Grammys First-Look: The Most-Likely Big Four Contenders

When the nominations for the 63rd annual Grammy Awards — slated for Jan. 31, 2021 — are announced later this year, Post Malone, The Weeknd, Harry Styles, Dua Lipa, Roddy Ricch and Maren Morris all have a good chance of appearing in both of the highest-profile categories: album and record of the year.

Now, with less than three months left in the eligibility period (which began Sept. 1, 2019, and will end Aug. 31), Billboard takes a look at the potential Big Four nominees, listed in descending order of their likelihood.

No country albums were nominated in this category last year, but that’s likely to change this time around. In fact, it’s possible that more than one country release will receive nods for the first time in Grammy history.

Post Malone, Hollywood’s Bleeding
The genre-blurring star’s previous album, beerbongs & bentleys, was an album of the year nominee in 2018. This LP, Post Malone’s third, topped the Billboard 200 for five nonconsecutive weeks, longer than any other album in this eligibility year so far.

The Weeknd, After Hours
The R&B artist’s 2015 album, Beauty Behind the Madness, was nominated for album of the year — but two years later, his follow-up, Starboy, was passed over. Now, The Weeknd has another shot with his fourth LP, After Hours, which spent its first four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

Fiona Apple, Fetch the Bolt Cutters
Apple’s fifth album reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200 (just one spot below her 2012 album, The Idler Wheel...). Apple, who released her first album in 1996, was nominated for best new artist at the 1998 ceremony, but hasn’t been recognized in any of the other general-field categories since.

Harry Styles, Fine Line
Styles has yet to receive a Grammy nomination as a solo artist or as a member of One Direction. But Fine Line, his second solo release, not only spent its first two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 but also prompted Stevie Nicks to tweet: “Way to go H~ it is your Rumours.” (That Fleetwood Mac classic won album of the year in 1978.)

Dua Lipa, Future Nostalgia
The British singer won two Grammys, including best new artist, at the 2019 ceremony. This album, her second, reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200 — Lipa’s best showing to date — and was praised for its smooth rollout despite arriving in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.

Luke Combs, What You See Is What You Get
Combs’ second full-length album topped the Billboard 200 for one week and the Top Country Albums chart for 20 nonconsecutive weeks and counting. Combs has previously received two Grammy nominations, including best new artist, which he lost to Lipa.

Roddy Ricch, Please Excuse Me for Being Antisocial
Roddy Ricch’s debut album — which boasted featured artists such as Gunna, Meek Mill and Ty Dolla $ign — topped the Billboard 200 for four nonconsecutive weeks, confirming his status as a rap star in the making.

The Highwomen, The Highwomen
All members of this supergroup — Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby, Maren Morris and Amanda Shires — have won Grammys on their own. If nominated as The Highwomen, they would be the second all-female collaboration to earn an AOTY nod; 33 years ago, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt and Emmylou Harris’ Trio became the first. The Highwomen reached No. 1 on Top Country Albums and No. 10 on the Billboard 200.

Lady Gaga and Dixie Chicks are both three-time nominees in this category, and either or both acts could easily receive nods with their latest albums. Gaga’s Chromatica is her first proper album in four years, since A Star Is Born heightened and broadened her stardom, while Dixie Chicks’ Gaslighter, expected this summer, is the country trio’s first album in 14 years. Additional hip-hop contenders include Lil Uzi Vert’s Eternal Atake, DaBaby’s Kirk, Megan Thee Stallion’s Suga and Mac Miller’s posthumous Circles, while Miranda Lambert’s Wildcard and Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit’s Reunions are other potential country contenders.

Though two of the 2019 nominees — Bon Iver’s “Hey, Ma” and H.E.R.’s “Hard Place” — didn’t crack the Hot 100, the other six were all top three hits. Of this year’s likely nominees, four have reached No. 1 so far.

The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights”
This would be The Weeknd’s second record of the year nod after he was nominated in 2015 for “Can’t Feel My Face.” “Lights” logged four nonconsecutive weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100.

