Grammy predictions: Will the “mainstream” end up on top?

By Kyler Guebert, Staff Writer

One of the biggest critiques I’ve heard about this year’s Grammy nominations is how mainstream and “basic” they are. They are rewarding artists and songs that have dominated the Billboard Hot 100 for most of the year, which is true.

However, these songs and artists deserve to be recognized for their impact on the music scene, and this year it seems like those mainstream “pop radio” artists are going to be taking home a lot of gold.

Here is a breakdown and my predictions for the big four categories and a few other predictions I’m expecting to see happen this Sunday. 

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Album of the Year:

  • “I,I” (Bon Iver)
  • “Norman F*cking Rockwell” (Lana Del Ray)
  • “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” (Billie Eilish)
  • “Thank U, Next” (Ariana Grande)
  • “I Used To Know Her” (H.E.R.)
  • “7” (Lil Nas X)
  • “Cuz I Love You” (Lizzo)
  • “Father of the Bride” (Vampire Weekend)

Will Win: “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” (Billie Eilish)
Should Win: “Thank U, Next” (Ariana Grande)

Dark Horses: Ariana Grande, Lizzo, Lana Del Ray

If there’s one artist who exploded onto the scene during this Grammys cycle, it was Billie Eilish.

Her debut album held the top spot on the Billboard 200 numerous times throughout the year and her songs were charting and getting radio play throughout the entire year, including a number one song in “bad guy.”

She has the momentum and the narrative, but so do Ariana Grande and Lizzo. Grande dropped “thank u, next” in February to massive critical and commercial acclaim. It’s her most emotionally vulnerable and honest composition of work to date and shows a large range for the artist’s vocal and emotional range.

Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” (more on that later) blew up on the weekend of her debut studio album drop, and the album only grew, along with Lizzo’s presence in the music industry.

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Lana Del Ray’s album is one of the best-reviewed and received albums of all time, and it would be a well-deserved upset if she won, but Eilish’s dominance overall seems to spell a win for her here.

Record of the Year (Awarded to the Artists & Producers):

  • “Hey Ma” (Bon Iver)
  • “Bad Guy” (Billie Eilish)
  • “7 Rings” (Ariana Grande)
  • “Hard Place” (H.E.R)
  • “Talk” (Khalid)
  • “Old Town Road” (Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus)
  • “Truth Hurts” (Lizzo)
  • “Sunflower” (Post Malone & Swae Lee)

Will Win: “Old Town Road” (Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus)
Should Win: “Truth Hurts” (Lizzo)

Dark Horses: Billie Eilish, Lizzo, Ariana Grande

There are cases to be made for numerous nominees to win this award. Typically, this Grammy goes to the song with the most commercial success overall, both in terms of chart play and overall social acceptance of the song.

“Sunflower” dominated the charts, spending 53 weeks on the chart (33 of which were in the top 10), peaking at the third slot. “7 Rings” was a huge hit for Ariana Grande, one of her three powerhouse singles to hold the top three spots in the Hot 100 at the same time, something not done since The Beatles in 1964.

It spent four weeks at number one and charted for 33 weeks total. The music video was hugely popular (and controversial) and the song broke numerous Spotify streaming records in the days after its release.

“Truth Hurts” skyrocketed in April and climbed and held the charts long enough to get to number one and hold that spot for a record-breaking 7 weeks, despite coming out in 2017. “bad guy” started climbing the charts last February and has maintained to stay on the chart since, hitting number one finally in August.

But, if there’s one song that really kept all those last two away from even bigger chart and commercial success, its “Old Town Road.” The song broke record after record and became a cultural phenomenon for months straight.

It spent nineteen weeks at number one, something no other song has ever done before. It would be very hard to overlook it in this category, and it’s probably the closest thing to a lock we will see all night.

Song of the Year (Awarded to the Songwriters):

  • “Always Remember Us This Way” (Lady Gaga)
  • “Bad Guy” (Billie Eilish)
  • “Bring My Flowers Now” (Tanya Tucker)
  • “Hard Place” (H.E.R)
  • “Lover” (Taylor Swift)
  • “Norman F*cking Rockwell” (Lana Del Ray)
  • “Someone You Loved” (Lewis Capaldi)
  • “Truth Hurts” (Lizzo)

Will Win: “Bad Guy” (Billie Eilish)
Should Win: “Hard Place” (H.E.R)

Dark Horses: Lizzo, Lana Del Ray

This category seems poised to recognize “bad guy” since it likely won’t win record. It’s a song that immediately becomes stuck in your head because of the lyrics and their composition in the song, and I don’t really see many others as a threat.

H.E.R’s song “Hard Place” is beautifully written and would probably be my pick in this category. “Truth Hurts” has been straddled with too many songwriting allegations and headlines to likely get Lizzo the win here (even if it would be deserved) and Grammys favorite Taylor Swift doesn’t really have the heat this year to win this award.

Lana Del Ray and Lewis Capaldi are wild cards and could pull off surprise wins, but I’d bet the Academy gives this to Eilish.

Best New Artist:

  • Black Pumas 
  • Billie Eilish 
  • Lil Nas X 
  • Lizzo 
  • Maggie Rogers 
  • Rosalía
  • Tank And The Bangas
  • Yola

Will Win: Billie Eilish
Should Win: Lizzo

Dark Horse: Lizzo, Lil Nas X

Maggie Rogers deserves more nominations overall this year, and her debut album was fantastic. Sadly, Rogers and the majority of the nominees don’t have nearly the same name recognition as Eilish, Lizzo and Lil Nas X.

It doesn’t feel like Lil Nas would win this award, as the Grammys like to give this to an artist with more available content and “versatility”.

Lizzo skyrocketed hard this year and has numerous successful songs from the year and an incredible album to back her up, along with lots of past work that is coming to light now as well.

Still, it’s hard to bet against Eilish. She’s incredibly well-beloved in the music community and she’s arguably had the biggest year between the three in terms of overall mainstream immersion. I would love to hear Lizzo’s name called for this, but it’s Eilish’s to lose on Sunday.

Other Gutsy Predictions:

-Nipsey Hustle wins THREE posthumous Grammys in Rap categories

-Ariana Grande wins Pop Vocal Album for the second year in a row

-Dave Chapelle wins his third consecutive Comedy Album Grammy

-Michelle Obama becomes a Grammy winner

-Vampire Weekend goes home empty-handed

A full list of nominees can be found at Grammy.com. The 62nd Grammy Awards air live at 7 p.m. CST Jan. 26 on CBS. The ceremony will once again be hosted by fifteen-time Grammy winner Alicia Keys. 

Staff writer Kyler Guebert can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @kguebert88.

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