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THE MOMENT OF TRUTH: GREIN PICKS THE GRAMMY WINNERS

Expect Grammy voters to “share the wealth” this year. Kendrick Lamar and The Weeknd will probably each walk off with four Grammys on Feb. 15. Taylor Swift and Alabama Shakes are each likely to take home three awards.

If my hunches are correct, no artist will take more than one of the “Big Four” awards. This would be the first time in six years that those marquee awards have been dispersed so widely.

Let’s handicap each of the categories in the “Big Four” fields and 30 other prominent races. In each category, I list the nominees in descending order of their likelihood of winning. (If you’re listed last, don’t despair. In 1989, I pegged Bonnie Raitt’s Nick of Time 
to come in dead-last for Album of the Year. It won, and made Raitt a Grammy favorite for years to come.)


Album of the Year
Swift’s 1989 was way out front until late in the year, when the race tightened. For one thing, Adele’s historic success upstaged Swift, denting her chief asset—a sense that she had simply owned the year.

Swift’s chief competitors are Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color and Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Alabama Shakes could easily win. Three of the last five Album of the Year winners (Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, Mumford & SonsBabel and Beck’s Morning Phase) were alternative or alternative-ish. Also, Sound & Color is the only one of this year’s Album of the Year finalists that is also nominated for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. The last two Album of the Year winners (Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories and Beck’s Morning Phase) both won in the engineering category.

Lamar amassed more total nominations than any other artist this year (11, four more than runners-up Swift and The Weeknd). But only seven of Lamar’s nominations were for his album. The other four were for his featured roles on works by Swift and Flying Lotus and for co-writing a Kanye West song. When you look just at nominations for their albums (and for songs and videos from those albums), these three artists are tied.

Also, many Grammy voters are resistant to rap. To Pimp a Butterfly would be just the third hip-hop album to win Album of the Year. The first two were The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Both of those albums spawned #1 singles. Lamar’s album hasn’t come close to doing that. For all the critical acclaim and media attention it has gotten, I don’t see it winning.

The two remaining contenders are Chris Stapleton’s Traveller and The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness. Stapleton already had his coronation at the CMA Awards in November. The Weeknd has a better shot in other categories.

Bet on: Taylor Swift’s 1989. This would make Swift the first female artist to win twice in this category for her own albums. She won here six years ago with Fearless.

Trivia note: All five of this year’s Album of the Year contenders reached #1. This is only the third time in Grammy history that all five nominees were #1 albums. This previously happened in 1975 (with albums by Janis Ian, Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, Eagles and Paul Simon) and 2002 (with albums by Dixie Chicks, Eminem, Norah Jones, Nelly and Bruce Springsteen).


Record of the Year
“Uptown Funk!” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars was the year’s top-selling song for a reason. It’s an irresistible throwback to the R&B sound of the 1980s. It sounds like it could have been produced by Grammy faves Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis (who were nominated for Producer of the Year a record 11 times). And Grammy voters love Mars. This is his fifth nomination in this category (his fourth as a lead or featured artist).

“Uptown Funk!” won a BRIT Award for British Single of the Year last February. It’s vying to become only the second single to win both that top BRIT Award and the Grammy for Record of the Year. The first? Phil Collins’ 1990 smash “Another Day in Paradise.” (These two hits are about as far apart in tone and temperament as any two singles could be.)

The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” is probably the strongest challenger to “Uptown Funk!” The smash is very reminiscent of Michael Jackson, who won this award 32 years ago with “Beat It.” Also nominated: Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” Swift’s “Blank Space” and D’Angelo and the Vanguard’s “Really Love.”

Bet on: “Uptown Funk!” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars

Song of the Year
Sheeran was first nominated in this category three years ago for “The A Team,” which was a hit, but hardly a smash. “Thinking Out Loud” was a smash (and an instant classic). That’s got to make it the front-runner.

The other nominees are the Little Big Town hit “Girl Crush” (which won the CMA Award for Song of the Year); “Blank Space”; the Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth megahit “See You Again” (which was shockingly passed over for an Oscar nom); and Lamar’s “Alright.”

Bet on: “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran & Amy Wadge, songwriters

Best New Artist
Meghan Trainor has long been viewed as the front-runner, but she was passed over for noms in other categories where she was eligible (Best Pop Vocal Album, Best Pop Solo Vocal Performance). By contrast, fellow nominees Sam Hunt and James Bay were nominated for album honors in their respective fields. So this is going to be tight. Trainor’s current hit duet with John Legend (who won in this category 10 years ago) may have clinched it for her. The other nominees are Tori Kelly and Courtney Barnett.

