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TWO GRAMMY NERDS
PICK THE WINNERS

Lenny Beer, Hits’ Editor in Chief, and Paul Grein, aka The Grammy Whisperer, recently hashed out who is likely to win Grammys in 25 key categories. They agreed in 16 categories, but differed in nine others. You’re free to eavesdrop on their conversation, and play along, if you like. Maybe you’ll outsmart these smarty-pants.

Record and Song of the Year

Lenny: I think ‘Hello’ wins both of these easily.

Paul: I agree. That will make Adele the first woman in Grammy history to win Song of the Year twice.

Lenny: You love that stuff, don’t you?

Paul: I do, I must confess.

Both pick Adele’s “Hello.”

Album of the Year

Lenny: I’m going to take Beyoncé. I really feel they owe her one.

Paul: She has won 20 Grammys—twice as many as Adele. Do you mean they owe her a big one? [Editor’s Note: Only one of Beyoncé’s Grammys has come in one of the “Big Four” categories.]

Lenny: Yeah. It’s a super-tight, toss-up race between those two. Beyoncé gets the edge because it’s her turn. It’s basically a lifetime achievement award.

Paul: I agree it will be very close. I can easily see it going either way. Lemonade got more buzz and critical heat, but 25 sold far better and got more airplay. I originally thought 25 would win. In fact, I wrote a piece about it for Hits. But I’ve changed my mind, for two reasons. Nobody has ever swept the “Big Three” awards twice. Adele would be the first. And this award often goes to an album with a sense of purpose. On some of the key tracks on Lemonade, Beyoncé tackled the hot-button issue of race and respect and equality. The story of 25 is that an artist rose to the challenge of following one of the biggest albums of all time—and did it very well. That’s not quite as compelling a storyline.

Lenny: I’m glad you finally saw the light.

Both pick Beyoncé’s Lemonade.

Best New Artist

Lenny: That’s a toughie. Who do you like?

Paul: The Chainsmokers. The two country acts [Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini] will split the vote and the two rap or urban contemporary acts [Chance the Rapper and Anderson .Paak] may split that vote. Also, The Chainsmokers have had four top 10 hits. It’s interesting that the Nominations Review Committee put a second country act [Kelsea] in finals, because that hurt Maren’s chances of winning.

Lenny: I see your point, but I’m going to go with Maren. It’s just a gut feeling. This category always seems to surprise, so any winner is possible. I think Maren is special and will have a long and successful career.

Lenny picks Maren Morris. Paul picks The Chainsmokers.

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Lenny: ‘Closer’ is the record of the year—even though it wasn’t nominated for Record of the Year. I’ll say ‘Closer’ in a close win over Sia’s ‘Cheap Thrills’ [featuring Sean Paul].

Paul: I originally thought it would be Twenty One Pilots’ ‘Stressed Out’ because it’s the only pop/rock record in the running. But collaborations have won in this category the last five years. They seem to have an edge over regular groups or duos, maybe because they’re seen as special, one-time-only events. It would be noteworthy if ‘Closer’ won here, because it would beat three Record of the Year nominees: ‘Stressed Out,’ Lukas Graham’s ‘7 Years’ and Rihanna’s ‘Work’ [featuring Drake].

Lenny: That just proves my point that ‘Closer’ should have been nominated for Record of the Year.

Paul: I could get all Grammy-nerdy on you and point out that this would be the second time in three years that a duo has won for a collaboration with a female artist, following the A Great Big World/Christina Aguilera collabo, ‘Say Something.’

Lenny: Just how Grammy-nerdy are you?

Paul: You have no idea.

Lenny: Oh, I think I do.

Both pick The Chainsmokers’ “Closer” [featuring Halsey].

Best Dance Recording

Lenny: I think The Chainsmokers.

Paul: Me too. Flume’s ‘Never Be Like You’ [featuring Kai] is also strong, but it’s hard to compete with an act that had such a big year. And Flume will win Best Dance/Electronic Album.

Lenny: I’d also like to mention that [fellow nominee] Sofi Tukker is my favorite name of a group this year. I grew up watching Sophie Tucker on The Ed Sullivan Show.

Both pick The Chainsmokers’ “Don’t Let Me Down” [featuring Daya].

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album

Lenny: I guess I’d have to say Barbra.

Paul: She hasn’t won a Grammy in 30 years. I’m sure most people aren’t aware of that.

Both pick Barbra Streisand’s Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway.

Best Rock Album

Paul: This is one of the toughest categories, if not the toughest one, to predict.

Lenny: I’ll say Panic! There’s a lot of momentum for that band right now.

Paul: They’re on the Suicide Squad soundtrack, which is Grammy-nominated. I’m going with Blink, because their album bumped Drake out of No. 1. And they’re mentioned in ‘Closer,’ which boosted their profile. Every hour on the hour, we heard that little shout-out to Blink.

Lenny: Blink had a big year.

Paul: Not to overthink this, but it could also be Weezer, which won a Grammy eight years ago for its “Pork and Beans” video. Or Cage the Elephant. Their album was produced by Grammy fave Dan Auerbach.

Lenny picks Panic! at the Disco’s Death of a Bachelor. Paul picks Blink-182’s California.

