grammys 2019

Vulture’s 2019 Grammy Predictions

Lady Gaga, Mac Miller, Kacey Musgraves, and H.E.R. could be among the night’s big winners. Photo: Getty Images

This year’s Grammys are utterly unpredictable. For the first time in a long time, the institution, which has historically played favorites (no matter if they’re the popular vote), has chucked the rule book and moved away from monolithic cultural optics. This year, the Grammys have expanded their Big Four categories to eight nominees in the hopes of a more diverse field that better reflects what people are actually listening to. What they’ve also done, though, is made the odds of winning even more of a crapshoot than usual. It’s no longer Adele versus Beyoncé, or Kendrick Lamar versus Jay-Z, or Taylor Swift versus everyone, but a fairer game with less big dogs and less outliers alike. How will this all shake out? No one knows! But we’ve made some educated guesses (and, er, some shots in the dark) about who’ll collect a shiny new gold toy. Check back on Sunday, February 10, to see how on (or laughably off) the mark we were.

Album of the Year
Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B
By the Way I Forgive You, Brandi Carlile
Scorpion, Drake
H.E.R., H.E.R.
Beerbongs & Bentleys, Post Malone
Dirty Computer, Janelle Monáe
Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves
Black Panther the Album, Various Artists

Who Will Win: If I were a betting woman, I’d … stay far away from this category because I’d go broke. Its only real loser is rock’s waning relevancy — despite the expanded nominee pool, the genre was completely shut out in favor of more rap, R&B, and country. It’s possible Cardi B, Drake, and Post Malone will cancel each other out on the rap front. Meanwhile, Kendrick Lamar is a Grammy favorite, but never in the AOTY category (he’s a three-time loser there), which would either mean continuing the tradition of him falling short, or maybe he’s finally due. Working against him, though, is that it’s also unlikely that a soundtrack will win. It’s only happened four times in Grammy history. (We can figure that the Grammys will desperately angle for a female winner after the disastrous “step up” comments that tainted last year’s ceremony.) It’ll also be difficult for newcomer H.E.R. — already the biggest surprise entry here — to find enough votes. That leaves Kacey Musgraves and Brandi Carlile as country music’s representatives — but they may split the vote — and Janelle Monáe. Given that Musgraves would likely be more known to Grammy voters than Carlile, we’re probably looking at a Musgraves-Monáe buzzer-beater. Both Golden Hour and Dirty Computer were celebrated, career-shifting albums that topped year-end lists, so this could go either way. But I’ll give it to Musgraves, whose previous Grammy wins may give her the slight edge.

Who Should Win: There has never been a tie in Album of the Year history, but there have been plenty in other categories over the years (most recently in 2016). The right call in a race this evenly matched would be a three-way split between Janelle Monáe, Kacey Musgraves, and Cardi B, an effectively balanced representation of the sounds of the past year.

Song of the Year
“All the Stars,” Kendrick Lamar and SZA
“Boo’d Up,” Ella Mai
“God’s Plan,” Drake
“In My Blood,” Shawn Mendes
“The Joke,” Brandi Carlile
“The Middle,” Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey
“Shallow,” Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
“This Is America,” Childish Gambino

Who Will Win: Before we get into it, here’s your annual reminder that this award goes to the songwriters, not the performers. And a songwriter’s award will have a hard time ignoring the anthem written for a film devoted to songwriting integrity whose male lead huffs and puffs about what he considers to be trite pop songwriting about asses. So give it up for “Shallow,” y’all. Thankfully, Bradley Cooper wasn’t a writer on the song so — spoiler! — you don’t have to worry that he’ll get up there and piss himself.

Who Should Win: But if this was really about the best-written song of the bunch, “The Joke” should run away with it. (A song that A Star Is Born’s Aly would’ve also definitely written and Jackson “Real Country Music” Maine would’ve approved of, thank you very much.)

Record of the Year
“I Like It,” Cardi B ft. Bad Bunny and J Balvin
“The Joke,” Brandi
“This Is America,” Childish Gambino
“God’s Plan,” Drake
“Shallow,” Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
“All the Stars,” Kendrick Lamar and SZA
“Rock Star,” Post Malone ft. 21 Savage
“The Middle,” Zedd, Maren Morris, Grey

Who Will Win: In a world with any sense left, Cardi B would take this, because who in their right mind didn’t like “I Like It”? It’d also become the first (mostly) Spanish-language song to ever win this award, which should’ve already happened last year with “Despacito.” Don’t fuck this up again, Grammys. (Interestingly though, if “Rockstar” were to win, it’d be an opportune moment for Post Malone to draw even more national attention to 21 Savage’s potential deportation, as it’s unlikely 21 will be able to attend.)

Who Should Win: I said what I said.

