Grammys 2024: who will win the big categories – and who should | Grammys

Grammys 2024: who will win the big categories – and who should | Grammys

Record of the year

Jon Batiste – Worship
Boygenius – Not Strong Enough
Miley Cyrus – Flowers
Billie Eilish – What Was I Made For?
Victoria Monét – On My Mama
Olivia Rodrigo – Vampire
Taylor Swift – Anti-Hero
SZA – Kill Bill

As convincingly argued by the UK government’s women and equalities committee this week, the music industry remains unequal – but women seem to be finally getting their dues at awards ceremonies at least. Over half the nominations at this year’s Brit awards feature women, and the top categories at the Grammys go even further. Only one male artist is up for the top prize of record of the year (though notably alongside a majority of male producers and engineers across the category), namely Jon Batiste, and his episodic and derivative Worship is much the weakest song here. The rest all have merit, though given this award is for whole-package productions, Olivia Rodrigo’s Vampire has a very strong case, building as it does from bruised piano ballad to bruising uptempo showstopper, the energy and vocal prowess of an entire Broadway musical packed into three and a half minutes. But Taylor Swift is now a pop cultural force to eclipse all others, and you could easily imagine her sweeping the board this year.

Will win Taylor Swift – Anti-Hero
Should win Olivia Rodrigo – Vampire

Album of the year

Jon Batiste – World Music Radio
Boygenius – The Record
Miley Cyrus – Endless Summer Vacation
Lana Del Rey – Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd
Janelle Monaé – The Age of Pleasure
Olivia Rodrigo – Guts
Taylor Swift – Midnights

Perhaps not quite as A-list as the Beyoncé vs Adele vs Harry vs Kendrick vs Bad Bunny face-off last year, but there are deeper, tougher albums in the mix here – mostly a repeat of the record of the year noms. Let’s instantly discount Miley Cyrus, whose LP had little heft beyond its megahit Flowers; Batiste, who – in an example of how the Academy frequently prizes musicianship over songwriting – won this category very recently in 2022; and Janelle Monáe’s inconsequential The Age of Pleasure. More deserving is Lana Del Rey for Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd, whose none-so-LA grandeur will have its admirers in the Academy. As for Taylor Swift, Midnights doesn’t stake out as much new ground as previous category winners Fearless, 1989 and Folklore, and you’d expect her to lose votes from those who side with Del Rey or two more strong albums of torrid yet astute emotion by Olivia Rodrigo and Boygenius. Hopefully that splits the vote and leaves the path clear for one of the best mainstream American albums this century, SOS by SZA, a singer who embodies human passion, error, frailty and contradiction in all its mess – evoked in her storytelling but also in the open-ended stylistic journey across her riveting songs. (Note that if Swift does win, she’ll be the first artist to win this category four times, though interestingly her engineer Serban Ghenea would then be the outright record holder with five – he is also nominated for his work with Rodrigo, doubling his chances.)

Will win SZA
Should win SZA

Miley Cyrus, nominated six times at this year’s Grammys. Photograph: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

Song of the year

Lana Del Rey – A&W
Taylor Swift – Anti-Hero
Jon Batiste – Butterfly
Dua Lipa – Dance the Night
Miley Cyrus – Flowers
SZA – Kill Bill
Olivia Rodrigo – Vampire
Billie Eilish – What Was I Made For?

Another very similar lineup, though given this category’s celebration of lyrics and melody, it’s odd that Dance the Night is included, even if you (tenuously) argue that its lyrics are meant to be inane as part of Barbie’s satirical universe. That film’s What Was I Made For? is much more deserving, turning literal-minded plot references into a genuinely moving (and exquisitely produced) existential inquiry, and could maybe pip this. Swift’s “it’s me, hi, I’m the problem, it’s me” became a much-memed mantra for the knowingly self-involved, and while some lines have her tendency towards debate-team cleverness – “Did you hear my covert narcissism I disguise as altruism / Like some kind of congressman?” – she self-searches with enjoyably forensic accuracy. The Academy can be quite conservative and some voters might find the sprawling, provocative A&W downright weird, Vampire too sweary or balk at the violence in SZA’s ex-slaughtering Kill Bill – but the latter is a huge hit with brilliant storytelling and the most persuasive chorus melody here. Flowers will also be admired for its sturdy, classic craft but don’t discount Butterfly – sentimental, hackneyed and much less streamed than the rest it may be, my lip duly wobbled after hearing that it’s about Batiste’s cancer-beating wife, and Batiste is already well-liked by the Academy.

