The 2016 Grammy nominations were announced this morning, and as always they were a bit of a mixed bag of obvious selections and oddball choices no one saw coming. It’s no secret that the Grammys aren’t often taken very seriously, and over the years, they haven’t done much to shake that opinion. Can you honestly say that Tony Bennett’s MTV Unplugged was the best album of 1994, or The Starland Vocal Band is the best new artist of 1976? This year doesn’t offer choices that bad (except in a few places and we’ll get to them), but they are worth some discussion. I’m going to cover most of the categories and give my thoughts on who should win, who will win and who the biggest snubs are. A reminder: the Grammy eligibility period covers October 1, 2014 through September 30, 2015, so Adele’s eligible for the next ceremony, not this one.
The Big Four
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
A quite good selection, although I wish D’Angelo or Miguel had The Weeknd’s spot. I suspected Alabama Shakes would be this year’s rock pick over Foo Fighters. Kendrick Lamar has this year’s most critically acclaimed album with To Pimp a Butterfly and would be a great choice for this award, but let’s be honest: this is Taylor’s award to lose. I have a feeling she’ll be netting this year’s big prize. For omissions, I would have loved to have seen my favorite album of the year, Carly Rae Jepsen’s poor selling but critically adored Emotion, be vindicated through a nomination here, but she didn’t even get a nomination in the pop categories. The cast recording to Hamilton would have been a great addition here, too.
PREDICTION: Taylor Swift, 1989
Record of the Year
D’Angelo & The Vanguard, “Really Love”
Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”
Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud”
Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”
The Weeknd, “Can’t Feel My Face”
It’s interesting that D’Angelo gets in here for an individual song instead of album of the year for Black Messiah, but otherwise there’s nothing else that surprised me. “Uptown Funk” is the favorite, but I suspect that Grammy voters will go for Ed Sheeran’s terminally boring “Thinking Out Loud” for this award. As for snubs, I’m surprised that Kanye West, Rihanna and Paul McCartney’s “FourFiveSeconds” – Grammy bait if I’ve ever heard it – didn’t get a nomination here or in any other category. Perhaps the Recording Academy finally realizes when they’re being pandered to.
PREDICTION: Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud”
Song of the Year
Kendrick Lamar, “Alright” (songwriters: Kendrick Lamar, Mark Anthony Spears and Pharrell Williams)
Taylor Swift, “Blank Space” (songwriters: Max Martin, Shellback and Taylor Swift)
Little Big Town, “Girl Crush” (songwriters: Hilary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose)
Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth, “See You Again” (songwriters: Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charlie Puth and Wiz Khalifa, songwriters)
Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud” (songwriters: Ed Sheeran and Amy Wadge)
This is the award for songwriting and I really hope that “See You Again,” the dull-as-wallpaper Furious 7 soundtrack hit, doesn’t win this. I suspect it won’t though, as there’s three other, better songs here as well as another strong contender that is at least interesting in its dullness (that’s “Thinking Out Loud” again, for the record). “Alright” is a great song and has quickly become a protest anthem, but this is another category where I’d love it if Kendrick won, but I don’t think he’s going to beat Taylor. I feel comfortable saying that Taylor will win songwriting and Sheeran will win recording, but it could go either way for both, or one song might take both categories. Either way, I think they’re the two songs to beat. As for surprise omissions, “FourFiveSeconds” again, but I also thought George Ezra’s “Budapest” might have had a chance here, as it’s the kind of acoustic pop-folk-rock that the Grammys seem to gravitate to for this category.
PREDICTION: Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”
Best New Artist
Best New Artist has something of a mixed history. There a just as many success stories (The Beatles, Mariah Carey, Adele) as there are total busts (The Swingle Sisters, Starland Vocal Band, Marc Cohn). soul-influenced folk rocker James Bay seems to be the musician that most jibes with the kind of act that is normally picked for this award, and he’s who I think will take it. Meghan Trainor, –who managed to turn a novelty hit into a string of middling-to-terrible follow-up hits – really has no business being nominated for this thing, and I was worried that she would. It’s wonderful to see that Courtney Barnett’s witty lyrics and terrific guitarwork has been recognized in this category, and she would be a great darkhorse to take the award if Bay doesn’t get it. There were quite a few artists that deserved to be here instead of Trainor: I thought George Ezra, Fetty Wap, Leon Bridges, Maddie & Tae and Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats all had a fair shot for one of the slots, but that’s not what happened.
But in closing, I think this award will go to James Bay, but Courtney Barnett could always pull a much deserved surprise win here.
PREDICTION: James Bay