Scoreboard is ready for the 2019 Grammys, which have expanded the number of nominees in major categories
The Grammys Have New Rules
Perhaps the most remembered moment of last year’s Grammy Awards came afterwards, when Academy President Neil Portnow implied that women should “step up” if they want to be industry executives and award winners. The remark drew immediate criticism and the Recording Academy, which administers the Grammys, announced that Portnow’s contract would not be renewed in 2019. “Those two words,” as Portnow refers to them now, have led to a major overhaul of Grammy rules in 2019. Sunday’s telecast (8pm EST, CBS) will be the first featuring eight nominees in the four major categories – Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year, and Best New Artist. Historically there have been five candidates for each major award.
The immediate consequence of expanding the nominee pool is that more artists have a shot at Grammy stardom. This year, it also means more women than ever are nominated, with five women in the running for the biggest award of the night, Album Of The Year. You only have to go back to 2013 to find an Album of the Year competition featuring exclusively male artists and groups.
Scoreboard Grammys 2019: The Playlist
Hip-Hop Leads The Way In Nominations, But Not In Performances
This year the artists with most nominations are hip-hop stars Drake and Kendrick Lamar. The former’s Scorpion is up for Album of the Year, while the latter produced and performed on the Album of the Year-nominated Black Panther: The Album. @champagnepapi’s Billboard Hot 100 #1 “God’s Plan” is up for Record and Song of the Year. In both categories it faces “All The Stars,” Lamar’s Black Panther hit feat. SZA. Unfortunately, both Drake and Lamar will not perform at the Awards. The show’s producer Ken Ehrlich recently stated that the hip-hop community’s lack of major award wins may be a contributing factor to the decision not to perform made this year by Drake, Lamar, and Childish Gambino, whose “This Is America” is also in the running for both Record and Song Of The Year. No hip-hop album has won Album of the Year since 2004.
OutKast was the last rap act to win Album Of The Year, 15 years ago
Although the run-up to the show has focused on who is NOT going to perform, the Academy has confirmed that Post Malone and Cardi B will perform and will thus represent hip-hop at the Grammys this year. @postmalone quietly became Billboard’s #2 Artist of 2018 on the strength of genre-crossing Beerbongs & Bentleys, which is nominated for Album of the Year. While “Rockstar,” nominated for Record Of The Year, leaned to hip-hop with the cameo of 21 Savage, Malone’s “Better Now” is nominated for Best Pop Solo Performance where it competes against Camila Cabello and Ariana Grande. @iamcardib has five Grammy nominations this year. Her Invasion Of Privacy is up for Album Of The Year and the Latin-tinged “I Like It” feat. Bad Bunny and J. Balvin is up for Record Of The Year. Cardi was in the news a week ago after declining to appear at the Super Bowl, so skipping out on the Grammys was likely not an option. If she ends up winning Album Of The Year, Cardi B could do PR wonders for the show as her win would be one for hip-hop and for female representation.
Cardi B is the only female artist nominated for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Performance
Where’s The Pop?
Last year’s Grammys surprised many when Bruno Mars won Album, Record, and Song Of The Year. While major pop albums have swept the Grammys before, 24K Magic was not a cultural force in 2017 and was also Mars’s least commercially successful studio album. This year Pop is shut out of the Album Of The Year category entirely. When it comes to Record Of The Year, “The Middle,” by Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey is in contention, as is “Shallow,” the theme to A Star Is Born by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. “Shallow,” “The Middle,” and Shawn Mendes‘s “In My Blood” are all nominated for Song Of The Year. Both Morris and Zedd won Grammys before, Mendes is nominated for the first time, but it is @ladygaga who is likeliest to win among the pop contenders as A Star Is Born was one of the year’s biggest films and much of its success was driven by Gaga’s performance.
“A Star Is Born” is keeping @ladygaga busy during awards season
Outside of mainstream Pop sits Americana veteran Brandi Carlile who is the most nominated woman at the 2019 Grammys. The Album Of The Year nominated By The Way, I Forgive You includes “The Joke,” which is up for Record and Song Of The Year, and is the most politically-charged song in the mix. Carlile wrote “The Joke” after the 2016 election in support of marginalized Americans; a year later she has her first six Grammy nominations. There is a precedent for the Grammys getting political: in 2007 Dixie Chicks swept Album, Song, and Record Of The Year with their comeback album Taking The Long Way and single “Not Ready To Make Nice,” which was recorded in response to the backlash the group received after Natalie Maines criticized President George W. Bush in 2003.
Brandi Carlile got Variety’s Grammys cover earlier this month
Best Of The Rest
R&B had its bright spots in 2018, starting with Britain’s Ella Mai, whose romantic “Boo’d Up” is nominated for Song Of The Year and Best R&B Song. H.E.R. (government name: Gabriella Wilson) brings an American quiet storm flavor of R&B on her self-titled album, which includes “Focus,” nominated for Best R&B Song, and “Best Part” feat. Daniel Caesar, which is up for Best R&B Performance. Then there’s Janelle Monáe whose futuristic blend of soul and funk got her eight career Grammy nominations so far. Though Monáe has never won a Grammy, this year her Dirty Computer is nominated for Album Of The Year and she is slated to perform on Sunday’s show.
Is @janellemonae getting all dressed up for the Grammys?
When it comes to country music, Texas’s Kacey Musgraves is on track to have a big night. She won two Grammys in 2014 and this year she is nominated in four categories. Golden Hour is the only album nominated for Album Of The Year and Best Country Album, indicating a high likelihood that Musgraves will win the latter. Her “Space Cowboy” is in a strong position to win Best Country Song. The biggest obstacle “Space Cowboy” faces is that its lush, Lana Del Rey-ish vibe may make it not country-sounding enough to win the award.
Kacey Musgraves celebrates Willie Nelson prior to the Grammys
So, Who Will Win?
After the controversies of 2018, Grammy organizers hope to repair the Awards’ standing this year and performances by Cardi B, Brandi Carlisle, H.E.R., Lady Gaga, and Janelle Monáe will be a good place to start, bringing the gender mix of performers back into balance. Post Malone is scheduled to have a Grammy moment with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, which may be an epic failure or a success. The late great Aretha Franklin and the very much still alive Dolly Parton will receive career-spanning tributes. H.E.R. is likely to win Best New Artist as a result of being nominated for Album Of The Year. Offshore sports books have the Record and Song Of The Year as tossups between “Shallow” and “This Is America,” though Donald Glover’s absence from the show may tilt the favor to Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper. Finally, Album Of The Year looks like a three way race between Musgraves, Monáe, and Black Panther. With eight contenders per major award, the best prediction is that Sunday night will bring new, desirably uncontroversial, Grammy surprises.