Record of the year

Abba – I Still Have Faith in You
Jon Batiste – Freedom
Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga – I Get a Kick Out of You
Justin Bieber – Peaches (feat Daniel Caesar & Giveon)
Brandi Carlile – Right on Time
Doja Cat – Kiss Me More (feat SZA)
Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
Lil Nas X – Montero (Call Me By Your Name)
Olivia Rodrigo – Drivers License
Silk Sonic – Leave the Door Open

The Grammys have expanded the “big four” awards to 10 nominees each, “to make room for more artists and genres from music’s expansive and diverse landscape, and to embrace the spirit of inclusion”. In reality it allows a couple of real duffers to contend for the top prize – Brandi Carlile’s overblown, underwritten Right on Time and Jon Batiste’s excruciatingly corny Freedom – but there is also plenty of superb pop here and any of the list’s second half deserves to win. I think Silk Sonic could pip this – by being alive to the absurd earnestness of baby-making R&B but crucially not parodying it, Leave the Door Open makes you smile in both mirth and joy. It was a vast, cross-generational hit in the US which will appeal to the full breadth of the Academy.

Will win: Silk Sonic
Should win: Silk Sonic

Album of the year

Jon Batiste – We Are
Tony Bennett
and Lady Gaga – Love for Sale
Justin Bieber – Justice
Doja Cat – Planet Her
Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
HER – Back of My Mind
Lil Nas X – Montero
Olivia Rodrigo – Sour
Taylor Swift – Evermore
Kanye West – Donda

Batiste is the most nominated artist with 11 nods and We Are’s jack-of-all-trades tour of Black American music is the most Grammy-friendly record imaginable, but his lack of pop-cultural heft means he will probably have to settle for lesser prizes (hopefully film score for Soul, where his kindly jazz songcraft found such a natural home). Evermore is inferior to its sister Folklore, last year’s winner here; Donda was deeply underrated but Kanye’s recent Instagramming has scuppered his chances; HER is widely loved in the Academy but the rather workaday lyricism hampers the solid Back of My Mind. Bieber’s streetwear-Lazarus redemption story will earn some sentimental votes as will Tony Bennett, but neither are likely to get enough. Olivia Rodrigo is the woman of the moment but there are undeniably weak songs in her front-loaded debut, and the abundantly brilliant Doja Cat and Lil Nas X might be too ripe for stuffier voters.

So Billie Eilish, so heavily anointed by the Academy, could win a “big four” category for the third year running. Hers is the best album, after all, taking deeply traditional forms (bossa nova, jazz ballads) and casting them into the dumpster fire of digitally mediated life. The result is one of the all-time great pieces of art about the horror of fame – so often a boring subject in songwriting – but whether she’s vampishly making a lover sign an NDA or numbly reciting the ways her body is judged online, Happier Than Ever is gripping.

Will win: Billie Eilish
Should win: Billie Eilish

Song of the year

Ed Sheeran – Bad Habits
Brandi Carlile & Alicia Keys – A Beautiful Noise
Olivia Rodrigo – Drivers License
HER – Fight for You
Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
Doja Cat – Kiss Me More (feat SZA)
Silk Sonic – Leave the Door Open
Lil Nas X – Montero (Call Me By Your Name)
Justin Bieber – Peaches (feat Daniel Caesar & Giveon)
Brandi Carlile – Right on Time

Focusing more closely on the songwriterly stuff of lyrics and composition, this is where Rodrigo will probably triumph. From the click of the car indicator that opens Drivers License, to the eerie doppler-effect drones, Rodrigo’s debut single conjures the atmosphere of an angrily listless post-heartbreak drive like an audio theatre piece or true crime podcast – and almost no one expresses teenage hurt better than her. Some voters may admire that it’s the work of just two credited songwriters – Rodrigo and producer/co-writer Daniel Nigro – versus the 11 behind Peaches or eight for A Beautiful Noise.

Will win: Olivia Rodrigo
Should win: Olivia Rodrigo

Best new artist

Arooj Aftab
Jimmie Allen
Baby Keem
Glass Animals
Japanese Breakfast
The Kid Laroi
Arlo Parks
Olivia Rodrigo

Here’s where the Academy’s decision to open up the nominations makes the most sense, giving a fillip to a range of worthy artists such as Arooj Aftab, whose stark, yearning folk ballads make her one of the category’s great curveballs; Japanese Breakfast, who shows how “indie” has become such a useless word in a world where alternative artists like her squish pop in such a loving embrace; and Baby Keem, whose expressive voice hopped from puzzled to baleful to indignant on his new-school rap masterpiece The Melodic Blue. Arlo Parks and Glass Animals do the UK proud in an otherwise weak year for British nominees and the latter have a better chance than most after their vast hit Heat Waves – but really, no one can beat Rodrigo here.

