One of the ways in which the Grammy Awards are distinct from most other awards shows: There’s more than one top prize. The album of the year trophy has long been viewed as the most prestigious award of the yearly ceremony, yet artists have dominated the Grammys in past years by taking home both record and song of the year, like Silk Sonic did at the 2022 Grammys with “Leave the Door Open.” In other years — like in 2020, when Billie Eilish swept the Big Four — multiple major wins, including album of the year, helped define how that year’s ceremony was remembered.
Ahead of the 2023 Grammy Awards on Sunday night, it’s worth asking: Which artists could dominate the Grammys narrative this year, and what would it mean if they did? Nine artists have the chance to take home multiple Big Four awards, with generous overlap between the nominees for album of the year, record of the year and song of the year (the 10 best new artist nominees, strangely, do not have any other Big Four nods this year). Meanwhile, a 10th artist only has one Big Four nod… but a win would be groundbreaking enough that it’s worth including them into the list of artists who could shape how this year’s Grammys are remembered.
Those artists range from rising pop stars with brash hit singles to music industry institutions who have been earning acclaim for decades. And all of their legacies could be altered come Grammy night — some via an early coronation, others through long-awaited wins. There’s a lot at stake in every Grammy category, but the Big Four carry the most eyeballs and the greatest weight, with lasting impacts more than possible.
With that in mind, here are the 10 artists who could dominate the narrative of the 2023 Grammys, what they would need to win in order to do so, and what those dominant performances would mean.
What They’d Need To Win: album of the year for Voyage and record of the year for “Don’t Shut Me Down”
What It Would Signify: A recognition of pop legacy. The Swedish quartet is one of the most beloved pop groups of all time, but prior to their reunion after decades apart with 2021’s Voyage, ABBA had never earned a Grammy nomination, and still haven’t collected a trophy. Now, after snagging a surprise record of the year nom last year with “I Still Have Faith in You,” they’re back with four more nominations, including a pair of Big Four showings.
If the 2023 Grammys play out like a new installment of Mamma Mia! and become an ABBA love-fest, they’ll most closely recall the early ‘90s ceremonies that honored projects by Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett and Eric Clapton years after those legends’ respective pop-culture pinnacles. To be clear, ABBA do not sound long in the tooth on Voyage, a riveting pop opus and worthy addition to their canon — but regardless, a big night for them would be a big night for a legacy act over more modern superstars.
What She’d Need To Win: album of the year for 30, plus record of the year and/or song of the year for “Easy On Me”
What It Would Signify: Arguably the greatest Big Four resumé in Grammys history. Considering her track record at the ceremony, betting against a major night for Adele may be a sucker’s game: the British superstar, who’s up for seven more trophies in 2023, has not only emerged victorious in all four of the general categories over the course of her career, she’s also on a decade-long streak of not losing in any category in which she’s nominated. Adele is 13-for-13 since the 2012 show, including two album of the year, record of the year and song of the year wins.
Can Adele keep the streak alive in 2023? Her 30 album and its blockbuster lead single “Easy On Me” are facing stiff competition in the Big Four this year, and another win over Beyoncé in album of the year, six years after Adele apologetically accepted the trophy for 25 over Lemonade, might earn further BeyHive blowback toward the Recording Academy. Still, another major night for Adele would cap off perhaps the most remarkable Grammys run ever, a Michael Jordan-esque track record of winning every time Adele makes it to the finals. Lots of hand-wringing by fans of other artists would follow, but Adele’s name would be etched even deeper into the history books.
What She’d Need To Win: album of the year for Renaissance, plus record of the year and/or song of the year for “Break My Soul”
What It Would Signify: A long-overdue coronation. Although Beyoncé owns the record for most career Grammy wins for a female artist with 28, her lack of an album of the year trophy has been a glaring omission to her resumé, and a source of much consternation for both diehard fans and Recording Academy critics. Now, the stars have seemingly aligned for a well-deserved recognition of one of the defining popular artists of our time: Renaissance, which is both a universal nod to house music and a personal testament to Bey’s relationship to its Black and queer roots, was one of the best-reviewed albums of last year. Meanwhile, “Break My Soul” became a post-lockdown anthem in 2022, as well as Beyoncé’s biggest solo hit since “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” 14 years earlier.
