Grammy Awards 2021: Who should win, who was snubbed, and more, as we preview ‘Music’s Biggest Night’
Will Beyonce, Taylor Swift or Dua Lipa rule? Will Jacob Collier shake things up? Here are our 2021 Grammy predictions
The Grammy Awards are consistently unpredictable — except when they aren’t.
Intriguingly, the music world’s most prestigious, debated and stylistically diverse annual awards show tends to be predictable and unpredictable each year. That’s precisely what makes them enjoyable and exasperating, coveted and controversial.
But the 63rd annual edition of the Grammys, which airs Sunday at 5 p.m. on KFMB Channel 8, will also be unpredictable for reasons that have nothing to do with the night’s potential biggest victors and losers.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, which led to the original Jan. 31 date being pushed back six weeks, this will be the first audience-free Grammy telecast ever held.
It will also be the first where most of the winners may well be giving their acceptance speeches online from their homes. Except, perhaps, those winners who are among the 22 acts who will perform during the telecast. Or, specifically, the ones who win and are performing live on four stages, rather than those who have pre-recorded their songs and opted not to travel.
Also impossible to predict, as of this writing, is the exact Los Angeles site or sites for those performances. They won’t be held in their usual location at the Staples Center, but may take place in and around the adjoining Los Angeles Convention Center.
First-time Grammy producer Ben Carson last week described the new venue as “the biggest building I’ve ever been in indoors.” In contrast, first-time Grammy host Trevor Noah this week described the new Grammys site by saying: “It’s going to be multiple stages, everything is happening outdoors and socially distanced.”
Whatever the exact location there’s no mystery about who this year’s top Grammy nominees are, even if making prognostications about who will go home with the trophies is an inexact science at best. The many nominees include Mickey Guyton, the first Black woman solo artist to ever earn a nomination in a country music category, and Haim, the first all-woman rock group to earn an Album of the Year nomination.
Who will win? Who will lose? Who should win?
Here are our predictions for the four highest-profile Grammy categories. This year’s San Diego-bred nominees — versatile vocal star Gregory Porter, sitar master Anoushka Shankar and banjo wiz Alison Brown — are all nominated in categories for which the winners will be Sunday afternoon during the livestream-only Grammy Premiere Ceremony. (Information on both events, and tonight’s 2021 MusiCares Music on A Mission virtual fundraising Grammy concert, appears at the conclusion of this article,)
Album of the Year
Nominees: “Chilombo,” Jhené Aiko; “Black Pumas” (deluxe edition), Black Pumas; “Everyday Life,” Coldplay; “Djesse Vol. 3,” Jacob Collier; “Women in Music Pt. III,” Haim; “Future Nostalgia,” Dua Lipa; “Hollywood’s Bleeding,” Post Malone; “Folklore,” Taylor Swift
Could the fact that Swift, Lipa, Malone and Coldplay singer Chris Martin are all set to perform at Sunday’s awards fete suggest one of them is likely to win in this category? Probably, although — if their votes cancel each other out — vaguely jazzy Quincy Jones protégé Jacob Collier could pull out an upset victory.
Lipa’s sleek, hedonism-celebrating disco valentine, “Future Nostalgia,” should strike a tone of retro dance music nostalgia for a fair number of the 12,000 Grammy voters. But Swift’s stripped-down and aptly titled “Folklore” was a critical success and the top-selling album of 2020, moving more copies (1.2 million) than the next three highest-selling albums of last year combined. She should be the winner.
Did you know? A victory would give Swift the third Album of the Year Grammy win of her career. It would also make her the first female artist to reach that threshold, which thus far has been attained by only three male artists — Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon and Frank Sinatra.
