Grammys 2017: Who Will Win, Who Should Win

The only thing we know for sure about the Grammys is that nothing is certain


    This article originally ran December 6th. We’re re-posting in anticipation of this weekend’s 59th Grammy Awards.

    If you woke up December 6th to a giant thud, it wasn’t an earthquake or a big truck driving down your street. It was the announcement of the 59th annual Grammy nominations. And, as is the case every year, people were up in arms about what didn’t get nominated as much as they were filled with joy to see their favorites honored.

    So what did the Grammys get right? Well, a lot really. Beyoncé and Adele lead the field, in large part because they should. Say what you will about their music, but no two artists have been leading the conversation more in the past year, be it Adele through her commercial accomplishments or Beyoncé with her artistic ones. Beyoncé has nine chances to win this year, putting her within reach of Allison Krauss to become the all-time winningest woman in Grammy history. She’d need eight wins to match her.

    Elsewhere, we have some of music’s most beloved rap artists, Kanye West, Drake, and Chance the Rapper, all competing in a number of categories. West and Drake both have eight nominations in total while Chance will hear his name called seven times. These are the artists that music writers love to talk about and music listeners love to think about, so if the Grammys’ job is capture the zeitgeist, it seems like they’ve indeed done that.


    Of the snubs, the most surprising is that David Bowie is shut out of all the big categories. This caps off a career of disappointing Grammy recognition for Bowie, something many figured the voters would make up for in light of his death. Many expected Coldplay to be a bigger factor in the rock categories, but the longtime Grammy fave didn’t put out their strongest effort and weren’t rewarded. Some thought Zayn, Justin Timberlake, and Rihanna would figure more prominently, but with only so many spots (and inclusions for less-acclaimed material from Lukas Graham, Twenty One Pilots, and Mike Posner), those pop stars find themselves feeling left out.

    So now that we know who is competing, it’s time to guess who will actually win these things.

    Best Music Video

    Beyoncé – “Formation”
    Leon Bridges – “River”
    Coldplay – “Up&Up”
    Jamie xx – “Gosh”
    OK Go – “Upside Down & Inside Out”

    Who should win: Beyoncé – “Formation”
    Who will win: Beyoncé – “Formation”

    With the release of Lemonade as a visual album, Beyoncé has become synonymous with music videos in 2016. This year’s Grammys awards show will figure to be heavy in awarding Bey, and Music Video is likely a category where it would be hard-pressed to pick someone else, regardless of how great OK Go’s video career has been or how cinematic that Jamie xx clip is.

    Best Song Written for Visual Media

    Justin Timberlake – “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”
    Twenty One Pilots – “Heathens”
    P!nk – “Just Like Fire”
    Skrillex and Rick Ross – “Purple Lamborgini”
    Shakira – “Try Everything”

    Who should win: Justin Timberlake – “Can’t Stop the Feeling!”
    Who will win: Twenty One Pilots – “Heathens”

    Justin Timberlake’s Trolls party starter was figuring to be in play for the night’s biggest categories, so it is a bit of a surprise that Best Song Written for Visual Media is his big shot at Grammy gold this year. The other side of the coin is Twenty One Pilots, a Grammy force this year that no one saw coming (but in hindsight, we all should have seen coming). Maybe you’re like me and weren’t even aware that “Heathens” was from the Suicide Squad OST and not from their hit-factory LP. Regardless, it’s hard to bet against the monster hit that TØP has crafted, even if hearing it makes us physically ill.

    Best Score Soundtrack For Visual Media

    quentin tarantino ennio morricone hateful eight
    Thomas Newman – Bridge of Spies
    Ennio Morricone – The Hateful Eight
    Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto – The Revenant
    John Williams – Star Wars: The Force Awakens
    Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things Volume 1
    Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things Volume 2

    Who should win: Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things Volume 1
    Who will win: Ennio Morricone – The Hateful Eight

    You never want to be competing against yourselves at the Grammys, and that’s the situation that the boys from S U R V I V E find themselves in. Too bad the awards didn’t just combine the albums into one slot like CoS did on our Top Albums. Still, you can’t feel too bad for them when they’re duking it out with a legend like Ennio Morricone, who already has an Oscar and a Golden Globe for his work on The Hateful Eight. Plus, we all love seeing the little, old guy making his way to the stage to make his Italian regards. It’s just good TV (even though this award will probably be handed out in the pre-telecast ceremony).