Wins for song of the year and record of the year — the latter of which Beyoncé has yet to take home — would represent major Ws for one of the all-time Grammy winners, but let’s face it: This all comes down to album of the year. If Renaissance wins, Queen Bey is given her Grammy crown, and if it doesn’t, one of the more noticeable droughts in the history of the awards ceremony will be prolonged.
Mary J. Blige
What She’d Need To Win: album of the year for Good Morning Gorgeous, plus record of the year for “Good Morning Gorgeous”
What It Would Signify: A veteran’s staying power, part one. With six nominations at the 2023 ceremony, Blige enters the competition as a widely respected star whose influence on modern R&B couldn’t be more clear, and yet one who has never been a consistent presence in the Big Four categories (her only general category noms came 16 years ago, when “Be Without You” was up for record of the year and song of the year).
Good Morning Gorgeous boasts a bevy of present-day stars, from Anderson .Paak to DJ Khaled to Fivio Foreign, along with an unshakeable point of view and expression of self-worth; the album and its title track were not commercial smashes, but contain the type of new-school gestures and powerful songwriting from a long-running artist that have played well at Grammys past. Neither the album nor the song are front-runners in their respective categories, but it shouldn’t be considered a shock if a widely beloved figure like Blige is given her flowers on Grammy night.
What She’d Need To Win: album of the year for In These Silent Days, plus record of the year for “You and Me on the Rock”
What It Would Signify: A veteran’s staying power, part two. Carlile’s breakout year at the Grammys came in 2019, when her long-running refraction of country, folk and rock earned three Big Four nods nearly a decade and a half into her recording career. Carlile has maintained a major presence at every Grammys since, with five career wins and consistent showings in the general categories (although no wins yet); this year, she’s up for seven more, and another chance to crack through in the Big Four.
In These Silent Days earned Carlile a fresh set of critical acclaim upon its late 2021 release, and it’s difficult to find a more well-liked artist who interlopes those aforementioned genres, fights admirably for social rights and queer representation, and can play to major audiences. Will that cache translate into Grammy gold this year? Carlile’s album and its Lucius-assisted single “You and Me on the Rock” are not the flashiest competitors, but the respect that Carlile’s discography demands should not be discounted in a race like album of the year. If some of the major pop stars end up canceling each other out in Big Four votes, Carlile could earn a not-so-silent trophy.
What He’d Need To Win: record of the year and song of the year for “Bad Habit”
What It Would Signify: One of the biggest breakthrough hits ever. Just as Lacy’s “Bad Habit” was able to slice through a slew of superstar singles and streak to the top of the Hot 100 chart last year, the smash will now compete against a handful of A-lister hits for some major Grammy hardware. In record of the year and song of the year, “Bad Habit” is probably an underdog, considering the heft of the artists that Lacy is competing against… but then again, Lacy’s R&B-funk-psych-pop fantasia was one of the more singular No. 1 hits in recent memory, and shut down any doubters of its commercial appeal last year.
Lacy is now a star, and that won’t change whether or not “Bad Habit” sweeps its pair of Big Four categories, just as Silk Sonic’s “Leave The Door Open” did last year. Yet a pair of general category wins would only add to its cultural impact and pop-song lore, another sign that, when we look back on the 2020s, not many debut Hot 100 entries will have accomplished what “Bad Habit” did over the past year.
