Final-round voting for the 65th annual Grammy Awards closed on Wednesday (Jan. 4) at 6 p.m. PT. So, Grammy nominees can relax. They will no longer have to worry that an ill-considered tweet may go viral and hurt their chances. No matter what happens between now and Feb. 5 when the awards are presented at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, voting is locked.
That means it’s time to predict the likely winners in the Big Four categories. This little game has never been easy, but it’s gotten considerably harder in recent years for two reasons. The Recording Academy membership is undergoing rapid change. And we’re all still trying to figure out how the expansion of the number of nominees in each of the Big Four categories from five to eight and now 10 is affecting the dynamics of these races.
The Academy welcomed a new member class of “nearly 2,000 diverse music creators and professionals” in September. This was the fourth new member class since the Academy transitioned to a “community-driven and peer-reviewed annual cycle” to create, in its words, “a more diverse and engaged membership base representative of the evolving musical landscape.” Since implementing the new model, the number of women members has increased by 19%, while membership among “traditionally underrepresented communities” (read: nonwhite members) has increased by 38%.
This is the second year in a row that there are 10 nominees in each of the Big Four categories. That’s a lot, so we started by dividing the contenders into three categories: little chance of winning (entries that were lucky just to be nominated), long-shots (entries that have a shot at winning, but probably won’t) and front-runners. Within these three categories, the nominees are listed alphabetically.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
Notes: All 10 nominees are also nominated in their respective performance categories, which is another indication of support. There are no fluke nominations here.
This is the eighth nomination in the category (an all-time record) for Beyoncé; the fourth for Adele; the third for Carlile, Doja and Lamar; the second for ABBA, Blige and Lizzo; and the first for Lucius, Lacy and Styles.
Adele is a two-time winner in the category. If she were to win for the third time, she would tie Paul Simon and Bruno Mars for the most wins in the history of the category. None of the other nominees have won in this category before.
Five of the nominees were No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 – “Easy on Me,” “Break My Soul,” “Bad Habit,” “About Damn Time” and “As It Was.” A sixth, “Woman,” cracked the top 10 (peaking at No. 7).
Many will want to see Beyoncé finally win in this category. As was widely reported, “Break My Soul” became her first solo No. 1 on the Hot 100 since “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” 14 years ago. But the presence of Lizzo’s similarly ebullient “About Damn Time” in the category may cause these hits to split their votes. Besides, Beyoncé has a better chance in album of the year.
“Bad Habit” manages to sound progressive, but also familiar enough to not put off more traditional Grammy voters. Lacy’s smash ranked No. 1 on the Billboard staff’s list of the 100 best songs of 2022. In his assessment of the song for that list, Andrew Unterberger called it “the perfect pop song for 2022, and more crucially, just a perfect pop song in general. Kicking in partway through its opening chorus, ‘Bad Habit’ has a casualness to its liquid grooves and ping-ponging vocals that almost makes it feel tossed off, spontaneous. But the craft on display here is actually impossibly high-level.”
Lizzo and Styles are both proven Grammy favorites. Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” won best pop solo performance three years ago – resulting in Billie Eilish’s only loss on her big night, where she became the first artist in 39 years to sweep the Big Four categories. Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar” won in that highly-competitive category the following year. Styles’ smash inexplicably wasn’t nominated for record of the year, but in that performance category, it beat three records that were – including the eventual winner, Eilish’s “Everything I Wanted.” You could make a good case that both Lizzo and Styles are overdue for a record of the year win.
“As It Was” topped the Hot 100 for 15 weeks, setting a new record for the longest run at No. 1 by a U.K. artist. Styles achieved success on other fronts, too, with lead roles in two movies (the consensus: he’s no Daniel Day-Lewis, but he didn’t embarrass himself) and a highly successful tour in which he proved to be both a showman and a charmer. The song runs just 2:47, which would make it the shortest record of the year winner (by playing time) since the 5th Dimension’s sunshine pop classic “Up, Up and Away” 55 years ago.
“As It Was” also ranked No. 3 on the Billboard staff’s aforementioned list of the 100 best songs of 2022. Melinda Newman noted of the smash: “If you looked up ‘bop’ in Webster’s, this song would be there — but the propulsive, bouncy beat deceives. … Coming in at a lean 2:47, ‘As It Was’ serves as a broader anthem about how nothing is ‘the same as it was’ before the pandemic, but on a micro level, it turns out Styles isn’t the same either as he grapples with fame and the realization that ‘he’s no good alone’ when left to his own devices and pills.”
