We all know that Olivia Rodrigo will have a big night at the 64th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday — but how big will it be?
Will she become just the third artist in Grammy history to sweep the Big Four categories – album, record and song of the year plus best new artist – in one night? She very well may, unless voters can’t resist the urge to cap off Tony Bennett’s legendary career with another album of the year win for Love for Sale, his second collab with Lady Gaga. Or unless someone else — H.E.R. perhaps, or Billie Eilish — manages to pick off album of the year. This appears to be the one Big Four category where Rodrigo could encounter some trouble.
Rodrigo is a lock to win best new artist. And she’s a strong front-runner in both record and song of the year for her classy breakthrough hit “drivers license.” That smash ballad has been the Grammy front-runner virtually since the week it came out in January 2021. It has all the qualities Grammy voters have long prized in winners of their marquee awards. The song shows a respect for traditional songwriting values without sounding old-fashioned. It doesn’t hurt that it was a big hit, spending its first eight weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In handicapping this year’s Grammys, it’s important to remember that the voting was conducted between Dec. 6 and Jan. 5. So, anything that has happened since Jan. 5 is irrelevant. Glass Animals set a record for the longest slog to No. 1 in the history of the Hot 100. Doesn’t matter. That happened long after the voting period ended.
One other thing to keep in mind: This is the first year that there have been 10 nominees in each of the Big Four categories. That mirrors the Oscars’ best picture category — though the Oscars have this glut of nominees in only one category, not four. How will the 10 nominees impact the voting? Theoretically, someone could win with just a little more than 10% of the vote. That probably won’t happen, but an artist doesn’t need to appeal to everybody, or even to most voters in the category, to win.
Let’s look at the likely winners in 19 of the 87 Grammy races where winners will be announced on Sunday. (The Recording Academy is presenting two awards for best immersive audio album — one for this year’s Grammy cycle and one for last year’s. The craft committee in that category couldn’t meet in 2020 because of the pandemic.)
Record of the year
Nominees: ABBA’s “I Still Have Faith in You,” Jon Batiste’s “Freedom,” Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga’s “I Get a Kick Out of You,” Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar & Giveon’s “Peaches,” Brandi Carlile’s “Right on Time,” Doja Cat featuring SZA’s “Kiss Me More,” Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever,” Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license,” Silk Sonic’s “Leave the Door Open.”
Analysis: There are a lot of potential history makers here. Bennett, 95, would become the oldest winner in the category’s history, and would also set a new record for the longest span of record of the year wins. (He first won 59 years ago for “I Left My Heart in San Francisco.”) Eilish would become the first artist to ever win three years in a row – and only the second artist to win three times, period. (The first was Paul Simon, who won twice with Simon & Garfunkel and once on his own.) Bruno Mars, one-half of Silk Sonic, would also become the second artist to win three times. He won as a featured artist on Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk!” and on his own for “24K Magic.” Even with all those tantalizing potential record-setters, “drivers license” is still in the driver’s seat.
Album of the year
Nominees: Jon Batiste’s We Are, Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga’s Love for Sale, Justin Bieber’s Justice (Triple Chucks Deluxe), Doja Cat’s Planet Her (Deluxe), Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever, H.E.R.’s Back of My Mind, Lil Nas X’s Montero, Olivia Rodrigo’s SOUR, Taylor Swift’s Evermore, Kanye West’s DONDA.
Analysis: Bennett won the 1994 award in this category for MTV Unplugged. While everyone has always admired Bennett’s artistry, there were grumblings that giving a traditional pop album the top award and not even nominating a rap or alternative album that year showed that the Grammys were out of touch. The following year, the Recording Academy introduced a nominations review committee in the Big Four categories and charged it with making sure the nominations were more reflective of the current music scene.
In this, the first year since the Academy disbanded all of its nominations review committees, Bennett is back – and just may win, even though Love for Sale didn’t have the impact of Bennett & Gaga’s first collab, Cheek to Cheek, a No. 1 album on the Billboard 200. If Swift wins, she’ll become the first four-time winner in the category’s history. If the H.E.R., West or Lil Nas X albums win, it would become the first contemporary R&B or hip-hop album to win since OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below 18 years ago. Eilish and Doja Cat also have their supporters, but the safest bet is probably Rodrigo, whose debut album topped the Billboard 200 for five weeks and spawned two No. 1 singles on the Hot 100.