Best New Artist
Chloe x Halle
Luke Combs
Jorja Smith
Dua Lipa
Bebe Rexha
Greta Van Fleet
Margo Price

Who Will Win: Though she’s still a fresh face of the SoundCloud generation whose literal face and identity wasn’t even known until mid-2017, H.E.R. came out of nowhere to rack up five nominations. It’s clear that someone at the Grammys is in her corner, which might make her the favorite even over bigger names like Dua Lipa and Bebe Rexha. Or the Grammys could really Grammy and give it to the ever-polarizing band Greta Van Fleet for no logical reason, per tradition in this baffling category.

Who Should Win: Though it’d be another case of the Grammys showing up late to the party, I’m inclined to say Dua Lipa. (She’s been putting out some of the best pop hits of her generation since 2015.)

Best Pop Solo Performance
“Colors,” Beck
“Havana” (Live), Camila Cabello
“God Is a Woman,” Ariana Grande
“Joanne (Where Do You Think You’re Goin’?)” Lady Gaga
“Better Now,” Post Malone

Who Will Win: It’s a tough call between Gaga and Ari — let’s not even discuss what the hell Post Malone is doing here — but Joanne is already a distant memory to most people, Grammy voters likely included, while “God Is a Woman” is a more-recent powerhouse vocal performance.

Who Should Win: #JusticeForSweetener.

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
Christina Aguilera and Demi Lovato, “Fall in Line”
Backstreet Boys, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper, “Shallow”
Maroon 5 and Cardi B, “Girls Like You”
Justin Timberlake and Chris Stapleton, “Say Something”
Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey, “The Middle”

Who Will Win: Though it’ll be a slap in the face to the real musicians in the category, Bradley Cooper’s probably gonna be a Grammy winner thanks in large part to his co-star Lady Gaga.

Who Should Win: This category is thin — “Shallow” makes sense.

Best Pop Vocal Album
Camila, Camila Cabello
Meaning of Life, Kelly Clarkson
Sweetener, Ariana Grande
Shawn Mendes, Shawn Mendes
Beautiful Trauma, Pink
Reputation, Taylor Swift

Who Will Win: Now that the Taylor Swift’s reign seems to be over, there’s a nice chance Pink wins it here. She’s a three-time loser in this category, and Beautiful Trauma is yet another excellent album from the most veteran artist of the bunch (“But We Lost It” bodies all your faves). It’s about time she gets some shine. Though, more than likely, if Swift gets overlooked, Ariana Grande won’t.

Who Should Win: I’m with Pink, but also, still, #JusticeForSweetener.

Best Rap Performance
Cardi B, “Be Careful”
Drake, “Nice for What”
Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, & James Blake, “King’s Dead”
Anderson .Paak, “Bubblin”
Travis Scott, Drake, Big Hawk, & Swae Lee, “Sicko Mode”

Who Will Win: Probably Kendrick if for no other reason than the Grammys owe him all the reparations, but also because, like, he definitely freaked it.

Who Should Win: But “Sicko Mode” is the better song, and it’s high time Travis got some Grammy love.

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
Christina Aguilera ft. Goldlink, “Like I Do”
6LACK ft. J. Cole, “Pretty Little Fears”
Childish Gambino, “This Is America”
Kendrick Lamar & SZA, “All the Stars”
Post Malone ft. 21 Savage, “Rockstar”

Who Will Win: It’ll be a toss-up between “This Is America” and “All the Stars.” But if music with a message is the tiebreaker, then it’s Childish Gambino’s to lose.

Who Should Win: I personally prefer “All the Stars.”

Best Rap Song
Drake, “God’s Plan”
Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, & James Blake, “King’s Dead”
Eminem, “Lucky You”
Travis Scott, Drake, Big Hawk, & Swae Lee, “Sicko Mode”
Jay Rock ft. Kendrick Lamar, “Win”

Who Will Win: If it doesn’t pick up Best Rap Performance, then I’m calling it for “Sicko Mode” here. It wasn’t just one of the best rap songs of the 2018, but one of the best songs period.

Who Should Win: But — plot twist! — “Win” is even better still. You can’t deny a song called “Win” the win!

Best Rap Album
Invasion of Privacy, Cardi B
Swimming, Mac Miller
Victory Lap, Nipsey Hussle
Daytona, Pusha T
Astroworld, Travis Scott

Who Will Win: Beyond the Big Four, Best Rap Album has increasingly been the category to watch, and that’s never been truer than this year. Mac Miller is a first-time Grammy nominee for an album released prior to his death last year. The Grammys have always been partial to a posthumous win, but they won’t simply recognize an artist because of their untimely death: I believe Miller will win because Swimming was also incredibly well-received, regarded as the work of an artist just settling into their prime, making his loss before he could fully see that potential through all the more devastating. Miller was also a rapper’s rapper — a friend to everyone in the industry who was more well-connected and well-liked than most. It’s important to remember that while, yes, it’s true that plenty of Grammy voting committees are overrun with older white men, theirs are not the only voices that matter. Miller will likely have plenty of friends casting ballots, and that might just be enough to give him the Grammy.

