The 2021 Grammys are about one week away, and, as usual, Music’s Biggest Night is set to be full of surprises, shocks, and controversy. Beyoncé leads the pack with nine nominations while other 2020 music titans like Taylor Swift and Dua Lipa landed six nominations each. Below, you’ll find my predictions for the Big Four Categories (General Field): Album of the Year, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. A reminder: Record of the Year is awarded to the artist(s) and producer(s); Song of the Year is awarded to the songwriter(s).
For each category, I’ve provided a table comparing each nominee by chart success, previous accolades, etc. For the “Career Wins/Noms” column, the figure presented is the total number of wins and nominations for the given artists not including their 2021 Grammy nominations. For the “# of 2021 Noms” column, the figure presented is the number of 2021 Grammy nominations for that specific project. For example, Taylor Swift scored six total nominations this year; five were for the Folklore album and the sixth was for Best Song Written for Visual Media (“Beautiful Ghosts” from Cats).
Hosted by Trevor Noah, CBS and the Recording Academy present the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards, airing live on Sunday, March 14, 2021, at 8:00 p.m. ET/5:00 p.m. PT on CBS Television Network and also available to stream live and on demand on Paramount+.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
When the Album of the Year nominations were first announced, the initial sentiment was confusion. Truthfully, only three or four of these nominees seemed to make sense. Nevertheless, here we are, awaiting the coronation of the 2021 Album of the Year Grammy, and things are just as confusing. As solid as the album was, we can easily rule out a Coldplay win. Despite one prior nomination in this category (Viva La Vida, 2008), Everyday Life is in the weakest position out of all eight albums. None of the album’s songs are nominated in the General Field, or any genre categories, for that matter. Only two albums have ever won Album of the Year with that being the album’s only nomination for its music: A Man and His Music (Frank Sinatra, 1967) and The Concert for Bangladesh (George Harrison & Friends, 1972). It’s safe to say that Everyday Life will likely not be joining that group. After Everyday Life, the most vulnerable albums seem to Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition) and Hollywood’s Bleeding. The former received a Best New Artist nomination at last year’s ceremony and a further 3 nominations this year. The Grammys seem to like them, but with limited name recognition, relatively paltry commercial success, and slightly above average critical acclaim, there may not be enough votes to get the soulful rock duo to the finish line. As for Post Malone, the Grammys seem fairly ambivalent towards him. Every song and album he releases does record-breaking numbers and Hollywood’s Bleeding is the most-consumed album in this category. Nonetheless, this was the case for Post’s Beerbongs & Bentleys four years ago and that album went home empty-handed It is also interesting that the album’s songs (“Circles”) only received nominations in Record and Song of the Year unlike, say, “cardigan” (Taylor Swift) or “Don’t Start Now” (Dua Lipa) which both received recognition in the General Field and in their home genres.
Jhené Aiko’s Chilombo probably has the same chances of winning as Hollywood’s Bleeding. A three-time nominee before 2021, Aiko earned a further three nominations for Chilombo and the John Legend-featuring “Lightning & Thunder.” She is looking to win her first Grammy Award this year, and it could happen, just likely not in Album of the Year. The last R&B album to win Album of the Year was Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic and 1) that album was arguably as pop as it was R&B, 2) Bruno swept that ceremony winning all six of the awards he was up for, 3) 24K Magic was a massive commercial success. Regardless, Jhené will likely be the frontrunner Best Progressive R&B Album. Djesse Vol. 3 and Women In Music Pt. III are likely tied for third when it comes to likelihood of winning. The former, Jacob Collier’s fourth album, may have seen very little commercial success and been ignored by American critics, but it certainly has more than a fighting chance. Collier has been on the Grammys’ radar since 2016 and he has won every award he has ever been nominated before. The catch is, all of those wins and nominations were in the Arrangement Field. This year, Collier is competing in Best R&B Performance and Album of the Year along with Best Arrangement, Instrumental and Vocals. The musical prodigy has Academy love and Quincy Jones’ seal of approval, but that may not be enough to take home this category. As for HAIM, the sister trio has been on the Grammys’ radar since 2015 when they were nominated for Best New Artist. This year, they earned their first nominations since that ceremony for Album of the Year and Best Rock Performance (“The Steps”). The sparse support in their home genre may seem worrying, but it is very plausible that Taylor, Post, and Dua split the pop votes and Women in Music Pt. III comes out on top.