    Best Comedy Album

    David Cross – …America…Great…
    Margaret Cho – American Myth
    Tig Notaro – Boyish Girl Interrupted
    Amy Schumer – Live at the Apollo
    Patton Oswalt – Talking for Clapping

    Who should win: Patton Oswalt – Talking for Clapping
    Who will win: Amy Schumer – Live at the Apollo

    Patton Oswalt has been one of this year’s heartbreaking stories following the unexpected death of his wife, and if he ends up releasing an album of the set he’s currently doing about the grieving process, it would be hard to bet against him. Still, Schumer seems like the comedian of the moment, and has to be viewed as a favorite here. One note is that David Cross is currently donating all proceeds for his album to the ACLU, so if anything, that should be the album we’re all pulling for, as it would likely get a solid sales bump from winning.

    Best Urban Contemporary Album

    Beyoncé – Lemonade
    Gallant – Ology
    KING – We Are King
    Anderson .Paak – Malibu
    Rihanna – Anti

    Who should win: Beyoncé – Lemonade
    Who will win: Beyoncé – Lemonade

    Damn, this is a strong one. Even though Gallant and KING don’t stand a chance in hell, both of those records are solid surprises from the Grammys, demonstrating an unexpected ear to the ground of what critics have been championing. Maybe Anderson .Paak or Rihanna pull a major upset here for equally great work, but the truth is that Beyoncé made the best and most successful album here, so why would we expect any other winner?

    Best Dance/Electronic Album:

    Flume – Skin
    Jean-Michel Jarre – Electronica 1: The Time Machine
    Tycho – Epoch
    Underworld – Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future
    Louie Vega – Louie Vega Starring…XXVIII

    Who should win: Underworld – Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future
    Who will win: Underworld – Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future

    This is a tough category to call, mixing legends from dance music with a couple of its rising stars. Skrillex has won this award three of the last five years, so it is a good thing he’s not competing. But looking at the history of the award, it tends to go to the most familiar in the genre, with acts like The Chemical Brothers, Daft Punk, and Aphex Twin all holding wins. For that, we’re going to go out on a limb and say Underworld wins for their most deserving recent release, though maybe rising star Flume takes it.

    Best Solo Pop Performance

    Adele – “Hello”
    Beyoncé – “Hold Up”
    Justin Bieber – “Love Yourself”
    Kelly Clarkson – “Piece By Piece” (Idol Version)
    Ariana Grande – “Dangerous Woman”

    Who should win: Beyoncé – “Hold Up”
    Who will win: Adele – “Hello”

    Ah, our first big Beyoncé versus Adele battle. And while many of their face-offs on Grammy night could go either way, this one finds Adele’s strongest song going against one of Beyoncé’s lesser competitors. Justin Bieber has an outside shot while the others are just happy to be nominated in this category. Adele is the quintessential solo pop performer, so the edge goes to her.

    Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

    The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey – “Closer”
    Lukas Graham – “7 Years”
    Rihanna featuring Drake – “Work”
    Sia featuring Sean Paul – “Cheap Thrills”
    Twenty One Pilots – “Stressed Out”

    Who should win: Sia featuring Sean Paul – “Cheap Thrills”
    Who will win: Rihanna featuring Drake – “Work”

    This is a weird category. It’s a combination of several past categories, which include pop songs sung by groups (from No Doubt to Spice Girls) to songs with collaborations and features. The two best songs here, Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” and Rihanna’s “Work”, fall into the latter category, and most of the previous winners have as well (like last year’s “Uptown Funk”). In the end, “Work” seems to be getting a little bit more love across the board and should be considered the favorite, but it wouldn’t be incredibly surprising if any of the competitors here took home the prize.

