When the nominations for the 57th annual Grammy awards were announced several months ago, the most shocking thing was exactly how unsurprising it all was. The vast majority of the honorees were the most critically acclaimed artists of the year, nominated for the songs and albums that landed on most “Best of 2014” lists. Despite the predictability of it all, one can expect this year’s telecast to focus on a fresher crop of superstars, with newcomers like Sam Smith, Meghan Trainor, and Iggy Azalea stealing the spotlight away from established household names like Usher and Taylor Swift.
The following are some educated guesses as to what will happen in a dozen major categories. As always, though, we’ll have to wait until Sunday 8 February to see how right (or wrong) we are.
Record of the Year
Will Win: Sam Smith, “Stay With Me”
vs. Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass”, Sia’s “Chandelier”, Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX’s “Fancy”, and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”.
In contrast to the songwriting-specific Song of the Year race, this performance-based category is more likely to crown Sam Smith’s breakthrough hit. Still, there’s also a good chance that fellow newcomer Meghan Trainor could take it instead.
Song of the Year
Will Win: Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass”
vs. Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me”, Hozier’s “Take Me To Church”, Sia’s “Chandelier”, and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”.
It’s all about the songwriters in this category, so expect Nashville songwriter-turned-hitmaker Trainor to take this gramophone. One can’t rule out a complete Sam Smith sweep, however.
Best New Artist
Will Win: Sam Smith
vs. HAIM, Brandy Clark, Bastille, and Iggy Azalea.
The Grammys have a tradition — some actually call it a curse — of giving this award to the most obscure artist with the least chance of becoming a household name, but the tide seems to be turning away from that. In what is perhaps the hardest category to predict, the odds favor a single artist sweep, giving the edge to Smith based on the above predictions.
Album of the Year
Will Win: Beck, Morning Phase
vs. Beyonce’s Beyonce, Ed Sheeran’s x, Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour, and Pharrell Williams’ G I R L.
Combine the fact that the rest of the major categories are largely rock-free with the possibly that R&B-loving voters will likely splinter up over the many similar artists in one category, and you get a surprise win for the Beck.
Best Pop Solo Performance
Will Win: Sam Smith, “Stay With Me”
vs. Sia’s “Chandelier”, Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off”, Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” (live version), and John Legend’s “All of Me” (live version).
What’s up with the live versions? Both “All of Me” and “Happy” got a lot of attention in 2014, despite actually being released in 2013. These live versions fall within the release date guidelines, but most voters will likely avoid such potential controversy. Three words: Sam Smith sweep.
Best Alternative Music Album
Will Win: St. Vincent, St. Vincent
vs. Jack White’s Lazaretto, Arcade Fire’s Reflektor, Cage The Elephant’s Melophobia, and alt-J’s This Is All Yours.
A female artist hasn’t received the Best Alternative Music Album award in over two decades. The first and only time that happened, with Sinead O’Connor’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, was when the award was first created in 1991. Expect Anne Clark’s critically lauded collection to change that.
Best Rock Song
Will Win: Beck, “Blue Moon”
vs. Jack White’s “Lazaretto”, Ryan Adams’ “Gimme Something Good”, The Black Keys’ “Fever”, and Paramore’s “Ain’t It Fun”.
The academy usually likes to go the traditional route here, but that still leaves plenty of options. When in doubt, the odds favor Beck, whose four nominations are likely to result in another big artist sweep.
Best Country Solo Performance
Will Win: Miranda Lambert, “Automatic”
vs. Keith Urban’s “Cop Car”, Eric Church’s “Give Me Back My Hometown”, Carrie Underwood’s “Something In The Water”, and Hunter Hayes’ “Invisible”.
Country music is currently in the midst of a stylistic shift, with an emphasis on traditional sounds versus the fashionable pop/rock flavors of previous years. With this in mind, Lambert’s rustic ode to old-fashioned ways will likely strike a chord with “authentic country”-seeking voters. She’s also nominated in three other categories, meaning that if she doesn’t win this, she’ll still likely win something else.
Best R&B Performance
Will Win: Beyonce feat. Jay Z, Drunk in Love”
vs. Usher’s “Good Kisser”, Jennifer Hudson feat. R. Kelly’s “It’s Your World”, Ledisi’s “Like This”, and Chris Brown feat. Usher and Rick Ross’ “New Flame”.
Last year’s telecast opened with Beyonce and Jay Z’s ode to their wedded bliss, so expect the academy to reward them with this win, especially since they won’t win much else.
Best Rap Album
Will Win: Iggy Azalea, The New Classic
vs. Childish Gambino’s Because The Internet, Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 2, Common’s Nobody’s Smiling, Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron, and Wiz Khalifa’s Blacc Hollywood.
Iggy has caused some controversy within the R&B/hip-hop community this year, but voters are willing to award a female rapper who isn’t afraid to appeal to the pop masses. This is her only nomination in the Rap category, so the odds are on her side.
Best Music Video
Will Win: Pharrell Williams, “Happy”
vs. Sia’s “Chandelier”, Arcade Fire’s “We Exist”, Woodkid feat. Max Richter’s “The Golden Age”, and DJ Snake & Lil Jon’s “Turn Down For What”.
Despite being on the soundtrack for a movie released in the summer of 2013, “Happy” was the song of 2014. It was on the radio and in a myriad of commercials, including one for this year’s Grammy telecast, and its unique “24 hour” music video played near-constantly on whatever music video channels are left. For most voters, this was probably the only music video they seen in 2014. That being said, don’t be surprised if the arty clip for Sia’s “Chandelier” takes it instead, as it was popular enough to warrant its own sketch on Saturday Night Live.
Best Song Written For Visual Media
Will Win: “Let It Go” from Frozen
vs. “I’m Not Gonna Miss You” (Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me), “The Moon Song” (Her), “I See Fire” (The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug), and “Everything Is Awesome” (The Lego Movie).
In case you, your daughter, niece, or cousin were wondering: this is the category that the ubiquitous “Let It Go” will win. It’s kind of surprising that this Oscar winner didn’t get nominated in any of the major categories, but maybe the powers at be are a little afraid of letting their Disney side out.