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THE GRAMMY WHISPERER’S BIGGEST HITS AND MISSES


The Grammy Whisperer got some things right and some things wrong in his predictions this year. Embarrassingly, he went 0-4 in the Big Four categories, but he redeemed himself in the 37 other categories he forecast, where he went a respectable 26-11. Here, he takes stock of his biggest hits and misses...

First, the hits—six calls I got right that weren’t easy.

Best Pop Vocal Album—This could easily have gone to any of three albums: Ariana Grande’s Sweetener, P!nk’s Beautiful Trauma or Camila Cabello’s Camila. I correctly pegged Grande’s album as the winner, if only because her “thank u, next” (which is not on the album) was #1 throughout the voting period. P.S. P!nk now has more noms in this category without winning (four) than anyone else.

Best Rock Performance—Two of the nominated tracks—Greta Van Fleet’s “Highway Tune” and Arctic Monkeys’ “Four Out of Five”—were from albums that were vying for a genre album award. But I correctly picked Chris Cornell’s “When Bad Does Good,” because this will probably be the voters’ last chance to honor the late co-founder of Soundgarden. Cornell hadn’t won a Grammy since 1994, when Soundgarden won two.

Best Alternative Music Album—All five nominees were formidable. St. Vincent, nominated for Masseduction, won in this category with her previous album, St. Vincent. Beck, nominated for Colors, won twice in the category with a pair of 1990s albums. Björk (Utopia) has never won in this category, despite eight noms (more than anyone else in the category’s history). Rounding out the field were two past nominees in the category—David Byrne (American Utopia) and Arctic Monkeys (Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino). I correctly picked Beck, who had three noms this year, more than anyone else in this category.

Best Country Duo/Group PerformanceLittle Big Town was vying for its fourth award in this category with “When Someone Stops Loving You.” They faced Brothers Osborne’s “Shoot Me Straight” and Dan + Shay’s “Tequila,” as well as collabs by Maren Morris featuring Vince Gill (“Dear Hate”) and Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line (“Meant to Be”). I correctly picked Dan + Shay, mainly because their follow-up single, “Speechless,” was #1 on the country chart throughout the voting period.

Best Musical Theater Album—I correctly picked The Band’s Visit, on the strength of its Tony sweep, even though more voters probably saw NBC’s production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. And Jesus starred John Legend, a 10-time Grammy winner and a newly minted EGOT winner. 

Best Comedy Album—I correctly predicted that Dave Chappelle would win for the second year in a row with Equanimity & the Bird Revelation, even though two past winners in this category (Chris Rock and Patton Oswalt) were in the running. My tip-off was that Chappelle’s Equanimity stand-up special won an Emmy for Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded).


Now the misses, including some that I really should have gotten right.

Album of the Year—I went with Black Panther: The Album, Music from and Inspired By, even though it was passed over for a nom for Best Rap Album. That was a boneheaded move. As I knew and reported, no album that was passed over for a nom in its genre album category has ever won Album of the Year. The winner was Kacey MusgravesGolden Hour, which was nominated in its genre album category (Best Country Album)—and won it.

Record and Song of the Year—I went with Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s “Shallow” to take both awards. Both went to Childish Gambino’s “This Is America,” which became the first hip-hop track to win in either of these marquee categories. The real shocker was Song. “Shallow” failed to equal the achievement of Barbra Streisand’s “Evergreen” from the 1976 remake of A Star Is Born, which took the 1977 award for Song of the Year (in a tie with the deadly “You Light Up My Life”).

Best New Artist—I went with Luke Combs. The award went to Dua Lipa. Again, I ignored the facts I duly reported, namely that this was Combs’ only nomination. Lipa had a second nom, for Best Dance Recording. (She won that one too.) I was overly swayed by the enormous success of Combs’ debut album, This One’s for You, which has amassed 26 weeks at No. 1 on the country album chart. I should have paid more attention to the fact that female solo artists historically have an edge in this category.

You’d think by now I’d know: When you make last-minute changes, you are just as likely to be changing a right answer to a wrong one as the other way around.


Best Pop Solo Performance
—I went with Camila Cabello’s “Havana (Live).” The award went to Lady Gaga’s “Joanne (Where Do You Think You’re Goin’?). This was another shocker. Gaga was nominated in this category last year for “Million Reasons” from her 2016 Joanne album, but that was a hit—and this wasn’t. Clearly, the success of A Star Is Born carried this to a win.

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album—I went with Tony Bennett & Diana Krall’s Love Is Here to Stay. The award went to Willie Nelson’s My Way. This was another shocker. Bennett is a 13-time winner in this category. This is only the third time he has ever lost in this category. A Swingin’ Christmas (2009) and Viva Duets (2013) lost to a pair of Michael Bublé albums.

Best Dance/Electronic Album—I went with Sofi Tukker’s Treehouse. The award went to Justice’s Woman Worldwide. This was the result of a last-minute change—the only one I made this year. I originally picked Justice as the winner. You’d think by now I’d know: When you make last-minute changes, you are just as likely to be changing a right answer to a wrong one as the other way around.

Best Rap Performance—I went with Travis Scott, Drake, Big Hawk & Swae Lee’s “Sicko Mode.” The award went to Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future & James Blake’s “King’s Dead”—in a rare tie with Anderson .Paak’s “Bubblin.” I was swayed by the rise of “Sicko Mode” to #1 right during the voting period. Lamar would have been a safer bet. This was his fourth win in this category in the last five years. But for Anderson .Paak to tie was a bolt out of the blue.

Best Rap/Sung Performance—I went with Kendrick Lamar & SZA’s “All the Stars.” The award went to Childish Gambino’s “This Is America.” This was the second time in the past three years that an individual—not a collaboration—has taken this award. Drake won it two years ago for “Hotline Bling.” (If Childish Gambino hadn’t made such a riveting video for “This Is America,” would the song have won all these other awards? Discuss among yourselves.)

Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media—I went with The Shape of Water (Alexandre Desplat). The award went to Black Panther (Ludwig Göransson). The Shape of Water won the Oscar and the Golden Globe. But Göransson’s work with Childish Gambino (he co-wrote and co-produced “This Is America”) elevated his profile.

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical—I went with Linda Perry. The award went to Pharrell Williams. I thought the desire to see a woman win in this category for the first time would carry Perry to a win, even though her credits this year were not extraordinary. Instead, Williams won in this category for the third time. History will have to wait.

 

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