grammys 2016

Vulture’s Grammy Predictions for 2016

Photo-Illustration: Vulture and Photos by Getty Images

Now that you have every detail you’ll need to understand the 2016 Grammys, it’s time to pick who’s going to clean up Monday night. Will Taylor Swift or Kendrick Lamar get Becked this year by Chris Stapleton? And might Courtney Barnett be the dark horse of the Best New Artist category? Possibly! This is the Grammys, where logic rarely comes into play. While we wait to find out who’ll walk away with one or — possibly in Kendrick’s case — a handful of golden gramophones, here are Vulture’s last-minute 2016 Grammy predictions. If nothing else, they’re a lock to be more accurate than Nate Jones’s year-in-advance picks.

Best Pop Vocal Album
Kelly Clarkson, Piece by Piece
Florence and the Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Mark Ronson, Uptown Special
Taylor Swift, 1989
James Taylor, Before This World
Who Will Win: Wear comfortable heels, Taylor Swift — your show-opening performance won’t be the only time you’re walking on that stage.
Who Should Win: What’s that you say? Carly Rae Jepsen’s not nominated? Fiiiine, we’ll go with Florence and the Machine.

Best Pop Solo Performance
Kelly Clarkson, “Heartbeat Song”
Ellie Goulding, “Love Me Like You Do”
Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud”
Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”
The Weeknd, “Can’t Feel My Face”
Who Will Win: Two Record of the Year nominees come from this stacked-as-hell category, and “Thinking Out Loud” is sort of the unspoken favorite. Related early prediction: Ed Sheeran will be back here next year with a songwriting cred on Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself.”
Who Should Win: Oh, come on. You can argue that “Blank Space” and “Can’t Feel My Face” are better songs, but neither of them are getting first-danced to at weddings for eternity. This one belongs to “Thinking Out Loud.”

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
Florence and the Machine, “Ship to Wreck”
Maroon 5, “Sugar”
Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”
Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar, “Bad Blood”
Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth, “See You Again”
Who Will Win: “Uptown Funk” is too hot to fail here, and it’s the only one of the five up for Record of the Year, so.
Who Should Win: Hot damn! “Uptown Funk” is the deserved winner.

Best Rap Album
J. Cole, 2014 Forest Hills Drive
Dr. Dre, Compton
Drake, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
Nicki Minaj, The Pinkprint
Who Will Win: The Grammys wouldn’t dare snub Kendrick Lamar again.
Who Should Win: Fear not folks: Kendrick gon’ be alright.

Best Rap Song
Kanye West, “All Day”
Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”
Drake, “Energy”
Common and John Legend, “Glory”
Fetty Wap, “Trap Queen”
Who Will Win: It was perfect Oscar bait, so look for “Glory” to get Grammy love, too.
Who Should Win: Given the way “Alright” took on a life of its own to become Black Lives Matter’s unofficial protest song last summer, it should be recognized as such.

Best Rap Performance
J. Cole, “Apparently”
Drake, “Back to Back”
Fetty Wap, “Trap Queen”
Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”
Nicki Minaj feat. Drake and Lil Wayne, “Truffle Butter”
Kanye West feat. Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom, and Paul McCartney, “All Day”
Who Will Win: Here is where “Alright” will be rectified …
Who Should Win: … Unless enough Grammy voters reward 2015’s undisputed Song of Summer, “Trap Queen,” to make up for Fetty Wap’s egregious Best New Artist snub.

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
Big Sean feat. Kanye West and John Legend, “One Man Change the World”
Common and John Legend, “Glory”
Jidenna feat. Roman GianArthur, “Classic Man”
Kendrick Lamar feat. Bilal, Anna Wise, and Thundercat, “These Walls”
Nicki Minaj feat. Drake, Lil Wayne, and Chris Brown, “Only”
Who Will Win: Sorry, “Glory” will probably get more glory here, where it has even better odds than Best Rap Song.
Who Should Win: “These Walls” is what collaborations are all about, but “Classic Man” still feels like the most obvious choice. It’s fun-spirited and reappropriates Iggy Azalea; what’s not to love? Not to mention it got Kendrick’s stamp of approval on the remix.

