NEW YORK >> We’ve written stories for years about how the Grammys have dissed rap, R&B and other evolving genres before others wrote about the hot topic after Beyonce lost to Adele last year. Check our records.
So you could imagine how vindicated and excited we felt when the nominations rolled out late last year with Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar, Bruno Mars, Luis Fonsi and Childish Gambino dominating in the top three categories, where rap, R&B and Latin music almost never win.
Then again, the Recording Academy is unpredictable. So, again this year, we try our best at predicting who will win big when the awards are handed out Sunday at Madison Square Garden in New York.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
“Awaken, My Love!” Childish Gambino; “4:44,” Jay-Z; “DAMN.,” Kendrick Lamar; “Melodrama,” Lorde; “24K Magic,” Bruno Mars
>> FEKADU: The Grammys clearly want a nonwhite act to win, because if they didn’t care that much, they would have put Ed Sheeran up for this honor. That’s why they nominated Lorde — who even remembers that she put out a project last year? Kesha or Harry Styles would have a stronger chance at winning. With no rock or country nominees here, it makes you wonder where people from those genres will send their votes, and me thinks that’s to Kendrick and Bruno. Bruno plays multiple instruments, has written and produced all of his own songs as well as several hits for others, earning him appreciation from the music community at large. I think with all of that support, along with Jay-Z and Kendrick splitting some of the votes, Bruno wins with “24K Magic.”
>> MOODY: This is definitely the “let’s correct that Adele win” batch of nominations, and Lamar would be a heavy favorite to win it all, making it the first true rap album to take the top trophy. But this is the Grammys — and that’s why it’s not going to happen. Jay-Z and Lamar will likely split the rap vote, and while Childish and Lorde are underdogs, Grammy voters will more than likely be charmed by an act with huge commercial appeal, an amazing live act, top-notch songwriting capabilities, a multi-instrumentalist — who hails from Hawaii. This is Mars’ for the taking.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
“Redbone,” Childish Gambino; “Despacito,” Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber; “The Story of O.J.,” Jay-Z; “HUMBLE.,” Kendrick Lamar; “24K Magic,” Bruno Mars
>> MOODY: Even though “Despacito” was the biggest hit of the year compared with its competitors, Grammy voters often ignore the most popular for the “artistic” choice. Here that would seem to be Lamar’s “HUMBLE.,” but I think overall the record and artist that moved voters most was probably Mars. Plus, it also was ubiquitous. Mars wins again.
>> FEKADU: “Despacito” was much more than your average pop hit of the year. It broke several records on Spotify and YouTube, and opened more doors for Latin music to be integrated into pop radio without watering down or Americanizing its songs. That’s enough for Luis Fonsi and friends to take home the prize.
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Despacito,” Luis Fonsi, Daddy Yankee, Justin Bieber, Jason “Poo Bear” Boyd, Erika Ender and Marty James Garton; “4:44,” Jay-Z and No I.D.; “Issues,” Julia Michaels, Benny Blanco, Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen and Justin Drew Tranter; “1-800-273-8255,” Logic, Alessia Cara, Khalid and Arjun Ivatury; “That’s What I Like,” Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Christopher Brody Brown, James Fauntleroy, Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus and Jonathan Yip.
>> FEKADU: Normally I would say that Bruno would win this, but is the Academy going to give this award to eight songwriters? Nah, though a couple of songs with four songwriters have won this award. That gives the edge to Jay-Z, who wrote “4:44” with just No I.D. He’ll make history and become the first rapper to win song of the year.
>> MOODY: Just about everyone in this category has multiple songwriters, so I’m thinking voters are getting used to the fact that there are more songs by committee in this era. Plus, as powerful as “4:44” was, I don’t think it resonated with enough of the Academy. I’m thinking Bruno did. I say he takes it.
BEST NEW ARTIST
Alessia Cara, Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert, Julia Michaels, SZA
>> MOODY: SZA is the most nominated woman of this year’s Grammys, but something tells me voters might have an easier time gelling with the PG-rated verses of some of her counterparts than her raw lyrics. And between Cara, Khalid and Michaels, I say Michaels has the edge, particularly because the “Issues” singer has written plenty of hits for others.
