There are 84 Grammy classes. Eighty-four! That’s a lotta golden gramophones — and although nearly all of the awards are handed out earlier than the official telecast of Music’s Biggest Night, they nonetheless imply one thing to the individuals who win them. Most classes are, as ever, dotted with trade curiosities together with a number of the greatest and brightest names throughout myriad genres, making for some nominee face-offs that appear virtually too completely paired in the case of the potential for drama.
So what follows is a breakdown of a number of the potential battles to be careful for because the winners’ record unfurls all through this Sunday. We’ve omitted the most important classes (Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year) principally due to their general star wattage, but additionally as a result of mentioned star wattage makes figuring out actual inter-nominee struggles a little bit of a crapshoot. Also, it must be famous that these are not predictions — if something, these are however a number of the races through which the winners of Grammy gold appear practically inconceivable to foretell. At the very least, consider this as a primer for what you’ll be getting offended in regards to the morning after.
The Category: Best Music Video
The High-Stakes Face-off: Childish Gambino vs. Joyner Lucas
Why? Last yr, Donald Glover’s Childish Gambino venture was nominated for six awards and took house just one (Best Traditional R&B Performance, for “Redbone”); this yr, he’s nabbed 5 noms, nearly all of that are for his single “This Is America.” Upon arrival, the tune was an prompt digital-watercooler sensation largely because of its surprising and engaging video helmed by frequent Atlanta lenser Hiro Murai; it’s an inventive achievement, and most of the time, such movies take house this award (final yr, it was Kendrick Lamar’s “Humble”). Arguably, the one video that got here near reaching the virality of “This Is America” was the clip for rapper Joyner Lucas’s “I’m Not Racist,” a why-can’t-we-just-all-get-along try at racial commentary so middle-of-the-road that it would as effectively have been directed by Peter Farrelly. Green Book pulling off a Best Picture upset at this yr’s Oscars is a nightmare situation for a lot of — and Lucas taking house this prize over Glover’s personal statement-making clip is not any totally different.
The Category: Producer of the Year
The High-Stakes Face-off: Boi-1da vs. Pharrell
Why? First factor’s first: Kanye’s by no means been nominated for this award till this yr, and although 2018 was a yr through which he wore his “producer” hat extra explicitly than ever earlier than, he’s not likely a contender right here. Pharrell is, nevertheless; he’s received twice previously — as soon as because the Neptunes in 2004, and as soon as on his personal ten years later — making him a sensible Grammy favourite. But the credited work Pharrell’s been nominated for (starting from Ariana Grande’s Sweetener to Justin Timberlake’s nonstarter Man of the Woods) doesn’t have a lot actual property on this yr’s prime classes. Toronto producer Boi-1da, nevertheless, has spent a lot of the last decade sneakily crafting strains of pop in his sonic picture, and his palms are throughout information from big-deal 2019 nominees Drake and Cardi B. After Pharrell’s win and a string of wins from white pop-crossover wizards (Greg Kurstin twice, Jeff Bhasker, Max Martin) that adopted, might Boi-1da take it house and characterize an efficient altering of the guard?
The Category: Best Recording Package
The High-Stakes Face-off: Mitski vs. St. Vincent
Why? Last yr, Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy tied for this art-direction-focused award with late Colombian musician Magín Díaz’s remaining album El Orisha de la Rosa — and it’s not unfeasible to count on one other indie-centric winner out of this yr’s crop. In phrases of mass visibility, Mitski and St. Vincent’s greatest competitors is South Korean pop supernova group BTS; pitting the previous two in opposition to one another, although, makes for stiff competitors. The dramatic images and trendy lettering that adorns Be the Cowboy’s vinyl packaging is impressive in its own right, whereas just about all the pieces visible that surrounded St. Vincent’s Masseduction — together with its headless, shocking-pink album artwork — burst with interesting and disquieting colour (hey, identical to St. Vincent’s music!).
