The most important night in music is this coming Sunday, February 8. The purpose of the awards is to honor excellence in the music industry. While some of the nominations across several categories this year have notable snubs, here are our predictions for this year’s winners.
Album of the Year: Sam Smith In the Lonely Hour
While all the nominees for this category had a phenomenal year, from Sam Smith and Ed Sheeran’s colossal success stateside to Beyoncé’s near implosion of the Internet, the winner of AOTY will most likely be Sam Smith’s “In the Lonely Hour,” and here’s why: Smith’s “Stay With Me” was the most improbable hit in 2014 in a radio landscape filled with disposable dance tracks. Both his singing voice and the lyrical narratives he crafts are the results of intense emotion with which the Recording Academy can easily identify.
Record of the Year: Sia Furler “Chandelier”
This category is a potential landmine for controversy. However, Sia’s “Chandelier” manages to be the most technically challenging piece of recorded music out of all the nominees, which include Meghan Trainor, Taylor Swift, Sam Smith, and Iggy Azalea. The video inspired countless parodies for its erratic dancing, and the song is vocally difficult in its powerhouse chorus as it switches back and forth between her chest voice and head voice effortlessly.
Song of the Year: Hozier “Take Me to Church”
Awarded to what’s considered lyrically the best track of the year, Hozier seems like a shoe-in. It’s no coincidence that this song is nearing the pinnacle of the Billboard chart at press time. The use of religion as a metaphor is always a risky move in mainstream music, but this song is a poetic commentary on sexuality and humanity. It is also the only nominee with Hozier as the sole songwriter compared to the four cowriters on “Stay With Me.”
Best New Artist: Sam Smith
This one goes without explanation. Sam had the biggest year out of all the artists that were nominated, and his staying power is demonstrated in his consistent album sales and ability to sell out bigger and bigger venues on each tour.
Best Pop Solo Performance: Sia Furler “Chandelier”
One of the newer categories in the Grammy’s, this award has historically gone to only female artists, and this year may not be any different. After lending her vocals to songs like David Guetta’s “Titanium” and Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones,” Furler had her shot at pop fame with her first new release in years in 2014, and this song will be remembered for years to come for the immediate gut punch of its vocals.
Pop Vocal Album: Ariana Grande My Everything
This category will be a tight race given the presence of Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith, AND Miley Cyrus. However, this award is from a vocal perspective, which is why Ariana Grande should have the edge. Grande is in total control of her tone from the softer notes of “Love Me Harder,” to the soaring vocals in “One Last Time” and can demonstrate her genre versatility as heard in the Zedd-produced “Break Free.”
Rock Performance: Arctic Monkeys “Do I Wanna Know?”
This is another newer category in which the most recent recipients may not have had the most technically impressive recording, but rather the most mainstream. If the Arctic Monkeys take this award, it would feel like a more even split between the two. The moment you hear the guitar in “Do I Wanna Know?,” resisting the urge to hum the melody is near impossible. It’s also the one of the group’s most successful singles so far in the United States and led them to a summer full of festival performances.
Best Alternative Music Album: St. Vincent St. Vincent
St. Vincent is the closest Annie Clark will get to being deemed “mainstream pop,” but the technical proficiencies in the album shall not go without merit. In a polarizing SNL performance last year, many viewers were shocked that a woman could play the guitar and keep an audience entertained without the help of nudity or provocative choreography. The melding of the urgency in Clark’s vocals coupled with the spring-like elasticity of the instrumental tracks far surpasses the work of nominees like Jack White, Arcade Fire, and alt-J that continue to release albums that don’t display much artistic growth.
Urban Contemporary Album: Beyoncé Beyoncé
A cursory glance at the list of nominees reveals that the urban music scene might be struggling. Pharrell Williams’ G I R L seems laughably out of place. Bey’s only competition in this category might actually be Chris Brown’s X, but the cultural and musical impact of songs like “Drunk in Love”, “Partition” and “Flawless” should not go unnoticed by the industry voters that were just as surprised by the release of the album as they were by its feminist contents.
Rap Album: Childish Gambino Because the Internet
This is going to be a difficult decision to make simply because none of the nominees are that great, or maybe the releases just weren’t that impressive in 2014. Eminem will likely be favored to win over the underdogs that were nominated, although after recognizing the Marshall Mathers LP 2 was not his best work perhaps the award will go to someone who is less controversial and more towards someone like Childish that has spent years exacting his flow and lyrics into a masterwork of an album.