60th annual Grammy Awards nominations: Predictions and upsets

2014 Osheaga Music And Arts Festival - Day 1
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Record of the Year

“Redbone” — Childish Gambino

“Despacito” — Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber

“The Story Of O.J.” — Jay-Z

“HUMBLE.” — Kendrick Lamar

“24K Magic” — Bruno Mars

This year’s Record of the Year category may come as a surprise to some, featuring the funky, groovy (but not ubiquitously played) “Redbone” and “The Story Of O.J.” from Jay-Z, which, because of its Tidal release and nonexistence on Spotify and other streaming services, didn’t get as much popular spread. Additionally, the lack of Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” has surprised many, with multiple theories being floated as to its snub, including the potentially problematic lyric “I’m in love with your body” — though the most straightforward explanation is that pop-centered voters rallied behind Bruno Mars instead. All together, it would be hard to imagine “Despacito” not winning, considering its absolute dominance of the airwaves this year. But in the nature of category sweeps, Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” stands a chance as well.

— Imad Pasha

Album of the Year

“Awaken, My Love!” — Childish Gambino

4:44 — Jay-Z

DAMN. — Kendrick Lamar

Melodrama — Lorde

24K Magic — Bruno Mars

Again, some might wonder where the high-selling ÷ (Divide) is in this list, though here the argument that it was edged out for being a critical flop, particularly in present company, holds stronger weight. Kendrick Lamar’s chart-topping DAMN. is likely to go head-to-head with Jay-Z’s 4:44 in this category, though “Awaken, My Love!” is fun to posit as a dark horse candidate. Lorde’s Melodrama was also very well-received, but it’s hard to predict that it and the other pop offering, 24K Magic, will sway the voters more than Lamar.

— Imad Pasha

Best Alternative Music Album

Everything Now — Arcade Fire

Humanz — Gorillaz

American Dream — LCD Soundsystem

Pure Comedy — Father John Misty

Sleep Well Beast — The National

The alternative music category held a few surprises this year, including the polarizing Arcade Fire release Everything Now and the gloriously messy (but still messy) Humanz by Gorillaz. Interestingly, Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy also divided critics, though not as evenly as Everything Now. Ultimately what we will see here is a showdown between the LCD Soundsystem reunion album American Dream and The National’s richly textured Sleep Well Beast — both have received near-universal acclaim across all fronts. If our own ratings are anything to go by, The National should take it, but this category is too close to call.

— Imad Pasha

Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media

Arrival — Jóhann Jóhannsson

Dunkirk — Hans Zimmer

Game of Thrones: Season 7 — Ramin Djawadi

Hidden Figures — Benjamin Wallfisch, Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer

La La Land — Justin Hurwitz

This category is strange to begin with, given that a television score and a film score can compete against each other despite their inherent differences as visual mediums. Regardless, the Grammys have a history of awarding film scores, which have won for more than 20 straight years. If any television show were to win, it would be “Game of Thrones,” but its music has been better in the past and its competitors are far too tough; they can also throw the show a win when its next and final season releases. Besides, Ramin Djawadi should’ve received a nomination for “Westworld” instead, as that show features rousing original pieces and badass Western twists on more modern rock and pop songs.

Speaking of snubs, it’s difficult to say that Hans Zimmer, Benjamin Wallfisch and Pharrell Williams stand any chance with “Hidden Figures.” In reality, their inclusion over scores for films such as “Jackie” and “Moonlight” is a head-scratcher — or maybe not, considering that the voting group might’ve just blindly gravitated to the name “Pharrell.” If anything, Hans Zimmer’s other nomination for “Dunkirk” — this is the second time that he’s been nominated twice in one year — could pose a significant threat. Christopher Nolan’s World War II blockbuster was hailed for its experimental score, much of which comes across as more so an extension of the movie’s sound design than its music.

But when any entry shares a music category with “La La Land,” it can only dream of a win. Sure, there is a small niche of detractors, but Justin Hurwitz’s magical, transportive score received universal praise and became a mainstream phenomenon, at one point reaching No. 2 on the Billboard 200 chart and, through April, leading as the best-selling U.S. vinyl record of 2017. It’s not undeserving, either — “Epilogue” alone can compete with most nominations.

— Kyle Kizu

Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media

Baby Driver

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2: Awesome Mix Vol. 2

Hidden Figures: The Album

La La Land

Moana: The Songs

This category might be even stranger. How can a simple compilation of preexisting music compete against original songs? The nominees this year represent that bizarre situation. “Moana,” “La La Land” and “Hidden Figures” all boast original songs while “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” and “Baby Driver” have a soundtrack of preexisting music pulled, not performed, for the films.

It’s also difficult to gauge how the voting body chooses the winners. What do they prioritize? “Baby Driver” may just have a compilation, but does the brilliance of how the film is edited around those songs bump it higher than “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2?” Or is judgment based on taste alone — on which soundtrack picked the “better” songs?

