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2016 Grammys: Who Should Win and Who Will Win

Last year we described the recent Grammy trajectory with a succinct ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

…a whole year after the 2015 awards, things are still looking full smugshrug.

For those that don’t know, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ went viral after Kanye unleashed his sloshed vitriol on an unsuspecting 20-year-old Taylor Swift at the 2010 VMAs. Who would’ve thought that it would happen again at the 2015 Grammys? Beyoncé got passed over for another Album of the Year, this time by Beck’s Morning Phase. And so, Kanye stormed the stage once more, presumably to emasculate the oft-fedora’d alternative rocker. Turns out it was all a joke (mostly) and he never went full Kanye shrug, but people were legitimately scared that he was going to:

Beyoncé isn’t nominated this year (she will be next year; “Formation”? Queen B bein’ Queen B to the MAX), but Swift is; seven more nominations for the already seven-time Grammy winner. She’s opening the ceremony with a song from 1989, and she’ll probably take home a few more Grammys for said album. But mark my words, this is going to be the year of Kendrick (finally).

These are our humble predictions for awards that, in all honesty, are pretty arbitrary anyways. In a better world there’d be more music represented (what does ‘Best’ mean anyways?), but whatever. At least there are going to be tributes to Bowie and Lemmy.

This is what we think might happen with these nominees:

Best Alternative Music Album

Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color
Björk – Vulnicura
My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall
Tame Impala – Currents
Wilco – Star Wars

Who Should Win: Tame Impala – Currents

Who Will Win: Alabama Shakes – Sound & Color

This is a tough one. My Morning Jacket and Wilco both made solid albums, as usual, but they weren’t notable improvements on anything else in their extensive canons. Vulnerica, too, is good; in fact it’s Björk-level good, and it’s Björk-level weird (which is one of the best kinds of weird) but it’s too far removed from mainstream audiences to win. Her focus of late has taken her to the electronic underground, where she’s veiled by some kind of Icelandic, avant-garde obscurity. I won’t be upset at all if Alabama Shakes take this one home. I love Brittany Howard. I wish she could narrate my life. But Currents is a huge success that’s redolent of Arcade Fire’s 2011 AOTY win for Suburbs. On this album, Tame Impala ditched the staticky noise of their psychedelic tones for a sonic polish that has more glaze than a donut. It’s vaulted them into mainstream realms without sacrificing the innovative Tame Impala brand, and that’s Grammy-worthy.

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 Manaj – The Pinkprint

Who Should Win: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

Who Will Win: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

There are four really heavy hitters in this category (sorry J. Cole), but even so, there’s no question as to who should take this award home. Sure, Dre is back, and Drake and Nicki Minaj both made good albums that had videos that broke the internet, but like I said, this is the year of Kendrick. How many albums have ever been called “Music’s Great American Novel“? To Pimp a Butterfly transcends rap. Kendrick channels hip-hop origins by backing his raps with smooth instrumental warrens, shirking garish trap beats and other recent fads. Find another record that features a pantheon like Snoop, Thundercat, and George Clinton. It’s timeless, and Kendrick’s rhymes are unparalleled.

Best Rock Album

James Bay – Chaos and the Calm
Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi
Highly Suspect – Mister Asylum
Muse – Drones
Slipknot – .5: The Gray Chapter

Who Should Win: Highly Suspect – Mister Asylum

Who Will Win: Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi

This lineup is indicative of the Grammys’ need for a category overhaul. Best Rock Album? Here you’ve got like the metalest metal band (Slipknot), a clearcut pop artist (James Bay), and two alternative bands that are definitely more alternative than Alabama Shakes (Muse and indie darlings, Death Cab for Cutie). So, by default, I guess I think Highly Suspect should win. Because of their status, though, I think it goes to Death Cab. In a better world, Sound & Color would be nominated as well… and would win.

Best New Artist

Courtney Barnett
James Bay
Sam Hunt
Tori Kelly
Meghan Trainor

Who Should Win: Courtney Barnett 

Who Will Win: Meghan Trainor

Courtney Barnett is a once in a generation artist. Her lyrics are sharper than a Princeton poindexter, and her quirky witticisms are indelible. People compare her to BOB DYLAN. And then in walks Meghan Trainor and her “All About That Bass” and its one billion Youtube plays and SMASH. Barnett’s most played track, “Pedestrian at Best,” hasn’t even reached three million. This is another egregious example of the Grammys’ need to reassess some things; in order to qualify here, one must be “a new artist who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist.” What the hell does “establishes the public identity” mean? Trainor wins by sheer force. Give Barnett a few more plays; she deserves them.

Song of the Year

Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”
Little Big Town – “Girl Crush”
Wiz Khalifa – “See You Again”
Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud” 

Who Should Win: Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”

Who Will Win: Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”

First off, where’s “Hotline Bling“?

Assuming my other Kendrick predictions are correct, I think the Grammys share the love and give this one goes to T. Swift, the proverbial American sweetheart. K Dot’s “Alright” is more provocative, more important and just plain better, but as long as he takes home AOTY, I can live with a nod to Swift here. “Blank Space” is catchy as hell, after all. The pair may even win a Grammy together.

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 Should Win: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly 

Who Will Win: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

See above. If Kendrick doesn’t win here, Kanye is fully entitled to a legitimate stage squabble. He’ll have my blessing, anyways. Last year I would have told you that there’s no improving upon good kid m.A.A.D city—and in many ways I still think it’s his best record—but To Pimp a Butterfly is certainly Kendrick’s most important record to date. The rapper uses his powerful wit and creative collaborations to indict America’s hypocrisy, and all the while he’s celebrating black culture with a contagious and unflappable hope. Here’s to the year of Kendrick.


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