Best Alternative Music Album

Lenny: Radiohead has won three times in this category. Their biggest competition is David Bowie. I still say Radiohead.

Paul: Wow.

Lenny: You’re going with Bowie?

Paul: Yes.

Lenny: Because he passed away last year?

Paul: There’s that, but also for being so important and legendary. He won just one Grammy in his lifetime [a 1984 award for Best Video, Short Form], which is shameful. This is their last chance to honor him.

Lenny: OK, I’ll go with him.

Paul: I flipped you?

Lenny: Yeah.

Both pick David Bowie’s Blackstar.

Best Rock Song

Lenny: ‘Heathens’ has to win that.

Paul: I was going to say Bowie here too for the title track to Blackstar. I was thinking voters would put a check by his name every time they saw it, as they’ve been known to do. But ‘Heathens’ was such a big hit, I think it can overcome that.

Lenny: Did I flip you on this one?

Paul: You did.

Both pick “Heathens” [Tyler Joseph, songwriter].

Best Urban Contemporary Album

Lenny: It’s got to be Beyoncé.

Paul: It’s too bad Beyoncé and [fellow nominee] Rihanna are in the same category.

Both pick Beyoncé’s Lemonade.

Best R&B Album

Lenny: People like Lalah Hathaway, but I don’t know if they’ll go for a live album.

Paul: Her father [Donny Hathaway] had a classic live album [1972’s Live]. I think the memory of that album might work in her favor.

Lenny: Paul, do you realize how old someone would have to be to remember a 1972 live album?

Paul: Ouch. I remember it very well.

Both pick Lalah Hathaway Live.

Best Rap Album

Lenny: Boy this is a strong category. You’ve got the red-hot newcomer, Chance, against Drake and Kanye. Who do you like?

Paul: I think Drake.

Lenny: Yeah. I’ll go Drake also. We’re basically predicting Chance to get shut out.

Paul: Hmm. You’re right.

Both pick Drake’s Views.

Best Rap/Sung Performance

Lenny: So this is where ‘Hotline Bling’ ends up. It deserved major nominations last year. So why not give it this? [Editor’s Note: “Hotline Bling” was eligible for Record and Song of the Year a year ago, but it wasn’t entered, due to a slip-up. It was eligible in those same categories again this year but Drake’s camp instead entered “One Dance,” which wasn’t nominated.]

Paul: This is the first year that they’ve allowed individual artists to compete here—where one artist is both singing and rapping. But I’ve got to think that a collaboration by a singer and a rapper has an advantage, especially when the singer is Beyoncé and the rapper is Kendrick Lamar.

Lenny: ‘Hotline Bling’ was my favorite Top 40 song last year, so I hope it wins. Just a personal pick.

Paul: Whatever happens in this category, ‘Hotline Bling’ can and probably will win Best Rap Song.

Lenny picks Drake’s “Hotline Bling.” Paul picks Beyoncé’s “Freedom” [featuring Kendrick Lamar].

Best Country Album

Lenny: Is this where Sturgill Simpson gets his award? Do they really like him in Nashville? I think his Album of the Year nomination was a committee put. [Editor’s Note: Simpson’s album is the only country album that received an Album of the Year nomination, but Lenny is suggesting that the Nominations Review Committee, rather than rank-and-file voters, made that happen.]

Paul: I think you’re right.

Lenny: So what Nashville act can beat him? I’d say the leading contenders are Keith Urban and Maren. I’m going with Keith for the upset.

Paul: I could see that. Both Keith and Maren were nominated for the CMA award for Album of the Year—and Simpson wasn’t. But, even though Simpson’s Grammy nom for Album of the Year was probably a committee ‘put,’ as you put it, it gave his album a boost and gave it the inside track here.

Lenny picks Keith Urban’s Ripcord. Paul picks Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.

Best Country Solo Performance

Lenny: This category gives Maren her best chance of winning, even better than Best New Artist.

Paul: I was thinking Keith. His song was No. 1 for 12 weeks, right while the voting was going on.

Lenny: Big record.

Paul: And he’s great. I wish they still had separate male and female categories in country. When you look at the nominees here, obviously Keith would have won Best Male Country Vocal Performance, if they still had that category. [Editor’s Note: Urban is the only male artist nominated in this combined category.] By combining male and female categories in pop and country, they saved a couple of categories, but at a cost.

Lenny picks Maren Morris’ “My Church.” Paul picks Keith Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color.”

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

Lenny: This is my favorite category. I have skin in the game. I can’t go against my guys. [Editor’s Note: Lenny’s company, The MGMT Co., manages Pentatonix, which is nominated for a collaboration with Dolly Parton.]

Paul: I’m thinking the Kenny Chesney/P!nk collabo. With Pentatonix being in the lead position on their record, it would be a little strange for them to win a country award.

Lenny: They performed on the CMA Awards with Jennifer Nettles singing this song [‘Jolene’] in a tribute to Dolly. And their TV special featured both Reba and Dolly.

Paul: So they’ve been embraced by the country community. And the Grammy screening committee accepted it in country. They could have kicked it over to pop. And you think it will win?

