Who Will Win—and Who Ought to—on the 2020 Grammys

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Awards season rolls on, with the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards proper across the nook on Jan. 26. And after greater than six many years of music celebrating its personal on the trade’s largest night time, we all know higher than to place too a lot inventory into how the prizes are allotted; even Adele tried to present her Grammy away to Beyoncé again in 2017. However one factor the Grammys have going for them is the component of shock: final 12 months, underdog nation singer Kacey Musgraves surprised everybody by taking residence Album of the 12 months. In the meantime, Childish Gambino cleaned up together with his searing “This Is America” within the different high classes, whereas Dua Lipa was topped Greatest New Artist.

This 12 months’s present arrives in a haze of turmoil, 10 days after Recording Academy President and CEO Deborah Dugan was shockingly removed from her publish. However the Grammys might nicely rise above the fray: in any case, the present will probably be celebrating a 12 months wherein Lil Nas X got here from nowhere to dominate the charts, Lizzo resurfaced a 2017 music to spice up herself to new heights and teenagers like Billie Eilish dominated the zeitgeist. The Grammys have at all times tried to stability in style attraction with extra conventional tendencies, to typically blended outcomes. However every year is a chance to reset these norms. And hope springs everlasting.

With the present arising, TIME writers Raisa Bruner and Andrew R. Chow take into account the wide selection of nominees and make their picks for who ought to obtain the prized trophies — and who will most likely get them as an alternative.

Album of the 12 months

Billie Eilish at the 2019 Electric Picnic Music Festival in Ireland.
Billie Eilish on the 2019 Electrical Picnic Music Competition in Eire.
Debbie Hickey—Getty Pictures

I,I, Bon Iver

Norman F–king Rockwell, Lana Del Rey

When We All Fall Asleep, The place Do We Go, Billie Eilish

Thank U, Subsequent, Ariana Grande

I Used to Know Her, H.E.R.

7, Lil Nas X

Cuz I Love You (Deluxe), Lizzo

Father of the Bride, Vampire Weekend

Raisa Bruner: I’d like to see Lana Del Rey get her due this 12 months. Norman F–king Rockwell was lovely, elegiac and witty, the end result of Del Rey’s a few years exploring her sad-Americana type. It gives an alternate imaginative and prescient of our period, layering a veneer of fairly poetry over a decade that usually felt garish. However it might be Eilish’s time to shine. When We All Fall Asleep, The place Do We Go? — recorded along with her brother Finneas of their bed room studio — is a precocious debut assertion that reads as each experimental, nimble pop and a deadpan in-joke with the subsequent era.

These two artists even have extra in frequent than not; they’re simply reflecting distinct eras, with the nihilism of each deeply inscribed of their work. In between them lies Ariana Grande, whose thank u, subsequent can be generation-defining. A part of that’s in its timeliness, with its launch dovetailing with (and offering inside data on) Grande’s tabloid presence. The opposite half comes right down to Grande’s general sound, which leans closely on a lightweight trip-hop that feels very present. Whereas I believe that is Grande’s finest album-length assertion but, the Grammys might wait to award a undertaking that showcases extra of her vocal capability.

Andrew R. Chow: Lana actually deserves her due, however I’ve been a bit mystified this 12 months to observe essential consensus pool round this specific file, which appears to be no stronger nor weaker than the remainder of her catalog. The highs on Norman F–king Rockwell are blazingly excessive (extra on that later), however among the lyrics possess a powerful “How do you do, fellow kids” power (see: “I’ll catch you on the flip side / If you come back to California, you should just hit me up”).

I believe Eilish has the within observe right here. When We All Fall Asleep was the best-selling album of 2019 and likewise well liked by critics — and voters had been intrigued with its sonic intricacies and oddities sufficient to appoint Finneas for Producer of the 12 months. Eilish can be the youngest winner of Album of the 12 months in Grammys historical past, and rewarding the world’s largest teen idol would make sense for an establishment making a determined bid for relevancy.

However the Recording Academy voter pool remains to be simply 22 percent women — so it additionally wouldn’t be shocking if Bon Iver walked residence with a win within the mould of Arcade Fireplace (2011) and Beck (2015). The band’s creator Justin Vernon is eight years faraway from the “Who is Bonnie Bear?” debacle, making him a bonafide Grammy vet; his music was simply featured in a high-profile Lebron James Nike ad, and he’s a person who performs guitar and writes his personal songs. And if it counts for something, i,i is a very breathtaking album, full of daring experimental manufacturing and accessible earworms.