>> FEKADU: Alessia Cara — who some thought would be a best new artist nominee last year — had hits and success with her 2015 debut album and co-starred on more hits with Zedd and Logic last year (and even those songs are nominated for Grammys this year). Alessia is the one voters are most familiar with, and that’s why she’ll win.
BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM
“Kaleidoscope EP,” Coldplay; “Lust for Life,” Lana Del Rey; “Evolve,” Imagine Dragons; “Rainbow,” Kesha; “Joanne,” Lady Gaga; “Divide,” Ed Sheeran
>> FEKADU: Ed Sheeran, here is your consolation prize.
>> MOODY: Sheeran for the win!
BEST ROCK PERFORMANCE
“You Want It Darker,” Leonard Cohen; “The Promise,” Chris Cornell; “Run,” Foo Fighters; “No Good,” Kaleo; “Go to War,” Nothing More
>> MOODY: I’d normally say the Foo Fighters, but there are two chances to give a posthumous honor, with Cohen, who died in 2016, and Cornell, who died last year. Cornell’s suicide at the age of 52 may have affected more people, and his song, about the Armenian genocide, is resonating now, with an Oscar campaign (it’s from a movie of the same name). I think Cornell takes it.
>> FEKADU: Cornell is definitely winning this.
BEST URBAN CONTEMPORARY ALBUM
“Free 6LACK,” 6LACK; “Awaken, My Love!” Childish Gambino; “American Teen,” Khalid; “Ctrl,” SZA; “Starboy,” The Weeknd
>> FEKADU: First of all, SZA needs to win this. “Ctrl” is one of the best albums of all time. Here’s her problem, though: Khalid also had huge success as a rising artist last year; Gambino’s album is nominated for album of the year; and The Weeknd is still hella popular, despite earning only one Grammy nomination this year. But I am going to predict SZA wins simply because she deserves to.
>> MOODY: You’re getting in your feelings, son. And that’s clouding your view. While yes, I do think “Ctrl” was good, it was not the best album of last year — but I digress. It is the best album in this category but still won’t win — I think Grammy voters will be too impressed that Donald Glover made a musical album in between acting projects, even if it is a rip-off of Sly and the Family Stone, Parliament and any other ’70s funk album released. Childish Gambino takes it.
BEST RAP PERFORMANCE
“Bounce Back,” Big Sean; “Bodak Yellow,” Cardi B; “4:44,” Jay-Z; “HUMBLE.,” Kendrick Lamar; “Bad and Boujee,” Migos featuring Lil Uzi Vert
>> MOODY: Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” was the sensation of the year, but her inclusion will likely be seen as honor enough. Plus, anyone trying to beat “HUMBLE.” should really sit down.
>> FEKADU: Cardi B may be the current queen of rap, but King Kendrick is easily winning here.
BEST COUNTRY SONG
“Better Man,” Taylor Swift (performed by Little Big Town); “Body Like a Back Road,” Sam Hunt, Zach Crowell, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne; “Broken Halos,” Chris Stapleton and Mike Henderson; “Drinkin’ Problem,” Midland, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne; “Tin Man,” Miranda Lambert, Jack Ingram and Jon Randall
>> FEKADU: If more people knew Stapleton’s song, he would have a stronger shot here. Sam Hunt, whose song set the record for most weeks at No. 1 on the country charts, has a better chance in the best country solo performance category. That leaves us with Tay Tay, who will return to her roots with another win for best country song.
>> MOODY: While Swift’s departure for pop likely still stings for some country voters, she remains one of the genre’s top boosters of other acts, and the fact that she wrote such a straightforward country song for one of its biggest acts goes a long way. Swift gets another country trophy.
Watch the 60th Grammy Awards live from Madison Square Garden in New York at 2:30 p.m. Sunday on CBS, with a repeat at 7 p.m. At 10 a.m., grammy.com will livestream the pre-telecast Premiere Ceremony, which includes the regional roots music album category featuring Hawaii nominees Josh Tatofi and Ho‘okena.