For Your Consideration: Our 2016 Grammys Predictions

We cast our ballot for this year's ceremony.

We’re just a few days away from the 58th annual Grammy Awards, which are set to go down at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Monday. Walking Kangol advertisement LL Cool J will be back for his fifth consecutive year as host, but, as always, the real spectacle is usually found within the performances, and this year should be as spectacular as any in that regard. Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Adele, and Lady Gaga (who will be performing a David Bowie tribute) are all scheduled to play in one form or another, in addition to many more.

As far as what to expect from the actual awards, it’s a predictably unpredictable mish-mash of nominees, of course, but Kendrick Lamar, Taylor Swift, and The Weeknd lead the pack in terms of nominations, so you’d be advised to keep your eye on them throughout the night. That’s just the tip of the iceberg, however, and to help you wrap your head around what to expect, we’ve taken the liberty of laying down our picks across the board for the some of the night’s bigger awards.

Album of the Year
Sound & Color — Alabama Shakes
To Pimp a Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar
Traveller — Chris Stapleton
1989 — Taylor Swift
Beauty Behind The Madness — The Weeknd

What Should Win: To Pimp a Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar
What Will Win: To Pimp a Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s third album, To Pimp a Butterfly, is an absolute masterpiece (and was, by far, the best album of the year in our humble opinion). Even with the threat of Taylor Swift and her plans for world domination, Lamar’s latest release was eclectic, inspiring, thought-provoking, and complex. Butterfly has the sonic room for hits (“Alright,” “King Kunta”), deep cuts (“Wesley’s Theory,” “Momma”), and President Obama–approved jams (“How Much a Dollar Cost”). Not only should the merits of this album give Lamar the lead, the great injustice of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis beating K. Dot out for Best Rap Album of the Year Grammy in 2014 needs to be fixed. It’s time, Grammys.

Record of the Year
“Really Love” — D’Angelo and The Vanguard
“Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran
“Blank Space” — Taylor Swift
“Can’t Feel My Face” — The Weeknd

What Should Win: “Really Love” — D’Angelo and The Vanguard
What Will Win: “Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars

You could pick nearly any track from D’Angelo’s Black Messiah and it would deserve to win this award. That’s not a knock against the other nominees—the album is just that good. But as far as the most likely winner as decided by the more Recording Academy members, well, we’re putting our money on “Uptown Funk.”

Song of the Year
“Alright” — Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Anthony Spears & Pharrell Williams, songwriters (Kendrick Lamar)
“Blank Space” — Max Martin, Shellback & Taylor Swift, songwriters (Taylor Swift)
“Girl Crush” — Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna & Liz Rose, songwriters (Little Big Town)
“See You Again” — Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charles Puth & Cameron Thomaz, songwriters (Wiz Khalifa Featuring Charlie Puth)
“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran & Amy Wadge, songwriters (Ed Sheeran)

What Should Win: “Alright” — Kendrick Lamar
What Will Win: “Alright” — Kendrick Lamar

This one isn’t much of a competition. “Alright” was one of the best songs from last year across the board, and when stacked specifically against these four other options, it’s the obvious winner. 

Best New Artist
Courtney Barnett
James Bay
Sam Hunt
Tori Kelly
Meghan Trainor

What Should Win: Courtney Barnett
What Will Win: James Bay

Courtney Barnett’s official debut LP—Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit—was one of the best albums of 2015. She’s got an intelligent and approachable way of describing the world around her and her fuzzed-out garage-rock sound is infectious, but she doesn’t have the mainstream momentum that England’s James Bay has. The long-haired singer-songwriter is the only BNA nominee who is also nominated in two other categories (Best Rock Album and Best Rock Song) at this year’s ceremony, and that will be hard to beat.


Best Pop Solo Performance
“Heartbeat Song” — Kelly Clarkson
“Love Me Like You Do” — Ellie Goulding
“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran
“Blank Space” — Taylor Swift
“Can’t Feel My Face” — The Weeknd

What Should Win: “Can’t Feel My Face” — The Weeknd
What Will Win: “Blank Space” — Taylor Swift

“Can’t Feel My Face” was a monster tune this summer—and for good reason. Max Martin’s megastar touch is the perfect complement to The Weeknd’s inimitable voice, and what they’ve created together deserves credit. But you’d be crazy if you think Taylor Swift isn’t going home with an award, and this seems like a likely category that she could steal.