And finally, Taylor and Dua. Realistically, this seemed to be a two-horse race between the two pop stars the minute the final nominee in the category was announced. Both Folklore and Future Nostalgia earned five nominations each for their songs. In addition, both women earned one additional nomination for other music they released during the eligibility period. It is clear that Grammy voters really enjoyed both records. Taylor is going into this category as a two-time winner (Fearless, 2010; 1989, 2016) and three-time nominee. If she does triumph for Folklore, she will be the first artist since Stevie Wonder, and the first female artist ever, to win the Grammy’s biggest category three times. It may seem like she has the category locked up, but here’s the thing: Taylor hasn’t won a Grammy since 2015. Her Lover and reputation albums both lost their awards to a new generation of pop stars (Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Lizzo, etc.) Dua Lipa happens to be a part of that generation. Moreover, Dua has two prior Grammy nominations (Best Dance Recording and Best New Artist), both of which she won. It also helps her chances that the album’s biggest single (“Don’t Start Now”) scored three nominations. Finally, Future Nostalgia is still fresh in voters’ minds; Dua just released the Moonlight Edition of the album featuring several new songs and the album’s current radio single (“Levitating”) remains parked in the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 10 (The Moonlight Edition was released after the eligibility period, but the “Levitating” Remix was the bridge between the two versions). In contrast, Taylor moved on to a new album (Evermore) and is currently focused on rolling out the re-recorded versions of her first six albums.
So, who takes this home? I’m going to bet on Dua Lipa, but don’t underestimate HAIM or Taylor either.
Will Win: Future Nostalgia (Dua Lipa)
Should Win: Women In Music Pt. III (HAIM)
Should Have Been Nominated: Ungodly Hour (Chloe x Halle)
RECORD OF THE YEAR
The 2021 Record of the Year nominees are less baffling than the Album of the Year nominees, but they’re still difficult to predict. There are convincing arguments to be made for each nominee. Who’s least likely to take this home? Black Pumas’ “Colors.” It’s a great song, but the record may not have enough across-the-board support. With virtually no commercial success in comparison to every other nominee, it’ll either take severe vote-splitting or a good old fashioned surprise to bring “Colors” the win. Like “Colors,” Doja Cat’s “Say So” and Post Malone’s “Circles” each have one other nomination in addition to their Record of the Year nods. Doja, also a Best New Artist nominee this year, scored a Best Pop Solo Performance nomination for “Say So,” whereas Post Malone’s “Circles” was also recognized in Song of the Year. It’s clear that Doja has support in her home genre, unlike Post. Nevertheless, Post has history in this category. Including this year, Post Malone has been nominated for Record of the Year for the past three years. He lost in 2019 (“Rockstar”) and 2020 (“Sunflower”). Both songs were wildly successful, but with two other pop songs nominated in this category they could very well be victims of vote-splitting. DaBaby and Roddy Ricch’s “Rockstar” is also nominated here. It is the first Record of the Year nomination for both artists, and with two other nominations in the Rap Field, there is support for this song. Regardless, it’s a bit lightweight for a Record of the Year win. The critical support isn’t really there and there seems to be more passion behind another rap song nominated in this category: Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé’s “Savage (Remix).”
