2020 Grammy Awards promise predictable wins, good performers

by Jack Hargrove | 1/23/20 2:00am

After another year of incredible music output, it is almost time for the Grammys to choose which albums were the most commercially viable of 2019 — or, as the Academy phrases it, the best. 

Every year, the Grammys receive criticism for the nominated music, and this year is no different. Many of the major categories are incredibly unbalanced, with a couple massive hits surrounded by bland, forgettable music. The rock categories contained possibly the bleakest list of nominees in recent Grammy memory. There were also quite a few snubs; some infuriating, like Tyler, the Creator’s “IGOR” not being nominated for “Album of the Year,” and some just surprising, like Taylor Swift’s “Lover” being left out of the same category. 

However, the Grammys did make many good decisions this year. Lizzo deservedly has the most nominations with eight, followed by Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X, who have six apiece. They are among the young, new artists who dominated nominations this year. The choice of performers are also fantastic, with Lizzo, Ariana Grande, Billie Eilish and Tyler, the Creator all doing sets. There will also be a group of artists tributing Nipsey Hussle, who was murdered in 2019. Given that the Grammys has 84 categories, it would be impossible to give predictions for every single one, so I have narrowed it down to seven major categories.

Album Of The Year

As usual, the most prestigious category contains a diverse mix of eight commercially successful albums, critically successful albums and complete headscratchers. Most bafflingly, H.E.R.’s “I Used to Know Her” made the list, despite middling reviews and weak chart performance. Similarly, Bon Iver’s “i,i” achieved some critical success, but is not enough of an indie darling to be seriously considered to win. While Lil Nas X will likely win big in other categories, his EP “7” is far too short to win the award. This year’s dark horse alternative candidates are Vampire Weekend’s “Father of the Bride,” a great rock record that deserves the nomination, but will likely not win, and Lana Del Rey’s “Norman F—ing Rockwell!” In my opinion easily the best album nominated. “thank u, next” by Ariana Grande was one of the better pop albums released last year and has a real shot at the win. Ultimately, the two most likely candidates are Lizzo’s breakout album “Cuz I Love You” which, in my opinion, is the best R&B album of last year — and “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” by Billie Eilish. Personally, I give the nod to Eilish, given the cultural relevance of even the album’s deep cuts as well as its combination of critical and commercial success.

Prediction: “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?” by Billie Eilish

Record Of The Year

Every year, there is confusion over the distinction between “Record of the Year” and “Song of the Year.” The difference is that the “Record” category awards the best specific recording of a song, including its production, mixing and engineering in addition to the song itself. The “Song” category only considers the songwriting. This year’s “Record of the Year” is one of the strongest categories this year. Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” was one of the most entertaining songs of last year and was a smash hit, but its chance of winning may be diminished due to the fact that it was first released in 2017. Khalid’s “Talk,” Post Malone and Swae Lee’s “Sunflower” and Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings” are all fantastic pop songs that were impossible to escape in 2019, and each has a legitimate shot at winning. However, this year, every other track is overshadowed by one song that will most likely win in a landslide: “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X Featuring Billy Ray Cyrus. This song was not only the most popular song of last year, but also holds the all-time record for longest stay at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 at 17 weeks. “Old Town Road” winning in this category is probably the most sure thing in this year’s Grammys; while upsets are always possible, this category is the least likely to have an underdog win this year.

Prediction: “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X Featuring Billy Ray Cyrus

Song Of The Year

In this year’s “Song of the Year” category, there is a fairly even distribution of some of the best songs of last year and some of the most forgettable. Brandi Carlile’s “Bring My Flowers Now,” Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved” and H.E.R.’s “Hard Place” are highly unlikely to win and are not very interesting songs. Lady Gaga’s “Always Remember Us This Way” from the film “A Star is Born” is one of the best movie songs from the past few years, but is also unlikely to win, as the movie’s soundtrack won two Grammys out of seven nominations last year. Taylor Swift’s “Lover” is probably the best track off of her last album, but the Grammys’ snubbing of her album indicates that this song will probably not win. In a perfect world, Lana Del Rey’s “Norman F—ing Rockwell!”would take the award, but it does not have the popularity required to win this category. The two serious contenders are Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” and “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish, which each have about an equal shot at winning. In the end, Eilish will most likely come away with the award given her current “it-girl” status and the quality of the song.

Prediction: “Bad Guy” by Billie Eilish

Best New Artist

Once again, the Grammy Awards have proven to everyone that “Best New Artist” is a terrible name for the category. Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Maggie Rogers, Rosalía, Tank and the Bangas and Yola have all been releasing music for years, with Yola in particular releasing music since 2003. Hopefully in the future it will be renamed to something similar to “Breakout Artist of the Year.” Every artist nominated this year is fantastic, making this category the one with the most talent. However, it is clear to just about everyone that Billie Eilish will win this award rather handily. Her dominance throughout 2019 coupled with her youth have made her victory all but certain. In the event of some freak upset, it would be really nice to see Rosalía win this award, or at least one Grammy, for her fantastic album “El Mal Querer.”

Prediction: Billie Eilish

Best Pop Vocal Album

The nominations for this category are all fairly strong this year, with the exception of Ed Sheeran’s “No. 6 Collaborations Project.” Beyonce’s “The Lion King: The Gift” is a movie soundtrack, so it most likely will not come away with the award, and Taylor Swift’s “Lover” has a shot, but she does not seem to be a Grammy favorite this year. While Billie Eilish appears to be the most likely, given she is the favorite for “Album of the Year,” the Academy often gives this award to a different album than the “Album of the Year” winner. For that reason, I believe Ariana Grande has a very slight edge.

Prediction: “thank u, next” by Ariana Grande

Best Rap Album

The competition for “Best Rap Album” is fairly weak this year, especially compared to previous years. This opens the door for Tyler, the Creator to win his first Grammy, as his album “IGOR” is, in my opinion, one of the best albums of last year. “IGOR” is probably the biggest snub from the “Album of the Year” category, so hopefully Tyler can take home the Grammy against the weak competition.

Prediction: “IGOR” by Tyler, the Creator

Best Alternative Music Album

As a result of its vague name, this category has a serious diversity of sounds among its nominations, as it does every year. It includes pure electronic music on Thom Yorke’s “Anima,” R&B on James Blake’s “Assume Form,” electronic folk on Bon Iver’s “i,i,” quiet indie folk on Big Thief’s “U.F.O.F.” and indie dad-rock on Vampire Weekend’s “Father of the Bride.” Every album on this list is at minimum decent in quality, but it will most likely be a tossup between Vampire Weekend and Bon Iver for the award, with Vampire Weekend taking the award.

Prediction: “Father of the Bride” by Vampire Weekend

Ultimately, it looks like Billie Eilish will be the biggest winner of the night; it is likely that she will take at least three of the four major all-genre categories and it would not be surprising if she won all four. Lizzo will most likely win many awards in categories not listed here, but she might be unable to win any of the major categories. In any event, this year’s Grammys should be a captivating spectacle, and I’ll be sure to tune in this Sunday to see what happens.