Hard to imagine, but we’re just three months away from the end of the Grammy eligibility year. (Eligibility closes Aug. 31, a month earlier than usual, because the Grammy telecast was moved up to avoid going head-to-head with the Academy Awards.)
Already, more than enough nom-worthy albums have been released to fill the eight available slots. Below, I peg the eight front-runners, at this point, followed by an equal number of strong runners-up and then a slightly larger pool of possibilities and upcoming releases. Obviously, with three months of releases to go, not all of these albums are going to make it. But this should give you an idea of how the competition is shaping up.
The 62nd annual Grammy Awards will be held on Jan. 26, 2020. The eligibility period runs from Oct. 1, 2018-Aug. 31, 2019.
Billie Eilish, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Eilish’s debut studio album, following a pair of EPs, has an excellent chance. Eilish, who will turn 18 on Dec. 18, would be the youngest nominee in this category in Grammy history, topping 20-year-old nominees Janet Jackson (Control, 1986), Mariah Carey (Mariah Carey, 1990) and Taylor Swift (Fearless, 2009). Eilish’s album returns to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 this week. This is its third non-consecutive week on top.
Ariana Grande, thank u, next. After six years of stardom, Grande has yet to be nominated in a Big Four category (album, record and song of the year and best new artist). Grande is the hottest artist of this Grammy eligibility year, having topped the Hot 100 a total of 15 weeks since mid-November. Grande won her first Grammy in February with Sweetener, which was voted best pop vocal album. This follow-up, her fifth album, spent its first two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
Beyoncé, Homecoming: The Live Album. This album, recorded at Beyoncé’s much-praised concert at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2018, received a phenomenal 98 rating at Metacritic.com. This would be the first live album to be nominated for album of the year since 1994, when both Tony Bennett‘s MTV Unplugged and The Three Tenors’ The Three Tenors in Concert 1994 were nominated. (Bennett won.) This would be Beyoncé’s fourth album of the year nom. That would make her the first African American artist to amass four album of the year noms (as a lead artist).
Khalid, Free Spirit. Khalid’s debut album, American Teen, was nominated for best urban contemporary album two years ago—when he was also nominated for best new artist. His sophomore album entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1. Two singles from the album, “Better” and “Talk,” cracked the top 10 on the Hot 100.
Tyler, the Creator, Igor. The album, which entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1 last week, is the follow-up to Flower Boy, which received a 2017 nom for best rap album.
Anderson .Paak, Ventura. The R&B star’s second album, Malibu, was nominated for best urban contemporary album two years ago—when he was also nominated for best new artist. He has two eligible albums this year, Oxnard and Ventura. (He’s working his way around Southern California.) Ventura is more recent and climbed higher on the chart.
Solange, When I Get Home. Solange won a Grammy for best R&B performance with “Cranes in the Sky” from her last album. Her critically-acclaimed fourth album could be an album of the year contender. As noted above, Solange’s big sister, Beyoncé, may also be nominated. If both make the finals, it would be the first time in Grammy history that siblings have competed against each other in this category. Michael Jackson and younger sister Janet Jackson were each nominated in this category, but never in the same year.
Eric Church, Desperate Man. Church is a two-time winner of the CMA award for album of the year, but he hasn’t gotten much Grammy love over the years. He has never been nominated in a Big Four category, and he’s never won in any category. That could change, given the strong reviews his sixth album has received. Desperate Man spent its first two weeks on Top Country Albums at No. 1. It was nominated for album of the year at the ACM awards.
Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, A Star Is Born soundtrack. This best-seller logged four weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, longer than any other album so far in this eligibility period. It would be Gaga’s fourth album of the year nom. But the album was released in the very first week of the eligibility year. It may be seen as old news when the Nominations Review Committee meets to select the final nominees in the Big Four categories. After all, the album’s key song, “Shallow,” has already won and been performed on both the Grammys and the Oscars.
P!nk, Hurts 2B Human. P!nk has received lifetime accolades at the VMAs (in 2017) and the BRITs (in 2019), but has never really gotten her due at the Grammys. She has won three Grammys (from 20 noms)—but just one for a track from one of her own albums. Her eighth studio album entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1.
Maren Morris, Girl. Morris’ major label debut album, Hero, was nominated for best country album three years ago—when she was also nominated for best new artist. Pop powerhouses busbee and Greg Kurstin produced her second, which entered the Billboard 200 at No. 4 and Top Country Albums at No. 1.