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
“Ship to Wreck” — Florence + The Machine
“Sugar” — Maroon 5
“Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
“Bad Blood” — Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar
“See You Again” — Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth

What Should Win: “Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
What Will Win: “Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars

While there were a few good contenders in this category (honorable mentions: “Ship to Wreck” and “Bad Blood”), there is no song that wormed its way into the hearts of the young and old alike in the same way that “Uptown Funk” has. Whether you love or hate his solo material, Bruno Mars lends his perfectly utilized singing—and dancing—to Mark Ronson’s career-topping hit. They’re just too hot (hot damn) to lose.

Best Pop Vocal Album
Piece By Piece — Kelly Clarkson
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful — Florence + The Machine
Uptown Special — Mark Ronson
1989 — Taylor Swift
Before This World — James Taylor

What Should Win: Uptown Special — Mark Ronson
What Will Win: 1989 — Taylor Swift

As we just mentioned, we’ve got nothing but love for Mark Ronson’s Uptown Special, but there comes a time that you need to step aside and let Taylor Swift collect her prize. 1989 wasn’t the best Pop Vocal Album of 2015, but it was the LP that launched a thousand #Squad performances around the world.


Best Dance Recording
“We’re All We Need” — Above & Beyond featuring Zoë Johnston
“Go” — The Chemical Brothers
“Never Catch Me” — Flying Lotus featuring Kendrick Lamar
“Runaway (U & I)” — Galantis
“Where Are Ü Now” — Skrillex and Diplo with Justin Bieber

What Should Win: “Never Catch Me” — Flying Lotus featuring Kendrick Lamar
What Will Win: “Go” — The Chemical Brothers

In a genre that frequently struggles with the question of artistry, Flying Lotus is a real blessing to the electronic scene. And even when stacked against legends like The Chemical Brothers—who will probably win this award—FlyLo is the figure who deserves recognition.

Best Dance/Electronic Album
Our Love — Caribou
Born In The Echoes — The Chemical Brothers
Caracal — Disclosure
In Colour — Jamie xx
Skrillex And Diplo Present Jack Ü — Skrillex And Diplo

What Should Win: Our Love — Caribou or In Colour — Jamie xx
What Will Win: In Colour — Jamie xx

It would be nice if Caribou got some love, but it’s hard to ignore the momentum and superior timing that Jamie xx has right now—not to mention the fact that In Colour is an amazing accomplishment, and a worthy winner regardless. Watch out for The Chemical Brothers, however.


Best Rock Performance
“Don’t Wanna Fight” — Alabama Shakes
“What Kind of Man” — Florence + The Machine
“Something From Nothing” — Foo Fighters
“Ex’s & Oh’s” — Elle King
“Moaning Lisa Smile” — Wolf Alice

What Should Win: “What Kind of Man” — Florence + The Machine
What Will Win: “Don’t Wanna Fight” — Alabama Shakes

The Grammys should be proud that 2016’s Best Rock Performance nominees includes four tracks fronted by strong and confident women. And while Florence + The Machine probably won’t be taking home the Best Pop Vocal Album award, the empowering duo should walk away with a statue for the stark and brutal “What Kind of Man.” Unfortunately for Flo, Alabama Shakes are the frontrunners for this category considering they’re nominated for Best Album of the Year as well. Even though she has her own machine, Florence Welch can’t fight the mainstream.


Best Alternative Music Album
Sound & Color — Alabama Shakes
Vulnicura — Björk
The Waterfall — My Morning Jacket
Currents — Tame Impala
Star Wars — Wilco

What Should Win: Currents — Tame Impala
What Will Win: Sound & Color — Alabama Shakes

Historically, the Alternative Music Album category has been frustrating, and a poor reflection of the genre that it’s attempting to cull from. Fair credit, though: this year’s nominees are pretty solid. Tame Impala is the cream of the crop here, and Wilco is always a legitimate threat, but Alabama Shakes is the most likely candidate.  