Who Should Win: Much as Miller deserves it, for as long as they’ve been in the game, Pusha T or Nipsey deserve it more.

Best R&B Performance
Toni Braxton, “Long As I Live”
The Carters, “Summer”
Lalah Hathaway, “Y O Y”
H.E.R., “Best Part [ft. Daniel Caesar]”
PJ Morton, “First Began”

Who Will Win: Since they seem to love her so much, I’m predicting a H.E.R. sweep in this field. (The song is also damn good.)

Who Should Win: H.E.R. makes sense.

Best Traditional R&B Performance
Leon Bridges, “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand”
Bettye LaVette, “Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight”
Major, “Honest”
PJ Morton, “How Deep Is Your Love [ft. Yebba]”
Charlie Wilson, “Made for Love [ft. Lalah Hathaway]”

Who Will Win: No disrespect, but there isn’t a better song in this category than “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand.”

Who Should Win: As a card-carrying member of the Leon Bridges hive, he gets all my votes.

Best R&B Song
Ella Mai, “Boo’d Up”
Miguel, “Come Through and Chill” [ft. J. Cole and Salaam Remi]
Childish Gambino, “Feels Like Summer”
H.E.R., “Focus”
Toni Braxton, “Long As I Live”

Who Will Win: It’s definitely not the most-known song of the category, but there’s just something about H.E.R. that the Grammys are captivated with, so the sweep should remain intact.

Who Should Win: But if there’s anyone who’s going to slow her roll, it’s Ella Mai, whose “Boo’d Up” was one of the biggest R&B songs of the last five years.

Best R&B Album
Sex & Cigarettes, Toni Braxton
Good Thing, Leon Bridges
Honestly, Lalah Hathaway
H.E.R., H.E.R.
Gumbo Unplugged Live, PJ Morton

Who Will Win: Again, this is H.E.R.’s genre award to lose.

Who Should Win: But I’d give it to Leon Bridges.

Best Urban Contemporary Album
The Carters, Everything Is Love
Chloe x Halle, The Kids Are Alright
Chris Dave and the Drumhedz, Chris Dave and the Drumhedz
Miguel, War & Leisure
Meshell Ndegeocello, Ventriloquism

Who Will Win: I can’t see the Grammys completely denying Beyoncé and Jay-Z yet again (though they might be put off by his comments on “Apeshit”). If bygones can be bygones, Everything Is Love will likely win.

Who Should Win: Too bad the better album is actually from Beyoncé’s label signees, Chloe x Halle.

Best Country Solo Performance
Loretta Lynn, “Wouldn’t It Be Great
Maren Morris, “Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters”
Kacey Musgraves, “Butterflies”
Chris Stapleton, “Millionaire”
Keith Urban, “Parallel Line”

Who Will Win: Just pull up a chair on the pre-broadcast specifically for Kacey Musgraves. She’s gonna be up there a few times.

Who Should Win: I personally would’ve nominated “Slow Burn” here, but still, Kacey all the way.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance
Brothers Osborne, “Shoot Me Straight”
Dan + Shay, “Tequila”
Little Big Town, “When Someone Stops Loving You”
Maren Morris ft. Vince Gill, “Dear Hate”
Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line, “Meant to Be”

Who Will Win: It probably wasn’t meant to be a Grammy winner, but by some curse, “Meant to Be” almost certainly will be thanks to it becoming a massive hit last year.

Who Should Win: But you’re lying if you say “Tequila” doesn’t slap harder, despite it being a ballad.

Best Country Song
Cole Swindell, “Break Up in the End”
Maren Morris ft. Vince Gill, “Dear Hate”
Blake Shelton, “I Lived It”
Kacey Musgraves, “Space Cowboy”
Dan + Shay, “Tequila”
Little Big Town, “When Someone Stops Loving You”

Who Will Win: Without a doubt, Kacey Musgraves.

Who Should Win: “Slow Burn” is still better, but get yours, Kacey.

Best Country Album
Unapologetically, Kelsea Ballerini
Port Saint Joe, Brothers Osborne
Girl Going Nowhere, Ashley McBryde
Golden Hour, Kacey Musgraves
From a Room: Volume 2, Chris Stapleton

Who Will Win: Must I say it again? This is a Kacey Musgraves sweep.

Who Should Win: You get the point!

