Press Play: Predictions and Top Picks for 2021 Grammys


Photo credit/ Autumn Bohner

Michael Kelley, Arts and Entertainment Writer

Every year the music industry comes out to the Grammy Awards to represent their work over the past year. 

The Grammys will be unlike anything seen before this year. The COVID-19 pandemic flipped the music industry on its head. Many famous musicians including, country singer Joe Diffie and folk singer-songwriter John Prine have died from COVID-19 complications. Not to mention, many concerts and festivals having to postpone or cancel their shows. 

Organizers announced last month that they plan to push the award show to Sunday, March 14, to comply with new state and local COVID-19 restrictions. Additionally, there will not be an audience. The only people permitted to attend the award show will be presenters, performers and the production crew. Nominated artists will be able to interact remotely following a similar approach to the 2020 award show.

It would be difficult to talk about these nominations without addressing the elephant in the room, the snubs. One artist to be snubbed this year was The Weekend, who received no nominations for his critically acclaimed album “After Hours” with his number-one hit “Blinding Lights.” Another major snub was Harry Styles’ song “Watermelon Sugar” and album “Fine Line.” The Best New Artist category also turned a blind eye to the late musician Pop Smoke.

Regardless of the snubs, there are still plenty of nominees who received well-deserved recognition this year. Here are some of the nominations that stood out to me.

Record of the Year

I believe that Billie Eilish will capture the Record of the Year award this year for her record “Everything I Wanted.” The production by Finneas is astounding, and the song is one of my favorites from Eilish since the release of her debut album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” 

Although Eilish’s record is a top contender, Doja Cat, Megan Thee Stallion and Dua Lipa are also major challengers due to their influence on the pop atmosphere during the last year. 

Album of the Year

I believe that the fight for Album of the Year comes down to Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” and Lipa’s “Future Nostalgia.” For fellow Swifties and I, “Folklore” seemed to come at the right moment when people needed it the most. The surprise-release helps listeners escape through Swift’s excellent storytelling. Through her songwriting, Swift successfully expresses the themes of longing for young love with “August,” “Betty” and “Cardigan” along with intimate tracks like “Seven” and “Exile.” 

Although Swift’s “Folklore” is a top contender, Lipa’s “Future Nostalgia” is a strong challenger. This record is reminiscent of 1980s pop, which is seeing a resurgence. Furthermore, the record’s popularity gave Lipa her first top-ten album on the Billboard charts during its debut.

Best New Artist

For Best New Artist, I would like to see Phoebe Bridgers win. Bridgers is currently riding high off the popularity of her album “Punisher” last year. Bridgers offers great instrumentation, vocals and lyrics that show a lot of depth. Some of her previous projects include “Boygenius” featuring Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus, and a feature on Kid Cudi’s “Man on the Moon III: The Chosen.” Furthermore, the announcement of her new record label, Saddest Factory, shows that she has staying power.

Best Pop Solo Performance

For Best Pop Solo Performance, I see Swift’s “Cardigan” as the frontrunner in this category. This piece delivers amazing storytelling that is not seen in any of the other songs in this category. Another song that is a strong contender is Eilish’s “Everything I Wanted.” Perhaps, the most significant nomination for this category is Justin Bieber’s “Yummy.” Critics and fans were not kind to this song, making this the strangest nomination of the year.

Best Pop Vocal Album

For Best Pop Vocal Album Lady Gaga’s “Chromatica” stands out from the pack. Her recent album takes her back to her dance-pop roots following the 2016 country-pop album “Joanne.” Many of these songs follow a narrative of getting out of a toxic headspace through mental health and escapism. Some of the best songs from this album include “Alice,” “911,” “Rain On Me” and “1000 Doves.” Although “Chromatica” is a strong contender, “Folklore” is just as strong. Swift’s storyteller is too significant to ignore, and there is a good chance voters will take notice. 

Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song, Best Alternative Music Album

Two performers stand out for their nominations in the Best Rock Performance, Best Rock Song and Best Alternative Music Album categories. Fiona Apple’s “Shameika” features a jazz ensemble along with amazing storytelling. This song contributes to the overall chaos that is felt throughout the album, “Fetch the Bolt Cutters.”

Bridgers’ “Kyoto” is one of the more upbeat sounding songs from her recent album “Punisher.” The song features a nice horn section and instrumentation from Bridgers and has me nodding my head while having the song on repeat. Bridgers is an artist who is hard to ignore this year.

Best Metal Performance

I believe Poppy’s “BLOODMONEY” is a shoo-in for Best Metal Performance. The song is a chaotic masterpiece that fuels my love for the genre. The grungy and rough transitions in the instrumentation only add to the greatness of the song. The song discusses the hypocritical struggles of dealing with the music industry and with her religion. Poppy has gone through a major 180 from her debut album “Poppy.Computer,” and her split from romantic and creative partner Titanic Sinclair. This Grammy win would be the praise Poppy deserves after overcoming so much from her past. 


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Twitter: @mkelleyww