Best Rock Album
James Bay, Chaos and the Calm
Death Cab for Cutie, Kintsugi
Highly Suspect, Mister Asylum
Muse, Drones
Slipknot, The Gray Chapter
Who Will Win: Talk about a category that’s self-aware of its growing irrelevance. James Bay is up for Best New Artist, so he’ll win by default.
Who Should Win: I still can’t work out how Alabama Shakes were considered rock enough to be nominated in every other rock category except Best Rock Album, but whatever. In their absence, let’s cheer on Slipknot, who haven’t won a Grammy in a decade.

Best Rock Performance
Alabama Shakes, “Don’t Wanna Fight”
Florence and the Machine, “What Kind of Man”
Foo Fighters, “Something From Nothing”
Elle King, “Ex’s & Oh’s”
Wolf Alice, “Mona Lisa Smile”
Who Will Win: Alabama Shakes are up for the Album of the Year; no one has a fighting chance against “Don’t Wanna Fight.”
Who Should Win: Wow, this is tough. Both “What Kind of Man” and “Don’t Wanna Fight” could’ve easily been up for Song of the Year, but I’m gonna have to give it to the latter because no one, not even Florence Welch, can touch Brittany Howard’s mighty vocals.

Best Rock Song
Alabama Shakes, “Don’t Wanna Fight”
Elle King, “Ex’s & Oh’s”
James Bay, “Hold Back the River”
Highly Suspect, “Lydia”
Florence and the Machine, “What Kind of Man”
Who Will Win: Again, don’t fight the “Don’t Wanna Fight” sweep.
Who Should Win: If we’re to base this squarely off the piece of music and not who performs their respective song better, then I actually think “What Kind of Man” trumps Alabama Shakes, who, if you can believe it, have better songs on Sound & Color than “Don’t Wanna Fight.”

Best Alternative Music Album
Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color
Björk, Vulnicura
My Morning Jacket, The Waterfall
Tame Impala, Currents
Wilco, Star Wars
Who Will Win: If Alabama Shakes don’t go on to win Best Album, then the Grammys will surely recognize them here.
Who Should Win: But should the Shakes win the big award, I suppose Wilco will likely take this one. But if you ask me which of the five made the better album, my vote goes to Björk, who turned a breakup into her masterpiece.

Best R&B Album
Leon Bridges, Coming Home
D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
Andra Day, Cheers to the Fall
Jazmine Sullivan, Reality Show
Charlie Wilson, Forever Charlie
Who Will Win: The Grammys love a good comeback, and they’re gonna give D’Angelo this award just like they gave it to him 16 years ago (!), when he last put out an album.
Who Should Win: As much as I adore Leon Bridges’s debut, he has a long career ahead of him. D’Angelo earned this.

Best R&B Song
Miguel, “Coffee”
The Weeknd, “Earned It”
Jazmine Sullivan, “Let It Burn”
D’Angelo, “Really Love”
Tyrese, “Shame”
Who Will Win: “Really Love” is up for Record of the Year, but “Earned It” is up for an Oscar. Competition over.
Who Should Win: “Earned It” isn’t even the best R&B song on the Weeknd’s album, but “Really Love” is absolutely that for D’Angelo. And where the hell would the Weeknd be without D’Angelo?

Best R&B Performance
Tamar Braxton, “If I Don’t Have You”
Andra Day, “Rise Up”
Hiatus Kaiyote, “Breathing Underwater”
Jeremih feat. J. Cole, “Planes”
The Weeknd, “Earned It”
Who Will Win: Andra Day fits the Grammy R&B mold fine enough for “Rise Up” to edge out the Weeknd here. (And let’s keep it real: She’s also a better singer.)
Who Should Win: Tamar Braxton won’t win this award because too many know her as a reality star first instead of the powerhouse vocalist she can be on statement ballads like “If I Don’t Have You.” Toni isn’t the only one in that family who can sang.

Best Urban Contemporary Album
The Internet, Ego Death
Kehlani, You Should Be Here
Lianne La Havas, Blood
Miguel, Wildheart
The Weeknd, Beauty Behind The Madness
Who Will Win: As much of a cop-out as it is to stick the Weeknd here, he’s up for Best Album, so it’s not even a fair fight.
Who Should Win: Maybe the Weeknd already being recognized (and likely winning) in so many other flashy categories will work to his competitors’ advantage. Assuming it does, I’m gunning for the Internet, who continue to make exciting, fearless songs beyond R&B’s once-rigid parameters. It’d be nice to see the Grammys applaud that for once — and not just with the rest of the so-called “urban” misfits it doesn’t know how to categorize.

