The Billie Eilish vs. Lizzo throwdown has dominated the 2020 Grammy conversation, but there’ll be plenty of other nail-biters when the awards are handed out on Jan. 26. Will Lil Nas X upset girl power in album of the year, record of the year and/or best new artist? Will country legend and 14-time nominee Tanya Tucker finally take home a gong? And will Ariana Grande cap her return to the Grammy telecast with an armful of hardware?
Here’s how we think things will (and should) play out in several key categories.
Best New Artist
Lil Nas X
Tank and the Bangas
Will win: Beginning with Bobbie Gentry in 1968, the Recording Academy has had a long tradition of honoring rising ingenues in this category, and 18-year-old Eilish seems destined to be the next beneficiary of the sort-of trend. In 2008, Grammy voters passed over another teen ingenue, Taylor Swift, in favor of the older, more seasoned Amy Winehouse for best new artist. Music’s biggest under-20 newcomer since Swift won’t meet the same fate.
Should win: At her best, Rosalía’s flamenco-soaked sound blurs the decades between the middle of the last century and 2020. No offense to Eilish and Lizzo, but she’s the nominee most likely to become the kind of legend that people in her native country (in Rosalía’s case, Spain) will still be revering a century from now.
Album of the Year
“I, I” — Bon Iver
“Norman F — ing Rockwell!” — Lana Del Rey
“When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” — Billie Eilish
“Thank U, Next” — Ariana Grande
“I Used To Know Her” — H.E.R.
“7” — Lil Nas X
“Cuz I Love You” (Deluxe) — Lizzo
“Father of the Bride” — Vampire Weekend
Will win: Contrary to popular opinion, this is not Eilish’s to lose. Ariana Grande is the category’s secret frontrunner, and voters will want to reward her for surviving personal hardship and an industry that can eat its young female stars alive. Oh, and “Thank U, Next” also happened to be a massive hit and the creative high point of Grande’s career so far.
Should win: Grande toed the line between commerce and art with “Thank U, Next,” crafting an opus that was at once perfectly in step with the times and stunningly original. She earned her rave reviews — and her Grammy.
Record of the Year
“Hey, Ma” — Bon Iver
“Bad Guy” — Billie Eilish
“7 Rings” — Ariana Grande
“Hard Place” — H.E.R.
“Talk” — Khalid
“Old Town Road” — Lil Nas X Featuring Billy Ray Cyrus
“Truth Hurts” — Lizzo
“Sunflower” — Post Malone & Swae Lee
Will win: Can voters possibly overlook “Old Town Road,” the longest-running number one song in history? “Bad Guy” and “Truth Hurts” are formidable competitors, but in the end, Lil Nas X will become the second consecutive act (and the second overall) to triumph in this category with a rap song. Meanwhile, Miley Cyrus’ dad, a 1993 record of the year nominee for “Achy Breaky Heart,” will become the first Grammy winner in the family.
Should win: The truth? It doesn’t have to hurt — at least not for Lizzo. It’s hard to think of too many records that infiltrated the zeitgeist in 2019 with the ferocious intensity of “Truth Hurts,” one of the most memorable grand entrances a new star has made in some time.
Song of the Year
“Always Remember Us This Way” — Natalie Hemby, Lady Gaga, Hillary Lindsey & Lori McKenna, songwriters (Lady Gaga)
“Bad Guy” — Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell, songwriters (Billie Eilish)
“Bring My Flowers Now” — Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth & Tanya Tucker, songwriters (Tanya Tucker)
“Hard Place” — Ruby Amanfu, Sam Ashworth, D. Arcelious Harris. H.E.R. & Rodney Jerkins, songwriters (H.E.R.)