Will win: Olivia Rodrigo
Should win: Baby Keem

Best pop solo performance

Justin Bieber – Anyone
Brandi Carlile – Right on Time
Billie Eilish – Happier Than Ever
Ariana Grande – Positions
Olivia Rodrigo – Drivers License

Four ballads in this category is a little dismaying, especially as Carlile’s is so rote, though Bieber’s Anyone is actually very good – strongly sung and with the kind of plain lyrics that a solid melody can carry into profundity. Only Ariana Grande’s Positions ups the tempo, and her ode to feminine code-switching is so brilliant. You can, if you wish, detect a sly satiric edge to it; a note of exasperation at women having to keep up Stepford Wives perfection for pampered men. Once again, though, Rodrigo is the one to beat.

Will win: Olivia Rodrigo
Should win: Ariana Grande

Best rock performance

AC/DC – Shot in the Dark
Black Pumas – Know You Better (Live from Capitol Studio A)
Chris Cornell – Nothing Compares 2 U
Deftones – Ohms
Foo Fighters – Making a Fire

A lineup that underlines the total lack of ideas in mainstream rock today, and whose usual suspects suggest that last year’s versatile and all-female category was tokenism rather than genuine progression. Black Pumas’ performance is spirited but it’s an unoriginal, unremarkable song, and their presence at a third consecutive Grammys for a single album of material is dubious. I find the Foo Fighters’ song fussy and far from their best, though a win would in this “performance” category would nicely acknowledge the brio and showmanship of the late Taylor Hawkins; the late Chris Cornell covering Nothing Compares 2 U is a great idea on paper but he can’t shake a certain other rather famous cover of it; and Deftones’ Ohms can only grasp at coherence. But while AC/DC’s blues-rock’n’roll is generic in every way, that is its charm – it conjures the feel of a saloon full of sloshed, horny middle-aged bikers so strongly you can almost smell the creaking leathers.

Will win: AC/DC
Should win: AC/DC

Best rap performance

Baby Keem – Family Ties (feat Kendrick Lamar)
Cardi B – Up
J Cole – My Life (feat 21 Savage & Morray)
Megan Thee Stallion – Thot Shit

After Drake removed his Way 2 Sexy from competition, two rap styles face off against each other. The boys furrow their brows as they use knotty, triplet-time flows to fret about fame and fuss around complex beats; the girls use simple, speaker-booming club production to showboat their considerable prowess precisely on top of the beat. All four tracks are excellent in their own way, and perhaps Baby Keem – who seems to inspire a new angry-avuncular vocal style in his mentor Lamar – can triumph here if he doesn’t win best new artist. For me, Cardi deserves the crown. Up is a blast of pure entertainment, from the immortal insult “breath smell like horse sex” to a chorus – “Big bag bussin’ out the Bentley Bentayga” – that fires out her favoured consonant in a spittle-drenching, supremely satisfying tongue twister.

Will win: Baby Keem & Kendrick Lamar
Should win: Cardi B

Best country solo performance

Luke Combs – Forever After All
Mickey Guyton – Remember Her Name
Jason Isbell – All I Do Is Drive
Kacey Musgraves – Camera Roll
Chris Stapleton – You Should Probably Leave

Stapleton, Musgraves and Isbell are all multiple Grammy winners but you can’t see this material persuading voters to add to their hauls. Stapleton’s song is about resisting having sex with someone you shouldn’t, and, as if by design, is so dull that you could play it to snuff out any inappropriate lust. Musgraves nicely pinpoints a modern breakup problem – how do you avoid the photos of your ex in your phone? – but the song is as listless as a doomscroll, and Isbell doesn’t bring anything new to his Johnny Cash cover. That leaves Mickey Guyton, who became the first black woman to be nominated in this category last year, and whose feather-to-granite vocal versatility somewhat individualises a song best suited to sporting montages. And there’s Luke Combs’s Forever After All, a first-wedding-dance hit that reached No 2 in the US – lofty heights indeed for country songs today. It’s cliched and cheesy, mentioning both beer and trucks in the opening two lines, but is also wonderfully sturdy, and continues the proud country tradition of being a safe space for “real men” listeners to tap into their latent soppiness.

Will win: Luke Combs
Should win: Luke Combs


Ben Beaumont-Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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