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GRAMMY CHEW: THE WOMEN, THE ALBUMS

The Grammy furor over “step up” seems like a million years ago, and an array of other injustices, social crises and disasters have dominated the headlines since the last time trophies were handed out by maskless celebs under the same roof.

Nonetheless, gender parity is still very much top of mind in Grammyland, and it so happens that female acts are due to figure prominently in the Big Four categories this time out. Let’s take a gander at some of the top women artists vying for Album of the Year.

THE SUPERSTARS

Lady Gaga: Chromatica, the latest installment in the Interscope megastar’s fascinating, multi-faceted career, bowed at #1 (with 276k) and yielded a hit in the energizing Ariana Grande duet “Rain on Me.” Given this brilliant pop chameleon/movie star/TV vampire/standards crooner’s capacity to do, well, anything, Grammy is quite eager to have her on the show. Look for an AOTY nod to acknowledge her vision.

Taylor Swift: Tay’s latest #1 set, folklore, has enjoyed seven non-consecutive weeks of chart dominion, and marked the Republic idol’s pivot from the glossy pop of the last half-decade to a rootsier, more eclectic set that highlights her considerable gifts as a storyteller. Given the ardor with which both fans and critics responded, the momentum is huge for an AOTY nom.

Dua Lipa: 2019’s Best New Artist has more than lived up to the hype with big radio hits (notably “Don’t Start Now”); her widely admired 2020 full-length, Future Nostalgia (Warner), offers a brisk, confident update of disco-diva pop. Dua’s a Grammy darling now and should end up on the shortlist.

Megan Thee Stallion: Buoyed by a gigantic single with Beyoncé (“Savage”), this rapper is a bona fide badass and pop-culture supernova—but will Grammy find the ultra-explicit lyrics on her EP Suga out of sync with the moment?

Halsey: The Capitol pop explorer’s third album, Manic, would easily have scored a #1 bow early in 2020 but for Eminem’s surprise drop; it was also the first set of the year to be certified platinum. With eclectic hits like “Without Me” and “Graveyard”—and high-profile forays into prose and painting—Halsey continues to prove herself an artist of substance.

Camila Cabello: Her “Havana” on the 2019 Grammys was a showstopping throwback to the great Broadway production numbers, and subsequent smash “Senorita” with Shawn Mendes kept her on the radar. The triple nominee’s Romance, released by Epic late last year, could well earn a nom here and provide the platform for another splendid segment on the telecast.

Miranda Lambert: Vanner/RCA Nashville star Lambert continues to evolve creatively, and her moving performance of “Bluebird” on the ACMs was a reminder of her potency as a performer. Wildcard, which was edged for ACM Album of the Year by red-hot Luke Combs, looks likely to get a Grammy Country Album nod and could be a contender for AOTY.

THE BREAKTHROUGHS

Summer Walker: A seeming shoo-in (if there is such a thing) for a Best New Artist nod, this LVRN/Interscope breakout has led a renaissance in R&B, with songs that feel intimately specific and universal all at once. She’s also fared brilliantly in the marketplace. A nom for her album Over It would properly affirm her importance to the musical moment.

Jhené Aiko: Another trailblazer in new-school soul, ARTium/Def Jam’s Aiko draws listeners in with a jazzy, meditative vibe—and delivers biting lyrics like “you’re motherfucking right I’m bitter.” Sonic beauty and sharp honesty coexist gracefully on her Chilombo; her moment could be now.

Gabby Barrett: The Warner Nashville newcomer’s gloriously vengeful “I Hope” was a monster, but even her admirers wondered if she could prove herself more than one big song. After her ACMs appearance threw a bit more light on her set Goldmine, it appears she might. She’s already got BNA heat; could AOTY also be in the mix?

Doja Cat: With one giant hit (“Say So”) and huge pop-cultural impact, RCA’s biggest arrival of the year blends a colorful presence and raw, vivid rhymes. She’s clearly in the mix for BNA; if Grammy decides to anoint her, full-length Hot Pink could sashay into this category too.

Phoebe Bridgers: This indie singer/songwriter has been widely touted for BNA, and in her case the buzz derives from her album, Punisher, which brashly blends old-school troubadour values with timely experimentation. If one outsider ends up among the nominees, it could well be Phoebe.

WILDCARDS

Brittany Howard: The erstwhile Alabama Shakes frontwoman has kissed a lot of babies—and earned four trophies—in Grammyland, setting the table for her highly personal solo debut, Jaime (ATO), to get a good look. Will her expansive, genre-defying set be the outlier nominee in the next AOTY crop?

Fiona Apple: 1998’s Best New Artist remains unpredictable and inventive—and on her most recent set, some might say downright perverse. But Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters (Epic) earned swoons from critics itching for adventurous new music. Is it too adventurous?

 

 

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