Will Grammy voters take the ‘Old Town Road’ on Sunday?
By Mesfin Fekadu and Nekesa Mumbi Moody
The Associated Press
NEW YORK ä The 2020 Grammy Awards are shaping up to be the night of the new kids, with Lizzo, Billie Eilish and Lil Nas X leading in nominations.
Those acts, who all released huge No. 1 hits in the last year, have strong chances of beating their more-seasoned competitors, from Lady Gaga to Vampire Weekend to Ariana Grande.
Or maybe they wonát. If thereás one thing we can predict about the Grammys, itás that the oddball act might actually win. Remember when Beck beat out Beyonce? Or when Steely Dan won album of the year over Eminem? Or when Milli Vanilli … OK, Iáll stop.
Who knows how things will really play out Sunday, when the awards are handed out live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Here are some good guesses from Associated Press music writers Mesfin Fekadu and Nekesa Mumbi Moody.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: âI,I,ã Bon Iver; âNorman (Expletive) Rockwell!,ã Lana Del Rey; âWhen We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?,ã Billie Eilish; âThank U, Next,ã Ariana Grande; âI Used to Know Her,ã H.E.R.; â7,ã Lil Nas X; âCuz I Love You (Deluxe),ã Lizzo; âFather of the Bride,ã Vampire Weekend.
FEKADU: This seriously could go so many ways, but letás start with who most likely wonát win: Lil Nas X, Ariana Grande, H.E.R. and Lizzo. The other four will split a lot of the votes, eliminating Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend as possible winners. Left are Lana Del Rey, whose album was critically acclaimed and praised, and Billie Eilish, who was not just the yearás brightest newcomer, but arguably the yearás most successful singer. Though I want to say Eilish will win here, something in my gut is telling me that Lana, who has consistently released top notch music for the last eight years, will be celebrating her first-ever Grammy win Sunday night.
MOODY: It would be a cool moment to have the 18-year-old Billie become the youngest to ever take home a best album Grammy, and she certainly deserves it! But with arguably the nightás top honor, Grammy voters tend to want their winners to have a few years under their belt before granting them the biggest win of their career. While none of the nominees here have their AARP card, Lana Del Rey has been around long enough to be the veteran. After a career that got off to a rocky start, she has become one of the more acclaimed singer-songwriters of her generation, and therefore will be victorious Sunday night.
RECORD OF THE YEAR: âHey, Ma,ã Bon Iver; âBad Guy,ã Billie Eilish; â7 Rings,ã Ariana Grande; âHard Place,ã H.E.R.; âTalk,ã Khalid; âOld Town Road,ã Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus; âTruth Hurts,ã Lizzo; âSunflower,ã Post Malone and Swae Lee.
MOODY: Clearly Lil Nas X had the most popular song of the year with âOld Town Road,ã even breaking Mariah Careyás record for the most weeks at No. 1 with his country-rap hybrid. But this isnát the American Music Awards where popularity counts, and I donát think a song that started out from TikTok is going to win voters over. âTruth Hurtsã wasnát at No. 1 as long as âOld Town Roadã but may have resonated far, becoming an anthem for so many women (and beyond). Lizzo is 100% getting this Grammy.
FEKADU: In the past at the Grammys, the ubiquitous, unconventional No. 1 hit doesnát take this trophy home. âDespacito,ã âAll About That Bassã and âI Gotta Feelingã are some good examples. However, âOld Town Roadã seemed to get past being the silliest song of the year, becoming an undeniably good tune that was hard to resist, which is why it topped the Hot 100 chart for 19 weeks. Thatás why I think Lil Nas X is going to take his horse to the old town road and ride it to the Grammys stage.
SONG OF THE YEAR (songwriterás award): âAlways Remember Us This Way,ã Lady Gaga, Natalie Hemby, Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna; âBad Guy,ã Billie Eilish and Finneas OáConnell; âBring My Flowers Now,ã Tanya Tucker, Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth and Tim Hanseroth; âHard Place,ã H.E.R., Rodney Jerkins, Ruby Amanfu, Sam Ashworth and D. Arcelious Harris; âLover,ã Taylor Swift; âNorman (Expletive) Rockwell,ã Lana Del Rey and Jack Antonoff; âSomeone You Loved,ã Lewis Capaldi, Tom Barnes, Pere Kelleher, Benjamin Kohn and Sam Roman; âTruth Hurts,ã Lizzo, Ricky Reed, Tele and Jesse Saint John.
FEKADU: In my humble opinion, the top candidates here are Taylor Swift, Billie Eilish and Lewis Capaldi. Swift has some edge since she wrote âLoverã alone, but if the song had performed stronger, I would be more convinced to pick her. That leaves me with Eilish and Capaldi, who might be a bit too new to win such a huge award. Good guys do finish last because âBad Guyã will win.
MOODY: Swift really should win this one (and should have been nominated for album of the year, too, if I can get a little Swiftie here). But as much as she deserves to win, the Grammys love a comeback story, and giving Tanya Tuckerás âBring My Flowers Nowã would be that moment voters would be proud of, plus they adore Brandi Carlile. Tucker will take home the gold.