Song of the year
Nominees: “Bad Habits” (Fred Gibson, Johnny McDaid, Ed Sheeran), “A Beautiful Noise” (Ruby Amanfu, Brandi Carlile, Brandy Clark, Alicia Keys, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, Linda Perry, Hailey Whitters), “drivers license” (Daniel Nigro, Olivia Rodrigo), “Fight for You” (D’Mile, H.E.R., Tiara Thomas), “Happier Than Ever” (Billie Eilish, Finneas), “Kiss Me More” (Rogét Chahayed, Doja Cat, Lukasz Gottwald, Carter Lang, Gerard A. Powell II, SZA, David Specher), “Leave the Door Open” (Anderson. Paak, Christopher Brody Brown, D’Mile, Bruno Mars), “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)” (Denzel Baptiste, David Biral, Omer Fedi, Lil Nas X, Roy Lenzo), “Peaches” (Louis Bell, Justin Bieber, Giveon, Bernard Harvey, Felisha “Fury” King, Matthew Sean Leon, Luis Manuel Martinez Jr., Aaron Simmonds, Daniel Caesar, Andrew Wotman, Keavan Yazdani), “Right on Time” (Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth).
Analysis: If “A Beautiful Noise” wins, it will tie Mars’ “That’s What I Like” as the song of the year winner written by the most songwriters (eight). If “Peaches” wins, it will set a new record in that regard. It took 11 songwriters to write that jam. D’Mile, H.E.R. and Tiara Thomas won here last year for “I Can’t Breathe.” If they win again this year, they’ll become the first songwriters in Grammy history to win song of the year two years running. Sheeran, Keys, Eilish & Finneas, and Bruno Mars & Christopher Brody Brown are also hoping to win their second awards in this category. But it will be hard for any of them to get past Rodrigo’s impeccably crafted smash.
Best new artist
Nominees: Arooj Aftab, Jimmie Allen, Baby Keem, Finneas, Glass Animals, Japanese Breakfast, The Kid LAROI, Arlo Parks, Olivia Rodrigo, Saweetie.
Analysis: Allen won new artist of the year at the CMA Awards in November. Parks won breakthrough artist at the Brit Awards in May 2021. Finneas has won eight Grammys for his behind-the-scenes work. His nomination here is based on the debatable proposition that this was the year he established his own identity as an artist. But let’s cut to the chase: Rodrigo can’t lose here. If she sweeps the Big Four awards, she’ll join Christopher Cross and Eilish as the only artists to do that in Grammy history. Cross was the only artist to do it in the Grammys’ first 61 years. If Rodrigo equals the feat, it will have happened twice in the past three years.
Best pop vocal album
Nominees: Justin Bieber’s Justice (Triple Chucks Deluxe), Doja Cat’s Planet Her (Deluxe), Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever, Ariana Grande’s Positions, Olivia Rodrigo’s Sour.
Analysis: Eilish and Grande are both past winners in this category. If either wins, she’ll tie Adele and Kelly Clarkson as the only two-time winners in the category’s 28-year history. Grande isn’t nominated for the overall album of the year award. The other four nominees here are. The genre album awards usually line up with the overall album of the year award, but they don’t have to. Last year, Dua Lipa beat Taylor Swift for best pop vocal album, but Swift then turned around and beat Lipa for album of the year. It made no sense, but somehow made perfect sense.
Best traditional pop vocal album
Nominees: Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga’s Love for Sale, Norah Jones’ ‘Til We Meet Again (Live), Tori Kelly’s A Tori Kelly Christmas, Ledisi’s Ledisi Sings Nina, Willie Nelson’s That’s Life, Dolly Parton’s A Holly Dolly Christmas.
Analysis: Nelson is a three-time winner in this category. His album is a salute to the incomparable Frank Sinatra, who won in this category 26 years ago. But we all know that Bennett will win for a record-extending 14th time in this category, the second time with Gaga in tow.
