It's that time of the year again. Awards season is right around the corner and once again, The Recording Academy has unveiled its list of nominations for the 84 categories at the 61st Grammy Awards, set to go down on Sunday, February 10, 2019.
Last year, the nominations caused quite a stir when several performers found themselves curiously placed in odd categories. The War On Drugs were clubbed with metal acts like Metallica and Mastodon for Best Rock Album, and Portugal. The Man found themselves under the pop umbrella for some reason.
There were cries of injustice after some gasp-worthy snubs (SIA and Mariah Carey both had choice words for the Academy) and the number of nominees in the top four categories was expanded to eight from five.
The Grammys had a challenging task this year of dodging accusations of exclusion and unfairness, and in the streaming era where award ceremonies are increasingly being criticized for favoring already established acts and ignoring public opinion, the academy had to walk a very tight rope.
But they have done their best to provide an eclectic range of nominations and although the usual suspects have found their way to the short list, there are quite a few surprises thrown into the mix as well.
So here's a run-down of the nominations in the most popular categories, and our thoughts on who actually deserves the award and who might actually win.
Album of the year
Invasion Of Privacy — Cardi B
By The Way, I Forgive You — Brandi Carlile
Scorpion — Drake
H.E.R. — H.E.R.
Beerbongs & Bentleys — Post Malone
Dirty Computer — Janelle Monáe
Golden Hour — Kacey Musgraves
Black Panther: The Album, Music From And Inspired By (Various Artists)
Who should win: Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer
Who will win: Janelle Monáe - Dirty Computer
As mentioned earlier, the Academy expanded the number of nominations from five to eight this year and the result of that is quite a varied list of nominees. From pop, to country, to R&B and hip hop, there is a fair bit of diversity here. But it's surprising to see the soundtrack for 'Black Panther' make its way to the list here. Agreed, it was a great album but perhaps the spot could've been reserved for at least one rock act - maybe Muse for 'Simulation Theory' or Jack White for 'Boarding House Reach'.
Record of the year
I Like It — Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin
The Joke — Brandi Carlile
This Is America — Childish Gambino
God's Plan — Drake
Shallow — Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper
All The Stars — Kendrick Lamar & SZA
Rockstar — Post Malone Featuring 21 Savage
The Middle — Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey
Who should win: This Is America — Childish Gambino
Who will win: All The Stars — Kendrick Lamar & SZA
Another fairly decent set of nominations that gave away two of the eight spots to songs written for critically acclaimed films this year - Kendrick and SZA's 'All The Stars' features on the Black Panther OST and Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper's 'Shallow' features on the Oscar-bait frontrunner 'A Star Is Born'.
It's Cooper's first ever Grammy nomination, but odds are the Academy will give the award to Pulitzer winner Kendrick Lamar. Since SZA is also nominated, it would even out the odds for women's representation. But for me personally, Childish Gambino's 'This Is America' is a clear winner in the category just for having such a fine-tuned sensibility about the current socio-political landscape and packaging it flawlessly into a groovy and flawless record.
Song of the Year (goes to writers)
All The Stars — Kendrick Duckworth, Solána Rowe, Al Shuckburgh, Mark Spears & Anthony Tiffith (Kendrick Lamar & SZA)
Boo'd Up — Larrance Dopson, Joelle James, Ella Mai & Dijon McFarlane (Ella Mai)
God's Plan — Aubrey Graham, Daveon Jackson, Brock Korsan, Ron LaTour, Matthew Samuels & Noah Shebib (Drake)
In My Blood — Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris, Shawn Mendes & Geoffrey Warburton (Shawn Mendes)
The Joke — Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth & Tim Hanseroth (Brandi Carlile)
The Middle — Sarah Aarons, Jordan K. Johnson, Stefan Johnson, Marcus Lomax, Kyle Trewartha, Michael Trewartha & Anton Zaslavski (Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey)
Shallow — Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando & Andrew Wyatt (Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper)
This Is America — Donald Glover & Ludwig Goransson (Childish Gambino)
Who should win: 'This Is America' — Childish Gambino
Who will win: 'God's Plan' — Aubrey Graham, Daveon Jackson, Brock Korsan, Ron LaTour, Matthew Samuels & Noah Shebib (Drake)
The distinction between Record of the Year and Song of the Year is a fine one, with the latter being awarded to the writers, and not the artist. There is also a large overlap with the former category and it might come down to pleasing the losers from the other category to balance things out. If this category doesn't see a win for one of the songs written for films, perhaps the other will. Meanwhile, our pick is still Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino and Ludwig Goransson for 'This Is America' for pretty much the same reasons as above.
