Fans, prepare to mobilize. The 2020 Grammy nominations are upon us, set to be announced on November 20 by Alicia Keys and Bebe Rexha. Which can only mean one thing: It’s that time of year to argue about how the Recording Academy did [insert your fave here] dirty. Will Taylor Swift be snubbed two albums in a row or be welcomed back with open arms? Has Ariana Grande reached Album of the Year status? How much will Billie Eilish achieve before 18? WILL LIZZO GET HER THINGS? And, uhh, how the hell will the Grammys treat “Old Town Road”?
Some housekeeping before we take some educated guesses: Only music released between October 1, 2018 and August 31, 2019 is eligible for the 2020 Grammys (cut a month short this time because of scheduling conflicts), and the show will continue with its expanded eight-nominee fields in the big four categories (outlined below). It’s the final Grammys for producer Ken Ehrlich, who famously clashed with Ariana Grande and other artists. It’s also the first Grammys ceremony under new Recording Academy president Deborah Dugan (so long, Neil Portnow!); the ceremony will air on January 26 on CBS, hosted by Alicia Keys. Carry on for Vulture’s nominee predictions, and check back on Wednesday at 8:20 a.m. ET to see how we did.
Taylor Swift will be back to reclaim her throne.
Hell froze over earlier this year when Taylor Swift, f.m.a. Ultimate Grammy Darling, got snubbed entirely from the ceremony (of her already-meager single nomination). But that was the Reputation era and her narrative has changed — so has her newer music, thankfully, for the better. Lover, her course correction, which was released right at the eligibility-cutoff line, is a shoo-in for an Album of the Year nomination. The nom would be her fourth for AOTY; if Lover wins, it’d be her third album to take home the top prize, a record held only by Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, and Paul Simon (she’s already the record-holder for most AOTY wins by a woman).
But if she’s gonna complete her comeback, she’s likely gonna have to fend off mostly AOTY first-timers. Expect Album of the Year noms for Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (at 18, she’d become the youngest winner; Swift, the current record-holder, won it at 20); Ariana Grande’s Thank U, Next (Ari did win her first Grammy earlier this year over Taylor, despite not getting along with the show’s departing producer); Lana Del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell; Maren Morris’s Girl (especially following Kacey Musgraves’s AOTY win this year); the A Star Is Born soundtrack, which wasn’t eligible at the 2019 Grammys; Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You; Tyler the Creator’s IGOR (which he’s made no secret he wants real bad); and maybe Rosalía’s El Mal Querer, which just won AOTY at the Latin Grammys, though historically that hasn’t predicted anything.
Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift did some clever strategizing.
As always, a reminder that Song of the Year is awarded only to the songwriters. Another small-but-important note: Artists and labels submit everything for consideration in the categories of their choosing, then it’s at the Recording Academy’s discretion where it goes from there. That matters for the 2020 Grammys because Ariana Grande’s “Thank U Next” and “Boyfriend” (with Social House) have been submitted for Song of the Year, but “7 Rings” (which had plenty of songwriting controversy) for Record of Year; Taylor Swift’s “Lover” has been submitted for Song of the Year, but “You Need to Calm Down” for Record of the Year. A similar distinction worked in Bruno Mars’s favor in 2018 when he took home the top song awards for two different songs for only the second time in Grammy history. Swift and Grande aren’t likely to repeat that, but their submission strategy should pay off with noms in both categories (SOTY is the best bet for both artists). They’ll probably go up against Lewis Capaldi’s slow-burning recent chart-topper “Someone You Loved” (which is basically just 2019’s “7 Years”); Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” (allowed eligibility, despite the song being two years old, because it was never previously submitted and appears on an eligible album); Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy”; Maren Morris’s “Girl”; maybe Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s “Señorita”; and a dark horse in Lady Gaga’s “Always Remember Us This Way.”
“Old Town Road” could be on its way to even more history.
For [checks calendar] 19 whole weeks this year, Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus’s “Old Town Road” was virtually inescapable, meaning the Grammys cannot (and wouldn’t dare, if they’re smart) escape it. Expect “OTR” to show up in Record of the Year (which goes to the performer-producer), a category that’s nominated the two previous record-holders for longest-running No. 1 in Billboard Hot 100 history (“Despacito” and “One Sweet Day”). But fun fact: Despite both those songs’ ridiculous chart popularity, Luis Fonsi–Daddy Yankee–Justin Bieber and Mariah Carey–Boyz II Men were denied Grammy gold. If “Old Town Road” were to be nominated and go on to win it, the song might just break the clout scale. (And if you’re curious how the Recording Academy has chosen to categorize “Old Town Road” by genre, after that whole Billboard debacle, well, it wanted no part of the debate. The song was rejected for eligibility in both the rap and country categories, and will have to compete in the crowded, barely defined pop genre categories, like Post Malone at the 2019 Grammys; Lizzo will also compete in pop categories for 2020.) But there’s a lot likely standing in its way: Prepare to also see Record of the Year noms go to a bunch of fellow subsequent chart-toppers like Lewis Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved”; [insert Post Malone song here, probably “Sunflower”]; Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy”; Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s “Señorita”; Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts”; Taylor Swift, “You Need to Calm Down”; and either Jonas Brothers’ “Sucker” or Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings.”
Best New Artist is so stacked it’s not even fair.
Is there a hotter ticket than the one that gets you into the 2020 Grammys Best New Artist class? Most oddsmakers are set on Billie Eilish taking this one home, a telling indicator of her mass appeal, when you consider the likely competition: She’s been going head-to-head for BNA with Lizzo at almost every award show so far, and that’s not going to change here; then there’s everyone from Rosalía to Lil Nas X to Megan Thee Stallion to Lewis Capaldi to Maggie Rogers to DaBaby to Ari Lennox to contend with. Also worth considering: When’s the last time a Grammys had so many Best New Artist prospects potentially also vying for the rest of the big four categories? If there’s any trend that’ll impact next year’s Grammys, it’s the increasingly undeniable, ever-closing generation gap.