Photo edit: Sara Krahel (@SaraKrahel).
Editor’s note: Since publishing, Grammy contenders and their teams have revealed which categories they’ll be submitted into. Pop Crave will be editing the predictions below accordingly.
If there’s one takeaway from this year’s crop of Grammy contenders, it’s that female artists have gone above and beyond the infamous call to “step up” from Grammy president Neil Portnow in 2018.
Following the controversial 2018 Grammy telecast in which just one woman was nominated for Album of the Year (Lorde) and presented an award on live TV (Alessia Cara), Portnow made headlines when he excused the under-representation due to a lack of effort by female performers. The statement rightfully caused an uproar online as superstars such as P!nk, Sheryl Crow and Katy Perry called out the sexism for what it was.
Two years later, the 2020 Grammys is shaping up to be yet another role reversal similar to last year’s ceremony with female artists like Billie Eilish, Ariana Grande, Lizzo and Lady Gaga potentially leading an already stacked race. The team at Pop Crave parsed through the last 11 months of music to create a comprehensive look at eight of the biggest Grammy races come 2020:
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Album of the Year is looking to be a showdown between superstars Ariana Grande (‘thank u, next’) and Billie Eilish (‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’), two artists whose projects dominated streaming in 2019 while earning rave reviews from critics. The pair are representative of boundary-pushing pop in the streaming era that will undoubtedly be noticed by academy members.
Best-selling artists Lizzo (‘Cuz I Love You’) and Lady Gaga (‘A Star Is Born’) are also strong contenders in the field and as close to locks as one gets. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift’s latest blockbuster LP, ‘Lover’ boasts her best chances in entering the category since ‘1989.’
With 8 potential nominees this year, the Grammys will surely look to include one or two under-the-radar nominees along the lines of past AOTY nominees like Beck’s “Morning Phase” (2014) and Brandi Carlile’s ‘By The Way, I Forgive You’ (2019). Academy members have a wealth of such projects to choose from like ‘Honey’ by Robyn, ‘Heard It In A Past Life’ by Maggie Rogers, ‘Caution’ by Mariah Carey and ‘When I Get Home’ by Solange.
The 2019 for AOTY looks to be one of the thickest yet with a handful of other strong competitors like ‘Happiness Begins’ by The Jonas Brothers, ‘IGOR’ by Tyler, The Creator, ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’ by Lana Del Rey and the Beyonce albums ‘Lion King: The Gift’ and ‘Homecoming.’ And don’t count out underdog candidates Rosalia, Madonna, Jenny Lewis and BTS.
Other Grammy players: ‘A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships’ by The 1975; ‘Free Spirit’ by Khalid; ‘Western Stars’ by Bruce Springsteen; ‘Father of the Bride’ by Vampire Weekend; ‘Dedicated’ by Carly Rae Jepsen; ‘Championships’ by Meek Mill; ‘No. 6 Collaborations Project’ by Ed Sheeran; ‘Ventura’ by Anderson Paak; ‘The Big Day’ by Chance The Rapper;
RECORD OF THE YEAR
The prestigious Grammy for Record of the Year category tends to favor tracks that were inescapable, left a mark on the culture and pushed their respective artist to new heights. The clear nominee lock looks to be “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, now the longest-running Hot 100 #1 of all time at 19 weeks. While its massive streaming numbers on their own should be enough to earn a nomination, “Old Town Road” is also a rare track embraced by demographics in all corners of the spectrum that helped reshaped the pop landscape this year.
Other tracks that fit the mold of a Record of the Year candidate include Halsey’s smash hit, “Without Me,” Bille Eilish’s standout single, “bad guy” and The Jonas Brother’s comeback anthem, “Sucker.” Ariana Grande was recently confirmed to submit her 8-week #1 smash, “7 rings” over “thank u, next” in the category.
The compelling comeback narrative behind Lizzo’s 2017 single, “Truth Hurts” – which was recently confirmed to be eligible by the Grammys – is sure to leave a mark on members come voting. The same can be said about “You Need To Calm Down” by Taylor Swift, an aggressively pro-LGBT anthem that sparked one of the most interesting conversations about queer allyship in recent memory.
The ROTY category is wide open with even more strong competitors like “Senorita,” “MIDDLE CHILD,” and “Talk,” among others. If chart performance is any indication of Grammy success, then Post Malone and Swae Lee’s #1 single, “Sunflower” also shouldn’t be counted out from the race.
And while “High Hopes” by Panic! at the Disco was originally released in May of 2018, the group should still technically be eligible for an award with the last-minute release of a “Live” version on iTunes. Marshmello and Bastille will also compete in the category with a “Stripped” version of “Happier.” Stars like Lady Gaga (“Joanne”) and Camila Cabello (“Havana”) have used similar tactics to enter the Grammy race with songs that would otherwise be ineligible.