Likely winner: “As It Was”
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Little chance of winning: ABBA’s Voyage, Blige’s Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe), Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres
Long-shots: Carlile’s In These Silent Days, Lamar’s Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, Lizzo’s Special
Front-runners: Adele’s 30, Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti, Beyoncé’s Renaissance, Styles’ Harry’s House
Notes: Similar to record of the year, all 10 nominees are also nominated in their respective genre album categories.
This is the fourth album of the year nomination for Beyoncé and Lamar; the third for Adele and Coldplay; the second for Carlile and Lizzo; and the first for ABBA, Bad Bunny, Blige and Styles.
Adele has won with her last two studio albums. If she wins again this year, she’ll equal Stevie Wonder’s hallowed record as the only artist to win in this category with three consecutive studio albums.
None of the other nominees have won in this category before. Beyoncé has earned more album of the year nominations than any other woman of color. Lamar is the first rapper to be nominated for album of the year with four consecutive studio albums.
Though Adele has never lost in this category, it seems unlikely she’ll win again this time. In her magnanimous acceptance speech last time, she was so generous to Beyoncé that she left the impression that even she thought Beyoncé should have won the award. That will likely work to Bey’s benefit here.
Bad Bunny’s album is the first Spanish-language album to receive an album of the year nod. It topped the Billboard 200 for 13 nonconsecutive weeks, longer than any other album this year. He won artist of the year at the MTV Video Music Awards in August. Bunny gave his acceptance speech in Spanish – which added to his reputation for authenticity.
In recent years, the Academy has aggressively recruited voters of color, and especially Black voters. Speaking at a Recording Academy online membership meeting in September, CEO Harvey Mason, jr. noted that while there has been a 38% increase in people of color in the Academy over the past four years, there has been a 100% increase in the number of Black members.
Some of them might chafe if a white pop artist, such as Styles or Adele, beat Beyoncé in this category for what would be the fourth time, following her previous losses to Taylor Swift, Beck and Adele. There would probably be less friction if Bunny won, though it would likely be noticed that a Latin artist won on his first album of the year nomination while Beyoncé just keeps getting passed over.
Here’s another factor that’s working in Beyoncé’s favor: Many album of the year winners have a thematic unity that gives them a sense of importance. They’re usually more than just collections of 10 or 12 worthy tracks. Beyoncé’s first post-pandemic studio album was a celebration of dance music, honoring its Black and gay roots.
Beyoncé’s album ranked No. 2 on the Billboard staff’s list of the 50 best albums of 2022, just behind Bad Bunny, but ahead of Lamar at No. 4, Styles at No. 6 and Lizzo at No. 11. As Gail Mitchell wrote in her assessment of the album: “This time around, Beyoncé set her sights on dance music, paying homage to its various iterations, from the house-burning anthem ‘Break My Soul’ to infusions of disco, techno and go-go. … As the album’s fitting title conveys, Beyoncé proves once again that she can always be counted on to pinpoint the cultural zeitgeist, reinvent it and take it to the next level.”
Likely winner: Renaissance
SONG OF THE YEAR
Long-shots: “Break My Soul” (Beyoncé), “Just Like That” (Bonnie Raitt), “The Heart Part 5” (Lamar)
Front-runners: “About Damn Time” (Lizzo), “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (The Short Film)” (Taylor Swift), “As It Was” (Styles), “Bad Habit” (Lacy), “Easy on Me” (Adele)
Notes: “God Did” and “The Heart Part 5” are both nominated for best rap song. “Just Like That” is nominated for best American roots song. There is no equivalent award for the other seven contenders, which all come from the pop and dance fields, in which there is no song category.
In the unlikely event that “God Did” wins, it will set a new record as the song of the year winner with the most credited songwriters (nine). The current record is held by Bruno Mars’ “That’s What I Like,” with eight songwriters.