Will win Taylor Swift – Anti-Hero
Should win Olivia Rodrigo – Vampire

Victoria Monét performing in October 2023 – the R&B star is up for seven awards. Photograph: Dana Jacobs/Getty Images

Best new artist

Gracie Abrams
Fred Again
Ice Spice
Jelly Roll
Coco Jones
Noah Kahan
Victoria Monét
The War and Treaty

Having a big hit will get you a long way in this category. Exuding star quality just in the way she stands still, let alone in her ratatat New York drill flow, Ice Spice would be an extremely deserving winner after the huge Boy’s a Liar, In Ha Mood and many more – but the Academy can be snobbish about rap and hurry past the most immediate, club-facing, street-engaging MCs. Fred Again might still be making his way into true mainstream popularity, but he’s well-known to voters for his long backroom CV. Noah Kahan’s rousingly melodious Stick Season has been a global megahit, though surprisingly he was snubbed elsewhere, even in the genre categories, and two other strong country/Americana acts, Jelly Roll and the War and Treaty, could eat into his votes here. Young women often perform well in this category – Alessia Cara and Samara Joy were surprise winners in recent years – and the voguishly pained Gracie Abrams has little competition genre-wise. But Victoria Monét will probably prevail – the Academy will thrall to the story of this songwriter (for Ariana Grande and others) stepping into the spotlight, and this is the clear chance to reward her without the stiff competition she faces from SZA in the R&B categories. Plus, of course, there’s the music itself: the thickly sensual production she favours would smother lesser artists, but her songwriterly intelligence means it’s always pierced by a sharp lyric or unexpected chord shift.

Will win Victoria Monét
Should win Ice Spice

Best pop solo performance

Miley Cyrus – Flowers
Doja Cat – Paint the Town Red
Billie Eilish – What Was I Made For?
Olivia Rodrigo – Vampire
Taylor Swift – Anti-Hero

The most intense contest of the night, with each song firmly in giga-hit territory. The brilliant Doja Cat can wither any target with merely a glance from hundred paces, but she was audibly in her comfort zone on Paint the Town Red and it won’t be enough to beat the rest. Quantifiably speaking, Flowers is the biggest success here and perhaps Miley Cyrus will pick up enough votes from Academy members spreading the love around in these closely fought categories, particularly as she’s never won a Grammy. But once again, this will probably be a victory lap for Taylor Swift, a well-done from the industry after her mindbendingly successful Eras tour.

Will win Taylor Swift – Anti-Hero
Should win Olivia Rodrigo – Vampire

Best rap performance

Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar – The Hillbillies
Black Thought – Love Letter
Drake and 21 Savage – Rick Flex
Killer Mike – Scientists and Engineers (ft André 3000, Future & Eryn Allen Kane)
Coi Leray – Players

Some frustrating entries here. As good as 21 Savage and Drake often each are, there’s no cohesion or direction to Rich Flex, a feeling that also plagues Scientists & Engineers despite the considerable pedigree of its MCs: you spend each track feeling as though you’re driving round an unfamiliar one-way system. Coi Leray’s Players is at least a rounded track but it’s also pedestrian, boringly nostalgic and devoid of lyrical invention or performance flair. That leaves Black Thought’s Love Letter: it’s absolute Grammys catnip, an a cappella freestyle paying homage to the entire span of hip-hop history, and the Roots MC defies any potential “oldhead” taunts with the starkness of his presentation and the shifting rhythm of his flow. But it’s little-heard, meaning the deserving and likely winner – despite Lamar winning last year and this duo winning in 2022 – is The Hillbillies. It has appealingly weird, Russian doll-style production – Brit-jazz hero Alabaster DePlume’s Visit Croatia was sampled by Bon Iver, with the Bon Iver track sampled here – and the way cousins Lamar and Baby Keem each woo their partners and trade dating advice makes for majestic screwball comedy: “Shorty say she celibate, imma keep hoping,” Baby Keem says boyishly, as Kendrick turns sideways to camera: “She’s not!”