The Top 4 songs in this category all have high chances of taking home the hardware, and, for the most part, they would make sense as winners. Billie Eilish won this award last year for “Bad Guy.” Nominated again this year for “Everything I Wanted,” this song could very well earn Billie a bookmark Grammy. Only two acts have won Record of the Year in back-to-back years: Roberta Flack in 1973 (“The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face”) and 1974 (“Killing Me Softly With His Song”) and U2 in 2001 (“Beautiful Day”) and 2002 (“Walk On”). With additional nominations in Song of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance, Billie joining that group of acts is more likely than some of us may realize. The Academy loves her, and the song was successful and remains great. Another song that scored nominations in Record and Song of the Year as well as Best Pop Solo Performance is Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now.” The smash hit is probably the most likely winner of the category. It has the critical acclaim, undeniable commercial success, and cross-genre voting appeal. Furthermore, the song is coming from an Album of the Year-nominated album and it’s the biggest single yet from an artist that the Grammys themselves ordained as the “next big thing in music” two years ago. It’s hard to imagine a valid argument against this winning.
And then there was Beyoncé. This year, Beyoncé became the first artist to score two nominations (as an artist) for Record of the Year in the same year since Pharrell Williams in 2014. Queen Bey has five prior nominations in this category, and she has lost every time. “Savage (Remix)” scored additional nominations in Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance; “BLACK PARADE” earned additional nominations in Song of the Year, Best R&B Song, and Best R&B Performance. According to aggregator Album of the Year, “Savage (Remix)” was the second-most acclaimed song of the year. The track also hit #1, pulled in blockbuster streaming numbers, and is the crown jewel of Megan Thee Stallion’s, a Best New Artist nominee, 2020. “BLACK PARADE” is the second-least commercially successful song in this category. The last time a Record of the Year winner did not peak in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 was 2009 (Robert Plant & Alison Krauss’ “Please Read the Letter”). “BLACK PARADE” is the soundtrack to Beyoncé’s initiative of the same name to promote small Black businesses. In light of our current political climate, and, specifically the climate at the time of Grammy voting, “BLACK PARADE” could gain some extra votes. With key support in the R&B Field, unlike “Formation” in 2017, “BLACK PARADE” could very well combine votes from the R&B and Rap Fields to take the win, but my money is on Dua.
Will Win: “Don’t Start Now” (Dua Lipa)
Should Win: “Savage (Remix)” (Megan Thee Stallion & Beyoncé)
Should Have Been Nominated: “Blinding Lights” (The Weeknd)
SONG OF THE YEAR
Like most years, there is considerable overlap in Record and Song of the Year. Awarded specifically to the songwriters, the only unique nominees this year are Taylor Swift’s “Cardigan,” Roddy Ricch’s “The Box,” H.E.R.’s “I Can’t Breathe,” and JP Saxe & Julia Michaels’ “If The World Was Ending.” It looks like “I Can’t Breathe,” “Circles,” and “If The World Was Ending” are the least likely to win here. The last time a song won Song of the Year with that as its only nomination was in 1975 (Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were”). “I Can’t Breathe” and “If The World Was Ending” both earned just one nomination at this year’s ceremony. H.E.R. and Julia Michaels’ are both previous nominees in this category which should help them. Nevertheless, what both songs may lack in commercial success in comparison to their fellow nominees, they can make up for with cultural relevancy: Black Lives Matter protests for “I Can’t Breathe” and the COVID-19 pandemic for “If The World Was Ending.” As for Post Malone, his nomination here (his third in three years) seems more like a “namecheck” nomination because the song was so inescapable. The lack of nominations in the Pop Field for this song are a troubling sign.
Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa both have very high chances of taking home this award, but I wouldn’t count out Roddy, Beyoncé, and Taylor. One of the biggest and most enduring hits of the eligibility period, “The Box” could definitely take this home. The song earned nominations for Best Rap Song and Best Melodic Rap Performance and its commercial success and critical acclaim are nothing to scoff at. Already a Grammy-winner, Roddy could definitely add this trophy to his mantle. Beyoncé (along with Billie) is the only artist nominated in this category this year to have previously won. She triumphed in 2010 for “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It).” While “BLACK PARADE’s” lyrics have been the least well-received facet of the song, The Academy is clearly in the song’s court. As the most-nominated song of the 2021 ceremony, “BLACK PARADE” has an advantage here, but its paltry commercial success could hinder its chance of garnering the votes needed to offset vote-splitting with “I Can’t Breathe” and “The Box.” Finally, Taylor Swift. With four prior nominations in this category and no wins, the Academy will likely want to finally award one of the most-lauded songwriters of her generation with the institution’s highest songwriting award. An acclaimed #1 single, Taylor is in a good spot to win with “Cardigan.” Not only is it a worthy winner, but it also gives the Grammys away to reward Folklore in the General Field without giving Taylor Album of the Year for a third time.
