With the GRAMMYs set to take place less than a week from today, the discussion about who will win and who deserves to win is intensifying, and everybody has a prediction about what names will be called when the time comes. Album of the Year, often considered the most sought-after trophy in the music industry, is sometimes easy to predict, but that is not the case in 2018, and any one of the five nominees could end up being the chosen one.
So, who should win the biggest award in music? Will it be a pop singer (Lorde or Bruno Mars)? How about a hip-hop mega-star (Kendrick Lamar or Jay-Z)? Or perhaps it will go to someone who doesn't quite fit under either of those labels...or any others (Childish Gambino)? There's an argument to be made for all five nominees, and this year, it's difficult to claim that one record deserves the honor over all the others.
Perhaps the best thing Bruno Mars has going for him at the moment is consistency. While his chart-topping contemporaries like Justin Timberlake, Kesha, Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and many others have found it difficult to maintain their hold on the charts and the pop culture conversation with recent singles and albums, Mars has never faltered, including with his latest record.
24K Magic sent three singles into the top five on the Hot 100, and while the GRAMMYs aren’t all about who has the biggest or the most hits, the attention and numbers backing him up certainly don’t hurt. “That’s What I Like,” the title track, and most recently, “Finesse,” have all made major impacts, and they’ve proven Mars as perhaps the most reliable hitmaker left in the music industry.
Mars’ third proper full-length is also his most cohesive yet, and while he may have borrowed a bit too heavily from the past, Album of the Year is supposed to be about the greatest complete package, and the pop singer did piece together something that GRAMMY voters both like hearing in today’s musical world and remember fondly.
Donald Glover (otherwise known as Childish Gambino when it comes to his musical endeavors) has been an underrated artist for a long time, and only in the past year or so has he started to earn the recognition he deserves in everything he does. Now, will the musical awards follow? He’s up for five GRAMMYs this time around, and while he might seem like a long shot for the top prize, don’t count him out.
"Awaken, My Love!" was a daring, risky move for the star, and that’s exactly why it deserves to be included in this vertical. Known more for his clever rhymes and sometimes fast-paced rapping, Childish took a sharp turn and went in a completely different direction for his latest collection, instead embracing psych rock, which nobody could have predicted.
It would have been easy for him to stick with fashionable hip-hop, or perhaps even move in a poppier direction in an effort to score a serious hit single, but he tried something new, and it paid off handsomely. Despite the fact it doesn’t sound like anything else on Top 40 radio right now, his “Redbone” single ended up becoming his highest-charting tune yet, and voters won’t overlook the chance he took or the art he created with this weird new collection.
Already one of the most successful artists in history when it comes to the GRAMMYs, Jay-Z's golden history shouldn’t preclude him from collecting any more trophies, especially if he keeps churning out music like he did in 2017.
Jay-Z’s fourteenth full-length marks his first nomination as a lead actor in the Album of the Year category, and there are plenty of reasons why now is the time to reward him as an artist. The hip-hop mogul opened up on 4:44 in a way he never has before, as he admitted to being unfaithful to his wife and invited his mother to come out of the closet, which remains rather taboo in that world. Most people in his position would have avoided such topics as much as possible, but that's no way to win Album of the Year.
It’s also worth mentioning that in a time when most of the biggest names in hip-hop recruit dozens of producers and songwriters to help them push massive amounts of music onto the public, Jay went in a completely different direction. The entire album was produced by only the man himself and collaborator No I.D., and just a handful of songwriters contributed to the project. Keeping things small allowed Jay to hold onto his vision and to create his most personal record yet.
Ever since he broke into the mainstream several years ago with good kid, m.A.A.d city, Lamar has been a fixture at the GRAMMYs, and this year might be his best yet when it comes to collecting prizes. All three of the hip-hop musician’s major releases have been up for this honor, though he’s never gone home a champion. Now that he’s not up against Taylor Swift or Daft Punk, he has a better chance of winning, and DAMN. does he deserve it.
If Lamar does end up hearing his name said aloud at the end of the evening, it won’t be just because of how great DAMN. was, but rather because of what he’s been able to accomplish over the past five or six years. He’s established himself as an unbeatable force, a creative behemoth, and as someone who doesn’t need to sacrifice artistic integrity or a powerful message in order to sell music to the masses. Unlike most stars, Lamar actually seems to see his numbers rise when he gets political and takes a stand that some might find controversial.
There's a debate to be had about whether or not DAMN. is his best album to date, but it’s impossible to argue that an Album of the Year trophy isn’t overdue for Lamar.
One of the greatest talents in music today, Lorde has now shown time and time again that there are no rules or limits in regards to what a pop star can or should look like, sound like, or act like. The New Zealand-based singer-songwriter has created her own lane, and she stayed the course beautifully on her sophomore full-length, which can be difficult for many artists, especially young ones who are still discovering who they are.
While there was no “Royals”-sized smash on Melodrama, the title did make it all the way to No. 1, and it ended up as one of the most critically-adored records of last year. It would seem a safe bet for a category like Best Pop Vocal Album, but due to some weirdness going on with how GRAMMY nominees are chosen, the title is only up for Album of the Year. This is her one chance to win anything in 2018, and selecting her would not only reward her incredible vision and talent, but it would send a message that you don’t need to look or sell like Taylor Swift to end up on top.
Lorde continued to bring credibility and inspiration to women around the world and the entire pop genre, and she’s deserving of some gold for that accomplishment.
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