And for the other three films, are the lyrics of their original songs and the strength of their compositions even judged? If so, it would be impossible to compare the original compositions to either of the soundtracks of the other two films.

It’s so idiotically silly. But let’s save the headache. “La La Land” will win.

— Kyle Kizu

Song of the Year

“Despacito” — Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber

“4:44” — Jay-Z

“Issues” — Julia Michaels

“1-800-273-8255” — Logic featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid

“That’s What I Like” — Bruno Mars

The Grammy nominees for Song of the Year have historically been dominated by pop with a sprinkle of rap. This year, however, the music industry and Grammy Foundation are committed to diversifying and equalizing the nominees. This can clearly be seen through the contenders for Song of the Year, as the nominations are diverse and feature a wide variety of genres.

The nomination of “Despacito” was easily predictable, and while the song was severely overplayed, its nomination was well-deserved. It was the first Spanish-language song since “Macarena” to be at the top of the Billboard Top 100, and if it wins, it will be the first Spanish-language song to do so. Additionally, Jay-Z’s “4:44” is the only exclusively hip-hop song to be nominated this year. Its deeply personal connections and combination of musical tones make it a unique contender. Logic’s “1-800-273-8255” spreads a powerful message about suicide prevention and has broken records, both in terms of phone calls and social media participation.

While the other traditional-pop nominees (“Issues,” “That’s What I Like”) are catchy and, well, popular, the other nominees are more than the mere effects of a simplistic music industry based on generics. A win for any of them would be a win for many; it would represent a significant milestone for the entertainment industry as a whole.

— Samantha Banchik

Best New Artist

Alessia Cara

Khalid

Lil Uzi Vert

Julia Michaels

SZA

The Best New Artist award has never had an obvious winner. Past nominees came from a variety of backgrounds and genres, some holding numerous top-charting hits and others with only a few hidden gems — displaying the mere beginning of their rising talents.

Both Alessia Cara and Khalid are featured on Logic’s newest Grammy-nominated song, and have proven their vocal chops and diversity in short periods of time. This isn’t Cara’s first hit musical collaboration, giving her an edge over the other nominees. But Khalid, at only 19 years old, has already won this year’s MTV Video Music award for Best New Artist; he offers a unique R&B twist that overshadows the contemporary pop takes that both Cara and Julia Michaels possess. Lil Uzi Vert is popular, but his bold, aggressive style makes him less likely to be crowned the winner. SZA, as the first female performer signed to her agency, has the edge that might just place her above her other more stereotypically mainstream competition.

And as for the unrest that comes from the unpredictability of the Best New Artist category, one of the first winners has some sage advice: “There will be an answer, let it be”.

— Samantha Banchik

Best Pop Solo Performance

“Love So Soft” — Kelly Clarkson

“Praying” — Kesha

“Million Reasons” — Lady Gaga

“What About Us” — P!nk

“Shape of You” — Ed Sheeran

Unfortunately, it’s pretty easy to immediately weed out the less relevant competitors in this category. P!nk’s “What About Us” is perhaps the least nuanced, most forgettable song of the bunch, while Kelly Clarkson’s “Love So Soft,” even with its infectiously sexy rhythms, can’t overcome a second half overrun with redundancy.

The rightful winner of this column depends on your priorities. From the thicket emerge two clear frontrunners — Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” and Kesha’s “Praying” — though these two pop tracks are electric for wholly different reasons. “Shape of You” can only be described as iconic and culturally pervasive in a way that will secure it a spot on the setlists of worldwide radios for years to come. But “Praying” represents something else: Kesha has embraced a proud vulnerability in her triumphant comeback, and when she soars into the flute register with a glorious whistle tone near the end of the song, we can appreciate Kesha’s newly evolved artistry in ways we never expected. That being said, the song never quite reached the same airplay or relevance that Sheeran achieved.

Perhaps, strangely, that leaves Lady Gaga’s “Million Reasons” to step in and benefit from the mutual sabotage caused by the polarizing thrills of Kesha and Sheeran. “Million Reasons” offers the perfect blend of emotional weight and playability, with Gaga delivering a powerful comeback and racking up millions of listeners in the process. Outside of this balancing act, the song still shines, with its gentle acoustic line contrasting magically with Gaga’s incredible belt.

— Shannon O’Hara

 

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

“Something Just Like This” — The Chainsmokers and Coldplay

“Despacito” — Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee Featuring Justin Bieber

“Thunder” — Imagine Dragons

“Feel It Still” — Portugal. The Man

“Stay” — Zedd and Alessia Cara

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito” was the undisputed song of the summer. Barring Justin Bieber’s embarrassing and problematic blunder during a live performance of the track, it’s certainly a catchy bop — and the only category nominee in the Grammy Awards’ history that’s not primarily in English. A win for “Despacito” in the pop category (in addition to Song of the Year) would be well-earned and culturally significant, particularly since there’s only one track in the category that could even compete with Fonsi’s.

