The Recording Academy’s bombshell announcement in April that it’s disbanding its nominations review committees means that, for the first time in 27 years, voting members will have the final say on the nominations in the Big Four categories.
The change makes the Grammy nominations even harder to predict than usual. That’s because the committee’s patterns — striving for gender, genre and racial diversity and generally steering clear of legacy, deceased and controversial artists in the Big Four categories — had become somewhat predictable. Still, early predictions remain an annual tradition. Here are the likely nominees in each of the four categories, followed by a handful of other Grammy hopefuls.
In 2020, 1,225 albums were entered in this category. The top 20 vote-getters went to the committee, which picked the eight nominees. This year, the top eight vote-getters will become the nominees. Here are the best bets, listed alphabetically.
Happier Than Ever
Eilish’s sophomore album won’t be released until July 30, but considering her Grammy history, it seems a safe bet for a nomination. Eilish would be the first artist to have both of his or her first two proper studio albums nominated in this category since Lady Gaga a decade ago.
This would be the pop superstar’s second nod in this category in three years. She was nominated two years ago for thank u, next. Both albums spent their first two weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.
Back of My Mind
H.E.R. has already made awards show history this year. She and collaborators Tiara Thomas and D’Mile won the Grammy for song of the year for “I Can’t Breathe” and the Academy Award for best original song for “Fight for You.” They were the first songwriters to win both honors in the same year with different songs since Lionel Richie in 1986. This album reached No. 6 on the Billboard 200, H.E.R.’s best showing to date.
Lil Nas X
As with H.E.R., the rapper was nominated in this category even before the release of his first official studio album. The debut, which is titled after his birth name, is due this summer. Lil Nas X’s EP 7 was nominated here two years ago.
This album has logged three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and became the first debut release to include two singles that entered the Hot 100 at No. 1: the classic ballad “drivers license” and the pop-punk smash “good 4 u.” The fact that the singles are so completely different may work to Rodrigo’s advantage.
This album reached No. 4 on the Billboard 200, Sullivan’s best showing to date. It won album of the year at the BET Awards in June. While Sullivan has gone 0-12 at the Grammys over the years, this may well be her time to finally bring one (or more) home.
evermore or Fearless (Taylor’s Version)
If evermore is nominated, it would mark a first for Swift, who has never been nominated in this category with her follow-up to an album of the year winner. (In other words, Speak Now and reputation, which followed Fearless and 1989, respectively, fell short.)
Tyler, The Creator
Call Me If You Get Lost
The artist won his first Grammy in March with IGOR (best rap album). This would be the rapper-singer’s first album of the year nod as a lead artist, though he was nominated as a featured artist nine years ago on Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange.
Within Reach: Megan Thee Stallion’s Good News, Chris Stapleton’s Starting Over, Justin Bieber’s Justice, Lorde’s Solar Power (due Aug. 20), Eric Church’s Heart & Soul, Brothers Osborne’s Skeletons, Giveon’s When It’s All Said And Done… Take Time, Doja Cat’s Planet Her, Foo Fighters’ Medicine at Midnight, Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You
After getting shut out of the 2020 nominations, The Weeknd said he won’t allow his recordings to be entered in the Grammy process going forward, but artists have been known to change their minds. “Save Your Tears,” which received a smash remix with Ariana Grande, would be a strong contender here. The song topped the Billboard Hot 100 for two weeks in May. Last year, 1,463 songs were entered in this category — here is this year’s shortlist of likely candidates.
Fans worldwide were hoping “Dynamite” would be nominated in this category last year. Although it wasn’t, the group has an even longer-running No. 1 hit now vying for a nod with its snazzy smash that is, as the song suggests, “smooth like butter” and features a co-writing/co-production credit from Columbia Records chairman/CEO Ron Perry.
Billie Eilish, “Therefore I Am” or “Your Power”
This would be Eilish’s third consecutive nod in this category. “Therefore I Am” (boosted by a video of Eilish running through a deserted mall, a defining image of 2020) reached No. 2 on the Hot 100; the cinematic ballad “Your Power” hit No. 10.
