CURRENT: Marissa Nadler – “Janie In Love”

Marissa Nadler returns May 20 with Strangers, and she recently released that album’s first single, “Janie In Love.” The song is as brooding and emotive as most others in her discography, but there’s an added heft to the song with its more forceful chorus. Marissa Nadler has made a career in in mixing beauty and sadness – often at the same times. “Janie In Love” is one of her most impressive exhibits.

CURRENT: Azealia Banks – “The Big Big Beat”

Way before Kanye West discovered the Twitter rant, Azealia Banks perfected it to an art form. While her tweet barrage may have ruined her chances at major stardom, she’s still responsible for the great Broke With Expensive Taste, and now “The Big Big Beat.” The song harnesses a house influence, with Banks as the glam queen she was meant to be. Talent has never been the issue for Azealia Banks; where her motivation lies has. With “The Big Big Beat,” Banks declares her return, just as big and brash as ever. It’s a welcome return to form that doesn’t limit Banks, but extends the ground she’s able to carry.

GRAMMY REPORT: No Alarms And No Surprises, Please

Highlighting three of the biggest parts of last night’s broadcast:

THE PERFORMANCES

There was a feeling right after Kendrick Lamar’s searing, life-affirming Grammy performance Monday night that the show had reached its peak. That feeling turned out to be an accurate one, as the night’s many overwrought and mismanaged “tributes” and collaborations brought the whole event down with them. From the grab-bag group of collaborators brought together to tribute Lionel Richie to Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper honoring Motörhead’s Lemmy, these Grammy’s were the best example yet of the production’s surface-level planning. Every year, the Grammy’s collaborations are stretched more and more thin, but this year, there was seemingly no rhyme or reason for any of these artists to perform together other than, “Oh, hey, they’re both famous.” In a time when artists are teaming up and appearing on each other’s songs at a fast clip, Grammy producers ignored the great real-life collaborations of 2015 for these bizarre, Frankenstein monsters of performances.

THE AWARDS

As for the awards, things didn’t stray far from what the Grammy’s are known to do. I whiffed on a couple – Album and Song of the Year – as the Grammy’s awarded Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran where I thought they’d go with Kendrick Lamar and… Taylor Swift. None of the wins were egregious, if we’re basing the priorities of Grammy voters in commercial appeal and name recognition. If that’s the most important trait Grammy voters are looking for, then they acheived their main objective Monday night. But that line of action shows the true problems of an award show like the Grammy’s: they’re structured to follow commercial trends, not forge a new way. Because there would be no better way for Kendrick Lamar to become a household name than to win Album Of The Year.

KENDRICK LAMAR

Speaking of Kendrick Lamar, he delivered what I can only call the best Grammy performance of my lifetime. As he is wont to do, Lamar stuck in another untitled new track in the midst of his incredible medley of To Pimp A Butterfly tracks. And while watching his performance in the middle of Monday night’s telecast, I knew no matter the outcome of the night’s biggest awards, Kendrick Lamar was the winner of the night. He doesn’t need an award to tell him that. It’s also important to be duly recognized as the best, which Lamar was. While 1989 is a stellar collection of refined pop hits, Butterfly is a breathtaking work that largely defied categorization – featuring a fusion of jazz, rap, funk, soul and gospel. It’s hard to think what more Kendrick Lamar could have done to win the award for AOTY last night, but the more you think of what could have been done differently, the more irrelevant the entire night becomes. For many, TPAB will always be the album of the year. More importantly, it will also be seen as an album of a generation.

GRAMMY PREVIEW: To Praise A Butterfly

Tonight the Grammy’s air on CBS, and will largely be viewed to see how right Grammy voters get it this year (i.e. a clean sweep for Kendrick Lamar). While that’s unlikely – see my predictions below – one thing is for certain: no matter who wins, it will be a major moment for the industry. That, and we’re all but guaranteed at least one collaboration no one ever wanted. Let the fun begin!

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

Why To Pimp A Butterfly will win: A YEAR after surprising everyone by crowning Beck’s Morning Phase AOTY, Grammy voters will not vote Kendrick Lamar’s universally praised album as the year’s best to assuage past misgivings, but because it truly was the best album during the Grammy’s nominating cycle. And while that’s hardly a strong precedent for an album winning the music industry’s highest honor, Lamar appears to have the backing of many as he landed the most nominations in 2016 with 11. But if Grammy voters are looking for an outcry on Twitter, there are a couple of other albums nominated that stand a chance. Taylor Swift’s 1989 was the biggest pop album of 2014, and voters might be ready to award the songwriter her second AOTY. Meanwhile, a win for Alabama Shakes and their 2015 album Sound & Color would fit the mold of previous 2010’s winners Beck with Morning Phase and Mumford & Sons with BabelSound & Color is better than those two albums, for what it’s worth, but to see it leap ahead of Lamar’s Butterfly would be a shock.