Portugal. The Man’s “Feel It Still” is a rock-infused jam — a surprising pop twist from the alternative-experimental group. This is the first nomination for Portugal. The Man, which released gems such as The Satanic Satanist and Evil Friends in 2009 and 2013, respectively. The hook of “Feel It Still” is undoubtedly its punchy bassline, but John Gourley’s flawless falsetto gracefully dances with catchy lyrics to create a tune you’d easily hear at a sock hop, soda jerk or roller rink. The truth is, not even Imagine Dragons’ “Thunder” — which fails to achieve anthem status with its helium-infused backup vocals and sparse lyrics beyond the titular “Thun-thun-thunder” — can compete with that.

 — Sophie-Marie Prime

 

Best Rap Album

4:44 — Jay-Z

DAMN. — Kendrick Lamar

Culture — Migos

Laila’s Wisdom — Rapsody

Flower Boy — Tyler, The Creator

Each of this year’s nominees exist in separate subcultures of the rap genre. Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. took the music world when it was released in April of this year — and made an even bigger smash than Jay-Z’s 4:44, often referred to as his guilt-ridden response to Beyoncé’s groundbreaking visual album Lemonade, which was released last year.

In comparison to his previous solo and collaborative work with Odd Future, Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy was also self-deprecating, more focused upon Tyler’s internal self than “She” or “IFHY,” or even his former tracks that invoke several layers of his psyche (Wolf Haley, etc.). Hip-hop trio Migos’ Culture, on the other hand, pulls from the trap subgenre, with bumping basses and verses that reflect more materialism than self-reflection. Laila’s Wisdom is the second studio album from Rapsody, the only album in the category from a woman rapper and perhaps the most classical approach to the genre — with tracks featuring Anderson .Paak, Busta Rhymes and Kendrick Lamar.

Each of the five albums is an achievement for its respective artist, but the clear frontrunner is DAMN. DAMN. is powerful and cohesive, both personal and public in its exploration of Blackness. The combination of each of these elements is what won To Pimp a Butterfly Best Rap Album in 2016, and it is what makes DAMN. the category’s frontrunner for this year.

Sophie-Marie Prime

Snubbed – Harry Styles

Anyone who says that Harry Styles didn’t deserve to be nominated has ignored what he’s done this year. The former One Direction member — known previously for pop music that, while often very good and undeserving of the stereotyping and derision it received, sometimes indulged too heavily in the consumption patterns of its teen target demographic — turned nearly everyone’s head with the single “Sign of the Times.” It’s a true rock ballad that has killer guitar riffs throughout, allowing Styles to showcase the rasp and belting he possesses that feel so natural to the genre. The song is never in-your-face, but rather a subtle statement that allows its quality to do the talking.

If the Grammys were brave, they would’ve nominated “Sign of the Times” in the Best Rock Song category. A complete omission of it, even from Best Pop Solo Performance, is unjust.

Hell, Styles’ entire self-titled album is an achievement that’s been slept on by too many. His ability to fluidly navigate among pop, rock, country and folk (as well as each of these genres’ subdivisions) while still creating a cohesive whole is astounding. While “Sign of the Times” is loud and energetic, “Two Ghosts” is a softer, more subdued and nostalgic ballad that demonstrates how Styles can work wonders without needing to show off his range. “Sweet Creature” almost sounds like a Hozier piece, but is distinguished by Styles’ smoother, more flexible vocals, which allow the track to linger more effectively. And “Kiwi” is just a badass, purely fun, through-and-through rock song that is another reminder of Styles’ enormously impressive transformation.

But the Grammys can do what they want. Styles doesn’t need their validation. He’s currently on tour, proving that he’s as much of a true rock star on stage as in the recording studio, and he appeared and held his own in “Dunkirk,” which will soon compete for the year’s biggest film awards, likely including multiple Oscars. Styles could fairly be deemed the artist of the year, all things considered.

— Kyle Kizu

Contact the Daily Cal Arts Staff at [email protected].

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  • violet4ever

    Thanks for the Harry Styles part. Agree. In addition he was the main co-writer on every song. He spilled feelings he has accumulated for years, likely in the journals of lyrics and poems he writes. Harry has many registered songs as a writer including several that were recorded and released by other artists. And as someone who grew up with the music of the 70’s, I really appreciate that Harry wrote and recorded the album with a band, the old-fashioned way where real instruments play the music and songs are sung through, not pieced together of repeated cookie cutter pieces by an editor. And on top of that, he can perform the heck out of those songs.

  • Halle

    Boo hoo!! Not everyone is a Harry Styles fan or likes his music. Can you say overrated? Well, someone did. Hallelujah!

  • Barbara Osorio

    that Harry Styles part… 100% agree