Pop, Rock, Urban & Country Categories
Let’s keep it short and sweet – if the Grammys were held in August, would these be the nominees. Here are some thoughts on specific categories, including pop, rock, R&B, rap, and country. Cheers!
Best Pop Solo Performance:
The Weeknd, “Can’t Feel My Face”
Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”
Andy Grammer, “Honey, I’m Good”
Ellie Goulding, “Love Me Like You Do”
Nick Jonas, “Jealous”
Kelly Clarkson, “Invincible”
Again, the Grammys should reflect the emphasis on songs/records as opposed to albums. There are plenty of exceptional pop solo performances deserving of Grammy recognition. The Weeknd and Taylor Swift would be frontrunners here, but Andy Grammer wouldn’t be far behind with his beloved “Honey, I’m Good.” Still that leaves excellent songs from Ellie Goulding, Nick Jonas, and darling Kelly Clarkson on the board.
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance:
Maroon 5, “Sugar”
Kelly Clarkson & John Legend, “Run Run Run”
Florence + The Machine, “What Kind Of Man”
Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Bad Blood”
Rihanna, Kanye West & Paul McCartney, “FourFiveSeconds”
Another rich category is the Best pop duo/group performance. All five of the aforementioned are strong candidates for all means. Should “Bad Blood” be nominated in its remixed form, the argument is that it’s more pop collaboration than rap/sung collaboration. It’s a grey area, but there’s been ‘back and forth’ over the years with those “blurred lines.” Maroon 5’s “Sugar” stands out, but it’s hard to deny red hot Swift, classy, soulful Florence, or superstar collaboration extraordinaire Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney (“FourFiveSeconds”).
Best Pop Vocal Album:
Taylor Swift, 1989
Adam Lambert, The Original High
Florence + The Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Twenty one pilots, Blurryface
Kelly Clarkson, Piece By Piece
Meghan Trainor, Title
This category is always a tight one, but there’s usually a clear frontrunner. This year it would be shocking if Taylor Swift doesn’t win for 1989. Are there arguably better pop albums? Yes, but 1989 was so big that it would be crazy if it didn’t win a Grammy of some sort and this would be it’s best opportunity. One thing’s for sure – it will be nominated. As for the others, they are all possibilities – particularly Florence + The Machine and Kelly Clarkson – but Swift is a shoe-in.
Best Rock Performance:
Imagine Dragons, “I Bet My Life”
Foo Fighters, “Something From Nothing”
Muse, “Dead Inside”
Mumford & Sons, “Believe”
Alabama Shakes, “Don’t Wanna Fight”
Um yeah… Rock hasn’t delivered the most memorable performances that come to mind in late 2014-15. Any of these could be nominated and any of them could be omitted. The jury is still out. Yeah, that’s about it.
Best Rock Album:
Imagine Dragons, Smoke + Mirrors
Mumford & Sons, Wilder Mind
Foo Fighters, Sonic Highways
James Taylor, Before This World
Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color
Should Mumford & Sons be nominated for best rock album? No. Could they be? Yes. Much like the Best Rock Performance category, there isn’t one dominant rock album. Alabama Shakes definitely deserve some love, but whether or not they’ll get it is another matter altogether.
Best Alternative Music Album:
Father John Misty, I Love You, Honeybear
Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell
Walk The Moon, Talking Is Hard
Tame Impala, Currents
George Ezra, Wanted On Voyage
This category is always tight – jam-packed with albums all deserving of Grammy recognition. How do you pick with top-heavy efforts by Björk, Father John Misty, and Sufjan Stevens, which all graced my personal top five (so far) of 2015? And that doesn’t even acknowledge George Ezra (also on the list) or Tame Impala who have been nominated before. Walk The Moon may be good enough to get a nod thanks to “Shut Up And Dance” in itself.