    Best Pop Vocal Album

    Adele Glastonbury
    Adele – 25
    Justin Bieber – Purpose
    Ariana Grande – Dangerous Woman
    Demi Lovato – Confident
    Sia – This Is Acting

    Who should win: Adele – 25
    Who will win: Adele – 25

    Two of the Album of the Year nominees are vying for this category, so it would seem to be a two-horse race between Adele and Justin Bieber. As literally every critic writing about the Grammys has noted, this year will be about Adele and Beyoncé, so this should figure to be an easy one for Adele to win. Taylor Swift won this award last year on her way to Album of the Year, and Adele took the honor back in 2012 on her way to her own Album of the Year. For first-time nominee Demi Lovato, it’s just an honor to be considered.

    Best Rap Performance

    Chance the Rapper featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz – “No Problem”
    Desiigner – “Panda”
    Drake featuring Jay Z and Kanye West – “Pop Style”
    Fat Joe & Remy Ma featuring French Montana & Infared – “All the Way Up”
    ScHoolboy Q featuring Kanye West – “That Part”

    Who should win: Chance the Rapper featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz – “No Problem”
    Who will win: Desiigner – “Panda”

    There are some really strong songs in this category, including a pair that rated in the top 20 on CoS’ Top Songs of 2016 from Chance the Rapper and Schoolboy Q. In the last five years, this award has twice gone to Kendrick Lamar and twice gone to Watch the Throne, with Macklemore figuring in once. Maybe the feature from WTT on “Pop Style” is too much to resist, but it seems like the ubiquity of “Panda” might reign supreme.

    Best Rap/Sung Performance

    Beyoncé featuring Kendrick Lamar – “Freedom”
    Drake – “Hotline Bling”
    D.R.A.M. featuring Lil Yachty – “Broccoli”
    Kanye West featuring Chance the Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin & The-Dream – “Ultralight Beam”
    Kanye West featuring Rihanna – “Famous”

    Who should win: Beyoncé featuring Kendrick Lamar – “Freedom”
    Who will win: Beyoncé featuring Kendrick Lamar – “Freedom”

    This category is incredibly stacked. “Hotline Bling” is seemingly on here a year late, but whatevs, that song was still massive. As mentioned earlier, it’s never a good position to be competing against yourself, so Kanye West is in rough shape with two very strong competitors in this field. D.R.A.M. is nice to see as he’s a great rising star that we didn’t figure would be on the Grammys’ radar yet. Who does that leave? Oh, just the Grammys’ favorite rapper of the moment and one of the winningest artists of all time collaborating on the song we named the best of the year.

    Best Rap Song

    Drake Hotline Bling
    Fat Joe & Remy Ma featuring French Montana & Infared – “All the Way Up”
    Kanye West featuring Rihanna – “Famous”
    Drake – “Hotline Bling”
    Chance the Rapper featuring Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz – “No Problem”
    Kanye West featuring Chance the Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin & The-Dream – “Ultralight Beam”

    Who should win: Kanye West featuring Chance the Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin & The-Dream – “Ultralight Beam”
    Who will win: Drake – “Hotline Bling”

    Even though I hoped that Kanye West’s god dream “Ultralight Beam” would see some Grammy love, it seems too good to be true that the song could actually win. Again, West is splitting his own votes with two songs, and it is possible that Chance could be doing the same thing with his feature on “Ultralight Beam” and his own “No Problem”. Drake is in great position this year with Views up for Album of the Year, and “Hotline Bling” is easily the most inescapable song on this list, likely to grab voters that aren’t even well-versed in the genre.

    Best Rap Album

    Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
    De La Soul – And the Anonymous Nobody
    DJ Khaled – Major Key
    Drake – Views
    ScHoolboy Q – Blank Face LP
    Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

    Who should win: Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
    Who will win: Drake – Views

    Both Chance the Rapper and Schoolboy Q figured into our Top Albums of the Year, but it would be an upset if either rose above their competitors here. As for DJ Khalad and De La Soul, those are both left-field nominations that either blanket a who’s who of the rap world or award a long career of great music. That leaves Kanye West and Drake as the front-runners, an award West has won four times and Drake has won once. Obviously, Drake’s Album of the Year nomination makes him likely to win, but it wouldn’t be that surprising if perennial Grammy favorite West sneaks this one in.