Thomas Rhett, Center Point Road. Rhett’s last album, Life Changes, was nominated for best country album two years ago. His fourth album, due Friday (May 31), could move him up to the top category.
Vampire Weekend, Father of the Bride. The album entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1. The band’s 2013 album Modern Vampires of the City won for best alternative music album.
Ella Mai, Ella Mai. This EP is nominated for a BET Award as album of the year. Ella Mai won a Grammy in February for best R&B song for “Boo’d Up.”
Gary Clark Jr., This Land. The blues-rocker’s third major-label studio album has received strong reviews. Clark won a Grammy six years ago for “Please Come Home,” which was voted best traditional R&B performance.
Lizzo, Cuz I Love You & Megan Thee Stallion, Fever. Both of these buzzed-about female rappers broke into the top 10 on the Billboard 200–Lizzo with her third album; Megan Thee Stallion with her debut. Lizzo’s back-story is the kind that the Nominations Review Committee often finds irresistable: After struggling with body issues at an early age, Lizzo became an advocate for body positivity and self-love.
Meek Mill‘s Championships. This album entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1 in December. It’s nominated for a BET award as album of the year.
Juice WRLD, Death Race for Love. Juice WRLD’s classy 2018 smash “Lucid Dreams” wasn’t nominated in any categories. His sophomore album spent its first two weeks on the Billboard 200 at No. 1. Maybe Grammy voters will be more responsive this time around.
BTS, Map of the Soul: Persona. The EP was the K-Pop group’s third release to top the Billboard 200. BTS is vying to become the first boy band to receive an album of the year nom since Backstreet Boys 20 years ago.
The National, I Am Easy to Find. The just-released album, which enters the Billboard 200 at No. 5 this week, is the follow-up to Sleep Well Beast, which won the 2017 award for best alternative music album.
The 1975, A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships. The English band’s third album won a BRIT Award as British album of the year on Feb. 20. The band’s fourth album, Notes on a Conditional Form, is due later this year.
Jenny Lewis, On the Line. Lewis’ fourth solo album is getting great reviews. Lewis has been the subject of glowing profiles in such major publications as Rolling Stone and the Los Angeles Times.
A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Hoodie SZN. The rapper’s sophomore album spent three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
2 Chainz, Rap or Go to the League. The rapper has received six Grammy noms over the years, including a best rap album nom seven years ago for his debut, Based on a T.R.U. Story. This album, his fifth, entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1.
21 Savage, I Am > I Was. The rapper’s sophomore album spent its first two weeks on the Billboard 200 at No. 1. This is 21 Savage’s first release since his record of the year nom as a featured artist on Post Malone’s “Rockstar.”
Mumford & Sons are past winners in this category, but their latest album, Delta, drew tepid reviews. So did Imagine Dragons‘ Origins and Greta Van Fleet‘s Anthem of the Peaceful Army. The Nominations Review Committee may be reluctant to endorse an album that has been critically panned.
Other albums in the mix include Maggie Rogers‘ Heard It in a Past Life, Hozier‘s Wasteland, Baby!, Andrea Bocelli‘s Si, twenty one pilots‘ Trench, Kane Brown‘s Experiment, Backstreet Boys’ DNA and the Spider-Man: Into the Spider Verse soundtrack.
Looking at upcoming releases, Bruce Springsteen‘s Western Stars is highly promising. Springsteen has said that this album, due June 14, was influenced by Southern California pop music of the 1970s, including such greats (and Grammy faves) as Glen Campbell and Burt Bacharach. This would be the rock legend’s third nom in this category, following Born in the U.S.A. (1984) and The Rising (2002). Springsteen turns 70 on Sept. 23. If he’s nominated, he’ll become the oldest album of the year nominee (as a lead artist) in Grammy history, surpassing Tony Bennett, who was 68 when he won for MTV Unplugged. (Ray Charles would have been 74, had he lived, but he died eight months before the 2004 Grammys were dispersed.)
Other upcoming releases that look promising include Jonas Brothers‘ Happiness Begins (due June 7); Bastille‘s Doom Days (due June 14); The Black Keys‘ Let’s Rock (due June 28); Kanye West‘s long-awaited Yandhi, Lana Del Rey‘s Norman Fucking Rockwell, Ozuna‘s Nibiru, and untitled albums by Childish Gambino, Cardi B. Rihanna and Swae Lee.