Despite an incredibly crowded field, Grammy has reduced the number of spots in the Big 4 categories from 10 to eight, making it even harder to guess who might make the cut—particularly given the Academy’s propensity for left-field choices. But guessing is what we do, so we’ve assembled the following into “semi-locks,” “should be locks, but…” (factoring in Grammy politics and whatnot), “other major contenders” and “also under serious discussion.” This is based on our incredibly biased opinions and the buzz we’re hearing. Even so, say it with us: Grammy does what Grammy wants. OK, let’s get to it.


SZA, SOS (TDE/RCA): SZA’s leap to superstardom came with this brilliant, chart-ruling set, a brutally honest, melodically adventurous batch of next-level R&B (and more). As both writer and singer she’s at the top of her game. If this isn’t on the shortlist, we may as well all go home.

Taylor Swift, Midnights (Republic): The album that marked the beginning of Taylor’s total cultural dominance is also one of her most thoughtful, artful outings in years. She may have become The Queen of All Media, but it starts with her craft, which is firing on all cylinders.

Olivia Rodrigo, GUTS (Geffen): O-Rod leans into her alternative-pop influences on this pleasingly varied follow-up to her monster debut, and it’s a delight to hear her really roar. What’s more, she and collaborator Daniel Nigro accomplish complicated shifts in tone with impressive ease. Lyrically, Rodrigo hits a new level of storytelling. Call GUTS her This Year’s Model.

Luke Combs, Gettin’ Old (River House/Columbia Nashville): Combs’ “Fast Car” cover is a runaway smash, but don’t ignore his original material, which is beautifully wrought and delivered with maximum effect. While it’s hitting that country-meets-Southern-rock sweet spot, its emotional depth sneaks up on you.


Zach Bryan, Zach Bryan (Warner): The Oklahoma disruptor’s self-titled set further cements his status as one of the most powerful and authentic singer-songwriters in any genre. His gravity, economy and emotional directness make each song hit like a missile. A few stellar guest features don’t hurt either.

Morgan Wallen, One Thing at a Time (Big Loud/Mercury/Republic): The 900-lb. gorilla on this year’s chart, Wallen’s top-streaming set has shifted the center of gravity in the music marketplace, and his canny, unflinching songs just keep hitting the bull's-eye. But could his past peccadillos prevent Grammy from giving him his due?

Miley Cyrus, Endless Summer Vacation (Columbia): Miley’s “Flowers,” one of the year’s biggest songs, sets the tone for a collection that finds pop’s erstwhile wild child older, wiser and, well, happier. Miley remains one of the most gifted singers in the game, and here she has material to match. Will she earn more flowers on Grammy night?

Drake & 21 Savage, Her Loss (OVO/Republic): Drake’s combative past remarks about the Grammys make the path to a top-tier nomination a treacherous one, but this juggernaut of an album might just charge onto the shortlist anyway. Amid the thundering beats are plenty of melodic nuggets and other sonic surprises.


Peso Pluma, GÉNESIS (Double P/Prajin Parlay): This música Mexicana phenom, the biggest arrival in Latin music since Bad Bunny, seems very likely to be on the BNA shortlist (thanks in part to his features on starry multigenre Latin hits). His corridos/tumbados sound is full of hip-hop swagger and has utterly captivated his young audience. Will his importance be properly acknowledged?

Noah Kahan, Stick Season (Mercury/Republic): This Vermont-bred troubadour’s earthy, beautiful songs really stick to your ribs—as evidenced by his big streaming success. Like Bryan, he is part of the marketplace’s most pronounced turn toward stripped-down, folky music since the early ’70s. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him have a breakout moment on Music’s Biggest Night.

Jelly Roll, Whitsitt Chapel (Broken Bow): The new face of country is covered with tattoos and shadowed by the tussle between loss and redemption. Jelly’s scorching, rock-infused songs make the standard tropes of Music Row look positively quaint by comparison, but he’s got craft aplenty. These songs continue to reverberate long after they’re over.

Lana Del Rey, Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd (Interscope): LDR’s stately, cinematic and often gorgeously melancholy music is almost its own genre, and here she further gilds her subterranean domain. Suffused with pain and a profound sense of place, it’s a world-weary work of art.

Lainey Wilson, Bell Bottom Country (Broken Bow): Wilson is a fresh (and sharp) voice in country, with a sensibility that appeals to the heartland and the coasts. She may have had her most affecting moment on HARDY’s hit “wait in the truck,” but with this LP she shows her impressive range and ample charm.

KAROL G, MAÑANA SERÁ BONITO (Bichota/Interscope): One of the hottest young acts in the Latin world, this Colombian breakout deftly braids tropical, reggaeton and pop strands into a vibrantly pulsating party. She’s already been deluged with Latin Grammy noms; will she be similarly decorated here?

