Way-Too-Early 2018 Grammys Contenders: Kendrick Lamar, Lorde & Ed Sheeran Take the Lead

Lorde, Kendrick Lamar
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Lorde, Kendrick Lamar.

A Grammys 2018 predictions piece in June 2017? We know, we know, but hear us out. The 60th annual Grammy Awards will be held on Jan. 28, 2018, which is a long time from now -- but the eligibility period for next year’s ceremony ends Sept. 30, which is roughly three months away.

Since everything from Oct. 1, 2016, to this moment can be submitted, we’ve already received 75 percent of the music that is Grammy-eligible next year. And while that’s still a pretty big blank to fill, it’s a good time to take stock of the early front-runners.

Lorde Enters the Album Race

Here’s why it is indeed a good time to discuss such things: There’s a new album of the year contender. Melodrama, Lorde’s sophomore album, is one of the best-reviewed projects of the year -- it’s up to 92 on reviews aggregator Metacritic -- and is headed toward a No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It’s not like she hasn’t been a major player on Grammy night before: Lorde already won one of the big four categories at the Grammys as a teenager, when “Royals” was named song of the year. And although none of Melodrama’s singles have dominated radio thus far, her follow-up to Pure Heroine has been considered a more complete body of work than its predecessor and could very well show in the top album showdown.

Kendrick Lamar, Ed Sheeran Stay Strong

Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You” has become the biggest hit in the career of an absolute Grammy darling, as the song of the year winner (“Thinking Out Loud”) could score back-to-back album of the year nods and collect record of the year for ÷’s lead single. Meanwhile, Kendrick Lamar’s first two full-lengths (2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city and 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly) each walked away with album of the year nominations, but no gold. Perhaps Damn., the top-reviewed album of the year according to Metacritic, makes the third time the charm? A critical and commercial smash, the album’s lead track “Humble” has remained in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 chart for months and could also snag some hardware this year.

Holdovers From 2016: Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, The Weeknd

If the winner of the album of the year award in 2017, Adele’s 25, came out in November 2015, why can’t some of late 2016’s biggest hits make it into next year’s ceremony? Bruno Mars, who won record of the year in 2016 for “Uptown Funk!,” returned last November with a brand-new batch of smashes, including “24k Magic” and No. 1 hit “That’s What I Like.” Either of those tracks, as well as host album 24k Magic, could be submitted, as could “Starboy” or “I Feel It Coming” from The Weeknd’s Starboy album; his last outing, Beauty Behind the Madness, earned his first album of the year nod in 2016. And it will be interesting to see what kind of showing Lady Gaga’s Joanne album makes: She’s a multi-year album of the year contender, although Artpop was shut out upon its 2013 release. Could the guitar-strap charm of her latest LP crack the biggest category, and maybe lead to a nod for its biggest single, “Million Reasons”?

Say It With Us: "Grammy Nominee Harry Styles"

Can newly established rock cred earn a former One Direction member a Grammy nod? The best-selling boy band famously never got recognized by the Grammys… and neither did Zayn Malik, in spite of a No. 1 single and album when he went solo in 2016. Yet Harry Styles may finally be the one to get a tip of the cap from the Recording Academy, thanks to a well-received debut album that serves up the type of guitar-driven song craft that the Grammys typically adore. Don’t expect an album of the year nod, but Styles’ single “Sign of the Times” has endured in the top 40 of the Hot 100, and with its well-produced Bowie vibes, a song of the year inclusion isn’t out of the question. (Also worth pointing out: Zayn could slide in this year with "I Don't Wanna Live Forever," his duet with Grammy queen Taylor Swift.)

Lots of New Faces, Potentially

The A-listers mentioned above could populate the four major categories at next year’s Grammys, but there are also several potential nominees who have never sniffed music’s biggest night before. Newcomers like Julia Michaels and James Arthur could score song of the year noms for “Issues” and “Say You Won’t Let Go,” respectively, while the enormity of “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, featuring Justin Bieber, could lead to a rare coup for a non-English-language smash. As for best new artist, the past nine months have seen breakthrough moments from Michaels, Khalid, Kehlani, Sampha, SZA, Luke Combs and Logic. And hey, how about ubiquitous rap trio Migos? With “Bad and Boujee” blowing up and Culture bathing in praise, don’t be shocked to see Quavo, Offset and Takeoff talk about their Grammy potential over the next few months.

2018 Grammy Awards