Giveon, “Heartbreak Anniversary”
The sleeper hit, released in February 2020 but not entered in this category last year, has climbed as high as No. 16 on the Hot 100. Giveon could also be nominated in this category as a featured artist on Justin Bieber’s pop/R&B smash “Peaches,” which also features Daniel Caesar.
Lil Nas X, “Montero (Call Me by Your Name)”
This would be the rapper’s second nod in this category. “Old Town Road (Remix),” his megahit pairing with Billy Ray Cyrus, was nominated two years ago. “Montero” debuted atop the Hot 100, boosted by shock value and a buzzy video, and has stayed near the top of the chart since its release.
Dua Lipa Featuring DaBaby, “Levitating (Remix)”
This would be the second year in a row that both of these artists were nominated in this category: Lipa was nominated last year for “Don’t Start Now,” and DaBaby got the nod for “Rockstar” (featuring Roddy Ricch). “Levitating” reached No. 2 on the Hot 100, which ties “Don’t Start Now” as Lipa’s highest-charting hit.
Olivia Rodrigo, “drivers license”
This well-observed, deeply personal ballad is a good bet to get Rodrigo her first record of the year nod. The song topped the Hot 100 for eight weeks, longer than any other single released in this eligibility period — though “Butter” is catching up fast.
Silk Sonic, “Leave the Door Open”
This swanky ballad, an affectionate homage to the Philadelphia soul sound that was in its heyday before Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak (aka Silk Sonic) were born, would constitute Mars’ sixth nod in this category and .Paak’s first. “Leave the Door Open” topped the Hot 100 for two weeks.
Kali Uchis, “Telepatía”
This gorgeous, bilingual single took the scenic route to crossover success: It cracked the top 30 on the Hot 100 in its 17th week. Uchis, a guest on songs by Tyler, The Creator and Daniel Caesar, scored her biggest solo hit once “Telepatía” took off on TikTok in early 2021.
Within Reach: Ariana Grande’s “Positions,” Justin Bieber’s “Peaches” featuring Daniel Caesar & Giveon, Ed Sheeran’s “Bad Habits,” Jazmine Sullivan’s “Pick Up Your Feelings,” Cardi B’s “Up,” Taylor Swift’s “Willow,” Coldplay’s “Higher Power,” Pop Smoke’s “What You Know Bout Love,” Doja Cat’s “Kiss Me More” featuring SZA, SZA’s “Good Days”
Some years, there’s a lot of overlap between the record of the year and song of the year nominees. Other years, not so much. Last year, four works were nominated in both categories, with three the year prior and six before that. Last year, 1,443 songs were entered in this category.
Olivia Rodrigo, Dan Nigro
This would be the first nomination in this category for both writers. Nigro, who produced or co-produced all of the tracks on Sour (and co-wrote all but three of them), is the former lead singer and guitarist of the indie rock band As Tall As Lions.
SZA, Carlos Muñoz, Carter Lang, Christopher Ruelas, Jacob Collier
This mesmerizing neo-soul ballad reached No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100, SZA’s highest-charting noncollaborative single. This would be the second nod in this category for SZA, who was nominated three years ago for co-writing the Black Panther smash “All the Stars.” Collier was a surprise album of the year candidate last year.
Giveon, Sevn Thomas, Maneesh Bidaye, Varren Wade
This would be the first nod in this category for all of these writers. Thomas was nominated for album of the year five years ago for his work on Drake’s Views.
Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, D’Mile, Christopher Brody Brown
“Leave the Door Open”
This would be Mars’ fifth nod in this category, Brown’s fourth, the second for D’Mile and the first for .Paak. Mars and Brown shared nominations for co-writing Cee Lo Green’s “F*** You” and Mars’ “Grenade” and “That’s What I Like.”
Dua Lipa, DaBaby, Clarence Coffee Jr., Sarah Hudson, Koz
Lipa was nominated in this category last year for “Don’t Start Now” (she performed a medley of the hit with this remix at the ceremony in March). DaBaby’s six Grammy nods include two for best rap song for “Suge” (2019) and “Rockstar” (2020).
Lil Nas X, Denzel Baptiste, David Biral, Omer Fedi, Rosario Lenzo
“Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”
This would be the first nod in this category for all of these writers. Lil Nas X was nominated in three of the Big Four categories two years ago, but missed out on a song of the year nod.
