ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Nominees: Alabama Shakes, "Sound & Color"; Kendrick Lamar, "To Pimp a Butterfly"; Chris Stapleton, "Traveller"; Taylor Swift, "1989"; The Weeknd, "Beauty Behind the Madness."
Pick: For a change, the Grammys and the critics will agree. "To Pimp a Butterfly" was the runaway winner in the Village Voice's national poll of nearly 500 critics. The wildly innovative adventure by the hip-hop hero will and should win here.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
Nominees: D'Angelo and the Vanguard, "Really Love"; Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, "Uptown Funk"; Ed Sheeran, "Thinking Out Loud"; Taylor Swift, "Blank Space"; The Weeknd, "Can't Feel My Face."
Pick: No contest. "Uptown Funk" was a ubiquitous sensation, though I turned up the radio whenever "Blank Space" came on.
SONG OF THE YEAR
Nominees: "Alright" (recorded by Kendrick Lamar); "Blank Space" (Taylor Swift); "Girl Crush" (Little Big Town); "See You Again" (Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth); "Thinking Out Loud" (Ed Sheeran).
Pick: It may be Lamar's Grammys, but "Alright" has too many N-words and other dubious lyrics to capture best song. "Blank Space" features terrific and biting lines ("Cause, darling, I'm a nightmare dressed like a daydream") but Grammy voters might be Taylor-ed out. "See You Again" is a moving marriage of pop and hip-hop honoring a deceased friend. This "Furious 7" theme song wins.
BEST NEW ARTIST
Nominees: Courtney Barnett; James Bay; Sam Hunt; Tori Kelly; Meghan Trainor.
Pick: Hunt has made a deserved splash in country music, and Barnett is an inspired lyricist and strong personality who has had a huge impact in the indie world. But Trainor had three Top 10 hits, including last year's smash "All About That Bass" that earned Grammy nominations for song and record of the year. More polished and popular than Barnett, she takes the trophy.