Best Country Album
Sam Hunt, Montevallo
Little Big Town, Pain Killer
Ashley Monroe, The Blade
Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material
Chris Stapleton, Traveller
Who Will Win: A country album hasn’t been up for Best Album since 2011, but it’s clear why 2016 is the year that ended the drought. This category is packed with year-end bests — still, Chris Stapleton is your obvious winner.
Who Should Win: No one made a better country album last year (and a debut, at that!) than Chris Stapleton. His and wife Morgane’s win will be deserved.

Best Country Song
Lee Ann Womack, “Chances Are”
Tim McGraw, “Diamond Rings and Old Barstools”
Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”
Brandy Clark, “Hold My Hand”
Chris Stapleton, “Traveller”
Who Will Win: There’s only one song in here up for Song of the Year, and that’s “Girl Crush,” so you know the deal.
Who Should Win: This is a toss-up between “Girl Crush” and “Traveller,” but the tiebreaker for me is that there are better songs on Best Album nominee Traveller than the title track. It’s a lot harder to make that case for Little Big Town.

Best Country Solo Performance
Cam, “Burning House”
Chris Stapleton, “Traveller”
Carrie Underwood, “Little Toy Guns”
Keith Urban, “John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16”
Lee Ann Womack, “Chances Are”
Who Will Win: Man, the Grammys have a serious (girl) crush on Carrie Underwood, who has won this award the previous two times she’s been nominated. Don’t be shocked if  “Little Toy Guns” makes it a three-peat.
Who Should Win: To me, Carrie’s voice comes off slightly flat on “Little Toy Guns,” but Cam’s “Burning House” has no detectable faults. It’s like the “Hello” of this categorynothing but chills. Though if I had to make a choice based solely on vocal talent, Stapleton and Womack are hard to beat. Dammit, country music, you were too good last year!

Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Brothers Osborne, “Stay a Little Longer”
Joey + Rory, “If I Needed You”
Charles Kelley, Dierks Bentley, & Eric Paslay, “The Driver”
Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”
Blake Shelton feat. Ashley Monroe, “Lonely Tonight”
Who Will Win: If there’s one category “Girl Crush” has on lock, it’s this one.
Who Should Win: Barring some wild upset, there’s no way “Girl Crush” doesn’t come up big here. As it should.

Best Dance/Electronic Album
Caribou, Our Love
The Chemical Brothers, Born in the Echoes
Disclosure, Caracal
Jamie xx, In Colour
Skrillex and Diplo, Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü
Who Will Win: Disclosure seem like safe enough Grammy bets, but another pair of Brits are even safer: The Chemical Brothers, who have won this before and are back from a five-year hiatus. It’s the perfect Grammy-win algorithm.
Who Should Win: Surprisingly, the Grammys have been pretty good recently about celebrating forward-thinking producers, both new and old. So maybe it isn’t too much of a stretch to think Caribou, Jamie xx, or hopefully Skrillex and Diplo could win. Skrillex is a two-time winner in this category, so surely his odds are even greater with Producer of the Year nominee Diplo. Dab on ‘em!

Best Dance Recording
Above & Beyond feat. Zoë Johnston, “We’re All We Need”
The Chemical Brothers, “Go”
Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar, “Never Catch Me”
Galantis, “Runaway (U & I)”
Skrillex and Diplo With Justin Bieber, “Where Are Ü Now”
Who Will Win: It was snubbed in all of the big categories, but no one’s besting “Where Are Ü Now” here.
Who Should Win: Even if Skrillex and Diplo don’t get best album, I’m sure they’ll be ecstatic to see their New York Times–approved “Where Are Ü Now” also co-signed by the Grammys.

