Post Malone, The Weeknd & More Early Front-Runners for Album of the Year at the 2021 Grammys

Post Malone
Adam Degross

Post Malone

This past year, seven of the eight nominees for album of the year were first-time nominees in that category.

We're just five months away from the end of the eligibility period for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards -- assuming the Recording Academy operates under the same timetable it did last year. The eligibility year began Sept. 1, 2019 and will presumably end on Aug. 31, as it did last year. (The Academy hasn't yet made a formal announcement.)

Let's look at 16 leading contenders for the highest-profile award: album of the year. With five months to go in the eligibility year, and with only eight nomination slots to begin with, not all of these albums will make it. But several almost certainly will. Which ones do you think will make the cut?

A word of advice as you consider the possibilities: Don't focus too much on an artist's Grammy pedigree. This past year, seven of the eight nominees for album of the year were first-time nominees in that category. (Only H.E.R. had been nominated in that category before.) And don't be too obsessed with chart success. Of this past year's nominees, Bon Iver's i,i peaked at a middling No. 26 on the Billboard 200. H.E.R.'s compilation album I Used to Know Her stalled way down at No. 86. (On the other hand, the other six nominees this past year made the top five on the Billboard 200. So don't discount chart success entirely!)

Here we go. Put a mental check by the ones you think will make it. You'll find out if you were right later this year when the nominations are announced. (Last year, that announcement was made on Nov. 20.)

Post Malone, Hollywood's Bleeding. The genre-bending star's previous album, beerbongs & bentleys, was a 2018 album of the year nominee. This album, Post's third, topped the Billboard 200 for five weeks, longer than any album in this eligibility year so far. The album includes five top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including two No. 1s: "Sunflower," a record of the year nominee this past year, and "Circles," a likely record of the year nominee later this year. Post still hasn't won a Grammy, despite six nominations over the past two years.

The Weeknd, After Hours. The R&B star was nominated for album of the year for Beauty Behind the Madness (2015) but was passed over in that top category for his follow-up album, Starboy (2017). But that doesn't mean you should discount this album. Here's a list of 10 artists who made it back to the album of the year finals after one album interrupted their streak. After Hours, The Weeknd's fourth album, enters the Billboard 200 at No. 1 this week, with the biggest first-week total so far in 2020. The first two singles from the album -- "Heartless" and "Blinding Lights" -- both reached No. 1 on the Hot 100.

Lil Uzi Vert, Eternal Atake. The rapper's sophomore album entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1 last week. The album has spawned four top 10 hits on the Hot 100, including "Futsal Shuffle 2020," which made the top five. Lil Uzi Vert received two Grammy nominations, including best new artist, three years ago.

Harry Styles, Fine Line. Styles has yet to receive a Grammy nomination -- either solo or with One Direction. This album, Styles' second studio set as a solo artist, topped the Billboard 200 for two weeks. "Adore You" is up to No. 7 on this week's Hot 100. Stevie Nicks' March 23 tweet, "Way to go H~ it is your Rumours," referring to Fleetwood Mac's landmark 1977 album, was extremely helpful in putting a spotlight on the album. Previous boy band alumni who have landed album of year nominations include Michael Jackson (three nods in that category) and Justin Timberlake (two).

Dua Lipa, Future Nostalgia. The Brit won two Grammys in 2019, including best new artist. This just-released album is likely to enter the Billboard 200 inside the top 10 next week. The album's lead single, "Don't Start Now," reached No. 2 on the Hot 100.

Luke Combs, What You See Is What You Get. Combs' second full-length album topped the Billboard 200 for one week. It has headed Top Country Albums for 15 weeks so far. The first two singles from the album, "Beer Never Broke My Heart" and "Even Though I'm Leaving," both reached No. 1 on Country Airplay. Combs has received two Grammy nominations, including best new artist two years ago (he lost to Lipa), but no wins yet. No country album was nominated for the album of the year this past year, which boosts the likelihood that one will be nominated this year. The Grammys haven't skipped over country in this category two years running in nearly a decade (since 2011-12). What You See… is nominated for album of the year at the rescheduled ACM Awards (now set for Sept. 16).