Bet on: Meghan Trainor, who is vying to become the first female pop artist to win here since Adele seven years ago.

Best Pop Vocal Album
Swift’s 1989 is out front, though she faces strong challenges from the artist after whom she was named, James Taylor, and Florence + the Machine. Taylor, who won the 1997 award in this category with Hourglass, is nominated for Before This World. (That made some headlines when it became his first #1 album. Also, it’s a finalist for Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical, a further indication that it is on the Grammy radar.) Florence + the Machine is nominated for How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, which was also their first #1 album. Also nominated: Kelly Clarkson’s Piece by Piece, Ronson’s Uptown Special. Trivia note: Swift, who won Best Country Album for Fearless, is vying to become the first artist to take Best Album honors in pop and country.

Bet on: Taylor Swift’s 1989

Best Pop Solo Performance
Remember when Tom Cruise lip-synched to The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” on The Tonight Show? That suggests how big an impact this song made in pop culture. The other nominees: Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud,” Swift’s “Blank Space,” Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do,” Clarkson’s “Heartbeat Song.”

Bet on: The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face”

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
It has to be “Uptown Funk!” The fact that Ronson was nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album for the modest-selling Uptown Special (quick: name one other song on the album) demonstrates his strength. The other nominees are “Bad Blood” by Swift featuring Lamar, “See You Again” by Khalifa featuring Puth, Maroon 5’s “Sugar,” Florence + the Machine’s “Ship to Wreck.”

Bet on: “Uptown Funk!” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
Look for voters to reward Bob Dylan for his nerve, if nothing else, in taking on songs associated with Frank Sinatra. (Voters love it when artists cross genre lines. Three other rock legends, Joni Mitchell, Rod Stewart and Paul McCartney, have won in this category.) Of course, you can never count out Tony Bennett, who is vying for his 13th (!) win in this category with The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern, a collabo with jazz pianist Bill Charlap. Also nominated: Josh Groban’s Stages, Barry Manilow’s My Dream Duets, Seth MacFarlane’s No One Ever Tells You.

Bet on: Bob Dylan’s Shadows in the Night


Best Dance/Electronic Album
Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü is out front. This would be Skrillex’s third award in this category, which would constitute a Grammy record. Diplo is nominated for Producer of the Year, Non-Classical. Also nominated: Jamie xx’s In Colour, the Chemical BrothersBorn in the Echoes, Disclosure’s Caracal, Caribou’s Our Love.

Bet on: Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü

Best Dance Recording
“Where Are Ü Now” by Skrillex and Diplo with Justin Bieber is sure to win. The single went top 10 and set up Bieber’s impressive comeback. This would be Skrillex’s third award in this category as well, which would also constitute a Grammy record. Also nominated: “Never Catch Me” by Flying Lotus featuring Lamar, the Chemical Brothers’ “Go,” Galantis’ “Runaway (U & I),” “We’re All We Need” by Above & Beyond featuring Zoë Johnston.

Bet on: “Where Are Ü Now” by Skrillex and Diplo with Justin Bieber

Best Rock Album
James Bay’s Chaos and the Calm is the front-runner. (If it wins here, Bay ought to thank the Grammy screening committee, which placed Florence + the Machine’s genre-bridging album in the pop field. It probably would have taken this award.) Also nominated: Slipknot’s .5: The Gray Chapter, Muse’s Drones (the band won in this category five years ago with The Resistance), Death Cab for Cutie’s Kintsugi, Highly Suspect’s Mister Asylum.

Bet on: James Bay’s Chaos and the Calm

Best Rock Performance
Alabama Shakes’ Album of the Year nomination will probably lead to a win here for “Don’t Wanna Fight.” Also nominated: Florence + the Machine’s “What Kind of Man,” Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s” (the biggest hit single of the bunch), Foo Fighters’ “Something from Nothing,” Wolf Alice’s “Moaning Lisa Smile.”

Bet on: Alabama Shakes’ “Don’t Wanna Fight”

Best Metal Performance
Slipknot is probably headed for its second win in this category with “Custer.” The band won 10 years ago for “Before I Forget.” Also nominated: Sevendust’s “Thank You,” August Burns Red’s “Identity,” Lamb of God’s “512,” Ghost’s “Cirice.”