Other Grammy players: “Dancing With a Stranger” by Sam Smith and Normani; “Spirit” by Beyonce; “Please Me” by Cardi B and Bruno Mars; “Suge” by DaBaby; “No Guidance” by Chris Brown featuring Drake; “Boy With Luv” by BTS featuring Halsey; “Girl” by Maren Morris; “The Git Up” by Blanco Brown; “How Do You Sleep?” by Sam Smith.
SONG OF THE YEAR
Unlike Record of the Year, which honors the production behind a song, Song of the Year represents the songwriting talents behind some of the year’s biggest tracks. Grande’s “thank u, next” looks to be an almost surefire lock thanks to the track’s memeable and uplifting lyrics inspired by the singer’s high-profile love life. Other memorable hits like “Truth Hurts” (“I’m 100 percent that bitch”), “Without Me” (“does it ever get lonely?”) and “Old Town Road” (“I got the horses in the back”) are all equally worthy of being recognized.
On paper, “Always Remember Us This Way” by Lady Gaga could’ve won this category by a landslide in a less competitive year. Other industry heavy-hitter Taylor Swift (“Lover”) and Ed Sheeran/Khalid (“Beautiful People”) also present appealing options to academy members, while “Sucker” by the Jonas Brothers and “bad guy” by Billie Eilish would earn each artist their first nomination ever in the category.
Other Grammy players: “Slide Away” by Miley Cyrus; “If I Can’t Have You” by Shawn Mendes; “a lot” by 21 Savage; “Someone You Loved” by Lewis Capaldi; “Never Really Over” by Katy Perry; “Talk” by Khalid; “Light On” by Maggie Rogers.
BEST NEW ARTIST
The Best New Artist Grammy category may just be one of the most difficult awards to pin down thanks to its recent expansion to eight nominees. The most compelling choices as of now remain breakout stars Billie Eilish, Lizzo and Lil Nas X, all of whom earned #1 hits on the Hot 100 from equally successful commercial albums/EPs.
Things get murky outside the three frontrunners with names like Megan Thee Stallion, Rosalia, Ava Max, Maggie Rogers and more making strong cases for a nomination. If this year’s crop of nominees looks anything like last year’s, it’s likely we’ll see an outlier nomination for Lewis Capaldi who has quietly made waves this year with “Someone You Loved.”
Due to the category’s relatively wonky eligibility rules, there’s a wide range of other possible Grammy players whose fates remain up in the air: DaBaby; City Girls; King Princess; Rico Nasty; Lil Tecca; Saweetie, Kim Petras; and Ari Lennox.
BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE
It’s a testament to the state of pop music in 2019 that the “Best Pop Solo Performance” category is shaping up to be more or less the same as ROTY. Once again, it looks as though Ariana Grande (“7 rings”), Halsey (“Without Me”), Billie Eilish (“bad guy”) and Lizzo (“Truth Hurts”) have the best chance at leading the field. All of these songs reached #1 on the Hot 100 and helped define the year for their respective artist.
Unlike the Big 4 categories, Best Pop Solo Performance has remained restricted to 5 nominees in past years. Assuming the same will be true for the 2020 show, the race is currently so competitive that even tracks by mega stars like Taylor Swift (“You Need To Calm Down”), Katy Perry (“Never Really Over”) and Shawn Mendes (“If I Can’t Have You”) are at risk of missing a nomination. Lewis Capaldi‘s recent chart success with “Someone You Loved” (currently in the Top 5 on the Hot 100) makes him another serious contender.
Other Grammy players: “Better” by Khalid; “Slide Away” by Miley Cyrus; “Ever Again” by Robyn; “Walk Me Home” by P!nk; “A No No” by Mariah Carey; “Mother’s Daughter” by Miley Cyrus; “How Do You Sleep?” by Sam Smith; “Now That I Found You” by Carly Rae Jepsen; “Doin’ Time” by Lana Del Rey; “On A Roll” by Ashley O; “Don’t Call Me Up” by Mabel; “Sweet But Psycho” by Ava Max (released too early for eligibility, but the Grammys love to break their own rules!).
BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM
The Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album tends to be awarded to industry heavy-hitters like Taylor Swift (‘1989’), Adele (’21’ and ’25’) and Ariana Grande (‘Sweetener’). Because sales and chart performance tend to dictate this category, it’s almost certain that Grande (‘thank u, next’), Swift (‘Lover’) and Billie Eilish (‘WWAFA, WDWG?’) will be represented here. Other likely candidates include ‘Norman Fucking Rockwell!’ by Lana Del Rey and ‘Happiness Begins’ by The Jonas Brothers.
The Grammys have an opportunity to honor Robyn’s ‘Honey’ this year as well, one of the most critically-acclaimed projects in the genre from an auter who helped define it. Rosalia’s ‘El Malal Querer’ is another enticing option that may be too good to for voters to pass up.
