The Grammy Awards are just a few days away -- taking place this Sunday night (Feb. 8) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles -- which means it's time to finalize our predictions for the top prizes. Although nothing Grammys-related is ever easy to predict -- especially in such a loaded year of new artists, big albums and great singles -- we've done our best to come up with a list of not only who we think will win the big four awards (album of the year, best new artist, song of the year, and record of the year) but who we think is most deserving of the honor. As always, this was no easy task. Check out our 2015 Grammys predictions below:
A category of five mega-hits finds Sam Smith's emotional ode to fleeting peace rising to the top as the most logical Grammys bet. Smith's heavyweight performance, combined with production that leans on a gospel choir and piano melody, will be too hard for voters to resist. Meanwhile, Iggy Azalea and Meghan Trainor will try to stride in as pop newcomers-turned-Grammy darlings, and Sia has a better shot at winning a songwriting award for her soaring "Chandelier." Yet the record of the year really belongs to Taylor Swift, who seamlessly transitioned to full-blown pop, snapped up a killer Max Martin/Shellback production and made the word "hella" work in the middle of a snotty cheerleader-rap breakdown. Swift has so far lost this award twice, but in a just world, "Shake It Off" would make the third time the charm.
Any of these five albums could realistically earn the top prize of the night: Beck's Morning Phase is another sterling outing in a career full of them, Pharrell Williams' G I R L gave the biggest hit of the year a warm pop home, Ed Sheeran's x represents a diverse smash for a Grammy darling, and one certainly should not underestimate Sam Smith, who is present in all four major Grammy categories. Yet Beyoncé's self-titled fifth album towered over the entirety of 2014, as the music industry scrambled to figure out how to "pull a Beyoncé" and how a mainstream icon who causes widespread Internet obsession could completely reinvent her sound on the fly. Beyoncé is an instant classic, widely championed the moment it was not-so-quietly plopped onto iTunes in December 2013, and as wide-ranging as major label albums go, from the sex of "Drunk In Love" to the body image insecurities of "Pretty Hurts" to the motherly love of "Blue." Beyoncé lost this award, in 2010 with I Am… Sasha Fierce; she won't lose it again.
Song of the Year
Will Win: "Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)" - Sam Smith
Should Win: "Chandelier" - Sia
Can any song slow down Sam Smith's "Stay With Me" momentum? Don't be surprised if the breakthrough hit becomes the first track to win both major song categories since Adele's "Rolling In The Deep" -- after all, the songwriting team of Smith, James Napier and Williams Phillips gave the heartbreaking ballad with the vulnerable refrain that took over pop radio last summer. "Shake It Off" and "All About That Bass" are more distinct for their sounds than their songwriting, and Hozier's "Take Me To Church" has an outside shot but might have broken too late on pop radio for Grammy voters to seriously consider. Sia's "Chandelier" is also a dark horse to take this award, which it by every right deserves: the biggest chorus of the year came in a harrowing, slurred account of over-partying, delivered by a veteran songwriter who finally found her solo hit. Bold and provocative, "Chandelier" deserves to give Sia Furler and Jesse Shatkin the gold.
Best New Artist
Will Win: Sam Smith
Should Win: Sam Smith
None of the major four categories has a "lock" this year, but the closest we come to a sure thing is Sam Smith in the best new artist field. Smith has it all -- the vocal talent, the songwriting skills, the original perspective and seamless synthesis of classic soul moves. And although In The Lonely Hour may not be the front-to-back best album by the five nominees here -- that honor goes to Haim's incredible debut, Days Are Gone -- it's hard to argue against Smith being the new artist of the year, and the one with the brightest future. Brandy Clark and Bastille made impressive contributions to country and rock music, respectively, and Iggy Azalea is a polarizing but innovative household name. Haim will likely produce triumphant alt-rock songs for years to come, but the biggest year of Smith's career may very well be the start of an all-time run from an undeniable music talent. If Smith doesn't win here, the Grammys will likely regret it sooner rather than later.