The official cut-off date for eligibility for the 57th Annual Grammy Awards is September 30, 2014. The end of September is filled with albums that are certainly looking to compete for music’s most prestigious awards. That said, there are also notable albums released after last year’s cutoff date that can’t be written off. From my perspective, here are among the best available albums within a number of Grammy categories.
Record of the Year
1) “Happy,” Pharrell Williams
2) “Stay With Me,” Sam Smith
3) “Dark Horse,” Katy Perry featuring Juicy J
4) “Fancy,” Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX
5) “Problem,” Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea
The record of the year category continues to be a tight race each year. With so many big singles released in 2014, it won’t be a surprise that big pop records could dominate this category. “Happy” has lost some steam after a formidable run, but it still could get honored here given its widespread impact.
Album of the Year
1) Sam Smith, In The Lonely Hour
2) Beyoncé, Beyoncé
3) Pharrell Williams, G I R L
4) Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence
5) Jack White, Lazaretto
Much like last year, finding one dominant album that is a shoe-in for the “W” here isn’t easy. Sam Smith has certainly had a big year, but what about the omitted Frozen soundtrack, which was the bestselling album of the year? Beyoncé is considered a ‘veteran’ artist and the upmost entertainer at this point, and her fifth album was a shock to everyone. These five albums could be frontrunners, but then some obscure album could also sneak into this category.
Song of the Year
1) “Stay With Me,” Sam Smith
2) “Happy,” Pharrell Williams
3) “All of Me,” John Legend
4) “Let It Go,” Idina Menzel
5) “Sing,” Ed Sheeran
It won’t be surprising to see Pharrell Williams score a nomination (or nod) here for “Happy.” Also, “Let It Go” seems almost too big to at least honor it with a big-time nomination, if not a victory itself. Then again, should Sam Smith lose to Williams in the record of the year category, doesn’t “Stay With Me” have to win? Throw in the possibly ineligible “All of Me” by John Legend and the previously-nominated Ed Sheeran’s “Sing” and the category is another tightly contested battle. The best, most true song here does belong to Legend, hands down, but Smith stands a strong chance.
Best New Artist
1) Sam Smith
2) Iggy Azalea
3) Ariana Grande
4) August Alsina
5) 5 Seconds of Summer
Another stacked category, it is hard to envision anyone else but Sam Smith wins this one. That said, Grande and Azalea both have compelling arguments. So does August Alsina, but with R&B as underrated as it is of late, his chances become slimmer. Sure, 5 Seconds of Summer are crowd pleasers, but they just might be the Justin Bieber type acknowledgement of this year with little chance to win.
Pop Solo Performance
1) Pharrell Williams, “Happy”
2) Sam Smith, “Stay With Me”
3) Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”
4) Sia, “Chandelier”
5) Ed Sheeran, “Sing”
6) Lana Del Rey, “Ultraviolence”
Ultimately, “Happy” should probably be nominated in urban categories, but it just might keep others from achieving Grammy glory. Again, it seems that “Stay With Me” will be a huge challenger, not to mention the possibility of a big record like “Wrecking Ball” actually getting some love. Other efforts like “Chandelier,” “Sing,” and “Ultraviolence” should be ignored but have an uphill battle against the top.
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
1) Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj, “Bang Bang”
2) “RUDE,” Magic!
3) Maroon 5, “Maps”
4) Ariana Grande, “Break Free”
5) 5 Seconds of Summer, “She Looks So Perfect”
“Bang Bang” is deserved hands down should it be nominated. “Rude”, should it be nominated was a former #1 hit, in addition to being the best part of the band’s debut album, Don’t Kill The Magic.
Best Pop Vocal Album
1) Sam Smith, In The Lonely Hour
2) Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence
3) Katy Perry, Prism
4) Ed Sheeran, X
5) Ariana Grande, My Everything
We’ll take Pharrell Williams out of this category. Even so, there are no shortage of scenarios for each of the five albums. Grande, who I have placed in 5th place has a compelling argument herself. That said, ultimately, if the nominations fall the way that I have them, Smith wins, even against Katy Perry who has yet to win a Grammy.
Best Dance/Electronic Album
1) Lady Gaga, ARTPOP
2) Skrillex, RECESS
3) Porter Robinson, Worlds
Lady Gaga may pick up another Grammy. Then again, she may not.
Best Rock Performance
1) Jack White, “Lazaretto”
2) The Black Keys, “Turn Blue”
3) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “American Dream Plan B”
4) Bruce Springsteen, “Just Like The Fire Would”
5) Counting Crows, “Paisley Park”
Jack White had a bad Grammy night when his first album Blunderbuss was nominated (he won nothing), but he might find himself winning Best Rock Performance. Still, a wine won’t come easily.
Best Rock Album
1) Jack White, Lazaretto
2) The Black Keys, Turn Blue
3) Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Hypnotic Eye
4) Coldplay, Ghost Stories
5) Bruce Springsteen, High Hopes
Jack White may have lost to The Black Keys in this category last go round, but I can’t see him losing to the Keys again. Both albums were solid, but White may have the edge this time. Coldplay may very well receive a nomination, but they’ve done better… just saying!
