This year is going to be full of surprises. Every category in the General Field (Best New Artist; Album/Record/Song of the Year) has been expanded from five to eight nominees. In past years, we could rely on traditional voting patterns to make strong predictions. Now, this expansion of the field, coupled with the increased blurring of genre lines, makes accurate predictions infinitely harder. Still worth trying, though!
Golden Hour (Kacey Musgraves); By the Way, I Forgive You (Brandi Carlile); Black Panther: The Album (Kendrick Lamar & Various Artists); H.E.R. (H.E.R.); Scorpion (Drake); Dirty Computer (Janelle Monáe); beerbongs & bentleys(Post Malone); Invasion of Privacy (Cardi B)
One of the best ways to assess how much support an album has is to see if it has nominations in its home genre (Pop Vocal Album, R&B Album, etc.) and how many overall nominations it has. Despite, being the best album of the bunch, by this measure, Janelle Monáe’s Dirty Computer has the least support. Garnering just one other nomination (Best Music Video for “Pynk”) besides this one, Monáe curiously seems to have relatively low support. In addition, her album is the second least successful, commercially-speaking. The only way I see this album winning is by Kacey and Brandi splitting the country/folk/americana vote and Drake, Cardi, Kendrick, and Post splitting the pop/rap vote. Of course, this is all banking on the fact that these voting blocs still hold up after the nominations expansion. Or she could pull an Arcade Fire; they won Album of the Year in 2011 despite losing their only other nomination that year.
I would see the albums with slightly higher chances than Dirty, but still relatively low, to take this home are H.E.R. and beerbongs & bentleys. H.E.R. seems to have substantial support across the board this year. She scored a total of five nominations including Best R&B Album and Best New Artist. I currently predict her as the winner for Best New Artist; the last time the same artist won Best New Artist and Album of the Year was Norah Jones in 2003. This is a tough stat to rely on. Furthermore, Bruno Mars won both Best R&B Album and AOTY last year. Would the Academy really repeat themselves so soon after years of ignoring the genre in the general field? On the other hand, Post Malone was nominated in both the pop (Best Pop Solo Performance for “Better Now”) and rap fields (Best Rap/Sung Performance for “rockstar”). Nevertheless, he failed to reap bids for his album anywhere but the marquee category, but maybe his nod for Record of the Year balances that out? I’m not sure what to think about the Academy and Post. He was egregiously ignored for Best New Artist last year and deemed ineligible this year, how much do they really like him?
Brandi Carlile is the most nominated female artist of the year with six bids. She scored nominations in. Aside from Black Panther: The Album (7), Brandi’s By the Way is the most nominated album this year. A seasoned and beloved performer who has yet to win a Grammy, she may very well sweep the whole thing or just take home awards in her genre category. Who knows!
I think Drake and Cardi B have equal shots of being winning this. A previous nominee here for VIEWS (2017), Drake has substantial support scoring a total of seven nominations this year. He is recognized in Song and Record of the Year for “God’s Plan” and throughout the rap categories. Curiously, he was passed over for a nomination for Best Rap Album despite winning for Take Care in 2012 and being nominated there an additional three times. The album broke records and set new ones, and Drake dominated the year. Cardi also dominated the year and she scored nominations for Best Rap Album, Best Rap Performance, Record of the Year, and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. Cardi would be just the second female rapper to win this award since Lauryn Hill in 1998. I think either of them could take this, but they might lack support from the non-pop and rap voters.
I think the albums with the two strongest chances to win are Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour and Black Panther: The Album. Kacey has proven to be a favorite of the Academy with 2 prior wins and a grand total of 9 nominations. Her critically-lauded Golden is accessible for any music listener despite it being undeniably country at its core. It has also been nearly a decade since a country artist has won this award, the last being Taylor Swift for Fearless in 2010. On the other hand, how do you beat the critically-acclaimed #1 soundtrack to the #3 highest-grossing film of all time? Not to mention the cultural juggernaut that the film was and the star power of the album (Kendrick Lamar, SZA, The Weeknd, Future, James Blake, Khalid, Swae Lee, etc.) Kendrick has lost this award each of the three times he was nominated, and each time was met with resounding backlash. He’s actually never won an award in the General Field and this is the perfect place to reward him. The album’s fusion of hip-hop, rap, R&B, pop, alternative, and electronica broadens its appeal and the stellar roster will certainly impress voters as well.
WINNER: Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour
ALT: Kendrick Lamar & Various Artists, Black Panther: The Album