Best Comedy Album (Pick by guest predictor Jesse David Fox)
Lisa Lampanelli, Back to the Drawing Board
Wyatt Cenac, Brooklyn
Jay Mohr, Happy. And a Lot.
Craig Ferguson, Just Being Honest
Louis C.K., Live at Madison Square Garden
Who Will Win: This is really a name-recognition thing more than anything else. I doubt the general Grammy voting population will listen to all of these records, let alone fully enjoy them without knowing the comedic voice of each stand-up. They will pick the comedian who they have heard is good/artful: Louis C.K.. The fact that it was recorded at Madison Square Garden helps. That big of an audience can’t be wrong.
Who Should Win: Live at Madison Square Garden is a fine bit of comedy, but it’s largely made up of material from C.K.’s last special. Wyatt Cenac is the most unique of the comedians on this list, and Brooklyn is a record about a place and how it changes and evolves, and how Cenac’s relationship changes and evolves as a result. The result is very funny and occasionally moving. It’s less about big laughs and more about understated ones, creating an overall pleasant experience.

Best Musical Theater Album
An American in Paris
Fun Home
The King and I
Something Rotten!
Who Will Win: Considering the Grammy committee is composed of old curmudgeons, you’d think they wouldn’t be Ham4Ham. But Lin-Manuel Miranda actually won this award back in 2009 for In the Heights, so you can bet he’ll take it home again for Hamilton.
Who Should Win: Do we even need to say it?

Best New Artist
Courtney Barnett
James Bay
Sam Hunt
Tori Kelly
Meghan Trainor
Who Will Win: As much as she’s hung around the top of the charts, Meghan Trainor and all her bass will run away with this award.
Who Should Win: Can you imagine if Courtney Barnett pulls an Esperanza Spalding and upsets everyone? Just the thought of her delivering a speech so sarcastic Taylor Swift will live-tweet it makes me smirk. Still, this should be Sam Hunt’s award. Montevallo is double platinum, and he’s dueting with Carrie Underwood — it’s time.

Song of the Year
Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”
Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”
Little Big Town, “Girl Crush”
Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth, “See You Again”
Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud”
Who Will Win: There are two songs in this category — “Blank Space” and “See You Again” — whose videos have been viewed more than 1 billion times. That’s next-level ubiquity. But I have a hunch neither of them, or the two other massive songs in this category, will match “Girl Crush.”
Who Should Win:
Hear me out. Hillary Lindsey co-wrote “Girl Crush,” and she’s already won this award once for “Jesus, Take the Wheel.” Liz Rose, another co-writer, got nominated for Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me.” The Grammys are clearly a fan. Also, aside from Kendrick’s “we hate po-pop” line, lyrically, “Girl Crush” is the most “controversial” song of the bunch thanks to some people supposedly misunderstanding it to be about the big L. One actually-controversial country song that once won this? The Dixie Chicks’ “Not Ready to Make Nice.” I feel déjà vu coming. Not that I’d be at all bothered if “Alright” scored this one.

Record of the Year
D’Angelo and the Vanguard, “Really Love”
Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk”
Ed Sheeran, “Thinking Out Loud”
Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”
The Weeknd, “Can’t Feel My Face”
Who Will Win: Since this award goes specifically to the artists — meaning any songwriting-credit controversy really doesn’t matter — “Uptown Funk” can’t lose. This thing is still getting play at the Super Bowl; it’s an unstoppable beast. You called it, Nate.
Who Should Win: You may think “Uptown Funk” is a bad song. It’s not; you’ve just heard it too many times. That said, of all the songs with longevity in this category, I bet “Really Love” will be one of those late bloomers — the song you revisit for wedding anniversaries, not that Ed Sheeran song you might’ve danced to on the actual day.

Album of the Year
Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
Chris Stapleton, Traveller
Taylor Swift, 1989
The Weeknd, Beauty Behind the Madness
Who Will Win: As much as it’d be hard to hate on Chris Stapleton if he got the Beck treatment, this is Taylor Swift’s award to lose — and one that she beat Beyoncé to win in 2010. However, with so many popular albums in contention this year, a lot of votes could be split — leaving Alabama Shakes with a very strong chance to pull off the upset.
Who Should Win: Both Taylor and Kendrick Lamar lost this award in 2014 to Daft Punk, when many thought K.Dot had it in the bag. Could the Grammys hop on Bieber’s apology train and reward Kendrick now? Considering only two rap albums have ever won AOTY, not likely. But what a moment for hip-hop it would be if they did.

Vulture’s Grammy Predictions for 2016