Music

Who Will Win And Who Should Win At The 2021 Grammys

The 2021 Grammys are less than a week away (airing on March 14), and the nominations are a reflection of 2020’s whirlwind. In a year that was riddled by heartache and isolation, artists either dug deep into quarantine-induced loneliness that birthed relatable tunes or went the opposite route to provide cheerful music to give fans some temporary relief.

This time around, Beyoncé leads the charge with nine nominations. This brings the most nominated artist in history’s career total to 62. She’s up both as a solo artist (among others, “Black Parade” is up for four categories including Record Of The Year) as well as her “Savage” collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion (also up for Record Of The Year).

Following Beyoncé are Taylor Swift (whose total now rises to 41), Dua Lipa, and Roddy Rich, with six nods each. But there are still other artists who could walk away with some trophies, including Fiona Apple, Phoebe Bridgers, and Nas. While there are a few deserving names missing from this year’s nominations (The Weeknd, Summer Walker, and The Chicks were among the most shocking), the Grammys continue to make improvements on its diversity efforts. BTS made history as the first K-pop act to be nominated and women rightfully dominated the country and rock categories.

Check out our predictions below for how the biggest and most coveted categories could play out.

Best Rap Album

D Smoke – Black Habits
Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo
Jay Electronica – A Written Testimony
Nas – King’s Disease
Royce Da 5’9″ – The Allegory

Who Will Win? Nas

Who Should Win? Freddie Gibbs

With all the standout rap albums released last year, it was quite surprising when The Recording Academy opted to nominate more traditional, older artists instead of highlighting the genre’s newcomers. Nevertheless, this category is filled with decades of remarkable talent. While D Smoke, Jay Electronica, and Nas were all favorites for the “rappity rap” sector of music lovers, it’s Freddie Gibbs’ Alfredo that is an immediate standout. Linking up with esteemed producer The Alchemist, Gibbs doesn’t waste a single breath on his tight bars while dishing out a rap master class.

Best Rap Performance

Big Sean Featuring Nipsey Hussle – “Deep Reverence”
DaBaby – “Bop”
Jack Harlow – “What’s Poppin”
Lil Baby – “The Bigger Picture”
Megan Thee Stallion Featuring Beyoncé – “Savage”
Pop Smoke – “Dior”

Who Will Win? Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé

Who Should Win? Lil Baby

This category features all strong contenders, from the late Pop Smoke’s “Dior” continuing his posthumous reign to Jack Harlow’s “What’s Poppin” showcasing just how effortless his flow is. And of course there’s “Savage,” which finds Megan Thee Stallion teaming with her idol Beyoncé. The latter seems like the promising win here based on how massive it was, but Lil Baby shouldn’t be ignored. The rapper is at his most vulnerable on “The Bigger Picture,” as he sheds light on police brutality occurring both in his native Atlanta and across America. But what makes this protest anthem so insightful is that Lil Baby turns the mirror on himself and tries to correct the wrongs he’s done with his own violent lyrics.

Best Alternative Music Album

Fiona Apple – Fetch The Bolt Cutters
Beck – Hyperspace
Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher
Brittany Howard – Jaime
Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

Who Will Win? Fiona Apple

Who Should Win? Fiona Apple

2020 proved that alternative music still has a deserved place in mainstream music, with all five artists in this category creating some of the strongest tunes of their esteemed careers. The Slow Rush is Kevin Parker at his most refined as he imagines lush soundscapes, and both Brittany Howard’s Jaime and Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher are graciously intimate. But not much else compares to the shocking rawness of Fiona Apple’s Fetch The Bolt Cutters. Of course, honesty has been Apple’s M.O. since her 1996 debut, but she turns the volume on max on her latest record. The most beautiful moments of Fetch The Bolt Cutters are its messiness, from Apple’s crackled, unedited vocals to the clamoring production. That kind of “zero f*cks given” energy should be commended.

Best Pop Solo Performance

Justin Bieber – “Yummy”
Doja Cat – “Say So”
Billie Eilish – “Everything I Wanted”
Dua Lipa – “Don’t Start Now”
Harry Styles – “Watermelon Sugar”
Taylor Swift – “Cardigan”

Who Will Win? Dua Lipa

Who Should Win? Doja Cat

This entire category is filled with fun pop moments, with Harry Styles inviting us to blissful paradise on “Watermelon Sugar” to Billie Eilish giving another dose of relatability on “Everything I Wanted.” Dua Lipa’s catchy earworm “Don’t Start Now” seems to be the biggest contender here, but Doja Cat’s “Say So” was just as inescapable. 2020 was a major year for the triple-threat, and it was partly due to the virality of “Say So.” After it dominated TikTok (whose dance challenge creator Haley Sharpe was featured in the video), the single literally soared onto the charts. Tacking on remix queen Nicki Minaj, “Say So” became both rappers’ first No. 1 single and also made history as the first collaboration by two female rappers to top the Hot 100. Doja Cat’s genre-bending talents combined with this song’s sheer ubiquity are surely worthy of that golden gramophone.

Best Pop Vocal Album

Justin Bieber – Changes
Lady Gaga – Chromatica
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
Harry Styles – Fine Line
Taylor Swift – Folklore

Who Will Win? Taylor Swift

Who Should Win? Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift, and Harry Styles arguably gifted us with the best albums of their career in 2020, but something’s telling me that The Recording Academy will award Swift’s beloved Folklore. But let’s not rule out Lipa, who was one of the few artists in recent memory who perfectly executed a proper album era. Not only did Future Nostalgia redefine what ‘80s and ‘90s pop mean in a millennial age, but the promotion — from the visually stunning videos to the accompanying remix album that was just as good as the original — took the compelling songs to new heights.

