Best New Artist
Questions abound in the coveted Best New Artist race: will stellar country ladies Kelsea Ballerini and Maren Morris cancel each other out, or will one rise up to follow in the footsteps of former BNA winners Carrie Underwood and LeAnn Rimes? Can Chance The Rapper really pull a major Grammy win before his official debut album release (and does anyone care that he doesn’t have an official debut album out)? Can Hot 100 all-stars The Chainsmokers become the first EDM-centric winner in this category… ever? Or can Anderson .Paak ride the critical acclaim wave and score without a smash single?
Pop Duo/Group Performance
Three No. 1 smashes, a trio of songs that helped define pop radio in 2016, are nominated here: The Chainsmokers’ “Closer” (feat. Halsey), Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” (feat. Sean Paul) and Rihanna’s “Work” (feat. Drake). Also nominated: “7 Years” and “Stressed Out,” two of the most enduring hits of the past year. This is not one of the biggest awards of the evening, but it’s surely one of the most hits-packed — and hard to predict.
Best Pop Vocal Album
This pop category is especially intriguing because it could give two of the biggest Top 40 artists their first taste of Grammy gold. With Confident, Demi Lovato has notched her first career Grammy nod, so a win would have her batting a thousand; meanwhile, Ariana Grande (who’s also up for best pop solo performance) could snag this for her hits-laden Dangerous Woman LP. Both are facing stiff competition in Justin Bieber, Adele and Sia, but perhaps the voters will spread the love and give one of Lovato or Grande their due.
Best Rock Performance
Any time Beyoncé battles Disturbed in a rock category at the Grammys, you have to pay attention. The hard rock veterans' tender cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "The Sound of Silence" is going up against Bey's Jack White collaboration "Don't Hurt Yourself," creating a matchup of two very disparate things in one of the top rock categories. Yes, Beyoncé is a rock star… but can she pull this off?
Best Urban Contemporary Album
In which two superstars, Beyonce and Rihanna, try to fend off a trio of hyper-talented upstarts. Along with Lemonade and Anti, King's tremendous debut We Are King, Anderson .Paak's widely heralded Malibu and Gallant's deeply unique Ology are all attempting an upset. It'd be difficult to uproot the well-deserving Lemonade, but a surprise win here could make for one of the night's coolest moments.
Best R&B Song
No Beyoncé in this category, but lots of household names, including Rihanna -- up for the highly seductive "Kiss It Better" -- and Drake, giving PARTYNEXTDOOR the assist on "Come and See Me." Elsewhere, Bryson Tiller's "Exchange" and Tory Lanez's "Luv" will each try to turn their respective artist's first Grammy nomination into their first win, while two-time winner Maxwell will try to add to his collection. In this category, no one is a long-shot.
Best Rap/Sung Performance
Drake is nominated here for "Hotline Bling," a pop smash which was originally conceived as a remix to D.R.A.M.'s song "Cha Cha." D.R.A.M. was not too happy that Drizzy piggybacked off his song to score another hit… but could get his revenge come Grammy night, since his own hit "Broccoli" featuring Lil Yachty is nominated. Neither song could win, but if one of them does, the victory could lead to vindication -- or utter scorn.
Best Country Album
If awarded earlier in the evening, this could tip off a good night for Sturgill Simpson or Maren Morris -- or neither. Simpson's A Sailor's Guide to Earth is up for album of the year, so a win in the country category bodes pretty well for him; on the other hand, a victory for Maren Morris' Hero could prove a positive sign for her best new artist chances. Or the Grammy voters could simply go with Loretta Lynn, nominated at 84 years old for her album Full Circle.
Best Musical Theater Album
Want to see Sara Bareilles win the first Grammy of her career, for songs that she does not perform herself? Keep it locked on this category, where the music of Waitress is nominated against Bright Star, Fiddler On The Roof, The Color Purple and Kinky Boots, the latter from Cyndi Lauper. Bareilles has been nominated for album of the year and song of the year but has yet to actually win a trophy. That could all change come Sunday night.