Sorry, Ed Sheeran, you’re just not cool enough. Despite having one of the biggest songs (“Shape of You”) and the bestselling album (“Divide”) in 2017, the redheaded romantic got shut out in the Big Four categories for Sunday’s Grammy Awards.
The finalists in those categories are chosen by a blue-ribbon panel. However, the winners will be determined by all 13,000 voting members of the Recording Academy, many of whom might be unfamiliar with some of the top nominees from the hip-hop and R&B worlds who dominate the Big Four competitions. Here are one critic’s predictions on who will win and who should win.
Album of the year
Nominees: Childish Gambino, “Awaken, My Love”; Jay Z, “4:44”; Kendrick Lamar, “Damn”; Lorde, “Melodrama”; Bruno Mars, “24K Magic.” The panel got this right, nominating five worthy contenders. Lamar, a third-time finalist in this category whose mainstream bona fides were confirmed at the College Football Playoff National Championship this month, should win. But don’t be surprised if the voters go for a safer choice such as Lorde or Bruno Mars.
Record of the year
Nominees: Childish Gambino, “Redbone”; Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber, “Despacito”; Jay Z, “The Story of O.J.”; Kendrick Lamar, “Humble”; Bruno Mars, “24K Magic.” I’d bet a majority of critics would favor “Humble,” another excellent effort by rapper extraordinaire Lamar. “Despacito” was a magical mashup of Spanish and English that dominated airwaves for months and months and defined the year. It will win and deservedly so.
Song of the year
Nominees: “Despacito”; “4:44”; “Issues”; “1-800-273-8255”; “That’s What I Like.” There’s not much substance to “Despacito,” which is about hooking up on a beach in Puerto Rico. Logic’s discussion of suicide and the prevention hot line — “1-800-273-8255” — has depth, variety and impact. It’s my choice. Mars’ ode to jewelry and champagne, “That’s What I Like,” is familiar and popular, but “4.44,” Jay Z’s confession about cheating on Beyoncé, will take the trophy.
Best new artist
Nominees: Alessia Cara, Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert, Julia Michaels, SZA. A strong case could be made for each of these candidates. Khalid’s accomplishment is impressive for a high-school senior. SZA, who would be my pick, is a distinctive neo-soul force just as Lil Uzi Vert is a well-rounded hip-hop creator.Michaels is a dual threat as a hit songwriter and pop recording artist. But this prize usually goes to the artist who has had the most commercial success, and that would be Cara, who has been heard on hits with Zedd (“Stay”) and Logic (“1-800-273-8255”) as well as her own outstanding self-love anthem “Scars to Your Beautiful.”