The Category: Best Song Written for Visual Media
The High-Stakes Face-off: “All the Stars” vs. “Shallow” vs. “This Is Me”
Why? Normally, this is able to be a two-horse race: Kendrick and SZA’s “All the Stars” and Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” are two of the largest movie-tied songs in latest reminiscence, sensational in their very own proper and representing true blockbusters amid the sometimes-weak space of pop-focused film soundtracks. But if there’s one lesson discovered from well-liked tradition over the previous a number of years, it’s to not underestimate the facility of The Greatest Showman. Hugh Jackman’s circus-tastic biopic-cum-musical was one of many greatest box-office successes — amid musicals and in any other case — in latest reminiscence, even for those who weren’t conscious that it was; moreover, “This Is Me” took house Best Original Song ultimately yr’s Oscars. Will the Grammys roll with this yr’s new, or as an alternative throw their collective palms up and yell, “This is us”?
The Category: Best Musical Theater Album
The High-Stakes Face-off: The Band’s Visit vs. Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
Why? The catastrophe that was Fox’s latest tried staging of Rent on dwell TV was, amongst many different issues, a reminder that final yr’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert was not solely a large success for NBC, but additionally a genuinely shifting and improbable spectacle that had critics raving lengthy afterward. But it faces stiff competitors within the type of David Yazbek and Itamar Moses’s Broadway success The Band’s Visit, which final yr turned one in all 4 musicals in historical past to win the Tony Awards’ “Big Six” — Best Musical, Best Book, Best Score, Best Actor in a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical, and Best Direction of a Musical. Will its steamrolling success proceed prematurely of its April closing, or will the facility of John Legend compel Grammy voters in any other case?
The Category: Best Comedy Album
The High-Stakes Face-off: Dave Chappelle vs. Patton Oswalt vs. Chris Rock
Why? Chappelle was final yr’s large winner for his Netflix specials The Age of Spin and Deep within the Heart of Texas, and his newest pair of Netflix’ers Equanimity and The Bird Revelation face stiff competitors this yr from earlier winners Patton Oswalt and Chris Rock. Rock, particularly, has received a whopping 3 times previously. Who will emerge victorious? (An even higher query: How is the yr through which Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette presumably eligible for nomination additionally the primary in 12 years the place all of the nominees establish as male?)
The Category: Best Reggae Album
The High-Stakes Face-off: Sting & Shaggy vs. Ziggy Marley
Why? When I interviewed Shaggy in 2016, he appeared fairly burned about by no means receiving a Grammy — and the targets of his ire had been clear: “The Marleys dominate the Grammys more often than not — and it’s not likely their fault. Half these different reggae artists don’t know it’s important to vote and register and all that shit. The Marleys do, although — they vote, they register, they win, and we get all mad.” A yr after his team-up with the perpetually reggae-adjacent Sting befuddled Grammy viewers, the pair’s 44/876 is up for nomination — in opposition to Ziggy Marley’s newest, Rebellion Rises. It’ll be attention-grabbing, to say the least, whether or not the canny profession transfer that was 44/876 manages to cease the Marleys’ reign.
The Category: Best Americana Album
The High-Stakes Face-off: John Prine vs. Brandi Carlile
Why? In an even bigger sense, it might very effectively be Carlile’s yr. After being nominated for this class again in 2015, her By the Way, I Forgive You and subsequent single “The Joke” have garnered six nominations in whole, and it looks like a foregone conclusion that she may very well be strolling house with this award on the very least. But John Prine — who returned final yr together with his first album of latest materials in 13 years, The Tree of Forgiveness — is a multiple-Grammy winner of the previous who was additionally bestowed a Hall of Fame honor in 2015. If there’s a class through which a possible win from Carlile may very well be upset, it’s this one …
The Category: Best Country Album
The High-Stakes Face-off: Chris Stapleton vs. Kacey Musgraves
Why? … And the identical logic applies to this class. Musgraves’s Golden Hour is one other potential win-it-all entry, with 4 noms credited — however Stapleton’s form of owned this class in recent times. He received in 2016, beating Musgraves’s personal Pageant Material (she received in 2014 for Same Trailer Different Park), and once more final yr for From a Room: Volume 1. He’s nominated this yr for that latter file’s Vol. 2 companion, and although he didn’t make as a lot crossover noise as Musgraves in 2018, he might very effectively take this one house even when Musgraves sweeps her different classes.
