By JONATHAN LANDRUM Jr. and KRISTIN M. HALL, AP Entertainment Writers
The number of nominees for the Grammys’ top awards keeps growing, up to 10 this year, making the competition stronger, but predictions a lot trickier. Are too many pop artists going to split the vote, making an upset more likely? Can we even count on past wins as a guide?
Associated Press Entertainment Writers Jonathan Landrum Jr. and Kristin M. Hall break down the Grammy nominees, agreeing at the very least that Olivia Rodrigo is going to pick up gold trophies. But the writers (and likely Grammy voters, too) are conflicted when there is so much stiff competition between artists like Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, Billie Eilish and Rodrigo.
The 64th annual Grammy Awards will air on Sunday, April 3 on CBS and Paramount+.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: “We Are,” Jon Batiste; “Love For Sale,” Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga; “Justice (Triple Chucks Deluxe),” Justin Bieber; “Planet Her (Deluxe Edition),” Doja Cat; “Happier Than Ever,” Billie Eilish; “Back of My Mind,” H.E.R.; “MONTERO,” Lil Nas X; “Sour,” Olivia Rodrigo; “Evermore,” Taylor Swift; “Donda,” Kanye West.
LANDRUM: Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga are a perfect match to win album of the year against some stiff competition. It’ll be a tight race between the dynamic duo along with Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo, but I think Bennett and Gaga will reign supreme above the rest of the well-respected pack with their unmatched chemistry displayed by the legendary crooners on “Love for Sale.” True, there’s a lifelong bond and synergy between the sister-brother combo of Eilish and Finneas. Rodrigo has one of the biggest early career splashes of success too. But the magic created by Bennett and Gaga is a rare occurrence — especially for Bennett, who showed in his 90s that he can still vocally hold his own and flourish with Gaga in their collection of masterful duets.
HALL: Aww, Jonathan, I had no idea you were such a romantic! Even a hard-hearted cynic like me has a hard time arguing against a duo who has 30 Grammys (and a lifetime achievement award) between them. This category has such variety from debut albums and pop and rap stars evolving through various levels of fame all the way to musical icons. But I am gonna go with my gut, not my heart, and say that Rodrigo ekes out a tight contest that is likely to split among pop fans. Her inescapable fun pop rock hits have turned the young artist into a household name, giving her a slight edge over Grammy favs Eilish and Swift.
RECORD OF THE YEAR: “I Still Have Faith in You,” ABBA; “FREEDOM,” Jon Batiste; “I Get a Kick Out of You,” Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga; “Peaches,” Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon; “Right on Time,” Brandi Carlile; “Kiss Me More,” Doja Cat featuring SZA; “Happier Than Ever,” Billie Eilish; “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” Lil Nas X; “Drivers License,” Olivia Rodrigo; “Leave the Door Open,” Silk Sonic.
HALL: I know I’m not supposed to, but I am talking about Bruno. As in Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak creating a lush soundscape with their Silk Sonic collaboration. “Leave the Door Open” is an smooth ’70s era R&B throwback that just hits the right notes, from the tinkling keys to the first lines of the song: “What you doin’? Where you at? Oh you got plans? Don’t say that.” Mars and .Paak made some nostalgic 24K magic here that is my jam.
LANDRUM: I think Eilish will completely shut Silk Sonic’s door. She’s too much of a force for the other competitors here. And through “Happier Than Ever,” she’ll make history by becoming the first artist to win three straight years in the category and join Paul Simon as the only artist with three record of the year victories.
SONG OF THE YEAR (songwriter’s award): “Bad Habits,” “A Beautiful Noise,” “Drivers License,” “Fight For You,” “Happier Than Ever,” “Kiss Me More,” “Leave The Door Open,” “MONTERO (Call Me By Your Name),” “Peaches,” “Right On Time.”
LANDRUM: I probably played Justin Bieber’s “Peaches” featuring Daniel Caesar and Giveon more than the other nominee’s tracks. I was captured by the song’s feel-good melody and Bieber’s catchy hook — which oftentimes still plays in my head. But after my soliloquy, I’m predicting that H.E.R. will go back-to-back in this category for “Fight for You,” a soulful song with poignant lyrics from the “Judas and the Black Messiah” soundtrack. The song — written by H.E.R., producer D’Mile and singer Tiara Thomas — won an Academy Award for best original song last year. It offers a powerful message just like last year’s winner “I Can’t Breathe” and I think ”Fight for You” will win this bout for the trio at the Grammys too.
