Already, the best new artist race has attracted attention: Cardi B and Post Malone, two of the past year’s biggest stars, are reportedly ineligible (though they could figure in other major categories). Will hip-hop finally have its day at the show, thanks to big-ticket releases from names like Drake, The Carters and Childish Gambino? Will previously under-recognized women like Ariana Grande, Janelle Monáe and Cardi benefit from The Recording Academy’s newly formed Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and from the backlash to president/CEO Neil Portnow’s infamous “step up” comments following the 2018 ceremony? Or will Grammy patterns continue to reward more traditional favorites like Sam Smith, Taylor Swift or even -- again -- Bruno Mars?
With eight slots now open for each of the major categories instead of five -- a wrinkle that could both allow for more left-field nominations and also all but ensure enough room for the old guard -- an unprecedented number of possibilities are now on the table.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Rap’s ruling class will surely make at least a couple of appearances in the Grammys’ marquee category, led by Drake, whose Scorpion posted the year’s best first-week numbers and spawned a trio of multiweek No. 1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100. (It didn’t get his strongest reviews, but neither did Views, Drake’s 2016 best-seller, which was also nominated for top honors.) The combined acclaim and name recognition of Beyoncé and Jay-Z should get The Carters’ Everything Is Love a look here as well (neither Bey nor Jay has won the award yet), while breakout star Cardi B may join them with her chart-busting and widely adored Invasion of Privacy.
Mega-pop should also make a strong showing in the category, led by Grande and her well-received Sweetener. Smith, a nominee in 2015 for In the Lonely Hour, could go two for two with late 2017’s chart-topping The Thrill of It All. And while Swift’s Reputation wasn’t as universally acclaimed as her previous two album of the year winners (2010’s Fearless and 2016’s 1989), don’t count the new Taylor out.
Which fringe candidates might take advantage of the extra slots? Future-funk practitioner Monáe should have a shot with her sci-fi opus Dirty Computer, which bears the influence of her mentor, Prince. So should rock maestro St. Vincent for her expansive and highly personal MASSEDUCTION, along with alt-country favorite Kacey Musgraves for Golden Hour, her most rapturously reviewed and crossover-accessible set to date -- though none of these three were commercial blockbusters. Finally, don’t dismiss the chances of the Lamar-curated Black Panther album becoming the first soundtrack to score an album of the year nod since O Brother, Where Art Thou? won in 2002.
RECORD OF THE YEAR