Best R&B Performance:
The Weeknd, “The Hills”
Mary J. Blige, “Whole Damn Year”
Jill Scott, “Lighthouse”
D’Angelo & The Vanguard, “Sugah Daddy”
Jazmine Sullivan, “Forever Don’t Last”
The R&B category seems a bit more “helter skelter” over the last couple of years. Songs and albums that many thought would’ve been better fits for nomination have been snubbed while those that should’ve been nowhere near the prize won or were at least in contention. There have been some solid R&B performances this year, even if the genre has had its share of issues. Any of the aforementioned are worthwhile candidates for this prize.
Best Traditional R&B Performance:
Jill Scott, “You Don’t Know”
Lauryn Hill, “Black Is The Color Of My True Love’s Hair”
Mary J. Blige, “Therapy”
Charlie Wilson, “Touched By An Angel”
The Weeknd, “(Earned It) Fifty Shades of Grey”
Leon Bridges, “Coming Home”
Andra Day, “Rise Up”
There are some prime candidates for the Best Traditional R&B Performance that are more “mainstream” than usual. All of the aforementioned won’t be lucky enough to sneak a nomination here as lately these performances tend to be more underground, lesser-known nominees. Hopefully there’ll be a balance this year of established versus non-established.
Best R&B Song:
“The Hills” (The Weeknd)
“Earned It (50 Shades of Grey)” (the Weeknd)
“Therapy” (Mary J. Blige)
“Sugah Daddy” (D’Angelo & The Vanguard)
Could two of The Weeknd’s songs manage to get nominations in the Best R&B Song category? Possibly. Miguel’s “Coffee” should get some love – “Adorn” won for best R&B song in 2013.
Best Urban Contemporary Album:
The Weeknd, Beauty Behind The Madness
K. Michelle, Anybody Wanna Buy A Heart?
Jazmine Sullivan, Reality Show
Don’t let the talk of R&B struggling in 2015 dissuade you from the fact that there were quality R&B albums. While Ne-Yo probably should make this list in my opinion, would it be surprising if he did?
Best R&B Album:
Jill Scott, Woman
Tyrese, Black Rose
Leon Bridges, Coming Home
D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
Bilal, In Another Life
Mary J. Blige, The London Sessions
So here are seven albums vying for Best R&B album. Basically, take your pick at the ones you think will get the nod and perhaps one that could be nominated as urban contemporary album and supplant, say Ne-Yo. Tyrese has an argument for urban contemporary, but his bro Tank scored a nod in Best R&B album years back for Sex, Love & Pain so it feels right for him to be here. All the aforementioned nominees are deserving of consideration, particularly D’Angelo’s Black Messiah.
Best Rap Album:
Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly
Dr. Dre, Compton
J. Cole, 2014 Forest Hills Drive
Drake, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late
Big Sean, Dark Sky Paradise
A$AP Rocky, AT. LONG. LAST. A$AP
Nicki Minaj, The Pinkprint
Normally, this would be a very hard category. However, this year it feels like it’s no contest despite the awesome rap albums that have dropped this year. Isn’t Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly the clear frontrunner? But as we know with anything that is the prohibitive favorite – looking at you Kentucky Wildcats 2014-15 – anything can happen.
Best Country Album:
Little Big Town, Pain Killer
Sam Hunt, Montevallo
Kacey Musgraves, Pageant Material
Alan Jackson, Angels And Alcohol
Zac Brown Band, Jekyll + Hyde
Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard, Django And Jimmy
Jason Aldean, Old Boots, New Dirt
Honestly, anything can happen in the Best Country Album category anymore as well. There’s a mix of traditional and non-traditional in this batch of albums. Kacey Musgraves has been victorious here with her debut so it wouldn’t be shocking to see her win again for her fine Pageant Material. Still, Sam Hunt is the new hot thing in country music and has had a big year. But he’s not traditional either. Then there’s tried and true with Willie Nelson & Merle Haggard and Alan Jackson. Again, take your pick.