Post Malone, “Circles”
Post Malone was nominated two years ago for “rockstar” (featuring 21 Savage) and this past year for “Sunflower” with Swae Lee. If nominated again, he would become the fourth artist in Grammy history — following Frank Sinatra, Roberta Flack and Steve Winwood — to make it into this category three years running.

Billie Eilish, “everything i wanted”
This was Eilish’s second top 10 hit on the Hot 100 (it peaked at No. 8) and would be her second record of the year nod in a row after winning in January for “bad guy.” Now, Eilish could become the first artist to be nominated in this category the year after winning since U2 nearly two decades ago.

Maren Morris, “The Bones”
This would be Morris’ second record of the year nod, but the first on her own. (She was nominated in 2018 for “The Middle,” her dance-pop hit with Zedd and Grey.) With “The Bones,” which has logged 14 weeks at No. 1 on Hot Country Songs, Morris could join Taylor Swift on the short list of artists who have received ROTY nominations for both pop and country records.

Harry Styles, “Adore You”
This was Styles’ second top 10 solo hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 6, following his solo debut single, “Sign of the Times.”

Roddy Ricch, “The Box”
This hip-hop smash remained at No. 1 on the Hot 100 for 11 consecutive weeks, the longest reign atop the chart so far this year.

Megan Thee Stallion feat. Beyoncé, “Savage Remix”
This collaboration also hit No. 1 on the Hot 100. If nominated, it would be the third all-female collab to receive a record of the year nomination following Brandy & Monica’s “The Boy Is Mine” (1998) and the Iggy Azalea-Charli XCX team-up “Fancy” (2014). This would be Beyoncé’s sixth nomination in this category, surpassing Barbra Streisand as the female artist with the most career nods.

Dua Lipa, “Don’t Start Now”
This disco-inspired pop single reached No. 2 on the Hot 100, becoming Lipa’s highest-charting hit on the chart to date.

Drake, who has been nominated twice in this category, has two strong candidates with his track “Toosie Slide” and a feature on Future’s “Life Is Good”; Lady Gaga, who is also a two-time nominee in this category, could be back in the running with “Stupid Love” or her new Ariana Grande collaboration, “Rain on Me”; Travis Scott’s “Highest in the Room,” which entered the Hot 100 at No. 1, is also a top contender; as is Doja Cat’s “Say So,” which reached No. 1 on the Hot 100 thanks to a remix featuring Nicki Minaj.

There’s often overlap between nominees for record of the year (which awards artists, producers, recording engineers, mastering engineers and remixers) and song of the year (which awards songwriters) — and now, there could be plenty.

Post Malone, “Circles”
Post Malone co-wrote this Hot 100 hit with longtime collaborators Adam Feeney (who works under the moniker Frank Dukes), Billy Walsh and Louis Bell, all of whom are credited on Post Malone’s debut album, Stoney.

Billie Eilish, “everything i wanted”
Eilish co-wrote this dreamlike ballad with her brother and collaborator, FINNEAS; at the 2020 ceremony, the pair won in this category for “bad guy.” Should “everything I wanted” win, they would become the first songwriters to score back-to-back awards in this category.

Maren Morris, “The Bones”
Morris co-wrote this country slow jam with Jimmy Robbins and Laura Veltz, both of whom she worked with on her 2016 major-label debut album, Hero.

Harry Styles, “Adore You”
Styles co-wrote this smash with Amy Allen, Tyler Johnson and Thomas Hull (aka Kid Harpoon). The latter two also co-wrote and co-produced a handful of tracks on Styles’ self-titled solo debut album.

The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights”
The Weeknd co-wrote this hit with Ahmad Balshe (aka Belly), Jason Quenneville (DaHeala), Max Martin and Oscar Holter. Martin, who also co-wrote Lady Gaga’s “Stupid Love,” is a four-time nominee in this category.

Selena Gomez, “Lose You To Love Me”
Gomez co-wrote this ballad with Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter, along with Mattias Larsson and Robin Fredriksson (Mattman & Robin). Michaels and Tranter were nominated in this category three years ago for co-writing Michaels’ hit “Issues.”

Alicia Keys, “Underdog”
Keys — who won in this category in 2001 for “Fallin’” — co-wrote “Underdog” with Johnny McDaid, Ed Sheeran, Amy Wadge, Jonny Coffer and Foy Vance.

