Predicting the decisions of the Recording Academy becomes more difficult as years progress. With surprise wins and snubs almost serving as a requirement for each year’s ceremony, no one can be certain who will take home the program’s most coveted awards.
Slated to occur at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on April 3, the event will be hosted by Primetime Emmy Award-winning comedian Trevor Noah.
With Recording Academy voting history, chart success and favoritism in mind, TMH staff took the time to compile predictions for who should and who will likely win this year’s awards. Simply a guessing game, predictions for the main award categories are below.
Song/Album/Record of the Year
The biggest awards of the night are dominated by Recording Academy favorites. With Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Kanye West stacked up against newcomers such as Olivia Rodrigo and Doja Cat, there are many directions the categories could go in.
When it comes to albums, Rodrigo’s “Sour” is the frontrunner. An impeccable debut from a rising star, “Sour” displays both strategic production and veteran-level songwriting.
It would be nice to see Lil Nas X’s “Montero” or Doja Cat’s “Planet Her” take home a big award. Another impressive debut, “Montero” displayed Nas X’s growth from an internet meme to a reliant hitmaker and chart dominator, all while showcasing his most emotional work to date. “Planet Her” is without a doubt the most versatile project on the list, one that is still spawning hit after hit.
It’s unclear why the Academy decided to extend the list to include Swift’s “Evermore” and West’s “Donda” at the last minute other than for drama purposes. It’s nice to see Gaga and Tony Bennett’s “Love for Sale” among the nominees but is also quite a surprise. Similarly surprising, the inclusion of Justin Bieber’s “Justice” is a joke, a project that is at best basic, trend-hopping pop.
The song and record categories is a battle between Rodrigo’s “Driver’s License,” Eilish’s “Happier than Ever” and Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open.” It would not be surprising to see “Driver’s License” get an edge in the song category, one meant to highlight the songwriting aspect. The stirring production of “Happier than Ever” and poignant mixing of “Leave the Door Open” makes these two the frontrunners of the record category, even though a nod to Nas X’s “Montero” or the Doja Cat and SZA collaboration “Kiss Me More” would be well-deserved.
Best New Artist
Olivia Rodrigo is going to win this award, as she should.
Best New Artist is normally a confusing crop of nominees and this year is no different. Outside of Rodrigo, the most likely artists to win hardly qualify as “new.” FINNEAS is an eight-time Grammy winner already and Japanese Breakfast and Glass Animals have made music for almost ten years. As nice as recognition for indie acts is, it’d be better to use this category to recognize new artists.
An occurrence not common in recent years, this year’s pop nominees are almost entirely composed from nominees for the larger awards. The only addition is Ariana Grande’s album and lead single “Positions,” which unfortunately feels like a random inclusion among the list. While Grande is without a doubt deserving of a few more Grammys following her major snub in 2020 for the massive “Thank U, Next,” this isn’t her year.
There is no reason why “Kiss Me More” should not win Best Duo/Group Performance. Easily the strongest track among the nominations list, it would be surprising for anything else to snatch it and would be the first win for both women involved.
Following the theme of the main categories, both the Best Pop Vocal Album and Best Solo Performance trophies are a battle between Eilish and Rodrigo. When it comes to singles, both “Happier than Ever” and “Driver’s License” should and will win. While Doja Cat’s “Planet Her” is commendable, it doesn’t match up the dominant power that “Sour” and “Happier than Ever” likely have in the voting booths.
It would be massively disappointing to see Bieber receive an R&B trophy over the likes of Jazmine Sullivan and SZA who shape the landscape of the genre today. Bieber aside, the R&B category is the best showing of nominations this year.
In the Best R&B Performance category, Sonic and Sullivan are clear frontrunners. While Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open” will likely take home the award, Sullivan’s “Pick Up Your Feelings” is the strongest showing within the category. A career highlight for Sullivan, it would be nice to see her receive her flowers.
In alignment with the performance category, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Best R&B Song trophy given to “Leave the Door Open.” Again, “Pick Up Your Feelings” might just deserve it more, as well as SZA’s “Good Days” which dominated the streaming charts and saw her most successful single release.
When it comes to albums, we are hopeful that Sullivan steals the award. A project defined by sexual empowerment, freedom and femininity “Heaux Tales” is the pinnacle of contemporary R&B. With Jon Batiste as a Grammy favorite nominated in the main categories, a win with “We Are” makes the most sense, but honestly this category is anyone’s game.
Let’s be honest; the Grammys mailed it in with the rap categories this year.
The nominees for Best Rap Performance are bleak. J.Cole’s track is forgettable, while Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s nominations are far from their best work. That leaves one. “Family Ties” by Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar is a fun track and a possible performance by the two would be exciting.
Excluding J.Cole, Best Melodic Rap Performance is a great category. Doja, Nas X, West and Tyler, The Creator round out the nominees and each has a great track representing them. “Wusyaname” is a phenomenal piece of work, which should’ve received major category nominations, but it will come down to Nas X’s “Industry Baby” or Doja’s “Need to Know.”.
Best Rap Song could be an even race between its four main contenders. “Family Ties,” “Best Friend” by Saweetie and Doja and “Bath Salts” by DMX could be great for the award, but as toxic as Kanye is, “Jail” is the best track here.
Tyler deserves to win Best Rap Album, he made the best album of the nominees (“Donda,” “Kings Disease 2” and *filler*) but I have a feeling he won’t. The Grammys tend to stick to having the major nominees dominate their genre categories (Taylor Swift’s last minute nominee somehow being quality enough for best album but not any genre nominations aside) and “Donda” outranks “Call Me If You Get Lost.” Life isn’t fair sometimes.
Producer of The Year
Jack Antonoff didn’t have the best year of the producers nominated, but the ballot is stacked in his favor. While his competitors have a few singles and an album or two of material, Antonoff has five albums. The diminishing returns from Antonoff’s work should at least get him the Grammy before he’s milked of ideas.
Either Rogét Chahayed or Mike Elizondo should be the real winner. Chahayed produced some of the best hits of 2021, including award favorite “Kiss Me More.” Elizondo produced the best rock of the year and his work on Turnstile’s “Glow On” should have been nominated to help save the rock category.
The lone bright spot to the Rock categories being an apocalyptic wasteland is that the Alternative category is almost impossible to screw up.
St. Vincent, Halsey, Japanese Breakfast, Arlo Parks and Fleet Foxes all have a strong case. Parks had an excellent debut but may be overmatched by more proven artists. “Shore” was one of the most acclaimed albums of 2020 and Fleet Foxes have a prior Grammy nomination backing them. Japanese Breakfast and Parks double in the Best New Artist category, but “Jubilee” was more successful and Japanese Breakfast is the likelier winner.
Halsey’s “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power” is the wildcard. An excellent album featuring production by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, a win here would get more eyes on the award. St. Vincent had the best album of the bunch though, no doubt about it. Annie Clark has been nominated four times and won twice (pending here) so Clark’s mix of Academy favorite and superior material should get her the win here.
Make sure to tune in on April 3 to see the final results for yourself.