Bet on: Slipknot’s “Custer”

Best Rock Song
Alabama Shakes’ “Don’t Wanna Fight” is the favorite here too. Also nominated: the Florence + the Machine song “What Kind 
of Man,” the King co-write “Ex’s & Oh’s,” the James Bay co-write “Hold Back the River,” the Highly Suspect song “Lydia.”

Bet on: “Don’t Wanna Fight” by Alabama Shakes, songwriters




Best Alternative Music Album
Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color has a lock on this award. Also nominated: Björk’s Vulnicura, Tame Impala’s Currents, Wilco’s Star Wars, My Morning Jacket’s The Waterfall.

Bet on: Alabama Shakes’ Sound & Color

Best R&B Album
D’Angelo and the Vanguard are out front with Black Messiah. D’Angelo won in this category 15 years ago for Voodoo. He would become only the second male artist to win twice in this category—following John Legend. Also nominated: Leon BridgesComing Home, Jazmine Sullivan’s Reality Show, Charlie Wilson’s Forever Charlie, Andra Day’s Cheers to the Fall.

Bet on: Black Messiah by D’Angelo and the Vanguard

Best R&B Performance
Another lock: The Weeknd for “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey).” Also nominated: Tamar Braxton’s “If I Don’t Have You,” “Planes” by Jeremih featuring J. Cole, 
Day’s “Rise Up,” Hiatus Kaiyote’s 
“Breathing Underwater.”

Bet on: The Weeknd’s “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)”

Best Traditional R&B Performance
Tyrese landed his first #1 album in July with Black Rose, which may give an edge to “Shame,” a track from the album. Also nominated: Sullivan’s “Let It Burn,” Faith Evans’ “He Is,” Wilson’s “My Favorite Part of You,” Lalah Hathaway’s “Little Ghetto Boy.”

Bet on: Tyrese’s “Shame”

Best R&B Song
Here’s another one for “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey).” Its strongest competition is probably “Really Love,” the R&B hit by D’Angelo and the Vanguard, which is nominated for Record of the Year. Also nominated: the Miguel co-write “Coffee,” the Tyrese co-write “Shame,” the Sullivan co-write “Let It Burn.”

Bet on: “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)” by Ahmad Balshe, Stephan Moccio, Jason Quenneville and Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd), songwriters

Best Urban Contemporary Album
The Weeknd is a cinch to win for Beauty Behind the Madness. Also nominated: Miguel’s Wildheart, The Internet’s Ego Death, Kehlani’s You Should Be Here, Lianne La HavasBlood.

Bet on: The Weeknd’s Beauty Behind the Madness

Best Rap Album
It has to be To Pimp a Butterfly. (This will help make up for Lamar’s loss in this category two years ago to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.) Also nominated: Drake’s If You're Reading This It's Too Late (he won here three years ago with Take Care), Nicki Minaj’s The Pinkprint, Dr. Dre’s Compton, 
J. Cole’s 2014 Forest Hills Drive.

Bet on: Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly

Best Rap Performance
Lamar will win for the second year in a row with “Alright.” He won last year for “i.” Also nominated: Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen,” Kanye West’s “All Day” (featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom & Paul McCartney), Minaj’s “Truffle Butter” (featuring Drake & Lil Wayne), Drake’s 
“Back to Back,” J. Cole’s “Apparently.”

Bet on: Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright”

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
Lamar is nominated for “These Walls” (featuring Bilal, Anna Wise & Thundercat). He could well sweep the rap categories, but the winning entries in this category generally have prominent artists as both rappers and singers. Lamar’s featured artists aren’t that established. Looking at the other nominees, “Glory,” the Oscar-winning work by Common & John Legend, may have an edge over Minaj’s “Only” (featuring Drake, Lil Wayne & Chris Brown) and Big Sean’s “One Man Can Change the World” (featuring West and Legend). “Glory” resonates in light of the #blacklivesmatter movement. Also nominated: Jidenna’s “Classic Man” (featuring Roman GianArthur).

Bet on: “Glory” by Common & John Legend

Best Rap Song
Lamar’s “Alright” will probably win here too. The Song of the Year nomination helps make the case. Also nominated: the Common & John Legend co-write “Glory”; the Fetty Wap co-write “Trap Queen”; the West co-write “All Day”; the Drake co-write “Energy.”