Document of the 12 months

Lil Nas X performs at WiLD 94.9's FM's Jingle Ball 2019 on December 08, 2019 in San Francisco, California.
Lil Nas X performs at WiLD 94.9’s FM’s Jingle Ball 2019 on December 08, 2019 in San Francisco, California.
Getty Pictures—2019 Miikka Skaffari

“Hey, Ma,” Bon Iver

“Bad Guy,” Billie Eilish

“7 Rings,” Ariana Grande

“Hard Place,” H.E.R.

“Talk,” Khalid

“Old Town Road,” Lil Nas X

“Truth Hurts,” Lizzo

“Sunflower,” Publish Malone & Swae Lee

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Bruner: “Truth Hurts” is such a joyful anthem that I would like it to get some love right here. But it surely’s been embroiled in legal questions over the origin of the music’s most memorable lyric, which may complicate issues for voters. In lieu of that, I’m a fan of “Bad Guy.” “7 Rings” and “Old Town Road” had been the chart hits, however one is an ode to materialism (sorry, however it’s true!) and the opposite, whereas a licensed banger of a music of the summer time, doesn’t have the form of gravity and manufacturing complexity that the Recording Academy tends to favor.

Chow: I don’t see how the Grammys may trip down every other path right here than “Old Town Road.” Whereas the music’s barebones manufacturing could also be much less shiny than that of its opponents, its seamless genre blend of country and trap is genuinely impressed — and the Lil Nas/Billy Ray pairing is nearly too on the nostril for a Recording Academy that likes to trot out “Grammy Moment” odd {couples} yearly (pun meant).

And whereas the music is irresistible, the narrative surrounding it’s much more ironclad. Lil Nas represents a feel-good underdog story and has managed to keep away from cultural exhaustion because of his plain on-line charisma; Academy voters had been certainly watching this 12 months when institutional rejections of the music (from Billboard and nation radio) backfired spectacularly. If Lil Nas is searching for one other viral second, an acceptance speech on the Grammys stage can be a super place to make it occur.

Bruner: It actually can be enjoyable to see what Lil Nas X has to say — and he’s completely earned a proper to be there; I don’t know any artist who discovered a lot so rapidly and managed to succeed so brilliantly alongside the best way. In the event that they’re going to reward innovation, then I can see him taking it residence, too.

Tune of the 12 months

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“Always Remember Us This Way,” Natalie Hemby, Woman Gaga, Hillary Lindsey & Lori McKenna, songwriters (Woman Gaga)

“Bad Guy,” Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell, songwriters (Billie Eilish)

“Bring My Flowers Now,” Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth & Tanya Tucker, songwriters (Tanya Tucker)

“Hard Place,” Ruby Amanfu, Sam Ashworth, D. Arcelious Harris, H.E.R. & Rodney Jerkins, songwriters (H.E.R.)

“Lover,” Taylor Swift, songwriter (Taylor Swift)

“Norman F–king Rockwell,” Jack Antonoff & Lana Del Rey, songwriters (Lana Del Rey)

“Someone You Loved,” Tom Barnes, Lewis Capaldi, Pete Kelleher, Benjamin Kohn & Sam Roman, songwriters (Lewis Capaldi)

“Truth Hurts,” Steven Cheung, Eric Frederic, Melissa Jefferson & Jesse Saint John, songwriters (Lizzo)

Bruner: Tune of the 12 months is in regards to the songwriters, which makes this one a bit of extra difficult. Though the A Star Is Born soundtrack was largely snubbed on this spherical of nominations, Woman Gaga did already take residence an award for “Shallow” final 12 months, so it could be a shock to see a repeat with the less-memorable “Always Remember Us This Way.” If that is Eilish’s night time, “Bad Guy” may proceed choosing up awards right here, now with added deal with her songwriting accomplice and brother Finneas.

Chow: Will you be mad if I say that the alternatives on this class go away me chilly? “Lover,” “Someone You Loved” and “Hard Place” are fairly however pretty generic ballads. The “Truth Hurts” origin controversy actually doesn’t assist that music’s possibilities right here. And “Bad Guy” is a greater match for Document of the 12 months, as a result of, nicely, attempt singing the music out loud — it’s a nursery rhyme that hardly has a melody.