“Lover” — Taylor Swift, songwriter (Taylor Swift)
“Norman F — ing Rockwell” — Jack Antonoff & Lana Del Rey, songwriters (Lana Del Rey)
“Someone You Loved” — Tom Barnes, Lewis Capaldi, Pere Kelleher, Benjamin Kohn & Sam Roman, songwriters (Lewis Capaldi)
“Truth Hurts” — Steven Cheung, Eric Frederic, Melissa Jefferson & Jesse Saint John, songwriters (Lizzo)
Will win: Eilish will triumph for making mainstream pop sound edgier and more exciting than it has in years via “Bad Guy,” a song whose musical hook probably will be popping up as incidental music on TV and in movie trailers for years to come.
Should win: The song that fueled Tanya Tucker’s Grammy comeback is not just confirmation of the singer’s enduring talent but a haunting meta reminder to appreciate our legends while they’re still around to enjoy the accolades and applause.
Best Country Song
“Bring My Flowers Now” — Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth & Tanya Tucker, Songwriters (Tanya Tucker)
“Girl Goin’ Nowhere” — Jeremy Bussey & Ashley Mcbryde, Songwriters (Ashley Mcbryde)
“It All Comes Out In The Wash” — Miranda Lambert, Hillary Lindsey, Lori Mckenna & Liz Rose, Songwriters (Miranda Lambert)
“Some Of It” — Eric Church, Clint Daniels, Jeff Hyde & Bobby Pinson, Songwriters (Eric Church)
“Speechless” — Shay Mooney, Jordan Reynolds, Dan Smyers & Laura Veltz, Songwriters (Dan + Shay)
Will win: There are bigger hits in competition, but Tucker and company are virtually unbeatable here. Having Grammy darling Brandi Carlile riding shotgun as co-writer exponentially increases the potential of “Roses.” Voters will make up for Tucker’s inevitable song of the year loss by giving her a clean sweep of the three country categories in which she’s nominated.
Should win: A win for Tucker would be a win for country legends. If they’re not dead, they’re not done. Hopefully, more of them will return to the spotlight, once again wearing their hearts and souls on their vintage sleeves.
Best Rap Album
“Revenge Of The Dreamers III” — Dreamville
“Championships” — Meek Mill
“i am > i was” — 21 Savage
“IGOR” — Tyler, the Creator
“The Lost Boy” — YBN Cordae
Will win: Can the Recording Academy resist Tyler, the Creator after he delivered one of 2019’s best-reviewed releases in any genre with the LGBTQ-themed “Igor”? (His album of the year nod must have gotten lost in the mail.) Grammy’s rap voters tend to favor big stars and big albums in this category, and this year, Tyler will reap their reward.
Should win: Picking up way ahead of where Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ Grammy-nominated hit “Same Love” left off in 2012, “Igor,” just by nature of its unconventional romantic triangle, took love and hip-hop to higher ground. Unlike anything else in the category, it defied sonic categorization while exploring uncharted lyrical terrain.
Best Pop Solo Performance
“Spirit” — Beyoncé
“Bad Guy” — Billie Eilish
“7 Rings” — Ariana Grande
“Truth Hurts” — Lizzo
“You Need To Calm Down” — Taylor Swift
Will win: The third time as a nominee will be the charm for Ariana Grande, who will fight off stiff competition from the category’s four other A-list competitors to finally take the prize.
Should win: Grande’s hit is a trifle compared to some of the other tracks on “Thank U, Next” and certainly not much of a vocal challenge. Lizzo raps and sings circles around “Rings” on “Truth Hurts,” while merging rap, hip-hop and soul into a perfect pop package. She deserves this, but she’ll get her props in the R&B categories.
Producer of the Year, Non-Classical
Will win: In a year where Taylor Swift had more Grammy momentum, Jack Antonoff, nominated here primarily for his work on “Lover,” would be the no-brainer choice. In the year that was, though, voters will want to reward Finneas for playing such a vital role in the star-making of his baby sister Billie Eilish.
Should win: Finneas and Eilish might be pop’s best brother-and-sister package deal since the ’70s heyday of Carpenters, and credit is due to the 22-year-old sibling behind the talented teen. She set the scene, but he constructed the stunning backdrop.