Who Are the Way-Too-Early Contenders For the 2021 Grammys? Post Malone, Billie Eilish and Potential First-Timers

Post Malone
Adam Degross

Post Malone

Listen, we know the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards just occurred. With not even a full month of the calendar year gone, you may be thinking a piece predicting potential 2021 Grammy nominees is a bit presumptuous of us -- but hear us out. 

Thanks to a gaggle of strong full-length albums and chart-topping songs from returning stars and burgeoning supernovas alike, the tail end of 2019 suggests that next year’s Grammy Awards could be even more stacked with its nominations than it was this past year. It’s never a bad time to start thinking about how the 63rd annual ceremonies could play out, so let’s take a critical look at which artists we may see featuring heavily in the nominations when they’re announced in November. 

Post Malone

While the chart-topping “Sunflower” didn’t garner any wins at the 2020 ceremony, judging by the success of Posty’s Hollywood’s Bleeding, there’s a chance you may be seeing the tattooed Texan’s name multiple times again for 2021. His third studio album garnered generally positive reviews, and topped the Billboard 200 albums chart in September 2019. The LP features the hits “Wow,” “Circles,” “Goodbyes,” “Sunflower,” and the Ozzy Osbourne and Travis Scott collab, “Take What You Want,” all of which broke the top 10 on Billboard’s Hot 100. This project could follow the path of the singer-rapper's second studio album Beerbongs & Bentleys, which was album of the year-nominated in 2019 thanks to a slew of big tracks and the singer-rapper's general good standing in the industry.

We wouldn’t be surprised if “Circles” is nominated for record and/or song of the year. It also wouldn’t be amiss to place “Take What You Want” somewhere -- however, it may be dependent on whether Post ends up submitting it as a rock song or a rap song.

Harry Styles

The former boy-bander’s second studio album Fine Line displays his vocal range, free-flowing and charming personality, as well as his commercial reach. The project’s stand out production gathers influence from the psychedelic and funky sounds of pop’s past, while still managing to feel refreshingly modern. Per Nielsen Music, Fine Line was the fifth highest-selling album of 2019, with a total of 458,000 copies sold (the largest numbers for a male pop star in over four years, and even higher numbers than his critically-acclaimed debut).

It was also received warmly by critics, and saw Styles notch seven of its songs on the Hot 100 (“Lights Up,” “Adore You,” “Watermelon Sugar,” “Falling,” “Cherry,” “Golden,” and “She”). Those factors considered, the project as a whole could warrant Styles a best pop vocal album nod, or even best rock album given the clear nods to the genre's lineage. There’s also an outside chance that he could find Fine Line represented among the Big Four categories.

DaBaby

DaBaby made a convincing argument to be considered 2019’s musical MVP, as he was featured on hip-hop and pop hits throughout the year. He made it to the Recording Academy’s radar thanks to his solo hit “Suge,” which garnered nods for best rap performance and best rap song in 2020. In September 2019, he dropped Kirk, his second official studio album, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and received positive reviews. 

On songs like “Off The Rip” and “Really,” the Charlotte native came equipped with his lightning fast, star-making cadence and confidence, while the retrospective “INTRO” had listeners in their feelings with his open and honest lyrics about his late father. With that thematic growth, a best rap album nomination could certainly be a possibility, and the magnetic, Broadway-inspired music video for “Bop” (which currently holds over 153 million views of YouTube) could receive a look for best music video.

Luke Combs 

The country star’s second studio album, What You See Is What You Get, topped the Billboard 200 in November 2019, and had the largest first week sales figures for a country album since Carrie Underwood’s Cry Pretty the year before. Throughout the project, the smoky-voiced North Carolinian carves out his own lane by peppering in heavy elements of rock and pop sounds, yet remaining true to his ‘90s country-inspired roots. The sales, streams and popularity of the album and the artist could make him a first-time best country album nominee.

Combs, already a 2019 Best New Artist nominee, was also nominated alongside Brooks & Dunn for best country duo/group performance for “Brand New Man” at the 2020 show. He could potentially nab a nomination alongside the veteran duo again for 2021’s ceremony for their What You See collaboration “1,2 Many" -- as Combs proves time and again that he can hold his own amongst the genre's greats. 

Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez released her third studio album Rare -- her first in nearly five years -- at the top of 2020. Critics’ feelings about the LP were favorable, and the project topped the Billboard 200 in January. Rare provides listeners with synth-heavy pop bops that give no f--ks, showcasing the musician’s willingness to experiment with sound and open up about personal, high-profile situations. Versatile production from Grammy darling Finneas O’Connell (who took home five awards Sunday night), as well as established hitmakers Mattman & Robin, Mike Dean and more, is a huge asset for the set. A triumphant return to the industry could earn Gomez a best pop vocal album nod.

Meanwhile, the album’s lead single (and Gomez’s first Hot 100 No. 1) “Lose You to Love Me” could receive a look for song of the year. The emotional track was penned by Gomez, Julia Michaels (herself a song of the year nominee for her own hit "Issues") and a few other big names. It was already featured on our list of the 100 Best Songs of 2019 at No. 23.

Roddy Ricch

Considering Roddy Ricch is a Grammy winner already (thanks to his feature on Nipsey Hussle’s “Racks In The Middle,” which won best rap performance at the 2020 show), the 21-year-old has a high probability of seeing his breakout solo hit "The Box" be honored by the Academy. Not only is the song critically accepted and a commercial hit, it’s radio-friendly, a factor that shook pop names like Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez into fighting for streams to one-up the track (to no avail).

Roddy’s versatile flow is a staple of his debut album Please Excuse Me For Being Antisocial, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 -- and thanks to the success of “The Box,” even returned to the top slot in its fifth week of release. Can you say “best rap album nominee?” (But Roddy will not compete for a best new artist nod -- since once you win a Grammy, you're ineligible in that category.)

Halsey

Given comments believed to be a direct dig towards the Grammys during the 2019 American Music Awards, the Recording Academy may keep Halsey's words in mind when considering projects for album of the year. However, given the strong sales of her massive third album Manic, it would be foolish of them to resort to pettiness. Manic moved 239,000 equivalent units, and debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, the largest first-week numbers of her career, and the largest week by a female artist since Taylor Swift’s Lover in September 2019. Additionally, critics gave the album a generally rousing response. The conceptual, autobiographical rawness found on the New Jersey native’s LP should at least make it a strong contender in a best pop vocal album category.

Billie Eilish

The alt-pop prodigy swept the Big Four at the 2020 ceremony in historic fashion, but that doesn’t mean she's going to disappear afterwards. “Everything I Wanted,” a track finding Eilish musing on the highs and lows of fame, was released as a new single following the blockbuster success of debut LP When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? It could garner Eilish and her collaborator brother Finneas another song of the year nomination, as well as consideration for best pop solo vocal performance. And let’s not forget that the 18-year-old will also sing the title track for the forthcoming James Bond film, No Time to Die, which could very well make the critical and commercial superstar a near-lock for the best song written for visual media Grammy. 

Brittany Howard

As with Post Malone’s Hollywood’s Bleeding, The Recording Academy, critics and fans alike have to wait a year for Jaime’s potential album of the year nomination due to the project’s release after the 2020 submission deadline. Howard was nominated for the night’s biggest honor at the 2016 ceremony with her band Alabama Shakes and their Sound & Color set, and if our inklings are correct, she could find her name there once again.

“History Repeats,” a track off of Howard’s debut LP, received two nominations at the 2020 Grammys (best rock song and best rock performance), and she performed during the January telecast alongside host Alicia Keys. However, this was certainly to hold everyone over before what’s bound to be a huge year for the critical darling. “Stay High,” Howard’s first solo No. 1 on Billboard's Adult Alternative Songs listing, could also be in contention for song of the year. 

Summer Walker

The Atlanta native’s talent, as well as her relatability and openness regarding her struggles with anxiety made her a huge name in 2019. If she’s looking for Grammy accolades, she could find success with her debut project Over It in either best R&B album or best urban contemporary album, considering it features elements that are all over the board from a sonic standpoint. With this in mind, there’s a possibility that she could find herself among the eight best new artist nominees as well, as the album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, receiving rave reviews.

What we’d love to manifest is a nomination for “Come Thru” featuring Usher in the best R&B performance category. The track is a modern-day spin on her featured artist’s timeless breakthrough hit “You Make Me Wanna...” and both singers sound pristine as they bounce off of each other’s buttery vocals. A win in this category would be sweet vengeance considering Usher’s original version lost in the now-defunct best male R&B vocal performance category in 1998.

2020 Grammy Awards

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