Dixie Chicks, “Gaslighter”
The trio, who co-wrote this track with Jack Antonoff, won in this category at the 2007 ceremony for co-writing “Not Ready To Make Nice.”

Bob Dylan may be in the conversation for “Murder Most Foul,” his nearly 17-minute song about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination, which would be Dylan’s first nomination in this category. Ozan Yildirim (aka OZ) has two strong candidates with Travis Scott’s “Highest in the Room” (OZ and Scott co-wrote the song with Nik Frascona and Mike Dean) and Future featuring Drake’s “Life Is Good” (co-written with the artists, plus Darius Hill and Mathias Liyew). Meanwhile, Beyoncé and Terius Nash (aka The-Dream), who won in this category 11 years ago for co-writing “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It),” could make it back to the finals with “Savage Remix” (co-written with Megan Pete [aka Megan Thee Stallion], Anthony White [J. White], Bobby Session Jr., Derrick Milano, Jordan Kyle Lanier Thorpe [Pardison Fontaine], Shawn Carter [JAY-Z] and Brittany Hazzard [Starrah]).

Though breakout stars including Roddy Ricch, DaBaby, The Highwomen and The Scotts are all ineligible for various reasons, many contenders remain.

Megan Thee Stallion
The Houston rapper achieved a measure of prominence in 2019 with her Fever mixtape and rose to Hot 100-topping stardom in 2020. Under the old rules, she would have been ineligible (she had released over 30 tracks prior to the start of the current eligibility year), but now it will be up to the screening committee to determine if her 2019 inroads should preclude a shot here this year.

Summer Walker
The R&B singer’s debut album, Over It, reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and boasted collaborations with Drake (a 2010 best new artist nominee), Bryson Tiller and Usher — all of which landed on the Hot 100. Last November, Walker won best new artist at the Soul Train Music Awards.

Doja Cat
The 24-year-old singer-rapper’s second album, Hot Pink, reached No. 9 on the Billboard 200, while its breakout single, “Say So,” which later featured Nicki Minaj (a 2011 best new artist nominee) on a remix, hit No. 1 on the Hot 100.

Tones and I
The Australian singer’s breakout hit, the quirky alt-pop “Dance Monkey,” reached No. 4 on the Hot 100 (and No. 1 in many regions around the world), while her debut EP, The Kids Are Coming, climbed to No. 30 on the Billboard 200.

Ingrid Andress
Following the release of Andress’ debut album, Lady Like, which reached No. 9 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, the country singer-songwriter’s debut single, “More Hearts Than Mine,” reached No. 3 on Country Airplay and No. 30 on the Hot 100.

Gabby Barrett
Two years ago, this up-and-coming country singer finished third on American Idol. This April, her breakout single, “I Hope,” which previews her debut album, Goldmine (June 19), became the first debut track by a woman to top Billboard’s Country Streaming Songs chart.

Rex Orange County
Following the singer-songwriter’s two self-released albums and a feature on Tyler, The Creator’s 2017 album, Flower Boy, the English musician’s third album, Pony, became his major-label debut on RCA and climbed to No. 3 on the Billboard 200.

Conan Gray
After developing a devoted following on YouTube in his early teens, Gray released his debut album, Kid Krow, this March. It reached No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and earned praise from Taylor Swift (a 2007 best new artist nominee) on Instagram.

SuperM has a chance of becoming the first K-pop group to be nominated in this category with its self-titled EP, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. And, there are several strong hip-hop candidates in addition to Doja Cat, including Polo G, Saweetie, NLE Choppa and Lil Mosey — the latter two of whom are still in their teens. Several rookie hitmakers are also in the running, including hip-hop artist Arizona Zervas, whose “Roxanne” reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100; Surfaces, the Texas electro-pop duo that has a current hit with “Sunday Best”; SHAED, the Washington, D.C.-based pop trio whose 2018 single “Trampoline” was a sleeper hit this year; Trevor Daniel, the Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter behind “Falling”; and Benee, a 20-year-old New Zealand singer who delivered the unintentional quarantine anthem “Supalonely” (featuring Gus Dapperton).