    Best Alternative Album:

    Bowie Blackstar
    Bon Iver – 22, A Million
    David Bowie – Blackstar
    PJ Harvey – The Hope Six Demolition Project
    Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
    Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

    Who should win: David Bowie – Blackstar
    Who will win: David Bowie – Blackstar

    This is actually closer than a lot of us hope for. Bon Iver, PJ Harvey, and Radiohead all have history with the Grammys, notably Harvey who has been nominated six times previously and never won, dating back to 1996. That might be enough for her to sneak away with this one, while Bon Iver and Radiohead offered up great albums and have seen the Grammy gods shine down on them before. Still, it’s hard to pick against David Bowie here, who has never seen an album of his win a Grammy award. That’s baffling and hopefully changes this year.

    Best Rock Performance:

    Alabama Shakes – “Joe” (Live From Austin City Limits)
    Beyoncé featuring Jack White – “Don’t Hurt Yourself”
    David Bowie – “Blackstar”
    Disturbed – “The Sound of Silence” (Live on Conan)
    Twenty One Pilots – “Heathens”

    Who should win: David Bowie – “Blackstar”
    Who will win: Twenty One Pilots – “Heathens”

    Prior to the Grammy nominations, David Bowie was seen (behind Adele and Beyoncé) as once of this year’s big favorites. Part of it was the recognition for his final gift to earth before his departure, and part was making up for being snubbed across his entire career. So while it seems like Bowie would at least be the favorite in this category, some part of me just thinks that the Grammys will continue to fuck him and give this award to Twenty One Pilots. A fun note here is just how terrible of shape rock music is in. The nominations include Alabama Shakes performing an older song live, Disturbed covering Simon and Garfunkel on Conan, and a pop singer’s brief foray into rockier territory. Might be the weakest category on this list.

    Best Rock Song

    David Bowie – “Blackstar”
    Radiohead – “Burn the Witch”
    Metallica – “Hardwired”
    Twenty One Pilots – “Heathens”
    Highly Suspect – “My Name Is Human”

    Who should win: David Bowie – “Blackstar”
    Who will win: David Bowie – “Blackstar”

    All the same concerns about Bowie continuing to be overlooked by the Grammys remain here; we’re just hedging our bets. Twenty One Pilots could easily take this one, as could Radiohead or Metallica (eight-time winners in the past). Highly Suspect also continues their unexpected run as a favorite of Grammy voters, with a third career nomination despite being relatively below the radar in the rock and pop world.

    Best Rock Album

    Blink-182 – California
    Cage the Elephant – Tell Me I’m Pretty
    Gojira – Magma
    Panic! At the Disco – Death of a Bachelor
    Weezer – Weezer

    Who should win: Gojira – Magma
    Who will win: Cage the Elephant – Tell Me I’m Pretty

    This is another rough category. Not a good year for rock music. First we have a couple albums (Blink-182 and Panic! At the Disco) that it’s hard to imagine anyone deeming worthy of awards, even if this is Blink’s first nomination ever. Weezer’s album was good, but again it wasn’t notably better than other work they’ve done that was ignored by the Grammys. And I’m not going to pretend like I listen to Gojira, but I do know that our metal writers at CoS listed it as one of the best of the year, so that makes it the only “critically acclaimed” entry on this list. Still, it feels like this could be Cage the Elephant’s year, having been nominated previously for Melophobia in 2015. They had strong-performing singles on alt radio and have earned some Grammy attention in the past, easing their way over some pretty weak competitors.

    Best Metal Performance

    Baroness – “Shock Me”
    Gojira – “Silvera”
    Korn – “Rotting in Vain”
    Megadeth – “Dystopia”
    Periphery – “The Price Is Wrong”

    Who should win: Gojira – “Silvera”
    Who will win: Korn – “Rotting in Vain”

    Despite a couple of well-deserving nominees (Gojira and Baroness), the Grammys will find a way to screw this one up. Just in the last five years, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Black Sabbath have all managed to take home this award, so it’s not like the voters are the most hip to what’s happening currently in heavy music. Korn has won this award before and could take this home again based on just name recognition.