Ice Spice, Like...? (10K/Capitol): Rap’s rookie of the year is a strong candidate for Best New Artist, having impressed the music world with her dexterity and charisma. And this set amply showcases both her winning persona and considerable ferocity.

Tyler Childers, Rustin’ in the Rain (Hickman Holler/RCA): The Kentucky-bred country outlier may have turned heads with the dazzling same-sex love song “In Your Love,” but at times on this virtuosic seven-song set he seems to have beamed in from another era, bursting with early-rock fervor, gospel fury and honky-tonk feeling. There’s a burning immediacy to all of it. This guy has arrived.

Metro Boomin, HEROES & VILLAINS (Boominati/Republic): “Every story needs a superhero and a villain,” goes the intro to the Atlanta star’s latest trippy trap offering, which boasts some major guests and a sprawling sonic canvas. This is another set that looks destined for genre love—could it overperform heroically and hit the general-category shortlist?

Travis Scott, UTOPIA (Cactus Jack/Epic): An aurally ambitious set filled with top-tier features, UTOPIA is nonetheless defined by Travis’ trademark woozy flow. As ever, the energy is explosive, unpredictable and dangerous. Recognition in the rap categories seems like a given; could the star’s giant brand and marketplace impact help him ride to an AOTY nom?

Post Malone, AUSTIN (Republic): Posty’s most personal set yet—addressing addiction and other demons with remarkable honesty—is also one of his most musically satisfying. He excels in virtually every genre, from pop to country to hip-hop to rock, throwing hooks like a prizefighter. This may be strong medicine, but it goes down easy.

Bailey Zimmerman, Religiously (Warner Nashville/Elektra): Another country singer-songwriter who broke through the noise (with help from TikTok), Zimmerman earned big streams and impressed on tour. Among the most sweetly accessible of the earthy new troubadours, he could well be a contender for BNA as well as big genre love.

boygenius, the record (boygenius/Interscope): Uniting indie-pop heroines Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, this project will appeal to alternative-rock and Americana fans in particular, with ravishing harmonies and sharp-edged guitar riffs in equal measure. But the secret sauce is in the songwriting, which constantly zigs when you expect it to zag.

Laufey, Bewitched (AWAL): A jazz record that streams? This 24-year-old muso phenom is making young fans “Misty” by blending Norah Jones-esque vibe, classical chops and an of-the-moment POV. A perfect example of an artist both embracing cherished traditions and nudging them forward, she appears primed for Academy love.

Hozier, Unreal Unearth (Columbia): The Irish singer-songwriter hasn’t seen much chart action since his monster “Take Me to Church” nearly a decade ago, but his beautiful, expansive work continues to sprout startling new tendrils. A beguiling, occasionally thrilling amalgam of folk, rock, soul, pop and traditional music, Unreal assesses the pandemic and other disruptions through a fascinating, literate lens.

Lil Baby, It’s Only Me (Quality Control/Capitol): This 23-song set is studded with guests and doesn’t stray far from what’s worked for Baby in the past. But the material here—ranging from street-life episodes to penthouse soliloquies—crackles with life.


Brandy Clark, Brandy Clark (Warner): Clark’s stirring, Brandi Carlile-helmed set earned rapturous reviews, and she has serious juice in Grammyland.

Lil Durk, Almost Healed (Alamo): This star-studded set is all about recovering from trauma—just the sort of project the Academy likes to reward.

Coco Jones, What I Didn’t Tell You (Def Jam): Jones was R&B’s big arrival in ’23, led by breakout single “ICU.” Could her silky set make the AOTY cut?

Davido, Timeless (Columbia/RCA): If Afrobeat gets a big look on Music’s Biggest Night, this Nigerian star could be its most significant ambassador.

Various Artists, Barbie The Album (Atlantic): What could’ve been a plastic exercise became an artists’ dreamhouse—will the Academy be willing to play?

Ashley McBryde, The Devil I Know (Warner Nashville): A superb suite of country-rock. Can she break out of genre and get some top-tier love?

Foo Fighters, But Here We Are (Roswell/RCA): This album, which addresses the aftermath of Taylor Hawkins’ death, is a powerful thing.

VRRMMMM (5/17a)
Celebrity death match underway on album chart (5/17a)
Another talented journalist trapped in the career cul de sac (5/17a)
Cornering the market on surefire headliners (5/17a)
A genre mash-up at the home of the Cowboys (5/17a)
Gosh, we hope there are more press releases.
Unless the Senate manages to make this whole thing go away, that is.
No, not that one.
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