Record of the Year
“Despacito” Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber
“The Story Of O.J.” JAY-Z
“HUMBLE.” Kendrick Lamar
Donald Glover has become a pop culture force since he broke though as an actor on the NBC sitcom Community. “Redbone” is as great of a song as Atlanta is a TV show, and his “Awaken, My Love!” cut should be rewarded as such.
UPDATE Bruno Mars universal charm proved to be too much to resist for Grammy voters, as 24K Magic‘s lead single – released in November 2016 – was able to win the Record of the Year Grammy in January 2018.
Album of the Year
“Awaken, My Love!” Childish Gambino
In a banner year for diversity among AOTY nominees, Grammy voters will play it safe with the night’s top honor. I’m hard pressed to think of an instance when a white male artist didn’t field one of the five nominees, yet that’s the position we find ourselves this year. All five nominated albums are worth consideration, but Mars’ streamlined masterpiece is no frills, all substance. It’s also the most conservative of the group, the one with the widest appeal. In the general field, that matters. While albums such as DAMN. and Melodrama showed more risk, 24k Magic aimed straight down the middle and landed a strike out.
UPDATE 24K Magic did indeed pull of the victory. The backlash was swift, which would be an unfortunate side effect of any album not named Damn. winning Album of the Year. As mentioned earlier, Mars’ album was the most conventional of those nominated for the night’s top honor, and that proved enough for Mars to win his first Album of the Year.
Song of the Year
“Despacito” Ramon Ayala, Justin Bieber, Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, Erika Ender, Luis Fonsi & Marty James Garton, songwriters (Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber)
“4:44” Shawn Carter & Dion Wilson, songwriters (JAY-Z)
“Issues” Benny Blanco, Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, Julia Michaels & Justin Drew Tranter, songwriters (Julia Michaels)
“1-800-273-8255” Alessia Caracciolo, Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, Arjun Ivatury, Khalid Robinson, songwriters (Logic Featuring Alessia Cara & Khalid)
“That’s What I Like”
Christopher Brody Brown, James Fauntleroy, Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars, Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus & Jonathan Yip, songwriters
For many of the same reasons I predict 24k Magic to win AOTY, “That’s What I Like” appears poised for SOTY honors. “Issues” is a dark horse for the award.
UPDATE “That’s What I Like” helped keep Bruno Mars in the spotlight in 2017 as it became 24K Magic‘s first (and so far only) #1 single. In a field that featured three singles that didn’t reach the heights of “That’s What I Like” – and another that may have suffered from over-saturation (“Despacito”) – that proved to be more than enough.
Best New Artist
Lil Uzi Vert
Julia Michaels made her name as a songwriter for the likes of Gwen Stefani and Selena Gomez, and her breakthrough as a solo artist proved her to be as compelling of a performer as a songwriter. This is the toughest category to predict, as each artist did enough during the calendar year to deserve the award.
UPDATE The Grammys ended up going 4 for 4 in terms of picking the safest, most conventional choices among the nominated field. Alessia Cara’s win set the tone for the night. It’s a win hard to get angry over yet even harder to get excited about.
Best Pop Solo Performance
“Love So Soft” Kelly Clarkson
“Million Reasons” Lady Gaga
“What About Us” P!nk
“Shape Of You”
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
“Something Just Like This”
The Chainsmokers & Coldplay
“Despacito” Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber
“Thunder” Imagine Dragons
“Feel It Still”
Portugal. The Man
“Stay” Zedd & Alessia Cara
Best Pop Vocal Album
Kaleidoscope EP Coldplay
Lust For Life Lana Del Rey
Kesha’s powerful return should lead to wins for Best Pop Solo Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album, while “Something Just Like This” feels like it’s tailor-made for the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance award.
UPDATE: Despite being shut out of the night’s three biggest honors, Ed Sheeran was able to sneak in a win for Best Pop Vocal Album with his best-selling album colloquially referred to as “Divide.” His album was by far the most commercially successful of the bunch, and this certainly feels like a reward for his bottomline.
Despite delivering the best performance of the night, Kesha was unable to take home a trophy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, as Ed Sheeran somehow beat out “Praying” with his inescapable “Shape of You.” Truly the night’s most confounding moment.
The night’s biggest surprise belonged to Portugal. The Man, whose “Feel It Still” remarkably pulled out a win for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. The wholly inoffensive track was among the better songs nominated for that award, but The Chainsmokers/Coldplay or Zedd/Alessia Cara felt more like Grammy bait than a single from a band that had been ignored by Grammy voters every year since their debut in 2006 prior to their breakthrough pop single.
Best Alternative Music Album
Pure Comedy Father John Misty
Sleep Well Beast
James Murphy resurrected LCD Soundsystem last year with American Dream, and the beloved group is likely to be rewarded for their return in a much different musical landscape.
UPDATE: The National won their first ever Grammy award with the excellent Sleep Well Beast. The album follows Trouble Will Find Me as their second consecutive album nominated in this category.
Best Rap Performance
“Bounce Back” Big Sean
“Bodak Yellow” Cardi B
“Bad And Boujee” Migos Featuring Lil Uzi Vert
Best Rap Song
“Bodak Yellow” Dieuson Octave, Klenord Raphael, Shaftizm, Jordan Thorpe, Washpoppin & J White, Songwriters (Cardi B)
“Chase Me” Judah Bauer, Brian Burton, Hector Delgado, Jaime
Meline, Antwan Patton, Michael Render, Russell Simins & Jon Spencer, Songwriters (Danger Mouse Featuring Run The Jewels & Big Boi)
K. Duckworth, Asheton Hogan & M. Williams Ii, Songwriters
“Sassy” E. Gabouer & M. Evans, Songwriters (Rapsody)
“The Story Of O.J.”
Shawn Carter & Dion Wilson, Songwriters (Jay-Z)
Best Rap Album
Laila’s Wisdom Rapsody
Tyler, The Creator
Jay-Z is poised to sweep the Rap categories, as 4:44 was one of the most critically appreciated albums, and Grammy voters love awarding elder statesmen, regardless of genre. While it would be great to see the new guard rack up some Ws with “Bodak Yellow” and DAMN., this is unquestionably Jay’s season.
UPDATE: Kendrick Lamar did indeed show the new guard is formidable, as “HUMBLE.” swept the awards for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance. Jay-Z’s apparently stranglehold on this category – as well as his odds of winning AOTY – appear to be dropping.
With his loss in the Best Rap Album category, Jay-Z ended up getting shut out, not winning a single award he was nominated for. What looked like a certainty just hours before the ceremony turned into one of the night’s biggest upsets.