GRAMMY CHEW: THE STATE OF THE RACE

With Music’s Biggest Night (Vegas Edition) happening Sunday, here’s the state of the Big Four as we see it.

Before we dive in, one detour: With market leaders like Olivia Rodrigo, Lil Nas X, Justin Bieber and Billie Eilish at the front of the pack (and Grammy favorites like H.E.R. and Brandi Carlile in the mix), there remains the question of where heavily nominated outlier Jon Batiste fits in. The gifted composer/musician is clearly beloved by the creative community, and it’s not beyond consideration that he could sweep. Most oddsmakers, though, believe he’s more likely to get some hardware in genre categories than to take all (or any) of the Big 4. Again, though, stranger things have happened.

RECORD OF THE YEAR

At this point, it seems that Olivia Rodrigo’s massive breakout “drivers license” and Justin Bieber’s ubiquitous pop earworm “Peaches” f/Daniel Caesar and GIVĒON are the front-runners. Lil Nas X’s “MONTERO (Call Me by Your Name)” may be just a hair behind, though it’s conceivable that one of these three will get ROTY and one of the others will win Song, as Grammy sometimes treats the two categories interchangeably (yes, we know SOTY is a songwriters’ award). The Academy does love Billie Eilish, too, so don’t count out her “happier than ever.”

SONG OF THE YEAR

Again, it feels as though Olivia, Biebs and Lil Nas will be contending for this one. Yes, we know it’s a songwriters’ award.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Though this was once the signal contest of the Grammys, over the last few years it’s sometimes felt like a consolation prize, acknowledgment of high-profile acts and Grammy favorites who’d been bypassed in other top categories. This could mean that Lil Nas, who’s up against such stiff competition in ROTY/SOTY, could be recognized here. The same, of course, could be said for Batiste if the Academy really wants to give him a top-tier win. What’s more, a sentimental vote for ailing great Tony Bennett could propel his final duet set with Lady Gaga, Love for Sale, into the front ranks (though handicappers are inclined to believe Love will be rewarded with Traditional Pop Album). Finally, Olivia or Billie could easily walk away with this one.

BEST NEW ARTIST

If there’s such a thing as a lock in Grammyland, one would think Olivia had this thing in the bag. No one else in the crowded field of BNA nominees had the year she had, from chart dominance to cultural reverberation. O-Rod went from strength to strength, and a victory for her would reaffirm the category as a reflection of mass sentiment rather than tastemaker favoritism (see Esperanza Spalding).

Could Olivia sweep all four top categories and beyond? Given that her emergence—like that of prior Big 4 champ Eilish—was rapid, poised and complete, it’s more than possible. Militating against this eventuality: the Grammys’ need for greater diversity and the insider horse-trading and agenda-serving that condition the outcome.

As always, we could be completely off here, and the vibe of the race could change right up to the last minute. Stay tuned, and stay away from the baccarat table.

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