Read This Before Marking Your Final Grammy Ballot

While Grammy Whisperer extraordinaire Paul Grein has been poring over data, speaking to insiders and making his usual on-the-money picks, I thought it would be interesting to look at some offerings that we simply think are great and deserving of your attention. Adele, Drake and Beyoncé will have—and deserve—every honor possible. Now I offer you a few of my other personal favorites.

  1. The Lumineers: This band is much, much bigger than you know. They’re selling out major arenas and other great venues all over the country. Their first single, “Ophelia,” is the most-played song of the year at the Alternative format. Follow-up “Cleopatra” looks like a rocketship, and there will be more—maybe lots more—rolling out, into and through the New Year. Check it out; you’ll enjoy it.

    2. Leslie Odom, Jr.: For those of you who don’t know yet, Leslie is the Best Actor in a Musical Tony Award winner from Hamilton, and may be the greatest talent of his generation. He was unfortunately excluded from the Best New Artist category due to an obscure rule that eliminated him for being prominently featured on the Hamilton soundtrack, which won a Grammy. Oh well, weird shit does happen, especially in the BNA category. In any case, his self-titled debut album is my favorite as Album of the Year. Think Nat King Cole meets Antonio Carlos Jobim, an interesting bridge between jazz, pop and soul, with classics like “Autumn Leaves” and “Brazil” joining into a warm and lovely flow. Just put the album on and relax; Leslie will do the rest. He’s listed in the Jazz Vocal category and for AOY. We couldn’t recommend it more highly.

    3. Sia: I’m surprised I even have to bring this to anyone’s attention, but since Grein isn’t prepared to call her a lock/favorite, it’s worth mentioning further. Sia had an outstanding year, and her story keeps getting louder and stronger. I would assume she’ll be nominated in all three major categories and probably earn five or six overall noms. She deserves it.

    4. Alessia Cara: The sweetheart of the songwriter/producer community, Alessia has her second major hit with “Scars to the Beautiful” at just the right time for voting season. She will also be the lead on the first single from Disney’s Moana. She’s clearly one of the great new artists we have. The roar is building for a Best New Artist nomination.

    5. Sting: Full disclosure: I haven’t much cared for most of his recent music—too downtempo, with rather staid sounds. Then, boom, he comes with “I Can’t Stop Thinking About You,” evoking that great, urgent Police sound with a hook that gets under your skin. Now I can’t wait to hear his next album. Check out the song—it’s worth it.

    6. James Bay: I’ve always thought “Let It Go” was a Grammy-quality song. It’s on the ballot. Take note.

    7. Rock Categories: Rock has become an odd, catch-all designation this year. Everything from classic Paul Simon to the great new sounds of The Strumbellas has been included. Yet I think Panic at the Disco will be seriously considered. Also, how can we possibly not mark the end of David Bowie’s incredible career with some key noms and a Best Alternative trophy? C’mon, it’s gotta happen. Oh, and Kaleo is a true rock record—I hope it finds the believers it deserves.

    8. Nashville: Lots of great new songs and artists exploded onto the music landscape from the country world this year. Whether you lean Maren Morris, Thomas Rhett or Margo Price, all three are now part of the fabric of pop culture. As is strong music from Eric Church, Keith Urban and Wynonna. “Forever Country,” indeed.

    9. Justin Bieber: Be sure to check out Scooter Braun’s spot-on analysis in the interview for our management-focused special issue this week. The point is simple: This album made us all not only like but respect Justin, as he moves from teen-idol status to manhood. He released a great album with sensational songs, and so has…

    10. Shawn Mendes: Write him down for totally deserving a Best New Artist nomination—and expect him to be one of our biggest stars moving forward. Don’t think his music somehow lacks merit simply because his core appeal is to teens. Consider how Justin Timberlake developed. Appreciate Shawn for what he is now and watch him grow up and shine.