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Group Commentary: 2021 Grammy predictions

See who we expect to win, lose, and send us up the wall

After twelve months of being bombarded by the unexpected, it’s comforting to know that we can still count on the annual tradition of being disappointed by the Grammys.

The Recording Academy released the 2021 Grammy nominees in November of last year, and as per usual, the Internet took one look and then suffered a collective spiral. All of the Recording Academy’s greatest hits were on full display — the mishandling of artists of colour, the preferential treatment of commercial success, ridiculously performative solidarity, etc. — but what really stood out was the complete shutout of The Weeknd’s critical and commercial hit, After Hours

A string of angry tweets from The Weeknd soon manifested, followed by the usual think-pieces, all capped off with the time-honoured tradition of prominent artists swearing off the Recording Academy — for a second there, life almost felt normal again. 

But despite that moment of bittersweet nostalgia, the world moved on, and we now find ourselves just a few days away from the 2021 Grammys. This year’s COVID-friendly show is set to be hosted by Trevor Noah, and it’s sure to offer up some major wins, losses, and WTF moments. To prepare you for this Sunday’s show, we got some of our contributors to give us their predictions ahead of the biggest night in music. 

Record of the Year

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Nominees: “Black Parade” by Beyoncé, “Colors” by Black Pumas, “Rockstar” by DaBaby ft. Roddy Ricch, “Say So” by Doja Cat, “Everything I Wanted” by Billie Eilish, “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa, “Circles” by Post Malone, “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion ft. Beyoncé

Arthur

Who I think will win: Any of the TikTok songs will probably take the award solely because of how popular they are.

Who I think should win: “Everything I Wanted” by Billie Eilish should win. I like how the harmonies go along with the funky beats.

Tom

Who I think will win: I’m not really on TikTok, but from the TikToks that I have seen on Twitter and Instagram, “Say So” and “Savage” seem to be the most popular. I agree with Arthur though that TikTok could be the deciding factor.

Who I think should win: It’s virtually impossible to objectively say that a particular song was the best song of the year. The next best metric would be which song had the most cultural impact, and maybe I’m being swayed by TikTok, but I feel like that has to be “The Box” by Roddy Ricch. 

Amanda 

Who I think will win: I agree with Arthur and Tom. Songs that end up winning are usually ones that have had a large impact. My money would be on any of the popular TikTok songs because they’re catchy and memorable. 

Who I think should win: It’s a battle between Billie Eilish and Dua Lipa for me. All of the nominated artists created amazing pieces of art, and for that, I have a lot of respect for them. In the end, I think Billie Eilish’s “Everything I Wanted” should take the win because of how detail-orientated it is. Even the song’s smallest details are carefully considered and purposeful.

Album of the Year

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Nominees: Chilombo by Jhené Aiko, Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition) by Black Pumas, Everyday Life by Coldplay, Djesse Vol.3 by Jacob Collier, Women in Music Pt. III by HAIM, Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa, Hollywood’s Bleeding by Post Malone, folklore by Taylor Swift

Tom

Who I think will win: After watching 1989 somehow beat out Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly in 2016, I’ve learned that neither heaven nor hell can come between Taylor Swift and the Grammy for Album of the Year. Everyday Life’s nomination is the biggest surprise and Women in Music Pt. III might pose the biggest challenge, but like I said before, I know better than to ever doubt T-Swift. 

Who I think should win: This is the first category with an After Hours-sized hole, and I suspect that a decade from now we’ll be talking more about The Weeknd being snubbed than whoever actually wins. That said, I would give the Grammy to either Jay Electronica’s A Written Testimony, Ungodly Hour by Chloe X Halle, or The Slow Rush by Tame Impala, none of which are nominated. Lucky me!

Amanda 

Who I think will win: Can we just think about how much people lost their minds when folklore came out? Again, just based on popularity, Taylor Swift has a high chance of taking the win in this one. Although many of the nominated artists had popular songs, nobody’s album was talked about and praised like Swift’s. 

Who I think should win: Djesse Vol. 3, period. I’ve followed Jacob Collier for a long time and his journey in the Djesse series has been truly remarkable. The album stood out to me because of its intricacy and the thoroughness of his production decisions. Collier doesn’t have basic four-chord-pop in there, but intense harmonies and simple funky rhythms. Whether you’re a hardcore musician or not, there are levels of musical understanding that anyone can enjoy. I am also excited to see a jazz artist being recognized on a mainstream platform. 

