2017 was a year of change in the music world.
Though names like Ed Sheeran and Taylor Swift held onto their prominence, the world of popular music saw comebacks from Lorde and Kesha, foreign additions with “Despacito” and an embrace of rap with the increased prominence of artists like Kendrick Lamar and Cardi B. And looking at the diverse crop of nominations at the 60th annual Grammy Awards, it’s clear that the changes haven’t gone unnoticed.
The Daily Bruin’s Jerome Davis predicts the results of some of the most hotly contested and refreshingly diverse Grammy nominations, ranging from Record of the Year to Best R&B Song.
Record of the Year: “HUMBLE.” – Kendrick Lamar
It’s not every year the Record of the Year nominees only consist of artists of color, one Spanish-language song and two rap songs. After Adele’s win over Beyonce at the 59th annual Grammy Awards and the recent uproar surrounding the lack of diversity within award shows, it makes sense the Recording Academy would move in a more inclusive direction.
With the push for diversity and recent recognition of the popular rap genre, Kendrick Lamar’s “HUMBLE.” is a clear winner for Record of the Year. The catchy beat of the song matched with Lamar’s easily recognizable sound and flow made “HUMBLE.” a favorite on radio stations, Spotify playlists and pop charts alike.
Album of the Year: “Melodrama” – Lorde
It would be easy for the academy to show support for diverse music in the Album of the Year category with the two rap albums “DAMN.” and “4:44″ in the running. However, the academy has historically shown preference for big-name pop albums, like Adele’s “25″ and Taylor Swift’s “1989.”
Keeping in mind the academy’s preference for pop albums, Lorde’s “Melodrama” is a safe bet. The Grammys last recognized Lorde in 2014 with the Song of the Year award for “Royals,” and she is also the only female artist nominated in the category.
The Grammys’ preference for pop, Lorde’s previous win and the scarcity of other female nominees makes Lorde’s “Melodrama“ the strongest contender for the Album of the Year award.
Song of the Year: “1-800-273-8255” – Logic ft. Alessia Cara and Khalid
Emotionally-driven songs have consistently won Song of the Year for the past three years. Adele’s “Hello,” Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me (Darkchild Version)” all deal with the emotional highs and lows of love and are still considered some of the best ballads in recent years.
“1-800-273-8255” fits the bill with its serious investigation into depression and suicide. The social message of the song makes it a good choice if the academy wanted to present itself as a musically and socially conscious group that rewards songs seeking to bring about change.
Best New Artist: SZA
After giving the award to Chance the Rapper last year, the academy may once again award the title of Best New Artist to someone outside of the pop genre.
SZA’s 14-track debut album “Ctrl,” a vulnerable and unapologetic trip into insecurity in relationships, catapulted her to stardom on both R&B and pop charts. Her success as a new artist is also evident in her five Grammy nominations – the most out of any female artist this year.
Her sultry R&B sound paired with success early in her career makes SZA the strongest candidate for a fresh, relevant Best New Artist.
Best Pop Solo Performance: “Shape of You” – Ed Sheeran
Though Ed Sheeran’s smash hit “Shape of You” wasn’t nominated for Record or Song of the Year, it looks like a surefire win for Sheeran in the Best Pop Solo Performance category. Kesha’s triumphant return with “Praying” and Pink’s political cry in “What About Us” are strong contenders, but the power of “Shape of You” is undeniable, having stayed at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart for a record-breaking 33 weeks.
With so many new genres and artists being recognized at the Grammys, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the academy rewarded the mainstream pop they usually have such high praise for – and there’s nothing more mainstream than Ed Sheeran’s “Shape of You.”
Best R&B Song: “Redbone” – Childish Gambino
Having already won an Emmy and Golden Globe for his acting abilities, a Grammy would look right at home on Donald Glover’s mantel.
Childish Gambino (Glover) took a risk with his musical 180 from rap to R&B, but it seems to have payed off with “Redbone” and his album, “Awaken, My Love!” receiving five nominations for this year’s ceremony.
The classic R&B feel of “Redbone” matched with Gambino’s passionate voice has undoubtedly impressed the academy. And winning the award for Best R&B Song seems like a good way to reward Gambino’s soulful voyage into R&B.