With the nominees for music’s proverbial biggest night being announced Tuesday morning, Grammy season is well and truly upon us. And with the Thanksgiving hangover just clearing up, the time seems ripe for a quick look at who the nominees for the four big categories — Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Best New Artist — are likely to be. The Grammys will air live on CBS Jan. 28, 2018 from New York’s Madison Square Garden.
The artists poised for the biggest look are probably Kendrick Lamar and Ed Sheeran, both of whom delivered solid, big-selling albums — Lamar was named Variety’s first Artist Hitmaker of the Year last week — and both are familiar to Grammy voters. Yet where Lamar’s last major album, 2015’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” was a bold challenge to listeners, loaded with jazz musicians and dense rhymes, this year’s “DAMN.” is more direct and accessible — and hits like “Humble” and “DNA” have lit up the airwaves. Sheeran’s “Division” is a safer and perhaps more likely bet for Album of the Year; it will depend on how edgy the Grammy voters are feeling after a year that’s presented no shortage of challenges.
Other contenders include Bruno Mars with “24K Magic,” and outliers like Harry Styles’ self-titled solo debut — a 1970s-styled album that could well hit a sweet spot with Grammy voters — and SZA’s “Ctrl,” which puts hip-hop soul into a pop-friendly context. Also with a chance are Jay-Z’s “4:44” — arguably the first hip-hop album about growing old gracefully; Foo Fighters’ “Concrete and Gold” for a nod to rock; and Chris Stapleton’s “Songs From A Room, Part 1” and Miranda Lambert’s “The Weight of These Wings” rep strongly for country but may not have the heft to top the albums above.
Despite the distinction between Song and Record of the Year — the former is a songwriter’s award, the latter a producer’s — many of the same songs are often nominated for both categories, and this year will likely be no exception. The year’s biggest song Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito,” seems a shoo-in for a nomination but less likely for a win, despite the mainstreaming factor of Justin Bieber on the remix; having said that, Record of the Year seems possible. Ed Sheeran’s ubiquitous “Shape of You” and Lamar’s “Humble” both seem likely to get nods, as does Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” for its strong suicide-prevention message. Likewise, Kesha’s “Praying” could provide an opportunity for the Grammys to cast a concerned eye on the sexual harassment scandals of recent months. Harry Styles’ “Sign of the Times” and Sam Smith’s “Too Good at Goodbyes” seem strong contenders for Record of the Year owing to the sweeping production on both, and Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” is also an outside contender.
However, the big question over both of these categories is whether Taylor Swift’s polarizing single “Look What You Made Me Do” will be nominated: It’s hardly Swift’s most popular or catchiest song, but it’s hard to imagine her being completely shut out (and the song’s video gives an indication of how not-pretty her revenge can be).
Best New Artist is likely to be the crapshoot it always is, and an alteration in the rules means that Alessia Cara, who many felt was unfairly shut out of the category last year, is likely to score a belated nomination, if not a win, this time around. This would bring the familiar conundrum of having an artist who’s basically established as Best New Artist, and she does face considerable competition from the likes of SZA, Khalid, Logic (with whom she duets on “1-800”), Julia Michaels, Cardi B, Post Malone and Lil Uzi Vert, to name just five.
All will be revealed tomorrow morning at around 8:45 a.m.