Best Rock Performance
Arctic Monkeys, “Four Out of Five”
Chris Cornell, “When Bad Does Good”
The Fever 333, “Made an America”
Greta Van Fleet, “Highway Tune”
Halestorm, “Uncomfortable”

Who Will Win: This Grammy has gone to a posthumous winner for two years in a row — David Bowie and Leonard Cohen — so all signs would say they’d make it a three-peat with Chris Cornell, who died in 2017. It helps that it’s also deserved.

Who Should Win: I’d also give it to Chris Cornell.

Best Metal Performance
Between the Buried and Me, “Condemned to the Gallows”
Deafheaven, “Honeycomb”
High on Fire, “Electric Messiah”
Trivium, “Betrayer”
Underoath, “On My Teeth”

Who Will Win: For whatever reason, the Grammys suddenly have their ear to the ground to the metal that’s made waves in the last few years instead of constantly only saving praise for the old guard. This is Deafheaven’s first-ever nomination, but I feel good about them taking it home.

Who Should Win: But if you were a scene kid in, say, 2005, then you’re contractually obligated to root for Underoath winning a Grammy almost 15 years later.

Best Rock Song
Greta Van Fleet, “Black Smoke Rising”
Twenty One Pilots, “Jumpsuit”
Bring Me the Horizon, “MANTRA”
St. Vincent, “Masseduction”
Ghost, “Rats”

Who Will Win: In some elaborate troll, Greta Van Fleet.

Who Should Win: The light of my life, Annie Clark (St. Vincent), one of only two solo women nominated in this whole trash pit of a genre field.

Best Rock Album
Alice in Chains, Rainier Fog
Fall Out Boy, M A N I A
Ghost, Prequelle
Greta Van Fleet, From the Fires
Weezer, Pacific Daydream

Who Will Win: In an even more elaborate troll, Weezer.

Who Should’ve Been Nominated in the First Damn Place: [checks notes] Mitski or Snail Mail or Courtney Barnett or Cat Power or ….

Best Alternative Music Album
Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
Beck, Colors
Björk, Utopia
David Byrne, American Utopia
St. Vincent, Masseduction

Who Will Win: Welp, we know the Grammys love Beck.

Who Should Win: Don’t insult me with this question. St. Vincent!

Best Dance Recording
Above & Beyond, “Northern Soul” [ft. Richard Bedford]
Disclosure, “Ultimatum” [ft. Fatoumata Diawara]
Fisher, “Losing It”
Silk City & Dua Lipa, “Electricity”
Virtual Self, “Ghost Voices”

Who Will Win: Diplo and Mark Ronson are the biggest names here, and though their supergroup, Silk City, is brand-new, it says a lot that they’re already nominated.

Who Should Win: You haven’t lived until you’ve gone Super Saiyan in your living room to “Northern Soul.”

Best Dance/Electronic Album
Jon Hopkins, Singularity
Justice, Woman
Sofi Tukker, Treehouse
Sophie, Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides
TOKiMONSTA, Lune Rouge

Who Will Win: I want so badly to believe it’ll be Sophie.

Who Should Win: Go listen to “Immaterial” on loop for a couple hours and you’ll know the only true and correct answer is Sophie.

Best Song Written for Visual Media
Kendrick Lamar & SZA, “All the Stars”
Sufjan Stevens, “Mystery of Love”
Miguel, “Remember Me [ft. Natalia Lafourcade]”
Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper, “Shallow”
Keala Settle & the Greatest Showman Ensemble, “This Is Me”

Who Will Win: It’s fast on its way to an Oscar, so of course “Shallow” will pick up a few Grammys first. This is the one category where a win is all but guaranteed.

Who Should Win: #JusticeForSufjan

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical
Larry Klein
Linda Perry
Kanye West
Pharrell Williams

Who Will Win: The Grammys have a choice to make: Forget Kanye West’s unapologetically non-PC year and only focus on his prolific production work to give him an accolade that’s long been overdue or … do literally anything else. If the latter, Pharrell, a two-time previous winner in this category (solo and with the Neptunes) is a reliable favorite.

Who Should Win: After putting up more MVP numbers with production work for everyone from Cardi B to the Carters to Drake, it’s about time Boi-1da got a trophy.

Best Music Video
The Carters, “Apeshit”
Childish Gambino, “This Is America”
Joyner Lucas, “I’m Not Racist”
Janelle Monáe, “PYNk”
Tierra Whack, “Mumbo Jumbo”

Who Will Win: It was the most-talked-about video of 2018 and the Grammys love to be a part of the conversation, so “This Is America” is the likely winner.

Who Should Win: Aside from the inclusion of that pathetic “I’m Not Racist” video, this category gets it almost completely right. The big names are hard to ignore, but I’d love to see Tierra Whack take this one. I think Beyoncé would agree that a visual film is in a different league than the rest of the nominees here.

Vulture’s 2019 Grammy Predictions