RECORD OF THE YEAR

D’Angelo And The Vanguard, “Really Love”

Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”

Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud”

Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”

The Weeknd, “Can’t Feel My Face”

Why “Uptown Funk” will win: DID YOU live in 2015? The Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars team-up was the year’s most infection single, and is somehow still as fun to listen to now as it was when first released. Most pop songs wear out their welcome with overplay, but “Uptown Funk” is the rare song that reminds listeners they love it with ever play.

SONG OF THE YEAR

Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”

Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”

Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”

Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth, “See You Again”

Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud”

Why “Blank Space” will win: 1989’s biggest hit is also one of Taylor Swift’s finest crafted pop songs. From the glossy beat to Swift’s biting, candid lyrics, “Space” finds Swift’s aesthetic boiled down to its essentials. She’s either your best friend or worst enemy, and on “Blank Space,” she’s both.

BEST NEW ARTIST

Courtney Barnett

James Bay

Sam Hunt

Tori Kelly

Meghan Trainor

Why Meghan Trainor will win: THE GRAMMYS need to remind us that they’re the Grammy’s, after all. Awarding Courtney Barnett would be too good to be true, and none of the other nominees other than Trainor resonated on as big a level as the “All About That Bass” singer. If Grammy voters are looking to go in the pop direction, they’d be much better off selecting Tori Kelly, but with “Bass” scoring a nomination last year for Song and ROTY, it’s evident the electorate is all about their Trainor.

BEST ALTERNATIVE ALBUM

Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color

Björk, Vulnicura

My Morning Jacket, The Waterfall

Tame Impala, Currents

Wilco, Star Wars

Why Sound & Color will win: THE ALBUM is nominated for AOTY, which says a lot about voters’ affection for Brittany Howard and Co. As they should be! Sound & Color is anchored by Howard’s wrecking ball vocals, which can lay you on your ass if you let it. Tame Impala seem to be having a bit of a moment with Currents, but Kevin Parker is going to have to wait until album no. 4 for that elusive Grammy. 

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

Why To Pimp A Butterfly will win: KENDRICK LAMAR has by far the best album among this year’s Best Rap Album nominees. While it was great hearing the return of Dr. Dre, riding with Drake and turning up to Nicki, nothing felt as essential and purposeful as Lamar’s opus. 2015 was Kendrick Lamar’s year. We should be grateful to live in it.

CURRENT: Beyoncé – “Formation”

Beyoncé is set to join Coldplay at the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, and before the set she’s dropped the new single “Formation” with your typical stunning Yoncé visuals. The song shows Beyoncé celebrating and embracing her blackness more explicitly than ever. “I love my Negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils,” she raps at one point, and “I got hot sauce in my bag, swag” at another. The song is held together by an incredibly fluid, bounce-inspired beat produced by Mike WiLL Made It, that is as much a celebration of New Orleans – complete with some brass instruments punctuating the chorus – as “Formation”‘s video.

And that video is something. On the same weekend her sister was given the key to New Orleans, Beyoncé released a song and video with the city at its heart. “What happened after New Orleans” a graveled voice asks at the beginning, alluding to after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city in 2005. That moment serves as sadly another egregious example of the government’s apathetic outlook on black bodies. An American city and its people – predominantly black – were allowed to go under water in the 21st century. It’s still a loaded topic, and Beyoncé puts herself in those waters in some of the video’s most powerful images. She sits atop an NOPD squad car, and in the closing moments the car, along with Beyoncé, sinks into the floodwaters.

“Formation” is Prime affirmative Beyoncé. We’ve seen her in this state before, but never contextualized so powerfully. “I dream it, I work hard / I grind ’til I own it” is basically her mantra at this point. And in this song and video about black pride and resiliency – with New Orleans serving as a symbol of just that – her words, “I grind ’til I own it,” are made even more powerful now that her sister has the key.

CURRENT: Gallant – “Skipping Stones” [ft. Jhene Aiko]

Rising vocalist Gallant teams up with the already-there Jhene Aiko on one-off single “Skipping Stones.” Instead of being an island, “Stones” is a mountain of a track, as Gallant shows off some stunning vocals when he scales unforeseen heights on the chorus. Aiko is a force of stability, reminding us what a refreshing voice she is in our musical climate. While it’s impossible to see where Gallant or Jhene Aiko go from here, “Skipping Stones” makes it sure that wherever they go, we’ll be listening.