“Just Like That,” which brought Raitt her first song of the year nomination, is a lovely and subtle song about a mother whose son’s organs were harvested to save other lives. The song is a long-shot to win, but then many (including me, I must admit) considered her 1989 album Nick of Time a long-shot to win. It not only won, but made Raitt a star overnight. “Just Like That” is the first song of the year nominee written by just one songwriter since Taylor Swift’s “Lover” three years ago. If it wins, it would become the first song of the year written by a solitary songwriter since Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” 15 years ago.
This is Swift’s sixth song of the year nomination, which puts her in a tie with Paul McCartney and Lionel Richie for the most nominations in the history of the category. Unlike those two songwriting masters, she has yet to win in this category. So, she’s overdue. And if everybody who has called her “the songwriter of her generation” votes for her, she just may take it. But her update of “All Too Well” was passed over for nods for record of the year and best pop solo performance, which seems to show some weakness. Four of its rivals here – “Easy on Me,” “Bad Habit,” “About Damn Time” and “As It Was” – were nominated in both of those categories. Also, Swift’s “Anti-Hero” is already a front-runner for record and song of the year nods a year from now. Some voters may have decided, “Let’s hold off. She’ll probably win next year.”
Beyoncé, The-Dream and Chris “Tricky” Stewart shared the award 13 years ago for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” If they win again, they’ll join D’Mile as the only writers of color to win twice in this category. But again, this song is competing with the stylistically similar “About Damn Time.”
“About Damn Time” and “Bad Habit” are formidable contenders here for the same reasons they are front-runners for record of the year.
Adele and Kurstin won in this category six years ago for “Hello.” Adele also won in this category with “Rolling in the Deep,” which she co-wrote with Paul Epworth. If she wins again, she’ll become the first three-time winner in the category’s history. Adele had a big year, and not just on the charts. Her TV special Adele One Night Only won five Primetime Emmys. And her Las Vegas residency has gotten rave reviews, including this one from Billboard’s Katie Atkinson.
“Easy on Me” ranked No. 14 on the Billboard critics’ list of the 100 best songs of 2021 (it has been out awhile). In assessing the song, Atkinson (our in-house expert on all things Adele) wrote: “The expectations heading into Adele’s first new music in nearly six years were as sky-high as one of the British singer/songwriter’s patented power notes. But instead of going the bombastic route with 30‘s lead single ‘Easy on Me,’ Adele sent this vulnerable musical message to her son, setting the tone for a beyond open post-divorce project and reintroducing the peerless vocal delivery fans had desperately missed.”
Likely winner: “Easy on Me”
BEST NEW ARTIST
Notes: This is the first time in six years that none of the best new artist nominees were nominated in any other Big Four category. Lacy, a top contender for both record and song of the year, wasn’t eligible because he had received two previous nominations for what is now called best progressive R&B album – one as a member of The Internet and one solo. If he had been eligible for best new artist, he most likely would have won. Gayle, a song of the year nominee, was eligible for best new artist but was passed over for a nod.
Four of these contenders are nominated for genre album awards. Wet Leg’s Wet Leg is up for best alternative music album; Tuttle’s Crooked Tree for best bluegrass album; Joy’s Linger Awhile for best jazz vocal album; and DOMi & JD Beck’s Not Tight for best contemporary instrumental album.
Apollo and Wet Leg both made the top 10 on the Billboard staff list of the 50 best albums of 2022.
Måneskin has doggedly climbed its way to success in America and is a leading contender here. The band would be the first Italian act to win a Grammy as a lead artist in a Big Four category since Domenico Modugno, the winner for record and song of the year at the very first Grammys for the lounge-lizard classic “Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu (Volare).”
The five female solo artists in the race – Anitta, Long, Joy, Latto and Tuttle – may have the inside track. Since 2000, female solo artists have won in this category 14 times. (By way of comparison, in that same period, three male solo artists, five groups and one duo have taken home the prize.)
Latto’s “Big Energy” was by far the biggest hit single from any of these contenders. It reached No. 3 on the Hot 100 in April and ranks No. 7 on the year-end Hot 100. Mariah Carey, the winner in this category 32 years ago, gave “Big Energy” a boost by hopping on a remix. (“Big Energy” and Carey’s “Fantasy” both interpolate Tom Tom Club’s 1982 classic “Genius of Love.”)
Latto would be the third female rapper to win in this category, following Lauryn Hill and Megan Thee Stallion.
Likely winner: Latto