Record of the Year
Nominees: “Black Parade,” Beyoncé; “Colors,” Black Pumas; “Rockstar,” DaBaby featuring Roddy Ricch; “Say So,” Doja Cat, “Everything I Wanted,” Billie Eilish; “Don’t Start Now,” Dua Lipa; “Circles,” Post Malone; “Savage,” Megan Thee Stallion, featuring Beyoncé
Having swept all four top Grammy categories in 2020 — Best New Artist and Album, Record and Song of the Year — at the tender age of 18, Billie Eilish is a contender with her moody, understated “Everything I Wanted.” But the real contest here comes down to Beyoncé vs. Beyoncé.
Queen Bey, who has 24 previous Grammy wins, leads the field this year with nods in nine categories. She is nominated for “Black Parade,” her triumphant celebration of Black culture, and for her performance on the remixed version of Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage.” She deserves to win for “Black Parade,” which would also allow Grammy voters to assuage their consciences for having snubbed her so often in the major categories.
Did you know? Ultra-high-voltage hip-hop sensation Megan Thee Stallion is set to earn her degree in health care administration later this year from Texas Southern University. She had been a full-time student at Prairie View A&M University, but became a part-time student after transferring to TSU and is completing her course load online to accommodate her music career.
Song of the Year
Nominees: “Black Parade,” Denisia Andrews, Beyoncé, Stephen Bray, Shawn Carter, Brittany Coney, Derek James Dixie, Akil King, Kim “Kaydence” Krysiuk and Rickie “Caso” Tice (performed by Beyoncé); “The Box,” Larrance Dopson, Samuel Gloade, Rodrick Moore, Adarius Moragne, Eric Sloan and Khirye Anthony Tyler (performed by Roddy Ricch); “Cardigan,” Aaron Dessner and Taylor Swift (performed by Taylor Swift); “Circles” Louis Bell, Adam Feeney, Kaan Gunesberk, Austin Post and Billy Walsh (performed by Post Malone); “Don’t Start Now,” Caroline Ailin, Ian Kirkpatrick, Dua Lipa and Emily Warren (performed by Dua Lipa); “Everything I Wanted,” Billie Eilish O’Connell and Finneas O’Connell (performed by Billie Eilish); “I Can’t Breathe,” Dernst Emile II, H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas (performed by H.E.R.); “If the World Was Ending,” Julia Michaels and JP Saxe (performed by JP Saxe, featuring Julia Michaels)
This category honors songwriters, not performers. That said, in the past decade, six of the Record of the Year victors have also won for Song of the Year. That could bode well for Beyoncé. But it could mean voters who cast their ballots for her for Record of the Year will vote for someone else here.
Post Malone and Roddy Ricch both seem like longshots here, although Malone’s middling midtempo “Circles” is the only nominated song in this category that topped the national charts. The undeniable star power Lipa projects onstage and in her videos falls short in her pleasant but largely innocuous music.
Swift has been nominated in this category four times previously without winning. This year should be different. “Cardigan,” her melancholic ode to experiencing the first blush of love in high school, could change that. Co-written with Aaron Dessner of the band The National, it’s a hushed reverie that grows stronger with repeated listens.
Did you know? Donald Glover, who makes music under the name Childish Gambino, won the Song of the Year award in 2019 for “This Is America.” He is the only Black solo artist to win in that category since Beyoncé did in 2009 for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).” Beyoncé, incidentally, has amassed 79 Grammy nominations in her career, making her second only to Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney and her husband, Jay-Z, who each have 80. This year, Beyoncé and Jay-Z are two of the 11 (!) co-writers nominated for her song, “Black Parade.”
Best New Artist
Nominees: Ingrid Andress, Phoebe Bridgers, Chika, Noah Cyrus, D Smoke, Doja Cat, Kaytranada, Megan Thee Stallion
This probably boils down to a two-woman race between Phoebe Bridgers and Megan Thee Stallion (real name Megan Pete), both 26. The gifted Bridgers is a safe bet, thanks to her old-school-friendly approach to singing and songwriting, which should endear her to many voters.