Will Win: “Cardigan” (Taylor Swift)
Should Win: “The Box” (Roddy Ricch)
Should Have Been Nominated: “Favorite Mistake” (Giveon)
BEST NEW ARTIST
Of the Big Four categories at the Grammys, Best New Artist seems to be the most manageable this year. This is not normally the case. Immediately, CHIKA and Noah Cyrus are at the bottom of the list in terms of how likely they are to win. Both artists have Best New Artist as their sole nomination; at the time of voting, their profiles were lower than their peers’; and they lack a solid amount of Best New Artist honors at other awards shows. D Smoke has slightly higher chances since he was able to pick up a Best Rap Album (Black Habits) nod in addition to his citation in Best New Artist. Nevertheless, the rapper will be splitting votes with Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat, CHIKA, and, arguably, KAYTRANADA: three of which are artists with higher profiles and more support looking at the nominations list. Speaking of KAYTRANADA, he and Ingrid Andress have around the same chance of taking this award home, although I wouldn’t put money on it. Both artists scored multiple nominations in their home genres of dance and country, respectively. Nevertheless, when you’re nominated against stars as big as Megan and Doja, you’re going to need support from outside of your home genre and I’m not sure that either artist will garner enough of that.
Realistically, this is a three-way race between Phoebe Bridgers, Megan Thee Stallion, and Doja Cat. Phoebe Bridgers will have the rock and alternative voters on lock. She ties Megan Thee Stallion as the Best New Artist nominee with the most overall nominations (4). Bridgers received nominations for both her album (Punisher) and individual songs (“Kyoto”). The only thing that is pushing her into a staunch third place is the lack of a General Field nomination in addition to Best New Artist. Both Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat have that. The two rappers scored Record of the Year nominations for “Savage (Remix)” and “Say So,” respectively. Doja was also able to nab a Best Pop Solo Performance nomination for “Say So” indicating support in that genre bloc. On the other hand, Doja also had an eligible full-length studio album that was passed over in Best Pop Vocal Album and Album of the Year in favor of less successful and less acclaimed bodies of work. Working in Doja’s favor are a couple of things. First, she has won the equivalent of Best New Artist at three major American music awards shows and two foreign ones. Second, she was able to overcome her chatroom controversy and stay musically relevant with songs like “Streets” and “Freak” and appearances on Ariana Grande’s “motive” and “34+35 (Remix).”
Doja will put up a very strong fight, but Megan Thee Stallion is looking to cross the finish line. The Houston rapper is in the best position to win this category. She scored two #1 singles during the eligibility period (“Savage (Remix)” and “WAP”), released her smash debut album Good News around the time of voting, and has remained musically relevant through singles like “Body,” “Cry Baby (feat. DaBaby),” and Ariana Grande’s “34+35 (Remix).” Megan also three key things going for her. First, she has the power of Beyoncé on her side — there’s no case where having a 24x Grammy-winner on your song is a bad thing. Second, Megan has a lot of support. She only has one song nominated at this year’s ceremony, but that record picked up nods in Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance, and Record of the Year. No other Best New Artist nominee has that to their credit. Finally, Megan has a strong narrative and a lot of goodwill. The music community, and the hip-hop community, specifically, has watched her grow from spitting freestyles on Instagram to topping charts around the world. The way she was able to overcome that unfortunate shooting incident and retain her momentum was as admirable as it was impressive. When you think of 2020, you probably think of Megan Thee Stallion first, and that alone is enough to give her the win.
Will Win: Megan Thee Stallion
Should Win: Megan Thee Stallion
Should Have Been Nominated: Pop Smoke