Best dance/electronic music album
Nominees: Black Coffee’s Subconsciously, Illenium’s Fallen Embers, Major Lazer’s Music is the Weapon (Reloaded), Marshmello’s Shockwave, Sylvan Esso’s Free Love, Ten City’s Judgement.
Analysis: If Major Lazer, which consists of Diplo, Walshy Fire and Ape Drums, wins, this would be Diplo’s second win in the category. He won six years ago with Jack Ü’s Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü.
Prediction: Major Lazer
Best rock album
Nominees: AC/DC’s Power Up, Black Pumas’ Capitol Cuts – Live From Studio A, Chris Cornell’s No One Sings Like You Anymore Vol. 1, Foo Fighters’ Medicine at Midnight, Paul McCartney’s McCartney III.
Analysis: Foo Fighters have won four times in this category, twice as often as anyone else in the category’s history. With a track record like that, are you willing to bet against them? Didn’t think so.
Prediction: Foo Fighters
Best alternative music album
Nominees: Fleet Foxes’ Shore; Halsey’s If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power; Japanese Breakfast’s Jubilee; Arlo Parks’ Collapsed in Sunbeams; St. Vincent’s Daddy’s Home.
Analysis: Halsey’s album, produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, received the most buzz. If it (or albums by Arlo Parks or St. Vincent) takes the award, this will be the second year in a row that a female solo artist has won in this category. Fiona Apple won last year for Fetch the Bolt Cutters. This would be the first time in Grammy history that female solo artists have won back-to-back awards in this category. The only female solo artists to win prior to Apple were Sinéad O’Connor and St. Vincent.
Best progressive R&B album
Nominees: Eric Bellinger’s New Light; Cory Henry’s Something to Say; Hiatus Kaiyote’s Mood Valiant; Lucky Daye’s Table for Two; Terrace Martin, Robert Glasper, 9th Wonder & Kamasi Washington’s Dinner Party: Dessert; Masego’s Studying Abroad: Extended Stay.
Analysis: There’s no clear front-runner here. Glasper is the only one of these nominees who has won a Grammy before (he’s won four), but voters may or may not respond to a collab. This is Lucky Daye’s sixth nomination. He has yet to win. Maybe this year he’ll get “lucky.”
Prediction: Lucky Daye
Best R&B album
Nominees: Snoh Aalegra’s Temporary Highs in the Violet Skies, Jon Batiste’s We Are, Leon Bridges’ Gold-Diggers Sound, H.E.R.’s Back of My Mind, Jasmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales.
Analysis: Sullivan has received 15 Grammy nominations (including three this year) but has yet to win. Let’s hope she wins at least one this year. Heaux Tales won album of the year at both the BET Awards and the Soul Train Music Awards, but it’s not nominated for the overall album of the year award here. Of the two albums here that were, We Are and Back of My Mind, H.E.R. has an edge. She won in this category three years ago.
Best rap album
Nominees: J. Cole’s The Off-Season, Nas’ King’s Disease II, Tyler, the Creator’s Call Me If You Get Lost, Kanye West’s DONDA.
Analysis: There are only four nominees because Drake declined his nomination for Certified Lover Boy. Three of the nominees here are past winners in this category. West has won here four times, but not in a decade. Nas won last year for the initial King’s Disease album. Tyler, the Creator won two years ago for Igor. Call Me If You Get Lost won album of the year at the BET Hip-Hop Awards in October. The Academy’s new “3-10” rule, which holds that voters can vote in no more than 10 categories spread across no more than three fields (outside of the Big Four categories) may help Tyler, the Creator’s chances. If only core rap fans vote here, Tyler, the Creator may have a better chance of beating the more famous West.
Prediction: Tyler, the Creator
Best country album
Nominees: Brothers Osborne’s Skeletons; Mickey Guyton’s Remember Her Name; Miranda Lambert, Jon Randall & Jack Ingram’s The Marfa Tapes; Sturgill Simpson’s The Ballad of Dood & Juanita; Chris Stapleton’s Starting Over.