Roddy Ricch, Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial. Ricch won a Grammy in January for best rap performance for his featured role on Nipsey Hussle's "Racks in the Middle." (That win will disqualify him from a best new artist nomination this year.) This album, Ricch's debut, has topped the Billboard 200 for four weeks. The album's blockbuster single, "The Box," topped the Hot 100 for 11 weeks. (The album title seems eerily prescient about the situation in which we all find ourselves during this period of mandated social distancing.)

Summer Walker, Over It. This, the R&B star's first studio album, entered the Billboard 200 at No. 2. "Playing Games," the album's lead single, hit the top 20 on the Hot 100. The album includes collabs with such major artists as Usher and Drake (on a bonus track). Walker is a strong candidate for a best new artist nomination.

Childish Gambino, 3.15.20. The multi-talented performer's last studio album, "Awaken, My Love!," was nominated for album of the year three years ago. His subsequent single "This Is America" (which is not on this album) won record and song of the year for 2018, the first hip-hop hit to win in either category. This album enters the Billboard 200 at a (much) lower-than-expected No. 13 this week, likely due to its momentary release on the title date via a mysterious website before officially arriving at streaming services and retailers the following Sunday.

The Highwomen, The Highwomen. All four members of this high-powered quartet -- Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires -- have won Grammys on their own. That is very rare occurrence, even in a supergroup. This album, the quartet's first, reached No. 1 on Top Country Albums and No. 10 on the Billboard 200. The album's producer, Dave Cobb, has made the album of the year finals twice in the past five years, with Chris Stapleton's Traveller and Carlile's By the Way, I Forgive You. The Highwomen are nominated for group of the year, but not album of the year, at the upcoming ACM Awards.

Tame Impala, The Slow Rush. Tame Impala's two previous albums, Lonerism (2013) and Currents (2015), were nominated for best alternative music album. This is the fourth album for the project headed by Australian musician Kevin Parker. It entered the Billboard 200 at No. 3.

Bad Bunny, YHLQMDLG. The Puerto Rican singer/rapper has received three Grammy nods, including two this past year for best Latin, rock or alternative album. YHLQMDLG, Bad Bunny's second solo album, entered the Billboard 200 at No. 2, making it the highest-charting all-Spanish-language album in chart history. Two songs from the album, "Vete" and "La Difícil," have made the top 40 on the Hot 100. (ICYMI, YHLQMDLG is an abbreviation of "Yo hago lo que me da la gana," Spanish for "I Do What I Want.")

BTS, Map of the Soul: 7. The K-Pop phenoms still haven't received a Grammy nomination, but the historic Oscar wins for Parasite (including best picture) may have put more pressure on the Grammys to look internationally in their selections. This was the group's fourth Korean-language studio album. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. "ON" reached No. 4 on the Hot 100, the lads' highest ranking to date.

Miranda Lambert, Wildcard. Lambert has won two Grammys in the country field but has yet to land a nomination in a "Big Four" category. This is Lambert's seventh major-label studio album. It reached No. 1 on Top Country Albums and No. 4 on the Billboard 200. "It All Comes Out in the Wash," the album's lead single, made the top 15 on Country Airplay. Wildcard is nominated for album of the year at the upcoming ACM Awards.

Selena Gomez, Rare. Gomez has yet to land a Grammy nomination -- either solo or fronting her former group The Scene. This album, her third studio album as a solo artist, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The album's lead single, "Lose You to Love Me," became Gomez's first No. 1 on the Hot 100.

Kanye West, Jesus Is King. This album may get extra consideration for being a passion project. The album, West's ninth solo studio set, debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. The album's lead single, "Follow God," made the top 10 on the Hot 100. West, a 21-time Grammy winner, has yet to win in a "Big Four" category. On the plus side, West is, to this day, the only artist in Grammy history to be nominated for album of the year with each of their first three studio albums.

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