10. Will Kesha's reinvention be recognized?
One of the biggest stories in pop this year has undoubtedly been Kesha's triumphant return from career purgatory, following years of public legal drama with former mentor Dr. Luke. Her weightier, more personal new LP Rainbow topped the Billboard 200 albums chart and drew rave reviews, and could lead to nominations in one or multiple major categories. But will Kesha's dance-pop past -- often critically disregarded, particularly by the Grammys, as frivolous -- keep her from earning serious consideration?
9. Can the year's surprise alternative hits cross over to the Grammys as well?
After a long period of rock and alternative being almost totally absent from the Billboard Hot 100, within a couple months, there were suddenly a trio of alternative songs that not only appeared on the chart, but climbed all the way to the top five: a pair from Imagine Dragons ("Believer" and "Thunder") and one from Portugal. The Man ("Feel It Still"). The three songs have appeared virtually everywhere for the second half of 2017 -- will they sneak into this year's Grammy class as well?
8. Will Lady Gaga be shut out of the big categories?
The artist born Stefani Germanotta's recent reimagining as more of a heartland singer-songwriter, as rooted in country and rock as dance and pop, seemed almost custom-engineered for maximum Grammy success. But despite a well-received Super Bowl halftime performance and a hit single in the No. 4-peaking Hot 100 success "Million Reasons," the album did not draw the general acclaim Gaga may have hoped for, and she goes into Grammy season far from a sure thing to draw a major nomination. The legacy of her Joanne era may be swung a good amount by whether or not she hears her name called tomorrow morning.
7. Will Taylor Swift get a song of the year nomination?
One of the Grammys' most rewarded artists of the last decade has two ways into the major categories this year: Through her own single "Look What You Made Me Do" (released in advance of her Reputation album, which will otherwise compete at the 2019 awards), and through Little Big Town's "Better Man," which she wrote. Though the former was the bigger pop hit, the latter may have a better chance of being recognized -- LBT's "Girl Crush" was a Song of the Year nominee two years earlier, and "Better Man" just won song of the year at the CMA Awards.
6. Can Jason Isbell be this year's Sturgill SImpson?
Last year, country-rock veteran Sturgill Simpson became the clear outlier amidst a class of superstars (Justin Bieber, Drake, Beyonce and Adele) in the album of the year category. This year, the artist most likely to represent that combination of roots cred, media adoration and industry respect in the Grammys' marquee category would be Jason Isbell, a country-rock lifer whose cult fan base, critical acclaim and chart success all seemed to hit a new peak with this year's The Nashville Sound, which became his first top 5 album on the Billboard 200. But will that be enough to earn him a seat among the music biz's heaviest hitters this January?
5. Is it finally time for JAY-Z's first album of the year nomination?
4. Will any of rap's new class be represented?
The year 2017 has seen as dramatic a sea change in rap's ruling class as any we've witnessed in recent memory, with streaming-friendly artists like Migos, Lil Uzi Vert and Post Malone rising to superstardom with practically unprecedented velocity. But for these youth-oriented, genre-blurring success stories, establishment acceptance has been slower to come by for these artists than commercial returns. A major Grammy nomination -- "XO TOUR Llif3" for record of the year? -- could make a real statement about just how much (and how quickly) times have changed.
3. Will any of the One Direction solo dudes be up for best new artist?
At least two of the solo spin-offs to emerge during One Direction's indefinite hiatus -- Harry Styles and Niall Horan -- are glove-like fits for the best new artist category, and possibly a third in Liam Payne as well. However, to consider Styles and Horan new artists, you of course have to ignore that half-decade they both spent in one of the most successful recording acts on the planet. Considering Horan's win for new artist of the year at this year's American Music Awards, however, it seems like a leap that much of the public is willing to make -- and given the historic flexibility of the "best new artist" designation, the Grammys just might as well.
2. Will "Despacito" make its presence felt?
It was almost inarguably the biggest hit of 2017, and certainly one of the biggest hits in Billboard Hot 100 history. But will that be enough to get a foreign-language smash from a genre traditionally ignored by the major Grammys categories recognition? It's not totally without precedent -- Los Lobos' chart-topping "La Bamba" cover got a record of the year nod in 1988 -- but it's certainly a rarity; so, however, is spending 16 weeks atop the Hot 100. If "Despacito" doesn't get in the major categories, though, it may end up shut out altogether, as the Grammys keep their Latin categories to the Latin Grammys -- where "Despacito" dominated a couple weeks ago.
1. Can anyone hang with Kendrick Lamar and Ed Sheeran?
It's not a question of "if," but rather "how much" Lamar and Sheeran will command this year's nominations. Both are practical locks for album and record of the year, song of the year certainly seems within both's grasp as well. The only real question is if any other artist will have as much of an imprint. Of the third-party candidates, Lorde seems like the likeliest bet, as a former Big Four winner and one of the most media-acclaimed artists of her generation -- but despite debuting atop the Billboard 200, her Melodrama album was nowhere near the commercial force that Sheeran's Divide and Lamar's DAMN. were. If no other artist seems to have as much juice going into this year's Grammys as Kendrick and Ed, it may be down to a two-man race on music's biggest night.