BNA is the hardest Grammy category by far to predict, and we are fully prepared—when the noms finally come out—to have egg on our faces. It’ll go nicely with all the food already on our clothes. But with a big, diverse field and changing rules (how many tracks in the marketplace can you have and still be kosher? How long can an act have been around? Why, exactly, didn’t DaBaby qualify? Is Willie Nelson still eligible?) anything could happen. Just ask Alessia Cara. Or Esperanza Spalding.

With these and any other caveats you wish to add, we now plunge into the field of contenders who actually made it onto the ballot.


Lewis Capaldi: The Scottish troubadour has summited the pop mountain with the gorgeous “Someone You Loved,” and is one of the few new artists in the adult space to become huge. Capaldi’s self-deprecating humor (dude, that accent) and creative use of the socials have offered an appealing counterpoint to his heart-wrenching music.

Billie Eilish: L.A.’s 17-year-old marvel has not only gone from an underground phenom to a chart-ruling monster, but she’s done so with envelope-pushing music and themes. She’s ruled Top 40 radio and streaming, created indelible visuals and sold buttloads of tickets. Plus an entire generation of kids devoutly following her every move. Is anyone more deserving of consideration?

Lil Nas X: “Old Town Road” was as big as anything can get in pop culture. Even with its various remixes, this genre-bending earworm required the Atlantan’s palpable charm to push it over the top. He’s since had solid success with “Panini,” and his decision to come out of the closet in the midst of the hoopla was both endearing and uplifting. This horse can run.

Lizzo: The flute-wielding artist/songwriter from Detroit rolls up R&B, rap and pop and has emerged as a force of positivity and female empowerment, with streaming monster “Truth Hurts” leading and album Cuz I Love You collecting plaudits. She also got a look in the J.Lo movie Hustlers. Her momentum definitely puts her among the frontrunners.

Maggie Rogers: The adventurous singer/songwriter/producer may be an outlier in a field dominated by market-crushing breakouts, but esteem for the Maryland-bred Rogers’ ambitious album Heard It in a Past Life is high—and the reach of single “Light On” (a moving message to her supportive fan base) continues to grow. She’s the dark horse, but she could well be in it.


Badflower: If any rock act is going to make the short list, it should be this one—with two radio #1s, critical acclaim, a rabid fan base and substantive message, L,A.’s Badflower is truly an arrival. Will the Committee step up and recognize the rock band that’s had the biggest impact in the past year?

Tyler Childers: As we’ve noted previously, Kentucky’s Childers might be the closest thing to a Brandi Carlile-type outsider—traditional/rootsy but not straight-up country, with strong songs and impeccable Americana style. Did enough people listen?

Juice WRLD: Not long ago, you couldn’t open a playlist without encountering Juice’s trippy and ingratiating “Lucid Dreams.” Meanwhile, his album Goodbye & Good Riddance showed his range. The Chicago native should’ve gotten a nom last year, but he’s one of the strongest contenders from the hip-hop world this year as well.

Lil Tecca: “Ransom” put this teen from Queens atop the streaming heap, and his Top 5 mixtape continued the noise. Despite a nerdish exterior—replete with glasses and braces—Tecca has a raffish confidence that’s hard to dislike. But did he arrive just a hair too late to be in the front ranks?

Rosalía: One of the most offbeat contenders on the field, this Spanish star has managed to mix flamenco, pop and hip-hop into an intoxicating new strain. Her collabs with Ozuna and other hot stars from the Latin world, meanwhile, have shown ever-increasing breadth and suggested the world is hers to conquer. Can voters get their heads around her ambitious hybrid?

Summer Walker: The most straightforward exponent of R&B on this list, Walker recently exploded at streaming with the drop of her full-length, but she was buzzing long before. Her soulful and at times introspective musical vibe is offset by a vivid personal style, and her work is calling out to an underserved, largely female listenership.

Morgan Wallen: The one straight-up, down-home country contender, this mulleted Tennessee native had a full-on smash with “Whiskey Glasses” and has won over Nashville. He’s shown increasing depth and possesses a surprisingly powerful voice; whether or not he makes the final eight, signs point to him sticking around.

Yungblud: Mixing alternative sonics, hip-hop flow and punk attitude, this fire-breathing Yorkshireman is the closest rival to Eilish for straight-up provocation, but he also possesses a strong melodic sensibility and impressive vocal chops. Thanks to some high-profile features, Yungblud has stayed on the radar; is it enough to win him a nom amid such tough competition?