Arthur

Who I think will win: If Djesse Vol.3 by Jacob Collier doesn’t win, folklore by Taylor Swift is a solid contender that could easily take the award home. It’s a peaceful album and I like the story throughout.

Who I think should win: I’m hoping for Djesse Vol.3 by Jacob Collier because the songs are so interesting. “All I Need” and “In Too Deep” are some bangers and I will be sad if Collier doesn’t win.

Song of the Year

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Nominees: “Black Parade” by Beyoncé, “The Box” by Roddy Ricch, “cardigan” by Taylor Swift, “Circles” by Post Malone, “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa, “Everything I Wanted” by Billie Eilish, “I Can’t Breathe” by H.E.R., “If The World Was Ending” by JP Saxe ft.  Julia Michaels

Tom

Who I think will win: Roddy Ricch might feel hard done by to have gotten so few nominations this year, but I think he has a pretty good chance here. Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish are always going to be hard to beat though, so if I was Roddy Ricch, I would still be prepared for the worst.

Who I think should win: So apparently the difference between Song of the Year and Record of the Year is that Record of the Year honours the performing artist while Song of the Year honours the songwriter.

Not only does that nugget of information force me to cast some major side-eye at the Record of the Year nominees, but it also pushes me toward “Black Parade” by Beyoncé. I’ve always had conflicting feelings about artists that use teams of writers, but “Black Parade” is definitely the most interesting piece of songwriting nominated.

Amanda 

Who I think will win: Based on the criteria for Song of the Year, I think “I Can’t Breathe” by H.E.R will take the win. The meaning of the track and the songwriting behind it really got in touch with people’s emotions, especially with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement over the summer. The song is super relevant to what we’re all trying to be about. 

Who I think should win: Again, it has to be “I Can’t Breathe.” Not only do I think it will win, but I also hope it does so based on its purpose and the meaning behind it. 

Arthur

Who I think will win: Either “Everything I Wanted” by Billie Eilish or “cardigan” by Taylor Swift would be my pick.

Who I think should win:  I think “If The World Was Ending” by JP Saxe ft.  Julia Michaels is the most 2020 song ever. With all the crazy stuff that happened last year, it would be funny if this song won.

Best New Artist

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Nominees: Ingrid Andress, Phoebe Bridgers, Chika, Noah Cyrus, D SMOKE, Doja Cat, Kaytranada, Megan Thee Stallion

Tom

Who I think will win: Megan Thee Stallion is the favourite in my opinion, but considering the success of “Say So,” I wouldn’t be surprised to see Doja Cat win. Why on earth Kaytranada and Noah Cyrus are being called new artists is beyond me. It’s also nice to see Chika and D SMOKE getting some recognition, even though D SMOKE is probably an industry plant.

Who I think should win: I can’t possibly see past Megan Thee Stallion. It took her just one hot girl summer to go from YouTube freestyles to arguably the biggest name in hip-hop. Meg’s presence is now so ubiquitous that it’s almost impossible to imagine hip-hop before her.

Amanda 

Who I think will win: I think Doja Cat will win because of “Say So” and its popularity on TikTok. Doja Cat didn’t just make sure she wasn’t one hit wonder, but she’s also has kept up her popularity with new releases. However, Phoebe Bridgers’ name has been circulating quite a bit lately so we’ll have to wait and see. 

Who I think should win: I agree with Tom, why are Noah Cyrus and Kaytranada considered new artists? That said, I’m stuck between Noah Cyrus and Phoebe Bridgers. They are both beautiful artists whose music has managed to mature over the years. 

Arthur

Who I think will win: I think it makes sense if either Doja Cat or Megan Thee Stallion take the award because they’ve made pretty good bops that got famous on TikTok.

Who I think should win: Ingrid Andress came up in my YouTube autoplay and I must say she makes beautifully written songs. “More Hearts Than Mine” hit me right in the feels, even though I haven’t had any experiences with breakups.

Best Pop Vocal Album

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Nominees: Changes by Justin Bieber, Chromatica by Lady Gaga, Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa, Fine Line by Harry Styles, folklore by Taylor Swift

Tom

Who I think will win: You’ll have to forgive my jaw denting the floor, but I just saw that Changes got nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album. Not only was Changes not yummy, it was barely digestible! It also managed to undo all of the Biebs’ positive evolution since 2015’s Purpose, all in just 47 shitty minutes. 

