Awards

Grammys 2020: Fearless Predictions in the 'Big Four' Categories

Billie Eilish
Heather Hazzan

Eilish photographed on April 18, 2019 at SunLight Studios in Los Angeles. 

According to the Recording Academy, 590 new voting members accepted targeted invitations to join this year. This is the result of a concerted drive to boost the diversity of the voting membership.

Grammy voting closed on Friday, so it's time for our fearless predictions of who will take top honors at the 62nd annual Grammy Awards on Jan. 26. (But first, a question: Why does Grammy voting close 23 days before the telecast, when Oscar voting extends until just five days before their telecast?)

Record of the Year

Nominees: Bon Iver's "Hey, Ma," Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy," Ariana Grande's "7 Rings," H.E.R.'s "Hard Place," Khalid's "Talk," Lil Nas X's "Old Town Road" (featuring Billy Ray Cyrus), Lizzo's "Truth Hurts," Post Malone & Swae Lee's "Sunflower"

This is the second year that the Grammys have had eight finalists in each of the "Big Four" categories. Let's simplify things by narrowing this discussion down to the four records that seem to have the best chance of winning: "Bad Guy," "7 Rings," "Old Town Road" and "Truth Hurts." All four smashes reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"7 Rings" could appeal to the Academy's older voters, largely for the way it brought Rodgers & Hammerstein's 60-year old show tune "My Favorite Things" into the streaming era.

Lil Nas X got a lot of attention for setting a new, all-time record for most weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100. He also got a lot of attention for bravely coming out when his single was No. 1. "Old Town Road" is this year's only record of the year nominee that is also nominated for best music video. (Last year, Childish Gambino's "This Is America" won in both categories.)

But the mere fact that "Old Town Road" set a new record for weeks at No. 1 doesn't ensure its victory. Neither of the singles that jointly held the record prior to this (Mariah Carey andBoyz II Men's "One Sweet Day" and Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's "Despacito," featuring Justin Bieber) won the prize. Grammy voters march to their own drummer.

Either Eilish, 18, or Lil Nas X, 20, would become the youngest winner ever in this category. That distinction is currently shared by Kimbra and Sam Smith. Both were 22 when they won, as the featured artist on Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" (2012) and the lead artist on "Stay With Me" (2014), respectively.

"Truth Hurts" would become the second hip-hop smash in a row to win the top award. (The Grammys categorized it as pop -- it's nominated for best pop solo performance, not best rap/sung performance -- but it topped Billboard's Hot Rap Songs chart for 13 weeks.)

According to the Recording Academy, 590 new voting members accepted targeted invitations to join this year. That's nearly three times as many as the 200 who did so last year. This is the result of a concerted drive to boost the diversity of the voting membership. That could easily make a difference in a close race, as this year's battle between Lil Nas X, Lizzo and Eilish appears to be.

Prediction: Lizzo

Album of the Year

Nominees: Bon Iver's I,I, Lana Del Rey's Norman F***ing Rockwell!, Eilish's When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, Grande's Thank U, Next, H.E.R.'s I Used to Know Her, Lil Nas X's 7, Lizzo's Cuz I Love You ( Deluxe) and Vampire Weekend's Father of the Bride

Again, let's simplify things by narrowing it down to the four albums that seem to have the best chance of winning: Norman F***ing Rockwell!, When We All Fall Asleep…, Thank U, Next and Father of the Bride.

Del Rey's album was passed over for a nomination for best pop vocal album, a possible sign of weakness.

Grammy voters have a history in recent decades of favoring rock and alternative bands in the top categories, but the fact that there are two (Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend) may cause them to split the vote.

Eilish's album logged three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, more than any of the other nominees. Grande's album spent two weeks on top. Vampire Weekend's album was No. 1 for one week.

When We All Fall Asleep… is vying to become the first debut album to win album of the year since Norah Jones' Come Away With Me (2002).

Finneas is nominated for producer of the year, non-classical, for his work on Eilish's album. Ricky Reed and Jack Antonoff are nominated in that same category, in large part because of their work on the Lizzo and Del Rey albums, respectively.