Lenny: Well, they were nominated twice before and they won both times.

Paul: They won both times for Best Arrangement, Instrumental or A Cappella. This would be their first performance award.

Lenny: And I’m hoping they get it.

Paul: They may. Every single voter knows the song. And Dolly is beloved.

Lenny: It’s one of the greatest songs of all time. They’ve been on TV a lot. They had two albums in the top five simultaneously over the holidays. I figure they’ve got a shot and I’m sticking with it.

Lenny picks Pentatonix’s “Jolene” [featuring Dolly Parton]. Paul picks Kenny Chesney’s “Setting the World on Fire” [featuring P!nk].

Best Country Song

Lenny: The Thomas Rhett song was gigantic. I’m going with that.

Paul: ‘Humble and Kind’ won the CMA Award for Song of the Year. I think in the Trump era those words—those qualities—suddenly carry more meaning. They evoke a sense of nostalgia.

Lenny: I’ve never heard it.

Paul: It’s a nice song. A little corny, but a nice song.

Lenny picks “Die a Happy Man” [Sean Douglas, Thomas Rhett and Joe Spargur, songwriters]. Paul picks “Humble and Kind” [Lori McKenna, songwriter]

Best Folk Album

Paul: Judy Collins hasn’t won a Grammy since “Both Sides Now” in 1968. In fact, this was her first nomination since “Send in the Clowns” in 1975.

Lenny: Who’s [Collins’ collaborator] Ari Hest?

Paul: He’s the lucky man who will win if Judy wins. [Editor’s Note: Hest has released eight solo albums and three EPs.]

Lenny: Isn’t [fellow nominee] Rhiannon Giddens all the rage?

Paul: She is, and [fellow nominee] Robbie Fulks is, too. They’re both nominated in other categories this year. I’m going with Judy because it’s been 48 years since she won. She’s one of those artists everybody likes and admires and hasn’t thought of in a while. When the nominations came out, Simon [Glickman] did an interview with her for Hits. She said ‘I thought they’d forgotten all about me!’

Lenny: Aaah. Let’s go with her, then. I’ll root for her.

Both pick Judy Collins & Ari Hest’s Silver Skies Blue.

Best Comedy Album

Lenny: This is between Tig Notaro and Amy Schumer, I would think.

Paul: Both of their albums are linked to their first HBO stand-up specials, Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted and Amy Schumer: Live at the Apollo. I must confess I had never heard of Tig before these nominations came out.

Lenny: She’s great. She was on Transparent.

Paul: This is the first time three women have been nominated in this category in the history of the Grammys.

Lenny: Who do you like?

Paul: I think Amy.

Lenny: Amy’s a bigger name, but I thought that was kind of an incidental album.

Lenny picks Tig Notaro’s Boyish Girl Interrupted. Paul picks Amy Schumer’s Live at the Apollo.

Best Musical Theater Album

Lenny: I’m going to take Waitress, but I wouldn’t be surprised if The Color Purple won. I’ve seen [that show’s] Cynthia Erivo on stage and she’s beyond amazing. She won the Tony [for this show] last year. The show also stars Jennifer Hudson.

Paul: What do you think of the idea of albums from new shows [Waitress and Bright Star] competing with albums from new productions of vintage shows [Fiddler on the Roof, The Color Purple, Kinky Boots]?

Lenny: I don’t like it.

Paul: It seems like it would be very hard to fairly compare them. I know they’re consolidating categories whenever they can, but it’s weird.

Both pick Waitress [Jessie Mueller, principal soloist. Sara Bareilles, composer and lyricist].

Best Song Written for Visual Media

Lenny: It’s ‘Heathens’ against Justin Timberlake.

Paul: There are two songs from Suicide Squad, so ‘Purple Lamborghini’ may pull some votes from ‘Heathens.’

Lenny: It’s their chance to give Justin a Grammy.

Paul: Justin’s song is up for an Oscar. It’s the only one of the nominees in this category that is.

Both pick “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” [Max Martin, Shellback and Justin Timberlake, songwriters].

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical

Lenny: Greg Kurstin produced and co-wrote both ‘Hello’ and ‘Cheap Thrills.’ That’s pretty impressive right there. And [fellow nominee] Max Martin has already won in this category.

Paul: He beat Kurstin in this category two years ago. I think this time it will be the other way around.

Both pick Greg Kurstin.

Best Music Video

Lenny: I think Beyoncé.

Paul: Of course.

Both pick Beyoncé’s “Formation.”

Best Music Film

Lenny: I just love The Beatles’ film. And who wouldn’t want to give an award to [the film’s director and co-producer] Ronny Howard?

Paul: That would give him an EGO. He’d just need a Tony to complete the EGOT. But do you really think that could win?

Lenny: Yeah.

Paul: So you think Beyoncé will win Album of the Year and lose Best Music Film? That seems strange. I was sure Beyoncé would win in this category. If she wins both Best Music Video and Best Music Film, she’ll be only the third artist to win both awards in one year. The first two were The Beatles and Duran Duran.

Lenny picks The Beatles: Eight Days a Week the Touring Years. Paul picks Beyoncé’s Lemonade.

 

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