Best New Artist
Chloe x Halle
Greta Van Fleet
Who should win: H.E.R.
Who will win: Greta Van Fleet
At the 60th Grammy Awards, the award was well deserved by Alessia Cara, who returned this year with yet another stunning album, 'The Pains Of Growing'. It's a pleasant surprise to find Luke Combs and Dua Lipa in the category, and even better to find Californian R&B breakthrough H.E.R. who might just be the most deserving artist on the list. But here's the thing - the amount of adoration that Michigan rock-revivalists Greta Van Fleet have been getting from the rock press is hard to ignore. Even though their debut album 'Anthem Of The Peaceful Army' received mixed reactions from critics, they still seem to be racking up nominations. It would have definitely made more sense to give them the award last year, when they were still basking in the glory of thier first two EPs, which in my opinion was far better than their debut effort.
Best Pop solo performance
Colors — Beck
Havana (Live) — Camila Cabello
God Is A Woman — Ariana Grande
Joanne (Where Do You Think You're Goin'?) — Lady Gaga
Better Now — Post Malone
Who should win: Camila Cabello - Havana (Live)
Who will win: Camila Cabello - Havana (Live)
With the lesser set of awards, the nominations are down to five and the playing field is much tighter. How Post Malone figured in the pop category is anybody's guess. Beck, Ariana Grande and Lady Gaga are all solid nominations but there's something to be said about the ubiquity of Camila Cabello's 'Havana', a song that has been impossible to avoid this year unless you've been living under a rock. In a sense, the hallmark of an excellent pop performance is the mass response it has garnered, and 'Havana' fits the bill perfectly.
Best Pop vocal album
Camila — Camila Cabello
Meaning Of Life — Kelly Clarkson
Sweetener — Ariana Grande
Shawn Mendes — Shawn Mendes
Beautiful Trauma — P!nk
Reputation — Taylor Swift
Who should win: Camila - Camila Cabello
Who will win: Sweetener - Ariana Grande
Here's one category where the women stand out for a change. Shawn Mendes is the only male to be nominated in the category and the Academy might have overcompensated for last year's accusations a tad bit. Nevertheless, the category sees one of the few nominations for Taylor Swift this year and Grande, P!nk and Camila Cabello are all strong candidates.
But considering the fact that the self-titled album is Cabello's debut effort, she might just be the most deserving in the category for the breakthrough record. Then again, Ariana Grande's 'Sweetener' could just upset Cabello's chances with its highly-relevant theme of 'girl power' and the album's polished production.
Best Rock Album
Rainier Fog -- Alice In Chains
Mania -- Fall Out Boy
Prequelle -- Ghost
From the Fires -- Greta Van Fleet
Pacific Daydream -- Weezer
Who should win: Prequelle - Ghost
Who will win: From the Fires - Greta Van Fleet
Well at least they got all the contenders and the genre right this time. More or less! It's arguable if Ghost belongs here or in the metal category but we'll let this one slide. Again, mainstream rock darlings Greta Van Fleet figure on the list for 2017's 'From The Fires', which is a double EP and not an album per se. But thank god they weren't nominated for 'Anthem of the Peaceful Army.' It's interesting to see Weezer sneak in here after a year where they practically relaunched themselves by covering Toto's 'Africa'. Alice In Chain's new record was certainly a great effort but might not be Grammy-worthy. Ultimately, Ghost's scathing allegory of the plague and the modern times might be the most deserving candidate here, even though there's a little bit of a genre mismatch.