Billie Eilish, FINNEAS
“Therefore I Am” or “Your Power”
This would be the third year in a row the siblings have been nominated in this category. They are vying to become the first writers with three consecutive song of the year nominations since Max Martin in 2013-15. (H.E.R. could also achieve the feat if she is nominated in this category this year.)
Taylor Swift, Aaron Dessner
The ballad entered the Hot 100 at No. 1 in December. This would be Swift’s record-tying sixth nomination in this category and Dessner’s second. (They shared a nod last year for “Cardigan.”)
Within Reach: “Pick Up Your Feelings” (Jazmine Sullivan), “Higher Power” (Coldplay), “Peaches” (Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar & Giveon), “Positions” (Ariana Grande), “Bad Habits” (Ed Sheeran), “Save Your Tears” (The Weeknd & Ariana Grande), “Butter” (BTS), “Telepatía” (Kali Uchis), “Up” (Cardi B), “What You Know Bout Love” (Pop Smoke), “Kiss Me More” (Doja Cat featuring SZA), “Fight for You” (H.E.R.)
This year’s best new artist class may feature a handful of teen pop stars with Olivia Rodrigo, The Kid LAROI and Tate McRae as possible contenders. While Giveon won best new artist at the BET Awards in June, he isn’t eligible here, considering he was Grammy-nominated for best R&B album in 2020 for Take Time. Polo G, whose third album, Hall of Fame, topped the Billboard 200 and spawned a No. 1 single on the Hot 100, “Rapstar,” will no doubt be discussed at the fall screening committee (which is distinct from the nominations review committee). The question will be whether he meets the complex criteria for best new artist: “This category recognizes an artist whose eligibility-year release(s) achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and notably impacted the musical landscape.” The rules specifically disallow “any artist who had achieved a breakthrough in a prior eligibility year.” Polo G’s two previous albums, Die a Legend and The Goat, also reached the top 10 on the Billboard 200. Last year, 343 artists were entered in the category.
girl in red
If I Could Make It Go Quiet, the debut set from the Norwegian singer-songwriter and record producer, reached No. 67 on the Billboard 200. Standout single “Serotonin,” co-produced by FINNEAS, made the top 20 on Hot Rock & Alternative Songs.
The British electronic/pop band’s third studio album, Dreamland, hit No. 7 on the Billboard 200 in 2020. “Heat Waves” reached the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Kid LAROI
The Australian rapper-singer reached No. 3 on the Billboard 200 in 2020 with his mixtape F*ck Love. The single “Without You” received a remix with Miley Cyrus in April, which helped the song crack the top 10 on the Hot 100 the following month. He previously hit the top 10 of the chart as a featured artist on Juice WRLD and Marshmello’s “Hate the Other Side.”
The rapper’s platinum-certified “No More Parties” (featuring Lil Durk) hit a No. 26 high on the Hot 100. Leray was nominated for best new artist at the BET Awards.
The Canadian artist’s second EP, Too Young To Be Sad, reached No. 94 on the Billboard 200. “You Broke Me First,” a single from the EP, hit No. 17 on the Hot 100 and No. 2 on Mainstream Top 40 Airplay. Follow-up hits include a collaboration with DJ Regard and Troye Sivan and another with Khalid, both of which reached the latter chart’s top 25.
Parks’ debut studio album, Collapsed in Sunbeams, reached No. 4 on the Heatseekers Albums chart. She performed her single “Hope” and won breakthrough artist at the BRIT Awards in May.
Rodrigo is vying to become the third-youngest winner in this category, trailing LeAnn Rimes, who was 14 when she won in 1997, and Eilish, who was 17 when she won two years ago.
The rapper has notched three top 30 hits on the Hot 100: “My Type,” “Tap In” and “Best Friend” (featuring Doja Cat). Her EP Icy reached No. 85 on the Billboard 200, while her highly anticipated debut studio album, Pretty B*tch Music, is due this summer.
Within Reach: Pooh Shiesty, Lucy Dacus, Masked Wolf, Rina Sawayama, Duncan Laurence, Rauw Alejandro, Anitta, Latto, Flo Milli, Japanese Breakfast