But the spotlight-commanding Megan Thee Stallion had a banner year as a solo artist and as a collaborator, most notably with Cardi B (their joint single, “WAP,” had more than 737 million on-demand streams in 2020). Put simply, this hot-to-trot vocal Stallion is an undeniable force of nature and the Grammy should be hers.
Missing in action
Canadian singer The Weeknd was understandably unhappy when his latest album, the widely acclaimed and very popular “After Hours,” failed to earn a single 2021 Grammy nomination in any category.
“The Grammys remain corrupt,” he tweeted after the nominations were announced on Nov. 24. “You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency.”
In a January interview with Billboard, The Weeknd — who has won three previous Grammys and whose real name is Abel Tesfaye — said: “I definitely felt ... I felt things. I don’t know if it was sadness or anger. I think it was just confusion. I just wanted answers. Like, ‘What happened?’ We did everything right, I think. I’m not a cocky person. I’m not arrogant. People told me I was going to get nominated. The world told me. Like, ‘This is it; this is your year.’ We were all very confused.”
But The Weeknd, who headlined the 2021 Super Bowl halftime show with decidedly mixed results, is hardly the only artist to be slighted in this year’s Grammy nominations. Fiona Apple and Bob Dylan each had landmark releases last year with, respectively, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters” and “Rough and Rowdy Ways.”
But both failed to earn an Album of the Year nomination — and Dylan didn’t get a nod in any category this year. Neither did “Gaslighter” by The Chicks (formerly the Dixie Chicks), Halsey’s “Manic,” Rina Sawayama’s “Sawayama,” the late Juice WRLD’s “Legends Never Die” and Luke Combs’ “What You See Is What You Get,” to cite just some examples.
Why were The Weeknd and other artists not nominated this year? The Union-Tribune asked Harvey Mason Jr., the interim CEO and president of the Recording Academy, under whose auspices the Grammys are presented.
“Every year there are more than 20,000 (Grammy) entries and each entry goes through the exact same arduous review and listening process,” Mason replied, via email.
“These processes take thousands of hours and we take pride in it. Our voting membership of professional music creators all have varied experiences and come from many different backgrounds, genres and disciplines, so it’s not ever easy to predict what will be nominated. We celebrate excellence in music at the Recording Academy, and there is always way more excellent music than there are nominations — and awards — each year.”
63rd annual Grammy Awards
Hosted by: Trevor Noah
With performances by: Bad Bunny, Black Pumas, Cardi B, BTS, Brandi Carlile, DaBaby, Doja Cat, Billie Eilish, Mickey Guyton, Haim, Brittany Howard, Miranda Lambert, Lil Baby, Dua Lipa, Malone, Chris Martin, John Mayer, Megan Thee Stallion, Maren Morris, Roddy Ricch, Silk Sonic (featuring Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak) Harry Styles and Taylor Swift
When: 5 p.m. Sunday
Where: KFMB Channel 8, airing live from in and around the Los Angeles Convention Center and on the Paramount Plus subscription streaming service
Grammy Awards Premiere Ceremony
Hosted by: Jhené Aiko
With performances by: Gregory Porter, Anoushka Shankar, Burna Boy, Rufus Wainwright, Terri Lyne Carrington & Social Science, Igor Levit, and others
When: Noon Sunday (awards will be presented in more than 70 of the 84 Grammy categories)
Where: Online only at grammy.com
2021 MusiCares Music on A Mission virtual fundraising Grammy concert
When: 5 p.m. today but ticket-buyers can watch anytime in the next week
With: John Legend, BTS, Haim, H.E.R. and Jhené Aiko, plus archival MusiCares appearances by Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Nicks, Usher, Tom Petty, Carole King, Paul McCartney, Shakira, the Jonas Brothers, Ringo Starr, Lionel Richie, Ledisi and others. DJ D-Nice will host a pre-show set.
Tickets: $25 (general admission) and $324 (includes Master & Dynamics MW07 PLUS True Wireless Earphones); available at support.musicares.org/live
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