GRAMMY CHEW: THE STATE OF PLAY ON ALBUM OF THE YEAR

We long ago gave up “predicting” what Grammy would do, given the strange tangle of agendas that drives the final result. We can only tell you what makes sense to us and the vibe we get in each category. Here’s what we make of Album.

Beyoncé, RENAISSANCE (Parkwood/Columbia): This should be Queen Bey’s year. She got the short end of the stick the last few times; this set was a commercial and critical success that had major cultural impact; and her celebration of LGBTQ+/ballroom culture was substantive and necessary. She’s the clear favorite.

Kendrick Lamar, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers (pgLang/TDE/Aftermath/Interscope): The Pulitzer-winning rapper’s most powerful, progressive, daring work yet, the critically lauded Mr. Morale would be the frontrunner were it not for Bey. If he doesn’t win this, we still expect Kendrick to be amply rewarded in other categories.

Adele, 30 (Columbia): The British superstar is in a class of her own. While her latest album is not the biggest of her career, it featured a huge hit and reinforced her seemingly boundless appeal. It just doesn’t quite feel like her year. Will she be recognized in the Pop categories?

Harry Styles, Harry’s House (Columbia): One of the biggest stars in the world, with one of the top records of the year, would be a shoo-in if the field—and Grammy attitudes—were different. If he misses out in the major categories, he, too, might be rewarded in Pop.

Bad Bunny, Un Verano Sin Ti (Rimas): The Latin phenom has the most popular album of the year by a country mile; his inclusion among the AOTY nominees—a first for a Spanish-language album—is an acknowledgement of his considerable importance.

Lizzo, Special (Nice Life/Atlantic): The singer-rapper-musician-TV personality has a far bigger profile than just music, and Grammy definitely wants her on the telecast—ideally playing James Madison’s flute. Even so, was her album’s impact comparable to that of the sets above?

Mary J. Blige, Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe) (300): The Queen of Hip-Hop Soul should’ve gotten an AOTY trophy long ago; her inclusion here is in the long tradition of make-good noms that play like career-achievement awards.

ABBA, Voyage (Capitol): The Swedish pop troupe’s inclusion here also seems like a career-achievement prize; there’s no question that the foursome had a transformative impact on the musical landscape in their heyday; will that be enough?

Brandi Carlile, In These Silent Days (Low Country Sound/Elektra): Grammy can’t get enough of Brandi, so her inclusion here isn’t exactly a shock. Could her strong support among Academy players cause her to vault over the more obvious contenders? Anything’s possible.

Coldplay, Music of the Spheres (Parlophone): Grammy loves these British pop-rock veterans, whose every release tends to get top-tier consideration (they’ve amassed 31 noms and seven wins over the course of their career). They’re also nominated in Pop Duo/Group Performance and Pop Vocal Album this time around; do they have a shot in this starry category?

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