What He’d Need To Win: album of the year for Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, plus record of the year and/or song of the year for “The Heart Part 5”
What It Would Signify: An unparalleled run in hip-hop. Lamar enters the 2023 Grammys in a similar situation to Beyoncé: sure, a record of the year or song of the year win for “The Heart Part 5,” a meditative preview of the long-awaited album that would follow one week later in 2022, would represent a major career accomplishment. But really, it’s all about album of the year, which Lamar (like Bey) is now entering for the fourth time and still looking for a first career win.
Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers is a knotty, personal and unabashedly un-commercial project from Lamar, without obvious hit singles or any abandon when confronting its creator’s ugliest impulses. Yet that boldness has also earned Lamar more raves, especially as listeners have been given more time to unpack Mr. Morale, and its inclusion in the album of the year race was not a surprise. If this project ends up being the one to take home the top prize for Lamar, he’ll have achieved something that most all-time great rappers have not, considering the Grammys’ scarcity of album of the year-winning hip-hop projects. As GOAT debates begin anew, a win here would provide more fuel to Lamar’s fire.
What She’d Need To Win: album of the year for Special, plus record of the year and/or song of the year for “About Damn Time”
What It Would Signify: A new entry into pop’s top tier. After years of trying to break through pre-“Truth Hurts,” Lizzo has accomplished a mind-boggling amount in a short time: multiple No. 1 hits, arena headlining shows, brand deals, an Emmy Award. And while she was nominated in all four of the general categories three years ago, she went 0-for-4 as Billie Eilish earned a clean sweep. Lizzo has won three Grammys to date, and comes into the 2023 ceremony with five more nods.
An album of the year win for Special, plus another major win for its breakout smash “About Damn Time,” would be significant considering Lizzo’s stiff competition this year, including a handful of Grammy-stalwart superstars. If Lizzo has a bigger night than Beyoncé, Adele, Kendrick or Harry, that’s a high-profile accomplishment for any artist, and especially a relatively new pop star trying to carve out a long-running career. Lizzo likely gets there regardless of what happens on Grammy night, but the ceremony could prove to be an inflection point for a rising star.
What He’d Need To Win: album of the year for Harry’s House, plus record of the year and/or song of the year for “As It Was”
What It Would Signify: Justice for One Direction! The stadium-ruling boy band that made Styles a star famously never earned a Grammy nomination, and now, three albums into his solo run, he could earn the top prize and some other major wins at the ceremony. Revenge is a dish best served while humming “What Makes You Beautiful”!
Okay, so a huge night for Styles probably won’t trigger a full reexamination of the 1D legacy… but it will serve as another checked box in his boy band member-turned-solo superstar plan, which has become a fairly unassailable blueprint at this point. As he’s accrued radio hits (including the longest-running solo No. 1 in Hot 100 history with “As It Was”), headlined arenas and festivals, and generally existed at the tippy-top of popular culture, a sensational Grammys showing would function as another reminder that no one is doing it quite like Harry right now. Not a game-changer legacy-wise, but a pretty nice new feather in his cap.
What He’d Need To Win: album of the year for Un Verano Sin Ti
What It Would Signify: Pretty simple: the first Spanish-language project to win album of the year. Un Verano Sin Ti logged more weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart than any other album in 2022, headlining a record-setting year for Bad Bunny as both a recording and touring artist. As Spanish-language music has commanded an increased presence in U.S. pop over the past five years, no artist has risen more to the occasion than Bad Bunny, who seemingly gathered all of his pre-2022 momentum and spent last year scoring his biggest hits to date, playing to his most sprawling crowds ever, and becoming an unquestionable A-list superstar, on par with (and perhaps ahead of) any other global pop performer.
That’s why, even though he’s only nominated in one of the Big Four categories, a win for Un Verano Sin Ti would become the dominant storyline of the 2023 Grammys — an unprecedented achievement, and the recognition of a voice without any real comparison in its respective lane. Other artists could win song of the year or record of the year come Grammy night, but if Bad Bunny takes home album of the year, it will immediately define the 2023 ceremony as one for the history books.