Best Progressive R&B Album

Jhené Aiko – Chilombo
Chloe x Halle – Ungodly Hour
Free Nationals – Free Nationals
Robert Glasper – F*** Yo Feelings
Thundercat – It Is What It Is

Who Will Win? Jhené Aiko

Who Should Win? Chloe x Halle

R&B has been in the shadows of rap for the past few years, but the genre surpassed its sibling in 2020. That hasn’t been made more clear than with this category, whose name changed from Best Urban Contemporary Album to Best Progressive R&B Album to dismiss the negative connotations the word “urban” brings. Jhené Aiko’s Chilombo being an industry favorite makes it a predicted winner here, but the brilliance of Chloe x Halle’s Ungodly Hour is too hard to surpass. The duo’s sophomore album is a journey of their grown womanhood, as they explore sexuality, rising above failed relationships, feeling petty in the moment, and embracing their imperfections. And it’s all tied together with heaven-sent harmonies, otherwordly production that continues the Afro-Futurism conversation, and smart songwriting. Now, who dared to question if R&B is dead again?

Record Of The Year

Beyoncé – “Black Parade”
Black Pumas – “Colors”
DaBaby Featuring Roddy Ricch – “Rockstar”
Doja Cat – “Say So”
Billie Eilish – “Everything I Wanted”
Dua Lipa – “Don’t Start Now”
Post Malone – “Circles”
Megan Thee Stallion Featuring Beyoncé – “Savage”

Who Will Win? Dua Lipa

Who Should Win? Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé

As Record Of The Year is awarded for the final recorded product of a single, it’ll be fair for Megan Thee Stallion and Beyoncé’s “Savage” remix to take the win. The teamwork is between not only the two artists but also the producer and engineer, and it gave way to the catchiest song of 2020. “Savage” was already a standout from Megan’s Suga EP, which was followed by a massively viral moment once TikTok got hold of it and a new dance craze was born. So when Beyoncé decided to hop on the remix months later, the world was stopped once again. What’s better than the two biggest mainstream artists from Houston reveling in all things classy, bougie, and ratchet? But as we bring up catchiness, Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” also deserves a major hat tip.

Best New Artist

Ingrid Andress
Phoebe Bridgers
Chika
Noah Cyrus
D Smoke
Doja Cat
Kaytranada
Megan Thee Stallion

Who Will Win? Phoebe Bridgers

Who Should Win? Megan Thee Stallion

There are so many deserving artists in this category, including Kaytranada, Chika, and Doja Cat. But Phoebe Bridgers growing into such a major indie darling may give her the win here, and The Recording Academy has a history of shocking the audience when it comes to Best New Artist wins. Still, Megan Thee Stallion’s unwavering dominance in 2020 cannot be ignored. She’s grown into more than just a rapper: she is an advocate for Black women, a businesswoman who has scored multiple partnerships, a philanthropist who gives back to her community, and is leading the charge of unapologetic new-gen women rappers.

Song Of The Year

Beyoncé – “Black Parade”
Roddy Ricch – “The Box”
Taylor Swift – “Cardigan”
Post Malone – “Circles”
Dua Lipa – “Don’t Start Now”
Billie Eilish – “Everything I Wanted”
H.E.R. – “I Can’t Breathe”
JP Saxe Featuring Julia Michaels – “If The World Was Ending”

Who Will Win? Taylor Swift

Who Should Win? Dua Lipa

Like Record Of The Year, this category is also overflowing with strong contenders that range from timely matters of racial inequality to heartbreaking ballads. Seeing as this win is for songwriters though, Taylor Swift getting a gramophone for “Cardigan” makes the most sense. But let’s not knock out Dua Lipa too quickly; the sheer pop perfection of “Don’t Start Now” should get the recognition here. An unofficial sequel to 2017’s “New Rules,” the lead single to Future Nostalgia captures the album’s nu-disco spirit while elevating Lipa to new pop star territory.

Album Of The Year

Jhené Aiko – Chilombo
Black Pumas – Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition)
Coldplay – Everyday Life
Jacob Collier – Djesse Vol. 3
Haim – Women In Music Pt. III
Dua Lipa – Future Nostalgia
Post Malone – Hollywood’s Bleeding
Taylor Swift – Folklore

Who Will Win? Taylor Swift

Who Should Win? Taylor Swift

Ah, Album Of The Year, the coveted Grammy that nearly every artist vies for at some point in their career. It’s also one of the most unpredictable categories as it can either go to the year’s most popular artist (see Adele in 2017 and Bruno Mars in 2018) or the year’s underdog (Kacey Musgraves in 2019 and Billie Eilish in 2020). Taylor Swift is often seen as both, with her likability swaying from overhyped to not credited enough. But there’s a reason why UPROXX chose Folklore as 2020’s best album. Jacob Collier, Haim, and Dua Lipa are all strong contenders here, yet Swift’s effort finds her at her most vulnerable. The singer-songwriter’s pen has always been sharp, and on Folklore she strengths her storytelling while also providing comfort (for herself and other listeners) in the wake of 2020’s darkness.

Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.

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