The class would have been far more aggressive with Ariana Grande’s gloriously petty “Thank u, next” — which was maybe forgotten resulting from its late 2018 launch date — and viral curveballs like Ava Max’s “Sweet But Psycho” and Lil Tecca’s “Ransom.” (And that’s to not even point out a few of our own picks for best of the year, from the Highwomen to Caroline Polachek.)

However of the listed selections, I’m leaning in the direction of Lana del Rey, although hesitantly. I’m a bit of perplexed as to why this observe was the one chosen to rise out of this album — it feels extra like a prelude than a standalone assertion, and so many different Lana tracks this 12 months had been extra bold and evocative (“Mariners Apartment Complex,” “The Greatest,” “Venice Bitch”). Nonetheless, the music is a worthy distillation of her sepia-toned ethos — and there was no higher begin to an album this 12 months than her proclamation of “God damn man child,” adopted by a hilarious and unprintable second line.

Bruner: Actually, you’re proper — there are a variety of middling pop ballads right here that, whereas good in their very own manner, don’t actually rise above. Pour one out for all of the songs that obtained neglected. Give me Ava Max and Caroline Polachek any day!

Greatest New Artist

Lizzo performs at FOMO Festival 2020 on January 15, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand.
Lizzo performs at FOMO Competition 2020 on January 15, 2020 in Auckland, New Zealand.
WireImage—2020 Dave Simpson

Black Pumas

Billie Eilish

Lil Nas X

Lizzo

Maggie Rogers

Rosalía

Tank and the Bangas

Yola

Chow: Hey Raisa, bear in mind when enjoyable. beat Frank Ocean in 2013? Bear in mind when Macklemore & Ryan Lewis beat Kendrick Lamar? All I’m saying is that you may rely on the Grammys to make the fallacious alternative right here. I’m going to guess Lizzo wins right here for her ebullient multihyphenate act. However her astonishing rise appears like a really 2019-specific product of circumstance — a Netflix trailer, a wave of curiosity championing physique positivity, a necessity for escape from a tense and divisive on-line second. My cash is on Eilish to have a extra assorted and steady profession going ahead.

Bruner: Don’t make me dwell on these unusual twists of awards destiny, Andrew! These selections are why Greatest New Artist stays a troublesome one to foretell — to not point out the unusual eligibility clauses which have introduced this assortment of acts into the combo. Tank and the Bangas are underdogs who deserve all of the love, however are they actually new? (Their first album got here out in 2013.) Eilish appears the clearest alternative — she’s younger, she’s contemporary, and he or she had a fully dominant 12 months, and I agree she’s obtained probably the most strong path ahead. (Hiya, James Bond soundtrack alternative!) Don’t rely out Rogers; Heard It In a Previous Life was the sound of an artist carving out a style of her personal, turning pop into one thing hotter and earthier than we’re used to listening to. Rosalía is a powerhouse who’s simply getting began.

And but Lizzo — who has additionally been round for a minute — might take advantage of sense to voters within the class. As you’ve famous, she’s a full-package performer who actually burst onto the scene and have become omnipresent this 12 months, and the Grammys is perhaps within the temper to reward her typically right here as an alternative of for the precise works she put out.

Greatest Music Video

“We’ve Got to Try,” The Chemical Brothers

“This Land,” Gary Clark Jr.

“Cellophane,” FKA twigs

“Old Town Road (Official Movie),” Lil Nas X & Billy Ray Cyrus

“Glad He’s Gone,” Tove Lo

Bruner: Give this one to FKA twigs, whose brilliant album Magdalene — launched after the Grammy eligibility interval had closed — was preceded by her beautiful video for lead single “Cellophane.” In it, an ethereal, superhuman FKA twigs writhes and pole-dances her manner by a cyber-dreamscape. The choreography is eye-popping, and the animation worthy of recognition. Honorable point out on this class to Sweden’s Tove Lo, whose music “Glad He’s Gone” was considered one of my sleeper favorites of the 12 months, with a video that exhibits her casually traversing the territories of the Earth in quest of her pal. That’s actual love.

Chow: To cite Lil Nas himself: “come on, now.” “Cellophane” is beautiful, however it may’t match the attain and energy of “Old Town Road.” What different cultural determine may have smashed collectively Chris Rock, TikTok dance crazes, the Yeehaw Agenda, a washboard-playing Diplo and a bingo sport right into a cohesive, unfettered, 420-million-views-garnering pleasure?

Bruner: You will have a degree. I received’t be mad if FKA twigs loses out to the pleasant Lil Nas X right here — so long as she will get her due in the remainder of the classes subsequent 12 months!

Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com.



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