Best Rock Performance
Four Out Of Five -- Arctic Monkeys
When Bad Does Good -- Chris Cornell
Made An America -- Fever 333
Highway Tune -- Greta Van Fleet
Uncomfortable -- Halestorm
Who should win: 'Highway Tune' - Greta Van Fleet
Who will win: 'When Bad Does Good' - Chris Cornell
This is perhaps the one category where GVF actually deserves the nomination. Say what you must about their similarity to Led Zeppelin and their new album, but there's no denying that their anthemic 2017 single 'Highway Tune' kickstarted a conversation about rock revivalism and put them on the global map. It's just an all-out brilliant rock track. But there might be some pandering here and we could expect a posthumous award for the late Chris Cornell, who tragically passed away last year.
Best Metal Performance
Condemned To The Gallows -- Between The Buried And Me
Honeycomb -- Deafheaven
Electric Messiah -- High On Fire
Betrayer -- Trivium
On My Teeth -- Underoath
Who should win: 'Honeycomb' - Deafheaven
Who will win: Tough call, but Trivium might take this one home.
The nominations here took me by surprise. First of all, a huge shoutout to the Grammys for acknowledging indie acts like Deafheaven (who delivered an absolute blinder with their new LP 'Ordinary Corrupt Human Love'), and BTBM. That being said, where the hell is Ghost's 'Rats'? There couldn't be a more fitting category for them and it's disappointing to see them excluded. It's also disappointing to not see Sleep's comeback magnum-opus 'Marijuanaut's Theme' here but High On Fire (who shares guitaist Matt Pike with Sleep) could be the consolation for it. Although it is great to see the Academy dig deep into the genre, the award might ultimately go to more popular acts (as is often the case) and Trivium and High On Fire seem like strong contenders.
Best Alternative Music Album
Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino -- Arctic Monkeys
Colors -- Beck
Utopia -- Bjork
American Utopia -- David Byrne
Masseduction -- St. Vincent
Who should win: Masseduction - St. Vincent
Who will win: Tranquility Base Hotel + Casino - Arctic Monkeys
One of the categories with the best spread of nominations. It's great to see David Byrne in the list, a highly deserving nomination. Bjork and St. Vincent carry the flag for women in the category and rightly so. Their respective albums 'Utopia' and 'Masseduction' are both stellar releases from the past year and St. Vincent is our top pick for the most deserving contender. But Arctic Monkeys are long overdue for a Grammy and the last time they were nominated in this particular category was eleven years ago for their debut 'Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not'. So even if TBH+C might arguably be their most polarizing record till date, there is a good chance that they'll finally take the golden gramophone home.
Best Rap Performance (single or track)
Be Careful -- Cardi B
Nice For What -- Drake
King's Dead -- Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future & James Blake
Bubblin -- Anderson .Paak
Sicko Mode -- Travis Scott, Drake, Big Hawk & Swae Lee
Who should win: King's Dead -- Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future & James Blake
Who will win: Be Careful -- Cardi B
A not so impressive list of contenders, especially considering the fact that none of Eminem's zingers from the year ('The Ringer', 'Killshot' etc.) appear on the shortlist. Again we have another song from 'Black Panther' on the list in the form of 'King's Dead' and at this point, the number of OST nominations is getting a little too overdone. But in the context of the film, the track is absolutely spot on and is surely a brave contender in this category. But it faces tough competition from Cardi's 'Be Careful', one of the highlights from her debut album 'Invasion of Privacy'.
Best Rap Album
Invasion Of Privacy — Cardi B
Swimming — Mac Miller
Victory Lap — Nipsey Hussle
Daytona — Pusha T
Astroworld — Travis Scott
Who should win: Daytona — Pusha T
Who will win: Swimming — Mac Miller
Let's face it. 2018 has been the year of rap. From epic rap beefs to stunning debuts (Cardi B) to just all-out lyrical and production brilliance, the range of highly acclaimed rap albums this year has been staggering.
So it's definitely not easy to whittle this list down to five. It's disappointing to not see J. Cole's masterpiece 'KOD' on the shortlist though, and the inclusion of Mac Miller's final album before his death might be another instance of pandering to fans and pulling on emotional strings. Pusha's Kanye-produced 'DAYTONA' is definitely a worthy contender for the throne but it's going to be a tough call between him and Mac.