Bet on: “Alright” by Kendrick Duckworth (Kendrick Lamar), Kawan Prather, Mark Anthony Spears & Pharrell Williams, songwriters

Best Country Album
Stapleton’s Album of the Year nomination for Traveller tells the story. This is vying to become the second album in as many years to win the CMA award for Album of the Year and the Grammy for Best Country Album. Miranda Lambert’s Platinum took both prizes last year. Also nominated: Hunt’s Montevallo, Kacey MusgravesPageant Material, Little Big Town’s Pain Killer, Ashley Monroe’s The Blade.

Bet on: Chris Stapleton’s Traveller

Best Country Solo Performance
Stapleton’s “Traveller” is out front, though you can never count out Carrie Underwood, who is nominated for “Little Toy Guns.” She has won here in two of the last three years. Also nominated: Keith Urban’s “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16,” Lee Ann Womack’s “Chances Are,” Cam’s “Burning House.”

Bet on: Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller”

Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Little Big Town is headed for its second win in this category with “Girl Crush.” The quartet won three years ago for “Pontoon.” Also nominated: “The Driver” by Charles Kelley, Dierks Bentley & Eric Paslay, “Lonely Tonight” by Blake Shelton featuring Monroe, Joey+Rory’s “If I Needed You,” Brothers Osborne’s “Stay a Little Longer.”

Bet on: Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush”

Best Country Song
It has got to be “Girl Crush,” which is also nominated for Song of the Year. This would be the second win in this category for Hillary Lindsey (following the Underwood hit “Jesus, Take the Wheel”) and the second for Liz Rose (following the Swift hit “White Horse”). Also nominated: Stapleton’s “Traveller”; a Brandy Clark co-write, “Hold My Hand”; the Womack hit “Chances Are”; the Tim McGraw hit “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools.”

Bet on: “Girl Crush” by Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose, songwriters

Best Americana Album
Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free may edge out The Travelling Kind by Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. Those two respected vets won this award with their last album, Old Yellow Moon. Also nominated: Brandi Carlile’s The Firewatcher’s Daughter, The Punch BrothersThe Phosphorescent Blues, The MavericksMono.

Bet on: Jason Isbell’s Something More Than Free

Best Compilation Sound-track for Visual Media
This is going to be close between a movie soundtrack, Fifty Shades of Grey, and a TV soundtrack, Empire: Season 1. Two songs from Fifty Shades are nominated for Best Song Written for Visual Media. Also nominated: Selma, Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me, Pitch Perfect 2.

Bet on: Fifty Shades of Grey

Best Song Written for Visual Media
“Glory,” which won an Oscar last year, will probably edge out “Til It Happens to You,” which is most likely headed for an Oscar this year. (The Oscar nominations were announced on Jan. 14. Grammy ballots were due at Deloitte the following day. So the Oscar nom for the Lady Gaga/Diane Warren song came a little too late to have an impact on Grammy voting.) Also nominated in this red-hot field: “See You Again” (which is the first film song in 12 years to be nominated for a Grammy for Song of the Year), “Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey),” “Love Me Like You Do.” Note: Only Common and John Legend were credited as co-writers when “Glory” won the Oscar and the Golden Globe last year. The Grammys are recognizing a third co-writer, Che Smith.

Bet on: “Glory” by Lonnie Lynn (Common), Che Smith and John Stephens (John Legend), songwriters

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical
Dave Cobb produced Isbell’s Something More Than Free, the front-runner for Best Americana Album, and co-produced Stapleton’s Traveller, the front-runner for Best Country Album. That will probably give him a leg up here. Also nominated: Diplo, Blake Mills, Jeff Bhasker, Larry Klein.

Bet on: Dave Cobb

Best Music Video
The Grammys will probably second the VMA choice for Video of the Year: “Bad Blood” by Swift featuring Lamar. Also nominated: Lamar’s “Alright,” Pharrell Williams’ “Freedom,” A$AP Rocky’s “LSD,” The Dead Weather’s “I Feel Love (Every Million Miles).”

Bet on: “Bad Blood” by Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar

Best Music Film
Amy will probably edge out What Happened, Miss Simone?, if only because Amy Winehouse’s saga is more recent than Nina Simone’s. Both films are Oscar-nominated for Best Documentary (Feature). Also nominated in this red-hot field: Roger WatersThe Wall, Foo FightersSonic Highways, Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown.

Bet on: Amy

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