Eilish's album is also nominated for best engineered recording, non-classical. It's the only album of the year candidate that is nominated for that award.

Eilish would make history if she won. She would be the youngest album of the year winner in Grammy history, easily topping Taylor Swift, who was 20 when she won a decade ago for Fearless.

Prediction: Eilish

Song of the Year

Nominees: "Always Remember Us This Way" (Natalie Hemby, Lady Gaga, Hillary Lindsey & Lori McKenna), "Bad Guy" (Eilish & Finneas), "Bring Me My Flowers Now" (Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth & Tanya Tucker), "Hard Place" (Ruby Amanfu, Sam Ashworth, D. Arcelious Harris, H.E.R. & Rodney Jerkins), "Lover" (Swift), "Norman F***ing Rockwell" (Antonoff & Del Rey), "Someone You Loved" (Tom Barnes, Lewis Capaldi, Pete Kelleher, Benjamin Kohn & Sam Roman), "Truth Hurts" (Steven Cheung, Reed, Lizzo & Jesse Saint John)

Two of the leading record of the year contenders ("7 Rings" and "Old Town Road") weren't nominated here, but the two others ("Bad Guy" and "Truth Hurts") were. The two other apparent front-runners in this category are "Lover" and "Someone You Loved."

This is Swift's fourth nomination in this category. She has yet to win. She's the first writer to be nominated for a song written without a collaborator since Mike Posner, who was nominated three years ago for "I Took a Pill in Ibiza." Writing a song by yourself is coming to be seen as an impressive accomplishment in this era of songwriting by committee.

"Someone You Loved" is the kind of traditional ballad that the Grammys long favored in this category. The richly emotional song echoes such recent winners as Smith's "Stay With Me" (2014) and Adele's "Hello" (2016). "Someone You Loved" logged three weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100, a minor miracle in an era dominated by hip-hop.

It's hard to know what effect the dispute over the writing credits on "Truth Hurts" will have. On Oct. 23, singer Mina Lioness was given a co-writing credit for her 2017 tweet that was very similar to the song's opening line, "I just took a DNA test, turns out I'm 100% that bitch." But the Grammys haven't adjusted their writing credits for the song. A similar dispute five years ago didn't prevent "Stay With Me" from winning song of the year. (The songwriting credits -- but, again, not the Grammy credits -- were adjusted due to the song's similarity to Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down.")

Eilish would be the youngest winner in this category since Lorde, who was a year younger -- just 17 -- when she won the 2013 award for co-writing "Royals."

Prediction: Eilish & Finneas

Best New Artist

Nominees: Black Pumas, Eilish, Lil Nas X, Lizzo, Maggie Rogers, Rosalía, Tank and the Bangas, Yola

Again, let's simplify things by narrowing it down to the four newcomers that seem to have the best chance of winning: Eilish, Lil Nas X, Lizzo and Rosalía.

Rosalía is the first artist to be nominated for best new artist on the strength of a foreign-language album (El Mal Querer). José Feliciano, the 1968 winner in this category, had a hit English-language album (Feliciano!, which was nominated for album of the year). Rosalía is also the first artist to be nominated for best new artist at both the Grammys and the Latin Grammys. She was nominated in this category at that show two years ago.

Eilish is the only best new artist nominee who has reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Eilish, Lil Nas X and Lizzo have all reached No. 1 on the Hot 100. All three of these artists have made it back to the top 10 since their breakthrough hits. Lizzo's "Good as Hell" peaked at No. 3. Lil Nas X's "Panini" reached No. 5. Eilish's "everything i wanted" has (so far) climbed as high as No. 8.

Lil Nas X would be the youngest best new artist winner since Adele, who was also 20 when she won 11 years ago. Eilish would be the youngest category champ since LeAnn Rimes, who was 14 when she took the 1996 award.

Eilish bested Lizzo in this category at two major awards shows leading up to this showdown: at the VMAs on Aug. 26 and at the American Music Awards on Nov. 24. But Lizzo has exploded in the past few months, making this a toss-up. Grammy voters may decide that both Eilish and Lizzo are quality artists, but that Lizzo is more of a personality and an instant star.

Prediction: Lizzo