Other Grammy players: ‘No. 6 Collaborations Project’ by Ed Sheeran; ‘Hurts 2B Human’ by P!nk; ‘Clarity’ by Kim Petras; ‘Late Night Feelings’ by Mark Ronson; ‘The Lion King: The Gift’ by Beyonce; ‘Sucker Punch’ by Sigrid; ‘Dedicated’ by Carly Rae Jepsen.
BEST POP DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE
Easily the most competitive category this year, “Best Pop/Duo Group Performance” is absolutely stacked with contenders all equally worthy of the honor. At the front of the pack right now is “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus, “Sucker” by The Jonas Brothers, “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee, “Senorita” by Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello and “I’ll Never Love Again” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper.
Other possible nominees include “ME!” by Taylor Swift featuring Brendon Urie, “High Hopes (Live)” by Panic! at the Disco and the fan-favorite Top 10 hit, “Dancing With a Stranger” by Sam Smith and Normani. No matter how this category shakes out, it’s clear that there will be more than just a couple upsets in this group.
Other Grammy players: “Boyfriend” by Ariana Grande and Social House; “Happier” by Marshmello and Bastille; “Boy With Luv” by BTS featuring Halsey; “The Distance” by Mariah Carey featuring Ty Dolla $ign; “Find U Again” by Mark Ronson featuring Camila Cabello; “Tempo” by Lizzo featuring Missy Elliott; “Eastside” by Benny Blanco, Halsey and Khalid; “Easier” by 5 Seconds of Summer.
BEST RAP ALBUM
Big names like Drake, Jay Z, Childish Gambino, J. Cole, Cardi B and more went all of 2019 without dropping new projects, making the Best Rap Album category noticeably less competitive than in years’ past. The closest projects this field has to frontrunners include ‘IGOR’ by Tyler, The Creator, ‘Championships’ by Meek Mill, ‘CrasH Talk’ by Schoolboy Q and ‘Hoodie SZN’ by A Boogie With Da Hoodie.
While 2019 has been labelled the year of the female rapper by some, newcomers like Tierra Whack, Lizzo and Megan Thee Stallion aren’t likely to make the cut here. Whack’s critically acclaimed project, ‘Whack World’ arrived too early in 2018 to be eligible while Lizzo will is entering ‘Cuz I Love You’ in “Best Urban Contemporary Album.” As for Megan Thee Stallion, her mixtape, ‘Fever’ is also ineligible for the category.
The female MC with the best chances of breaking into the category is Rico Nasty and her critically acclaimed project, ‘Anger Management’ with Kenny Beats. Three-time Grammy winner Chance The Rapper should’ve be a clear contender with his debut studio album, “The Big Day,” though negative public feedback and waning sales/streams may have already ended its chances.
Other Grammy players: “Some Rap Songs” by Earl Sweatshirt; ‘Rap Or Go to the Big League’ by 2 Chainz; ‘Revenge of the Dreamers III’ by Dreamville; ‘Baby on Baby’ by DaBaby; ‘Death Race for Love’ by Juice WLRD; ‘Drip Harder’ by Lil Baby and Gunna; ‘In My Defense’ by Iggy Azalea; ‘Zuu’ by Denzel Curry; “Save Me” by Future.
BEST RAP SONG
With “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus confirmed to compete under Best Pop/Duo performance, the “Best Rap Song” category is now a relatively wide open field in comparison to past Grammy years. J. Cole’s “MIDDLE CHILD” and DaBaby’s “Suge” look to be the field favorites so far, while “EARFQUAKE” by Tyler, The Creator and “Panini” by Lil Nas X are sure to be seriously considered in the category.
“Money in the Grave” by Drake featuring Rick Ross has not been entered in any categories, according to Billboard, though the streaming star may still compete in the category with his Meek Mill collaboration, “Going Bad. “Act Up” by City Girls is another worthy honoree that defined the summer for many rap fans.
Other Grammy players: “Ransom” by Lil Tecca; “a lot” by 21 Savage; “Thotiana” by Blueface; “Press” by Cardi B; “The London” by Young Thug, J. Cole and Travis Scott; “MOOD 4 EVA” by Beyonce, Jay-Z and Childish Gambino; “Hot Girl Summer” by Megan Thee Stallion featuring Nicki Minaj and Ty Dolla $ign; “Clout” by Offset featuring Cardi B; “My Type” by Saweetie; “Sanguine Paradise” by Lil Uzi Vert; “Tempo” by Lizzo featuring Missy Elliott; “Megatron” by Nicki Minaj.
What do you make of the 2020 Grammy race? Are there any contenders we forgot to list? Share your feedback and opinions by tweeting us at @PopCrave!