not making statements.

Song of the Year

1. Adele - "Hello"
What's in it's favor: Everything.
What might work against it: Nothing.

2. Lukas Graham - "7 Years"
What's in it's favor: The chart success is one thing, but having a universal theme of reflecting on youth is why the song continues to resonate.
What might work against it: The way that the subject is handled could be seen as simplistic and not complex at all.

3. Justin Bieber - "Love Yourself"
What's in it's favor: The minimal use of guitar here is more of an advantage here than it would be for Record of the Year because the focus is on the songcraft. Although it hit #1 on the Hot 100 in the spring, it's still going pretty strong.
What might work against it: Not a whole lot, except the previously discussed Bieber bias. This is the kind of the song that revamps an image, so this argument may be futile.

4. David Bowie - "Lazarus"
What's in it's favor: If placing him in AOTY seems like a step back for an establishment that was known for questionably rewarding veterans over younger stars, then Song of the Year is a decent consolation prize for someone who figures to be a heavy sentimental favorite.
What might work against it: It could be viewed as a slot that should go to someone younger who's still in their prime.

5. Justin Timberlake - "Can't Stop The Feeling"
What's in it's favor: This category has warmed up to more lightweight fare in recent years and it stands to be one of the biggest hits of 2016.
What might work against it: It would have to get in purely on how catchy it is since the lyrics are lacking in wit.

6. Beyoncé - "Daddy Lessons"/"Sandcastles"
What's in it's favor: They both stand an equal chance if the NARAS wants to show some love to Lemonade and these would be two of the smartest choices her label could submit to get nominated in this category since they show Beyoncé  at her most vulnerable.
What might work against it: If they are released as singles, not having them on YouTube is going to hurt. "Sorry" is the current single and can only be viewed on Tidal or through purchasing the album.

7. Maren Morris - "My Church"
What's in it's favor: Country usually manages to wriggle its way into the general field, so based on the support she'll have, it won't be unlikely to see her here. Add to that, it's a heartfelt dedication to the love and history of a genre with a strong voter presence.
What might work against it: The sentiment will be appreciated, but it's lacking the relative complexity of past country songs in Song of the Year like Miranda Lambert's "The House That Built Me" and Little Big Town's "Girl Crush."

8. Ruth B - "Lost Boy"
What's in it's favor: A young face who also plays an instrument? The Grammys live to reward acts like her.
What might work against it: As a musical composition, it holds up. Lyrically, the song doesn't reveal much about a story we're all familiar with, even if the perspective is unique.

9. Kanye West - "Ultra Light Beam"
What's in it's favor: An appearance by Chance The Rapper, who I feel the Grammys would love to acknowledge in some fashion just to show that they're with the times. The usage of gospel in a song usually signals to people that something important and uplifting is happening and would help Kanye here.
What might work against it: I think they're over Kanye in the general field.

10. Drake - "Hotline Bling"
What's in it's favor: Everyone already knows it and it has that engaging combination of being open-hearted and catchy.
What might work against it: In the song, he's pretty whiny about a girl who's adjusted to life without him in a totally healthy manner.

Best New Artist

1. Chance The Rapper
What's in his favor: Now that he's officially eligible due to streaming only efforts being allowed, he has a strong shot at cashing in on the goodwill of his highly touted television appearances and a critically acclaimed mixtape. If the NARAS want to appear with the times, they must nominate him.
What might work against him: There's always the argument that he may not be considered all that new since Acid Rap did gain some mainstream press.

2. Alessia Cara
What's in her favor: "Here" gave her a lot of karma points, but her latest single "Wild Things" proved she wasn't a one-hit wonder.
What might work against her: In a year that's weak on new artists, the blue ribbon panel could just go all out and fill BNA with underground artists instead of having a token mainstream representation.

3. Margo Price
What's in her favor: An old school country flavor that recalls Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn that will go over big with traditionalists. Jack White has also given his stamp of approval.
What might work against her: She's a bit off the radar from the flashy Nashville scene and the country voting contingent might want to coronate someone a bit more radio-friendly.

4. Anderson .Paak
What's in his favor: An increased profile from working with Dr. Dre and rave reviews for both his album and late night TV performances have made him one of the hipper names to drop in 2016.
What might work against him: You've really got to follow music to know who he is. He has yet to breakthrough to casual audiences.

5. Grimes
What's in her favor: Art Angels finished 4th in the Pazz and Jop poll as one of 2015's best albums. We've seen at least one artist from the indie/non-modern rock world in the past six years for BNA and she has the highest profile out of anyone that would be eligible.
What might work against her: Her brand of pop may be too eclectic and off-beat for the antiquated NARAS to see how she has a future.

6. Bryson Tiller
What's in his favor: Platinum status and two top 40 singles have catapulted him into the conversation and his sound is contemporary as they come.
What might work against him: The last R&B artist to be nominated was Keri Hilson in 2010. The genre is often one of the most overlooked when it comes to the big four categories.

7. Maren Morris
What's in her favor: "My Church" has a good chance of peaking during the summer, which would keep her fresh in the minds of voters come fall.
What might work against her: Not a whole lot. She's photogenic and writes her own songs (AKA Grammy bait). If the second single "'80s Mercedes" does well at country radio, she could bump Margo Price out of that country slot.

8. Cam
What's in her favor: "Burning House" was nominated for Best Country Solo Performance at the previous ceremony among industry heavyweights Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Lee Ann Womack and eventual winner, Chris Stapleton. She's officially on the Nashville radar and reviews of the album were positive.
What might work against her: "Burning House" is the only single of hers to have really caught on while other new peers in her genre have gained momentum.

9. Yuna
What's in her favor: It's been a slow year for viable mainstream BNA nominees, which means a few surprises could be in store. At this point, sales won't matter as much, so they'll be looking for someone with respect. Having worked with the likes of Pharrell Williams, DJ Premier, Usher and David Foster show that she isn't completely unknown to the music industry. She can also be pushed as Grammy bait since she plays an instrument, writes her own songs and is easy on the eyes.
What might work against her: It's rare for a Best New Artist nominee to not even chart on the Billboard Top 200. Esperanza Spalding was the only one to accomplish that feat.

10. KING
What's in their favor: A universally lauded album and co-signs from just about every star on the underground soul scene makes them a sneaky choice over Bryson Tiller for an R&B slot. Nominations for Kehlani, The Internet and Lianne La Havas last year in Best Urban Contemporary Album showed that R&B members of the NARAS can think outside of radio.
What might work against them: It's going to be extremely difficult for an R&B/soul act to get a nod in this category without the help of a major label and Anderson. Paak may get in before they do if it happens.

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