By Michael Goussios
From ABBA to Olivia Rodrigo, this year’s Grammy nominees range from music veterans to industry newcomers. Such a wide selection of artists has sparked a lot of speculation as to who will take home these coveted awards. As far as the top four categories go (Best New Artist, Song, Record, and Album of the Year), there are many strong contenders. I will be going over the nominees and my predictions which artists will score big on music’s biggest night!
The Best New Artist award shines a light on the latest breakthrough arrivals in the music industry. This year’s diverse group of nominees come from many different genres, but there are factors that will ultimately lead to most of their losses. Artists such as Arooj Aftab and Japanese Breakfast are too underground to be granted this prestigious award, despite their tremendous talent. Some contenders such as Glass Animals, a group that released their first album in 2014, don’t bring the “New” to “Best New Artist.” Factoring in popularity and recency, the only three suitable nominees are FINNEAS, The Kid LAROI, and Olivia Rodrigo. Finneas will most likely fade into the shadow of his sister and frequent collaborator, Grammy-Sweetheart Billie Eilish, unable to be recognized on the merits of a solo artist. This leaves two eighteen-year-olds left to fight for the title. Personally, I think it’s an easy knockout. Olivia Rodrigo has seen much commercial success and popularity this year, including her smash singles ‘drivers license’ and ‘good 4 u’. She has also received the Best New Artist award against The Kid LAROI at both the VMAs and the AMAs earlier this year. Her quick rise to fame and massive debut album, SOUR, has earned her seven nominations and a near guarantee to be named 2021’s breakout star.
Song of the Year is a songwriter’s award, often confused with Record of the Year, the more production-focused honour. Some of the nominated singles, like ‘Fight For You’ and ‘A Beautiful Noise’ incorporate astounding lyricism, but just haven’t received enough commercial success or recognition to take home the accolade. On the other end of the spectrum, some massive hits are nowhere near lyrically mature enough to be nominated in a category focused on the craft of songwriting. This includes ‘Peaches’, ‘Bad Habits’, and ‘MONTERO’. In my opinion, the top three candidates are ‘Happier Than Ever’ by Billie Eilish, the aforementioned ‘drivers license’ by Olivia Rodrigo, and ‘Leave the Door Open’ by Silk Sonic. Grammy history shows the Academy’s love of both Bille Eilish and Bruno Mars, and Rodrigo is this year’s biggest newcomer, so it is truly a tight race. Based on prose alone, in addition to it’s huge popularity, I believe ‘drivers license’ will win this category. Rodrigo’s debut song stayed at #1 on the Billboard charts for eight weeks and could be considered the biggest song of the year. The songwriting and storytelling on this track is commendable for the then seventeen-year-old artist, tugging on the heartstrings of the entire world, especially with the younger demographic. The first half of 2021 practically belonged to Olivia Rodrigo, and it all started with this unexpected sensation. Other songs could have the potential to take the spot, but ‘drivers license’ is the most suitable and probable recipient of the Song of the Year Award.
Record of the Year, as previously stated, is focused on the engineering and production of a single. This is arguably the most important award at the Grammys. Out of all 10 nominees, many of them have potential in this category. Songs such as ‘I Get a Kick Out of You’ and ‘I Still Have Faith In You’ have a low chance of winning, but were nominated anyways out respect for the past accomplishments of ABBA and Tony Bennett. ‘Right on Time’ by Brandi Carlile and ‘Freedom’ by Jon Batiste lack cultural prevalence and would receive backlash for a victory, even though both are strong picks. ‘Peaches’ by Justin Bieber does not deserve to be in the running for this award, nor is the rest of it’s parent album, Justice. ‘MONTERO’ by Lil Nas X and ‘Kiss Me More’ by Doja Cat are two of 2021’s largest hits. Despite this, they most likely won’t take home the award over the top three contenders. Personally, the leaders of the pack are the same as those in the Song of the Year category, but I believe there will be a different outcome in this decision. Based on this category’s recent history, this could be Eilish’s third consecutive victory for Record of the Year. Also considering the success of her song, ‘Happier Than Ever’, it is a highly probable candidate. A rock ballad from the Grammys’ favourite new pop star that took the world by storm; fresh production and considered to be one of Eilish’s best songs. There is no guarantee, but ‘Happier Than Ever’ is in most ways the likeliest winner for this prestigious award.
As for the main event of the evening, the nominations for Album of the Year contain a mixture of guarantees and shockers. Seeing Taylor Swift and Kanye West listed next to each other was quite amusing, considering their previous Grammy clashes. Surprisingly, this is their first time going against each other (for this award, of course). Unfortunately for two of the biggest artists in the industry, neither of them are likely to win. West, in all likelihood, will never win Album of the Year due to reasons surrounding the album. This year, Swift faces a similar predicament – the victory of folklore last year presents Swift with the opportunity of winning back-to-back, which would not be received well by the public. In addition to this, Swift lacked promotion for her nominated album, evermore, and the project was overshadowed by its “sister album” released 5 months prior. Although Lil Nas X’s MONTERO produced some hit singles, the quality of the entirety of the album is limited. Lil Nas X knows how to create controversy and conversation, but focusing on his music, it does not put him in a position to take home this huge award. Albums like Justice by Justin Bieber are not worthy of my consideration or that of the Grammys. I think that justice will be served Bieber will not win this award. For what R&B/soul albums such as WE ARE by Jon Batiste and Back of my Mind by H.E.R. gain in emotion and quality, they lack in fame and it would be wrong to believe that this is not a factor within the Academy. Looking at it from all angles, the fight for the title once again comes down to two young females, relatively new to the game: Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo. Eilish’s contribution, Happier Than Ever, performed worse than her AOTY-winning debut, but still had it’s popularity and commercial success; a commendable record including it’s popular title track. Eilish has received seven Grammys in the last two years, an insane and extremely impressive achievement. If the Grammys continue with this pattern, Happier Than Ever might just be the night’s big winner. Olivia Rodrigo introduced herself in an epic way with SOUR, the rollout of this album produced three ubiquitous singles. According to Spotify, SOUR was the most streamed album of 2021, with ‘drivers license’ being the most streamed song, ‘good 4 u’ trailing not too far behind in fourth. While SOUR might not be the most critically acclaimed in this category, it is certainly one of the largest projects up for the award. Out of all nominees, the fresh faces of Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo seem to be the ones to beat.
With high potential in the top four categories, newcomer Olivia Rodrigo has the potential to sweep this year, but not without many other artists presenting some competition. As always, the Grammy Awards come full of surprises, so nobody truly knows what to expect. One thing is for certain, I will be tuning in on January 31st to see if my predictions come true and to figure out who will be the biggest winners of music’s biggest night.