Now that the eligibility period for the 2018 Grammy Awards has officially ended, it’s time to discuss potential nominees. In this 8 part series we will discuss our predictions for the General field, the pop, rock, and rap categories, and one random group of categories.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
The most coveted award in the music industry, Album of the Year, has become a joke with the last few ceremonies rewarding mediocre and overrated white albums over the more deserving and better black albums. After the loss of BEYONCÉ, Lemonade, and To Pimp A Butterfly, I don’t have particularly high hopes.
The nominees in this category usually include the biggest album of the year, one hip-hop/rap/R&B album, one country album, one rock/indie album, and one wildcard (think Sara Bareilles in 2014 or Sturgill Simpson in 2016). We’ll separate this by different tiers: locks (we would be shocked if these weren’t nominated), near locks (albums that have a 75%-90% chance of getting nominated), on the fence (albums that we suspect could sneak in, but wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t), and longshots (we would be shocked if these albums made it in)
These two albums are indisputably the biggest albums of the year. Ed Sheeran’s Divide launched one of the biggest songs of the century, “Shape Of You,” and notched another top ten hit with “Castle On The Hill.” Ed is a two-time Grammy winner and a previous nominee in this category with Multiply in 2014. The album is a blockbuster smash and has one of the biggest Grammy darling names attached to it. The only thing going against it, is that the album fared horribly with critics and isn’t particularly good, but that hasn’t stopped the Academy before. On the other hand, another #1 record-breaking album is Kendrick Lamar’s critically-acclaimed DAMN. Kendrick’s album launched the #1 smash hit, “HUMBLE.,” and additionally top 5 hit with “DNA.,” and seven additional Top 40 hits. The album has spent 25 consecutive weeks in the top ten and has all the markings of a Grammy AOTY nominee. I have no doubt that Kendrick will get nominated, whether or not he wins is still a longshot because of his genre and his race. Look out for these two albums when the nominees are announced.
Bruno Mars has had a great year, a smash #1 hit with “That’s What I Like,” two performances at last year’s ceremony, a successful world tour, and an album with incredible longevity. The only thing hurting his chances, and all three of these albums actually, is that it was released at the end of 2016. Mars is a former nominee in this category with 2011’s Doo-Wops & Hooligans and he won last year as a producer on Adele’s 25. Bruno has kept the album in the front of the voters’ mind by opening the BET Awards, collecting four VMAs nominations, and smashing Billboard records. Above all, 24K Magic is a quality album that deserves a nomination.
Miranda Lambert’s The Weight of These Wings is one of the most acclaimed albums of the past two years, and along with its top 3 debut, it deserves a slot among these nominees. Miranda would fit the token country slot and female slot, deservedly so. Miranda has been sweeping award shows left and right with this album and her stunning performance of second single, “Tin Man,” revived the album on the charts. Miranda scored two nominations for the album’s lead single, “Vice,” and I foresee that goodwill extending into this year’s ceremony.
The Weeknd’s Starboy is the only #1 album out of the bunch, and it also yielded a #1 hit with “Starboy (feat. Daft Punk)” and an additional top ten hit with, “I Feel It Coming (feat. Daft Punk).” The Weeknd performed on last year’s telecast and he is a former nominee in this category with 2015’s Beauty Behind the Madness. Though Starboy is on the weaker side of The Weeknd’s discography, it still a fine album that sold well, streamed well and proved to have good longevity.
On the Fence
All these albums definitely have a shot but there is something holding them back.
Melodrama is a #1 album that yielded the top 20 hit, “Green Light.” Despite the more than stellar reviews, the album’s commercial success hasn’t been nearly as robust as its predecessor, Pure Heroine. The absolutely bizarre VMAs performance and lack of a strong single around voting time might hurt her chances. Critical success and your name can only take you so far at the Grammys when you are a young woman.
Lady Gaga headlined the Super Bowl, launched a top five hit with “Million Reasons,” and underwent a massive reinvention with Joanne. The album had limited longevity and middling reviews but it put her career back on track after the tragic misstep that was 2013’s ARTPOP. It has been a staggering five years since Gaga’s last solo Grammy nomination for non-soundtrack work, will the Academy reembrace her in AOTY? Gaga has been nominated in this category three times before from 2010-2012 but I think she will fare better in the Song of the Year category.
JAY-Z and A Tribe Called Quest dropped stellar late-career defining albums with 4:44 and We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service. Neither album has achieved a legitimate hit single yet, but they were both commercially successful. A Tribe Called Quest may be passed over in favor of the new guard, Kendrick Lamar, despite their history as four-time Grammy nominees and performers at the last ceremony. JAY-Z bears the cross of TIDAL which may bar him from this category.
Metallica could easily get in; they performed at last year’s ceremony and they are nine-time Grammy winners. Metallica would be the token legacy/rock slot and their albums sold very well and went #1, look out for them.
These 9 albums all have long shots of getting in, and it would be a delight to see any of them in the final five.
Kesha’s Rainbow and Harry Styles’ Harry Styles are the types of albums that are “story nominations.” Kesha’s stellar comeback album being nominated here would be a beautiful gesture and an olive branch to left-of-mainstream pop, à la Sara Bareilles in 2014. Harry Styles evolution into an old-school rocker with pop sensibilities would be like Justin Timberlake getting his AOTY nom for Justified, his debut solo album after *NSYNC broke up.
The xx’s I See You and Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy are the gorgeous indie albums that surprise in this category every few years, so look out for them. In addition, Foo Fighters could get in as an alternative to the more moderne Imagine Dragons and the more legacy Metallica. Speaking of Imagine Dragons, their #2 album already yielded at top five hit with, “Believer,” and “Thunder,” is shaping up to be an even bigger hit. Already Grammy winners, Imagine Dragons could sneak into this category.
On the urban side of things, we have SZA’s incredible debut album, Ctrl, DJ Khaled’s smash album, Grateful, and Childish Gambino’s critically lauded, “Awaken, My Love!” SZA’s status as a new artist will work against her as will her genre (urban contemporary). Ctrl is the longest running top ten female album of the year, and she already notched a VMA nomination earlier this year and some minor hits with “Love Galore (feat. Travis Scott)” and “The Weekend.” DJ Khaled notched massive hits with “I’m The One (feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, and Lil Wayne)” and “Wild Thoughts (feat. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller).” Grateful is not a great album by any measure but its success could help it sneak a spot here; Khaled was nominated for Best Rap Album last year, but I think he’ll fare better in Record of the Year. Lastly, Childish Gambino had a smash hit with “Redbone,” and multiple wins at the Emmys and the Golden Globes. I suspect this will be a Pharrell 2015 situation where Gambino gets the AOTY nomination as a sort of compensation for SOTY and ROTY snubs. *Not pictured: Khalid’s American Teen, he could also get in, although it’s a very, very long shot.
Alright, so who’s it gonna be? I’ve decided that these are my predictions for the 2018 GRAMMY Award for Album of the Year:
Ed Sheeran – Divide
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Miranda Lambert – The Weight of These Wings
Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”
ALT: Metallica – Hardwired… To Self-Destruct OR Lady Gaga – Joanne