HALL: The Recording Academy clearly LOVES Eilish and has anointed the star with seven Grammys already, so she looks like a good shoo-in. “Happier Than Ever” is a cinematic melodramatic story song, showing the different sides of the alternative pop singer-songwriter, even if it wasn’t one of the bigger songs from her album. Although part of me really would love for Lil Nas X to surprise everyone with a win here.
BEST NEW ARTIST: Arooj Aftab; Jimmie Allen; Baby Keem; Finneas; Glass Animals; Japanese Breakfast; The Kid Laroi; Arlo Parks; Olivia Rodrigo; Saweetie.
HALL: So many deserving names in this category (and I think Jimmie Allen is the hardest working artist in country music right now), but there’s no doubt this award is reserved for Rodrigo. Just go ahead and engrave her name on it.
LANDRUM: This award should be signed, sealed and delivered to Rodrigo. Sorry Saweetie, but there’s a bona fide sleeper in this category: Finneas. Yep, Eilish’s brother who has already won eight Grammys through his producer and co-writer work on his sister’s projects. Do I honestly think Finneas will upset Rodrigo? No. She’s had too big of a year to lose. But there’s a small part of me that believes Finneas has a sliver of a chance. Sometimes, that’s all you need.
BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE: “Anyone,” Justin Bieber; “Right on Time,” Brandi Carlile; “Happier Than Ever,” Billie Eilish; “Positions,” Ariana Grande; “Drivers License,” Olivia Rodrigo.
LANDRUM: Eilish or the Biebs could derail, but Rodrigo’s “drivers license” should be coasting down the road in the winner’s seat with no detours.
HALL: You know what is even better than finally earning your driver’s license? A Grammy trophy. I hope she drives it around in her passenger seat to gloat over that ex.
BEST RAP PERFORMANCE: “Thot S(asterisk)(asterisk)(asterisk),” Megan The Stallion; “M Y. L I F E,” J. Cole feat. 21 Savage and Morray; “Up,” Cardi B; “Family Ties,” Baby Keem feat. Kendrick Lamar.
HALL: Megan and Cardi are still on fire even when they are dropping singles between albums, but there’s no match for the lyrical one-two punch from cousins Baby Keem and Kendrick Lamar. The family affair is a two-part song, pairing up Keem, the rising star who arrives to fanfare with a blare of horns and a drum line, with Lamar, one of the most acclaimed rappers of our time, who declares “I am the Omega.” The Pulitzer Prize winner, who has been mostly quiet musically since the “Black Panther” soundtrack, drops plenty of hints that more is coming from him.
LANDRUM: Lamar and Keem’s family ties to this category will be broken. For me, this is a toss up between the “WAP” duo — Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B. It’ll be close, but I believe Cardi’s crossover hit “Up” will entice voters enough to literally send her up on stage to claim this award and become the first woman to win this category as a solo artist.
BEST R&B PERFORMANCE: “Pick Up Your Feelings,” Jazmine Sullivan; “Leave The Door Open,” Silk Sonic; “Damage,” H.E.R.; “Peaches,” Justin Beiber feat. Daniel Caesar and Giveon; “Lost You,” Snoh Aalegra.
LANDRUM: Flip flop my choice about H.E.R. and Bieber in the song of the year category for this one. I love H.E.R.’s “Damage,” but I think “Peaches” by Bieber is satisfying my sweet tooth for best R&B performance.
HALL: I love both “Pick Up Your Feelings” and “Damage” for their smart and sexy lyrics, so I am torn. But I think Silk Sonic will skate away with the win in this category.
BEST COUNTRY SOLO PERFORMANCE: “You Should Probably Leave,” Chris Stapleton; “camera roll,” Kacey Musgraves; “All I Do Is Drive,” Jason Isbell; “Remember Her Name,” Mickey Guyton; “Forever After All,” Luke Combs.
HALL: This is a singer’s category, so you’ve got to have the pipes and Stapleton could easily win this award again. Combs’ time is coming soon, but I think Guyton’s performance of a song so personal gives her an advantage. Guyton’s voice is supple and strong on “Remember Her Name” and I think Grammy voters will remember her positively.
LANDRUM: Last year, Guyton showed up. This year, she’ll show out. Just like the name of her album and song, you’ll absolutely remember her name when Guyton prevails in this category.
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