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, need I say more than Taylor Swift? I’ll take folklore for $1000, please.

Who I think should win: Despite all of my Taylor Swift snipes, I actually really liked folklore. I wouldn’t be mad at Chromatica winning — two years after A Star is Born, Lady Gaga is making a strong case for being considered the most talented person in Hollywood — but heaven forbid Justin Bieber gets anywhere near that stage. 

Amanda 

Who I think will win: We definitely have some classics in here, but I think that either Harry Styles or Taylor Swift might take the win. Both of their albums were off the charts and showed really great artistry.

Who I think should win: I hope Harry Styles wins. I never really listened to his stuff until Fine Line came out and I have to say, that album slaps! It’s groovy, catchy, and beautiful in a lot of different ways. 

Arthur

Who I think will win: Either Fine Line by Harry Styles or folklore by Taylor Swift should easily take the award.

Best Alternative Album

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Nominees: Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple, Hyperspace by Beck, Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers, Jaime by Brittany Howard, The Slow Rush by Tame Impala

Tom

Who I think will win: Fetch the Bolt Cutters is one of a few albums to ever receive a perfect 10 from Pitchfork, and considering how self-congratulatory critic culture is, I wouldn’t overlook that kind of distinction. 

Who I think should win: This is probably the hardest category to parse through. Hyperspace was a solid project, and Jaime and Fetch the Bolt Cutters both had some of the strongest starts I heard the entire year, but The Slow Rush was arguably the most consistent album/vibe of 2020, and for that reason I would give it the win.

Best Progressive R&B Album

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Nominees: Chilombo by Jhené Aiko, Ungodly Hour by Chloe X Halle, Free Nationals by Free Nationals, F*** Yo Feelings by Robert Glasper, It Is What It Is by Thundercat

Tom

Who I think will win: Call me crazy, but I feel like the only album that also got nominated for Album of the Year, i.e. Chilombo, is probably going to win. 

Fun fact: “Best Progressive R&B Album” is actually a rebranding of the “Best Urban Contemporary Album” category, a name which was ditched due to its racial connotations. This is just one of the many changes made by the Grammys to supposedly make the award show more inclusive, but if you ask any artists what they think, it still feels like the category is code for “Black people that don’t rap.”

Who I think should win: You could make a strong case that Ungodly Hour should be nominated for Album of the Year, and when I say “you could make a strong case,” I really mean “I could make a strong case.” Ungodly Hour was efficient and fun with endless replay value, whereas Chilombo was — with the exception of a few songs — kind of a snoozefest.

Best Rap Album

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Nominees: Black Habits by D SMOKE, Alfredo by Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist, A Written Testimony by Jay Electronica, King’s Disease by Nas, The Allegory by Royce Da 5’9″

Tom

Who I think will win: Not since Tha Carter V has a rap album had more years of anticipation behind it than Jay Electronica’s A Written Testimony, a debut that was literally 13 years in the making. Unlike Tha Carter V though, A Written Testimony actually met those expectations. With more than a little help from JAY-Z, Jay Electronica accomplished the singular feat of creating an album that sounds holy, hood, and high-minded, all at once. A Written Testimony is definitely my pick.

Who I think should win: I personally don’t have too many problems with this batch of nominees, but I also have very specific tastes when it comes to hip-hop. It’s nice to see longtime vets like Freddie Gibbs and Royce Da 5’9” finally getting their flowers, but if I’m being objective, some pretty glaring omissions are Big Sean’s Detroit 2, Lil Uzi’s Eternal Atake, and Mac Miller’s posthumous album Circles. Mac Miller being left out feels especially egregious considering how the Grammys treated his family at the 2019 awards.

That said, no matter who was nominated this year I would still give the Grammy to A Written Testimony. 

Tom Ndekezi

Tom Ndekezi is the The Gateway’s 2020-21 Arts and Culture Editor and a fifth-year Biological Sciences student. When he’s not busy learning about the brutalities of selection, Tom can be found obsessing over hip-hop, watching soccer, cooking Crohn’s-friendly foods and coming to grips with being left-handed in a right-handed world.

Arthur Macatangay

Arthur is a senior volunteer contributor and a photographer for the Gateway. If you don’t see him looking at memes on Instagram and TikTok, he’s either drawing digitally, trying out new songs on the piano or hanging out with his dog.

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