Best Alternative Music Album
1) Arcade Fire, Reflektor
2) Beck, Morning Phase
3) St. Vincent, St. Vincent
4) Spoon, They Want My Soul
5) The Gaslight Anthem, Get Hurt
The Alternative Music album category is always tight, and this year is no different. I’m not convinced that The Gaslight Album will even make the cut, but for now they stick in the fifth spot. Beck’s Morning Phase is a fine album that is deserving of this honor, but I don’t put it past last year’s high-flying double album by Arcade Fire (Reflektor) to ultimately go home with the win.
Best R&B Performance
1) Beyoncé, “Partition”
2) Prince, “BREAKDOWN”
3) Aloe Blacc, “The Man”
4) Pharrell Williams, “Marilyn Monroe”
5) Jhené Aiko, “The Pressure”
6) Tank, “You’re My Star”
The top three songs in this category are juggernauts. Likely, Aloe Blacc’s “The Man” will be forgotten after cooling off since its peak, but Beyoncé’s “Partition” will remain fresh. Still, besting “Partition” should be Prince’s “BREAKDOWN,” which just might be the best, most compelling R&B performance of the year.
Best R&B Song
1) “The Breakdown” (Prince)
2) “Drunk in Love” (Beyoncé)
3) “The Pressure” (Jhené Aiko)
4) “Marilyn Monroe” (Pharrell Williams)
5) “Benediction” (August Alsina)
6) “You’re My Star” (Tank)
Who likely wins this – probably Beyoncé for “Drunk in Love.” That said, the best song that could potentially be nominated here is Prince’s awesome “The Breakdown.”
Best Urban Contemporary Album
1) Pharrell Williams, G I R L
2) August Alsina, Testimony
3) Trey Songz, Trigga
4) Jhené Aiko, Souled Out
5) Chris Brown, X
Pharrell Williams stands a great shot if he is nominated in this category. That said, G I R L could be nominated as a pop album, but would face steeper competition, specifically with Sam Smith. Beyoncé plays spoils if her self-titled album is nominated here instead of Best R&B album.
Best R&B Album
1) Beyoncé, Beyoncé
2) Prince, ART OFFICIAL AGE
3) Toni Braxton & Babyface, Love Marriage & Divorce
4) Michael Jackson, Xscape
5) Kem, Promise To Love
Predicting the Best R&B Album anymore is almost pointless. You just never know how the vote will sway in recent times. If Beyoncé is nominated in this category, it wins hands down. If not, the door is likely opened.
Best Rap Performance
1) Common featuring Vince Staples, “Kingdom”
2) Nicki Minaj, “Anaconda”
3) Childish Gambino, “Sweatpants”
4) Rick Ross featuring Jay-Z, “Devil Is A Lie”
5) Jeezy featuring Jay-Z, “Seen It All”
Honestly, wouldn’t it be nice to see Childish Gambino get recognized for Because The Internet? That said, likely Gambino will have a Kendrick Lamar night and go home empty-handed. Common definitely has a shot. Maybe Nicki Minaj can break her Grammy drought with “Anaconda?”
Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
1) Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z, “Drunk In Love”
2) Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Azalea, “Problem”
3) Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX, “Fancy”
4) Iggy Azalea featuring Rita Ora, “Black Widow”
5) August Alsina featuring Rick Ross, “Benediction”
If this field look liked this, it’s actually sort of tight. That isn’t saying this is the strongest category of Best Rap/Sung collaborations ever, but at least the top three are huge. Still, don’t underestimate the power of the Queen – Beyoncé and her partner in crime Jay-Z that is.
Best Rap Song
1) “Fancy” (Iggy Azalea)
2) “Kingdom” (Common)
3) “Me OK” (Jeezy)
4) “Sweatpants” (Childish Gambino)
5) “Devil Is A Lie” (Rick Ross)
There have been stronger rap songs in the past. The strongest song is actually “Kingdom,” but doesn’t Iggy Azalea need to be recognized somewhere or somehow for “Fancy?”
Best Rap Album
1) Common, Nobody’s Smiling
2) Childish Gambino, Because The Internet
3) Jeezy, Seen It All: The Autobiography
4) Iggy Azalea, The New Classic
5) Schoolboy Q, Oxymoron
6) The Roots, …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin
Rap has not been at the strength it’s been in the past. There was no Kendrick Lamar caliber album this year, and that’s no shade to the genre or the artists who released albums this year. If I had to pick out the best rap effort of the year, it would be a closely contested contest between Common and Childish Gambino. Common is the ‘darling’ of the Grammys, so I’d give his underappreciated Nobody’s Smiling the edge. But then we all all Macklemore & Ryan Lewis stun Kendrick Lamar, and Iggy Azalea has definitely had some kind of year…
Best Country Album
1) Miranda Lambert, Platinum
2) Eric Church, The Outsiders
3) Tim McGraw, Sundown Heaven Town
4) Brantley Gilbert, Just As I Am
5) Hunter Hayes, Storyline
Best Country Album is one of those categories in recent times that has yielded some surprises. One is that for as popular and consistent as Taylor Swift has been, she has only one Best Country album once, and that was for album Fearless which also won album of the year. Last year’s winner was Kacey Musgraves. So, call Best country album a crapshoot of sorts. Any of the nominees listed her could win or lose. Miranda Lambert has had previous success, and Platinum was an exceptional album, so I give her the nod at the moment.