Will win Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar – The Hillbillies
Should win Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar – The Hillbillies

Best rock performance

Arctic Monkeys – Sculptures of Anything Goes
Black Pumas – More Than a Love Song
Boygenius – Not Strong Enough
Foo Fighters – Rescued
Metallica – Lux Æterna

By wearing her heart on her sleeve, trouser leg, novelty baseball cap and pretty much everywhere else about her person, Phoebe Bridgers is arguably the most influential figure in rock music today – making her supergroup of similarly emotive singer-songwriters, Boygenius, a shoo-in for this award. Particularly because Not Strong Enough has an appealing patina of alt-cool around a mainstream pop-rock anthem, culminating in a properly thunderous climax. There are admittedly some big beasts in the form of Foo Fighters and Metallica, each with strident and straightforwardly appealing songs – but neither offer anything particularly zeitgeisty. Then there’s a weird category error – the terrifically overrated Black Pumas and their almost contemporary soul number More Than a Love Song – and finally Arctic Monkeys’ Sculptures of Anything Goes. For me this creepy cabaret ballad, like the theme for a Bond film directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, is a top three Monkeys song and unlike the Pumas’ retrograde song, redraws the parameters for rock balladry. If best performance is our metric, surely Alex Turner’s vocal alone is deserving: words selected with care and carefully pressed into position.

Will win Boygenius – Not Strong Enough
Should win Arctic Monkeys – Sculptures of Anything Goes

Chris Stapleton performing at Super Bowl LVII in February 2023 – he is aiming at a fourth win for best country solo performance. Photograph: Dave Shopland/REX/Shutterstock

Best country solo performance

Tyler Childers – In Your Love
Brandy Clark – Buried
Luke Combs – Fast Car
Dolly Parton – The Last Thing on My Mind
Chris Stapleton – White Horse

Top-to-bottom quality in this category this year, which also nicely encompasses the full breadth of the genre – and shuts out the reactionary politics that earned the genre its biggest headlines this past year. Given that Vince Gill and Willie Nelson have beaten younger, hipper competition in recent years, Dolly Parton has a good chance, revisiting her The Last Thing on My Mind in a brilliant, actorly performance – she addresses a badly hurt departing lover with tenderness and tremulous regret, but also a sense that she’s still made up her mind. Tyler Childers and Brandy Clark each pledge undying love in striking, sure-hearted songs, his brilliantly dappled with synth and pedal steel, hers done in a heartbreakingly simple pop-bluegrass arrangement. Luke Combs had an enormous US No 2 hit with his cover of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car, and while there was discomfort in some quarters at how Chapman (a Black, queer woman) would still struggle in the country scene while Combs does just fine, Chapman spoke warmly about his cover: one of pop’s great working-class stories sits perfectly in the subtly countryfied arrangement and Combs doesn’t oversell it as so many cover versions do. But Chris Stapleton, a three-time winner in this category, gave us one of the best songs in any category this year. White Horse is the kind of brawny country-rock used in adverts for a pickup truck that does eight miles to the gallon and is called something like Chevy Stallionquest, and makes a virtue of it with a massive prowling riff. Stapleton, already an astonishing singer, has also never sounded bigger or burlier, with a dust-choked raggedness to the top notes – and yet the lyrics undo the plaid-shirted, bronco-taming male country ideal as he sounds panicked at the prospect of living up to it.

Will win Luke Combs – Fast Car
Should win Chris Stapleton – White Horse

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