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THE GRAMMY WHISPERER PICKS MORE  KEY WINNERS

Last month, I fearlessly predicted Grammy winners in the Big Four categories and for Best Pop Vocal Album. If you missed my prognostications, here’s a link. Today, I take my best shot at predicting 14 other “genre album” winners, as well as Producer of the Year, Non-Classical.

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: This is the third year in a row that Bob Dylan has been nominated in this category, so Triplicate is a contender. Dylan’s unlikely traditional pop exploration wasn’t just a lark for him; he is committed to it. But I think this comes down to Michael Bublé’s Nobody but Me (Deluxe Version) and the all-star Tony Bennett Celebrates 90. Bublé is a four-time winner in this category. Bennett is a 13-time winner here. (Bennett won’t win if this album does. It’s listed as a Various Artists album, so the award would go to his producer, Dae Bennett—who is also his son.) Bublé took a year off to be with his son, Noah, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2016. This will be the voters’ first chance since Bublé got that dreaded news to give him a warm hug. My prediction: Michael Bublé.

Best Dance/Electronic Album: Kraftwerk, nominated here for 3-D The Catalogue, helped to create the electronic music genre more than four decades ago. Kraftwerk has yet to win a Grammy in competition, though they received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Recording Academy in 2014. This is their first nomination since their lifetime honor. Kraftwerk’s album is also nominated for Best Surround Sound Album, which shows awareness of it across various Grammy committees. My prediction: Kraftwerk.

Best Rock Album: Metallica has never won Best Rock Album, despite being a multiplatinum act since before this category was introduced in 1994. That should enable Hardwired…to Self-Destruct to beat such strong contenders as Queens of the Stone Age’s Villains and The War on DrugsA Deeper Understanding. My prediction: Metallica.

Best Alternative Music Album: This is the fifth nomination in this category for Arcade Fire (nominated for Everything Now), but they have yet to win the award. They even lost here in the year The Suburbs won Album of the Year. (Try to figure that one out.) LCD Soundsystem’s American Dream debuted at #1 and ranks No. 5 on Rolling Stone’s year-end critics’ poll—higher than two other finalists here, The National’s Sleep Well Beast and Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy. My prediction: LCD Soundsystem.

Best R&B Album: This is the fourth nom in this category for Ledisi (Let Love Rule). She has yet to win a Grammy, despite 12 noms. So she’s overdue for a win. But, with noms in each of the Big Three categories, Bruno Mars (24K Magic) will be hard to beat here. Mars is vying to become the first artist who isn’t African American to win in this category. Mars has been warmly embraced by African American fans and organizations. He won two awards (Best Male R&B/Pop Artist and Video of the Year) at the BET Awards in June. He won three awards (Outstanding Male Artist, Outstanding Music Video/Visual Album and Outstanding Song—Traditional) at the NAACP Image Awards over the weekend. My prediction: Bruno Mars.

Best Urban Contemporary Album: The Weeknd’s Starboy and Khalid’s American Teen are strong nominees. But I think this comes down to Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!” and SZA’s Ctrl. Critics are doing backflips over SZA. The Nominations Review Committee preferred Childish Gambino, nominating him (and not her) for both Record and Album of the Year. That doesn’t mean SZA is out of the running here. Sometimes the voters go their own way and ignore the signals sent by the Nominations Review Committee. I think this may be one of those years. My prediction: SZA.

Best Rap Album: This is a two-way race between Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. and Jay-Z’s 4:44. Both rappers have won before in this category—Lamar with his last studio album, To Pimp a Butterfly; Jay-Z 19 years ago for Vol. 2…Hard Knock Life. If Jay-Z wins, he’ll have the longest span of wins in the history of this category, topping Eminem’s 15-year span. Jay-Z received one more nom this year than his rival. But Lamar is at the peak of his career. He’s as dominant in the field as Eminem and Kanye West were when they each won here with three consecutive studio albums. Even a potent challenge from Jay-Z won’t bust up Lamar’s winning streak. My prediction: Kendrick Lamar.

Best Country Album: This is the (long-overdue) first nom in this category for Kenny Chesney, nominated for Cosmic Hallelujah. But he was passed over for a CMA nom for Album of the Year. Thomas Rhett’s Life Changes, Little Big Town’s The Breaker and Lady Antebellum’s Heart Break all have a chance. Lady A won back-to-back awards in this category in 2010-11. But Chris Stapleton, who won two years ago for Traveller, is probably going to win again for From A Room: Volume 1. The album took the CMA award for Album of the Year in November in a mild upset over Miranda Lambert’s The Weight of These Wings (which was inexplicably snubbed here). A Grammy win would make Stapleton the first male solo artist to win twice in this category since the late Roger Miller more than 50 years ago. My prediction: Chris Stapleton.

Best Roots Gospel Album: Reba McEntire is out front with Sing It Now: Songs of Faith & Hope. Last year’s winner, Joey + Rory’s Hymns That Are Important to Us, was also a country crossover hit. My prediction: Reba McEntire.

Best Americana Album: This will likely come down to the last album by Gregg Allman (Southern Blood), who died in May, and Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s The Nashville Sound. Isbell won two years ago with his previous album, Something More Than Free. If he wins again, he’ll tie Levon Helm as the only two-time winner in the category’s history. My prediction: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit.

Best Traditional Blues Album: The Rolling Stones are likely to win for Blue & Lonesome. The Stones were, appropriately, the first winners of Best Rock Album when that category was introduced in 1994. (They won for Voodoo Lounge.) They’re vying to become the first act to win in both disparate categories. My prediction: The Rolling Stones.

Best Folk Album: Yusuf/Cat Stevens is nominated for The Laughing Apple. This is, amazingly, his first-ever Grammy nomination. His ’70s recordings were in the same soft-rock, singer/songwriter vein as Carole King and James Taylor. Why were they big Grammy winners while Stevens was repeatedly ignored? Discuss amongst yourselves. My prediction: Yusuf/Cat Stevens.

Best Spoken Word Album (Includes Poetry, Audio Books & Storytelling): I’ll go with Sen. Bernie Sanders (and actor Mark Ruffalo) for Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In, edging out Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run and the late Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist. Most Grammy voters are staunch Democrats. Past winners in this category include Jimmy Carter (twice), Barack Obama (twice), Bill Clinton, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Al Franken and Jesse Jackson, plus albums that paid tribute to Harry Truman, JFK and FDR. My prediction: Bernie Sanders and Mark Ruffalo.

Best Musical Theater Album: Dear Evan Hansen will beat the Bette Midler revival of Hello, Dolly! This will be the third time Dolly has lost in this category. The cast album from the original 1964 production starring Carol Channing lost to Funny Girl. A 1995 revival, also starring Channing, lost to Smokey Joe’s Café: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller. My prediction: Dear Evan Hansen.

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical: This was the first nom in this category for Calvin Harris, but this wasn’t an especially big year for him. It’s the second nom in this category for Blake Mills, who produced five albums during the eligibility year (I like his work ethic!). It’s the fourth nom in this category for Greg Kurstin, whose top credit was Foo FightersConcrete and Gold. It’s the first for both No I.D., who co-produced Jay-Z’s album, and The Stereotypes, who worked on tracks on Mars’ album. Kurstin won last year. He is vying to become the only the second producer to win back-to-back awards in the history of this category (which dates to 1974). The first was Babyface, who won three in a row from 1995 through 1997. But I.D. is also a strong contender. My prediction: No I.D.

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