BEST NEW ARTIST: Black Pumas; Billie Eilish; Lil Nas X; Lizzo; Maggie Rogers; Rosalia; Tank and the Bangas; Yola.
MOODY: There might be eight names listed here, but itás really a contest between two: Lizzo and Billie Eilish. Both are singer-songwriters, musicians, and have paved unique paths in the journey to fame. But as brilliant and entertaining as Lizzo is, sheás hardly a new artist, with at least two albums released already. My money is on the kid!! Eighteen-year-old Billie will likely take this one.
FEKADU: The truth does hurt, Lizzo: Billie wins here.
BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM: âThe Lion King: The Gift,ã Beyonce; âWhen We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?,ã Billie Eilish; âThank U, Next,ã Ariana Grande; âNo. 6 Collaborations Project,ã Ed Sheeran; âLover,ã Taylor Swift.
FEKADU: Love Taylor, but she wonát win here. Everything Beyonce releases is a gift, but the holidays are over. And we all know how much the Grammys love to shade Ed Sheeran ä oops, Iám just thinking out loud. That leaves us with Ariana Grande, who won this award last year and dominated the Billboard charts with multiple songs from âThank U, Next.ã And in the other corner is newcomer Billie Eilish, who made an influential pop project in her bedroom with her brother, Finneas, in the producer role. Me thinks Eilish will edge Grande for the win, especially since the 18-year-oldás album scored a nod for best engineered album (non-classical) and Finneas is up for producer of the year (non-classical).
MOODY: The fact that this is just Taylorás second nod shows Grammy voters arenát in a loving mood toward Swift this year (maybe sheáll call them out on her next album). Mesfin makes some very good points about Eilish and I kind of want to believe him, but Grande had such a brilliant year and a hot tour that something tells me sheáll be saying âThank Youã when the winner is revealed here.
BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM: âU.F.O.F.,ã Big Thief; âAssume Form,ã James Blake; âI,I,ã Bon Iver; âFather of the Bride,ã Vampire Weekend; âAnima,ã Thom Yorke.
MOODY: Thom Yorke has already won this category twice as a member of Radiohead. Expect this Rock and Roll Hall of Famer to win it once again with his solo work.
FEKADU: Sike, Nekesa. Because both Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend are nominated for album of the year, I thought maybe they were the front-runners. But then I remembered how epic James Blakeás album is and how he has continuously been the go-to guy in music, with Beyonce, Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, Travis Scott and others requesting his services. Thatáll give him enough votes to take this home.
BEST R&B PERFORMANCE: âLove Again,ã Daniel Caesar and Brandy; âCouldáve Been,ã H.E.R. featuring Bryson Tiller; âExactly How I Feel,ã Lizzo featuring Gucci Mane; âRoll Some Mo,ã Lucky Daye; âCome Home,ã Anderson .Paak featuring Andre 3000.
FEKADU: This is âExactly How I Feelã: NO ONE EVEN KNOWS THIS LIZZO SONG. Why is it even nominated here??? Itás extremely offensive when there were hundreds of other R&B performances the academy could have recognized instead, from Jhene Aikoás âTriggeredã to any release from Summer Walker to Ari Lennox. When it comes to the R&B categories, the Grammys are garbage. Anyway, I think H.E.R ä who won this award last year ä will scoop it up again.
MOODY: Someone is âTriggeredã by Lizzoás nomination! But Mesfin speaks the truth that there were way better options than âExactly How I Feel.ã The only explanation is voters love Lizzo; still, I donát think they love her enough to give her a win. H.E.R. will take it (though I wonder if voters can pass up a chance to give Andre 3000 another Grammy).
BEST RAP SONG: âBad Idea,ã YBN Cordae featuring Chance the Rapper; âGold Roses,ã Rick Ross featuring Drake; âA Lot,ã 21 Savage featuring J. Cole; âRacks in the Middle,ã Nipsey Hussle featuring Roddy Ricch and Hit-Boy; âSuge,ã DaBaby.
MOODY: Nipsey Hussle was up for his first Grammy and lost last year, and weeks later he was shot dead. I canát see them not honoring him by giving him his first Grammy posthumously this year, as tough as this category is.
FEKADU: The Marathon Continues, with Nipsey winning here.
BEST COUNTRY DUO/GROUP PERFORMANCE: âBrand New Man,ã Brooks & Dunn and Luke Combs; âI Donát Remember Me (Before You),ã Brothers Osborne; âSpeechless,ã Dan + Shay; âThe Daughters,ã Little Big Town; âCommon,ã Maren Morris featuring Brandi Carlile.
FEKADU: Little Big Town have won this award three times, and a Maren-Brandi collab will never fail. But itás hard to resist the sweet sound of Dan + Shay, who won this award last year for âTequilaã and will do it again with âSpeechless,ã which will be played at weddings over the next 10 years. Those boys can sang!
MOODY: It will be four for Little Big Town here! âThe Daughtersã wasnát their biggest hit, but the controversy surrounding it and its message about the inequities women face will make up for that.