The Category: Best Rap Song
The High-Stakes Face-off: “Sicko Mode” vs. “God’s Plan”
Why? Forget “Drake that includes Drake” — this face-off is actually Drake vs. “that includes Drake.” Travis Scott and Drake’s respective nominated hits are too-big-to-fail in literal senses right here, however the stakes right here really feel extra symbolic. From a industrial standpoint, Drake was unstoppable all through 2018, however aesthetically, the perpetually nipping-at-heels Scott gained critical floor with Astroworld, a industrial success of an album that additionally stood as his most stylistically forceful achievement up to now. As a lot a canny copyist as Drake could be, Scott’s usually accused of ripping off Aubrey Graham himself — and if “Sicko Mode” takes house this award, it might probably characterize the second through which the scholar turns into the trainer.
The Category: Best Urban Contemporary Album
The High-Stakes Face-off: The Carters vs. Chloe x Halle
Why? Another student-teacher battle of kinds, solely a little bit extra lighthearted. Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s team-up because the Carters, final yr’s Everything Is Love, was shut out of many of the main classes however might pull off a simple win right here (particularly to make up for previous and apparent snubs); however don’t depend out barely-old-enough-to-drink duo Chloe x Halle, whose The Kids Are Alright was one in all final yr’s most delightful surprises and noticed launch by means of Beyoncé’s Parkwood label.
The Category: Best Rock Performance
The High-Stakes Face-off: Greta Van Fleet vs. Chris Cornell
Why? Greta Van Fleet are massively profitable each inside the music trade and together with your garden-variety rock-and-roll fan. This is only a reality that everybody has to simply accept at this level, no matter your stage of tolerance for Led Zeppelin knockoff tunes. Their nominations for this yr’s Grammys had been virtually preordained, and even when they’ll’t swing the high-profile class they’ve been included in (extra on that in a minute) this nom for his or her “Highway Tune” ought to be a simple win for them. But the rock world continues to be (and can be for a while) in mourning of late Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, and his posthumous nomination for “When Bad Does Good” might take this class by the use of in memoriam vibes.
The Category: Best Pop Vocal Album
The High-Stakes Face-off: Taylor Swift vs. Ariana Grande
Why? The Grammy-gilded Swift was principally shut out of the most important classes right here for her Reputation (the album, not her precise fame — though, humorous to think about!). Grande’s Sweetener represented one thing of an auteur transfer, as does her latest resolution to principally not attend the ceremony in any respect after moving into it with producers who had been attempting to dictate the phrases of her dwell efficiency. (Will they ever study?) The stakes appear excessive right here by way of pure visibility alone: If Grande wins, somebody’s going to have to simply accept it on her behalf, highlighting in bold-face kind to the viewers again house that one in all music’s greatest stars determined Music’s Biggest Night wasn’t price exhibiting up for. If Swift wins, it equally alerts that, regardless of being an arguably even greater star than Grande, she could be competing in a decrease tier in the case of Grammy gold for years to return.
The Category: Best New Artist
The High-Stakes Face-off: H.E.R. vs. Greta Van Fleet
Why? R&B impresario Gabriella Wilson’s H.E.R. venture had a robust 2018, because the self-titled compilation of her earlier EPs elevated her visibility to a degree that she’s nominated for 5 Grammys this yr. In a stacked class that features Dua Lipa, Jorja Smith, and Chloe X Halle, she looks like the simple favourite to take house the always-squabbled-about award this yr. Which is strictly what makes Greta Van Fleet such a menace: Awarding Best New Artist to probably the most critically loathed rock bands in latest reminiscence over H.E.R. and her different formidable contenders is strictly the form of troll transfer that the Grammys seemingly like to do to infuriate armchair commenters.