Best R&B Album
Coming Home — Leon Bridges
Black Messiah — D’Angelo and The Vanguard
Cheers To The Fall — Andra Day
Reality Show — Jazmine Sullivan
Forever Charlie — Charlie Wilson

What Should Win: Black Messiah — D’Angelo and The Vanguard
What Will Win: Black Messiah — D’Angelo and The Vanguard

The fact that Black Messiah didn’t make the cut for this year’s top Grammy Awards was an oversight. And because this will be the only opportunity for voters to recognize it, this category feels like a no-brainer. Almost had it, Leon. Better luck next time. 

Best R&B Song:
“Coffee” — Brook Davis & Miguel Pimentel, songwriters (Miguel)
“Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)” — Ahmad Balshe, Stephan Moccio, Jason Quenneville & Abel Tesfaye, songwriters (The Weeknd)
“Let It Burn” — Kenny B. Edmonds, Jazmine Sullivan & Dwane M. Weir II, songwriters (Jazmine Sullivan)
“Really Love” — D’Angelo & Kendra Foster, songwriters (D’Angelo and The Vanguard)
“Shame” — Warryn Campbell, Tyrese Gibson & DJ Rogers Jr, songwriters (Tyrese)

What Should Win: “Coffee” — Miguel
What Will Win: “Really Love” — D’Angelo and The Vanguard

Because “Coffee” and “Really Love” are both probable winners as well as deserved ones, this is a real tough category to figure out. It stands to reason, though, that voters will be looking to make up for (wrongfully) snubbing D’Angelo for the evening’s bigger awards, so he gets our prediction. But if we were giving out little gold statues, Miguel would get ours.

Best Urban Contemporary Album
Ego Death — The Internet
You Should Be Here — Kehlani
Blood — Lianne La Havas
Wildheart — Miguel
Beauty Behind The Madness — The Weeknd

What Should Win: Blood — Lianne La Havas
What Will Win: Beauty Behind The Madness — The Weeknd

Beyond not really understanding what the term “Urban Contemporary” really means, this category is hard to pick because it’s stacked this year. Miguel, The Internet, and Kehlani released solid groove-filled albums, but Lianne La Havas’ sophomore album was an absolute revelation this summer. She’s got the pipes to back her R&B style up, but The Weeknd’s mega-hit LP Beauty Behind the Madness might just take the cake.


Best Rap Album
2014 Forest Hills Drive — J. Cole
Compton — Dr. Dre
If Youre Reading This It’s Too Late — Drake
To Pimp a Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar
The Pinkprint — Nicki Minaj

What Should Win: To Pimp a Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar
What Will Win: To Pimp a Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar

Given the fact that Kendrick is also the favorite for Album of the Year, there’s very little question for this category. Sorry, Drake. At least it’ll be good fodder for your next mixtape.


Best Music Film
Mr. Dynamite: The Rise Of James Brown — James Brown
Sonic Highways — Foo Fighters
What Happened, Miss Simone? — Nina Simone
The Wall — Roger Waters
Amy — Amy Winehouse

What Should Win: Amy — Amy Winehouse
What Will Win: Amy — Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse was an incredible talent who left this world too soon. She was also a Grammy darling, walking away with five golden statues in 2008—including Record of the Year for “Rehab.” Now, her life and death are carefully preserved for future generations in Amy, a documentary that is also up for Best Documentary at this year’s Academy Awards. Simply put, Amy‘s a lock.

Best Music Video
“LSD” — A$AP Rocky
“I Feel Love (Every Million Miles)” — The Dead Weather
“Alright” — Kendrick Lamar
“Bad Blood” — Taylor Swift (featuring Kendrick Lamar)
“Freedom” — Pharrell

What Should Win: “Alright” — Kendrick Lamar
What Will Win: “Alright” — Kendrick Lamar

Another shoo-in for Kendrick. The video for “Alright” was not only a wondrous work of art set against a now-classic song, but it was also a profound political statement when it was needed most.

The 58th Annual Grammy Awards air on February 15.


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