Analysis: Stapleton’s album won a CMA Award for album of the year in November. The ACM Awards winner in this category, Morgan Wallen’s Dangerous: The Double Album, wasn’t nominated here. That clears the way for Stapleton to win here for a third time. Only The Chicks, with four wins, have won more.
Best compilation soundtrack for visual media
Nominees: Cruella, Dear Evan Hansen, In the Heights, One Night in Miami…, Respect (Jennifer Hudson), Schmigadoon! Episode 1, The United States vs. Billie Holiday (Andra Day).
Analysis: Five projects credited to Various Artists are competing with a pair of biopics about legendary singers, which are credited to the artists who dominated those soundtracks. Hudson is a two-time Grammy winner. Day has yet to win a Grammy. Advantage: Hudson.
Best score soundtrack for visual media
Nominees: Bridgerton (Kris Bowers), Dune (Hans Zimmer), The Mandalorian: Season 2 – Vol. 2 (Chapters 13-16) (Ludwig Göransson), The Queen’s Gambit (Carlos Rafael Rivera), Soul (Jon Batiste, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross).
Analysis: It’s a contest between this year’s Oscar winner for best original score, Dune, and last year’s winner in that category, Soul. Grammy voters will likely be attracted to the genre-bridging, collaborative aspect of Soul.
Best song written for visual media
Nominees: “Agatha All Along” (from Wandavision: Episode 7), “All Eyes on Me” (from Inside), “All I Know So Far” (from P!nk: All I Know So Far), “Fight for You” (from Judas and the Black Messiah), “Here I Am (Singing My Way Home)” (from Respect), “Speak Now” (from One Night in Miami…).
Analysis: As the only nominee here that’s also nominated in the overall song of the year category, “Fight for You” has the edge. But there will, no doubt, be support for “Here I Am (Singing My Way Home),” which was co-written by legendary songwriter Carole King. This would be the first time King has won a Grammy since she swept the 1971 awards (in absentia) for her landmark album, Tapestry.
Prediction: “Fight for You”
Producer of the year (non-classical)
Nominees: Jack Antonoff, Rogét Chahayed, Mike Elizondo, Hit-Boy, Ricky Reed.
Analysis: Whoever wins will be a first-time winner in the category, which dates to 1974. This is the third nomination for Antonoff and Reed; the second for Elizondo. Chahayed co-produced a record of the year nominee (“Kiss Me More”). Antonoff and Reed worked on album of the year contenders by Swift and Batiste, respectively. It feels like Antonoff is most overdue. Should he win, he’ll become the first former best new artist winner to go on to win producer of the year (non-classical). He won best new artist as a member of fun. nine years ago. Note: Finneas could conceivably do it the other way around. He won producer of the year (non-classical) two years ago and is nominated for best new artist this year.
Best music video
Nominees: AC/DC’s “Shot in the Dark,” Jon Batiste’s “Freedom,” Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga’s “I Get a Kick Out of You,” Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar & Giveon’s “Peaches,” Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever,” Lil Nas X’s “Montero (Call Me by Your Name),” Olivia Rodrigo’s “good 4 u.”
Analysis: Lil Nas X’s daring, envelope-pushing video won top honors at the MTV Video Music Awards in September. He and Billy Ray Cyrus won in this Grammy category two years ago with “Old Town Road (Remix).” LNX could easily repeat. He would join Peter Gabriel, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Johnny Cash, Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé as the only two-time winners in this category.
Prediction: Lil Nas X
Best music film
Nominees: Bo Burnham’s Inside; David Byrne’s David Byrne’s American Utopia; Billie Eilish’s Happier Than Ever: A Love Letter to Los Angeles; Jimi Hendrix’s Music, Money, Madness…Jimi Hendrix in Maui; Summer of Soul.
Analysis: Most everyone who has seen Summer of Soul loves it. Questlove, who directed the doc, and David Dinerstein, Robert Fyvolent and Joseph Patel, who co-produced it, won an Oscar for documentary (feature) on Sunday and are likely to follow up with another win here. It would be the second doc to win both awards, following 20 Feet From Stardom. This would be Questlove’s sixth Grammy win.
Prediction: Summer of Soul