Sunday night marks music’s grandest occasion – the Grammy Awards! While there are four big categories, none is more coveted than album of the year. Not only is it the most highly desired, it almost always ranks among the most questionable. Save for a few homeruns (OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below and Adele’s 21), one could question the voting. Below are rationales for why each album of the year nominee might win and of course why they might not win.
1) Sam Smith, In The Lonely Hour
Why He Might Win: One of the ubiquitous names of 2014 was none other than Sam Smith, who was “kind of definitely a big deal.” He was ubiquitous for good reason as In the Lonely Hour was an honest effort about unrequited love, finding its singer sounding nothing short of angelic. No song eclipsed the set’s biggest and best hit, “Stay With Me.” While Smith isn’t quite on the Adele level where buzz (and sales) are concerned, in a ‘down’ year, Smith sort of filled that role.
Why He Might Not Win: For as much buzz as Smith had in 2014, he is a new artist. New artists rarely score the ‘big one,’ so that’s a disadvantage for Smith. Additionally, even though In The Lonely Hour has gone platinum and generally been praised by critics, is the hype centered on the album as a whole or just “Stay With Me” it self? Also compared to the other five nominees, is In The Lonely Hour truly a ‘better’ album?
2) Beyoncé, Beyoncé
Why She Might Win: Beyoncé has been nominated previously for album of the year, but lost to Taylor Swift (Fearless). This being her second venture with a better album than the first nominated (I Am…Sasha Fierce), can anyone stop Bey? Adding fuel to the fire, the way that Yoncé issued Beyoncé was innovative, truly spiking the sales considerably compared to the so-so opening of her previous album, 4. Also adding even more fuel, what about how cutting edge the material is itself? Did anyone expect Beyoncé to be so bold?
Why She Might Not Win: Urban albums aren’t exactly the calling card of the Recording Academy, period. Wasn’t it previously mentioned that Beyoncé was in the position as a contender before? Honestly, when I Am…Sasha Fierce was nominated, Beyoncé won six awards that evening, including Song of the Year. Everything was going her way – up until AOTY. This time, Beyoncé ‘bread and butter’ doesn’t reside in pop categories, but only urban categories with her AOTY nod being the only exception. The fact she couldn’t get a nomination in the ROTY or SOTY makes you question how she’ll do in the album category.
Another concern is the content. As good as Beyoncé is, she an artist known most for her ‘records’ as opposed to her ‘songs.’ Records sure hurt her when I Am…Sasha Fierce lost the award. Also, will the voters be okay with the explicitness of the album? How many albums since Speakerboxxx/The Love Below sported a parental advisory label have been victorious since then? The answer is none. That album’s incredible musicianship is what secured it’s album of the year win.
3) Beck, Morning Phase
Why He Might Win: Beck, like Beyoncé, has been in this position before. Unlike Beyoncé, it’s been nearly 20 years ago. That makes Beck this year’s ‘oldie’, even if he only 44. The Recording Academy seems to have a thing for the veteran of the group, which bodes well in favor of Beck more now than it would when Odelay was nominated back when. Add fuel to the fire that Morning Phase lacks explicitness and was one of the bright spots in alternative rock circles, and Beck just might be taking home the big one.
Why He Might Not Win: Morning Phase is a solid album, but it didn’t have nearly the impact that Odelay did. Furthermore, Morning Phase is more of an album that finds Beck flexing rather innovating, meaning it’s not ‘brand new’ you might say. Compared to Beyoncé’s effort, the rollout wasn’t nearly as cutting-edge, nor is the product itself. Ultimately, Morning Phase may not be flashy enough to win AOTY.
4) Pharrell Williams, GIRL
Why He Might Win: One of two album of the year nominees not receiving its just due, Pharrell Williams’ GIRL is a terrific album with excellent records. While it’s less bold than Beyoncé’s effort, it’s a tamer urban contemporary effort that should appeal to voters who dislike the more profane Beyoncé. It also has that friendly record “Happy” that was everywhere.
Why He Might Not Win: Beyoncé is considered more a front-runner and the urban support will likely go to her. It seemed like there was more buzz around Williams previously, but that has since died down. It wouldn’t be surprising if Williams sat in 5th place for album of the year.
5) Ed Sheeran, X
Why He Might Win: Ed Sheeran has landed some big Grammy nominations, namely a nomination for Song of the Year (“The A Team”) and Best New Artist. Did he win either? No, but maybe overlooking Sheeran pays off for him as his well-embraced X takes home the ultimate honors.
Why He Might Not Win: People like Ed Sheeran – really they do. But, there is just little belief that X will win album of the year. It’s filled with the hits (“Sing” and “Don’t” most notably), but with Smith being the big competition, it’s hard to see pop support favoring Sheeran over the vocal angel.
Who ultimately wins? It’s a race between Sam Smith and Beyoncé. Beyoncé is arguably most deserving, but Smith may be better positioned with a package that voters respect the most. That said, both could cancel themselves out (remember Kanye West and Amy Winehouse) and the ‘dark horse’ Beck could pull out the upset win. It’s not so much an upset given the quality of Morning Phase, but with the two most popular albums vying for the big win, it would be surprising if Beck pulled such a thing off.
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