The 2019 Grammys

What Will Win, and What Should Win

Janelle Monae

As usual, there’s no reason to get your hopes up except what if there is? The good news is that enough quality mainstream artists made a real mark in 2018 that almost none of these categories will be an outrage. But watch the Grammys say “hold my beer,” anyway. It’s happened before. Let’s misplace our unearned good faith together, shall we?



Best New Artist

Chloe x Halle

Luke Combs

Greta Van Fleet


Dua Lipa

Margo Price

Bebe Rexha

Jorja Smith

Will Win: Will it be H.E.R. with the surprise Album of the Year nod or Dua Lipa, who gets to perform? As a massive “New Rules” fan, I’m gonna put my confidence in the latter.

Should Win: However, Margo Price is both a quality artist and a Grammy-friendly one, with label backing from Grammy-friendly Jack White. No big loss if anyone besides Greta Van Fleet wins this one, though.



Best Pop Solo Performance

Beck – Colors

Camila Cabello – Havana (Live)

Ariana Grande – God Is a Woman

Lady Gaga – Joanne (Where Do You Think You’re Goin’?)

Post Malone – Better Now

Will Win: Hopefully Ariana, though there’s nothing to be sad about if Camila or Gaga gets the prize.

Should Win: As long as it’s not one of the two dudes, we’re good.



Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Christina Aguilera ft. Demi Lovato – Fall In Line

Backstreet Boys – Don’t Go Breaking My Heart

Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper – Shallow

Maroon 5 ft. Cardi B – Girls Like You

Justin Timberlake ft. Chris Stapleton – Say Something

Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey – The Middle

Will Win: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

Should Win: No strong feelings here, even my anyone-but-Adam-Levine instincts are canceled out by Ms. Bartier herself.



Best Pop Vocal Album

Camila Cabello – Camila

Kelly Clarkson – Meaning of Life

Ariana Grande – Sweetener

Shawn Mendes – Shawn Mendes

Pink – Beautiful Trauma

Taylor Swift – Reputation

Will Win: Camila could be an upset, but it’s probably Ari.

Should Win: Sweetener. Maybe next year they’ll let Ari really do her thing.



Best Rap Performance

Cardi B – Be Careful

Drake – Nice for What

Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, & James Blake – King’s Dead

Anderson .Paak – Bubblin

Travis Scott, Drake, Big Hawk, & Swae Lee – Sicko Mode

Will Win: It would be funny if it’s .Paak, who’d be a Grammy darling if the voters actually heard him, but either Drake or Kendrick feel like they’ve got this.

Should Win: I have my reservations about the instant-classic rep of “Nice for What,” but I wouldn’t be, um, “upset” about it. Still, “King’s Dead” rips on like, four different fronts, even Blake’s.



Best Rap/Sung Collaboration

Christina Aguilera ft. Goldlink – Like I Do

6LACK ft. J. Cole – Pretty Little Fears

Childish Gambino – This Is America

Kendrick Lamar & SZA – All the Stars

Post Malone ft. 21 Savage – Rockstar

Will Win: With three of these artists nominated in major categories, it’s hard to tell who will be placated here, but Childish Gambino feels like the Grammy voters’ idea of deserving.

Should Win: “All the Stars” is easily the best song in this category, though it’s admittedly hard to feel much excitement over this small-potatoes competition.




Best Rap Song

Drake – God’s Plan

Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Future, & James Blake – King’s Dead

Eminem – Lucky You

Travis Scott, Drake, Big Hawk, & Swae Lee – Sicko Mode

Jay Rock ft. Kendrick Lamar – Win

Will Win: “God’s Plan”

Should Win: Anything but Eminem really, and even that album’s underrated. 2018 was such a great year for hip-hop that even a skyrocket like “Win” only managed a minor dent. “God’s Plan” is one of Drake’s best-ever hits, though, and we might as well throw him a bone when he actually deserves it, because lord knows he’ll be scratching at the door long past his prime. But “King’s Dead” and “Sicko Mode” slapped just as hard.



Best Rap Album

Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

Mac Miller- Swimming

Nipsey Hussle – Victory Lap

Pusha-T – Daytona

Travis Scott – Astroworld

Will Win: Cardi B

Should Win: In the strongest category of the 2019 batch, even honoring Mac Miller wouldn’t feel like an outrage. But Cardi and Push made rap history for all the right reasons, and even Travis Scott is making the genre’s future look nice.



Best Rock Performance

Arctic Monkeys – Four Out of Five

Chris Cornell – When Bad Does Good

THE FEVER 333 – Made An America

Greta Van Fleet – Highway Tune

Halestorm – Uncomfortable

Will Win: Chris Cornell

Should Win: I’m historically against Honoring the Dead Guy and the toxic cycle it perpetuates (Warren Zevon, for instance, deserved more recognition while he was on earth), but mainstream rock sadly hasn’t progressed much since Cornell, and he’s probably the finest male rock singer of the last 20 years, so do your thing, Grammys.



Best Metal Performance

Between the Buried and Me – Condemned to the Gallows

Deafheaven – Honeycomb

High on Fire – Electric Messiah

Trivium – Betrayer

Underoath – On My Teeth

Will Win: Quite possibly Deafheaven, honestly.

Should Win: High on Fire. Metal is the rare Grammy category where the traditionalists have long been the underserved as opposed to slight interlopers like Deafheaven, who may be quality artists but have mostly garnered their accolades for all the ways they aren’t metal. High on Fire are as traditional (and consistent) as they come in this field, and Deafheaven’s hipster claque can still cheer for the guy who moonlights as Sleep’s mastermind earning a Grammy.



Best Rock Song

Greta Van Fleet – Black Smoke Rising

Twenty One Pilots – Jumpsuit

Bring Me the Horizon – MANTRA

St. Vincent – Masseduction

Ghost – Rats

Will Win: If Grammy voters actually play the songs, Greta Van Fleet. Otherwise, Twenty One Pilots.

Should Win: Please let “Masseduction,” a queer woman’s jagged synth-rock burner that goes “I can’t turn off what turns me on,” left-field wallop these hacks.



Best Rock Album

Alice in Chains – Rainier Fog

Fall Out Boy – M A N I A

Ghost – Prequelle

Greta Van Fleet – From the Fires

Weezer – Pacific Daydream

Will Win: Long-ago Grammy vets Alice in Chains, whose nothing-special album still bests these other garbage fires

Should Win: However. Even though it’s closer to their worst work than their best, Weezer have long been snubbed by the Grammys despite making far more worthwhile latter-day records than their oft-nominated contemporaries Green Day, Foo Fighters, and Red Hot Chili Peppers combined.



Best Alternative Music Album

Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino

Beck – Colors

Björk – Utopia

David Byrne – American Utopia

St. Vincent – Masseduction

Will Win: St. Vincent

Should Win: It’s a relief to know that Masseduction, the far-and-away best album in this category is by one of the night’s performers, and that it really is Annie Clark’s career highlight thus far.




Best R&B Song

Ella Mai – Boo’d Up

Miguel – Come Through and Chill [ft. J. Cole and Salaam Remi]

Childish Gambino – Feels Like Summer

H.E.R. – Focus

Toni Braxton – Long as I Live

Will Win: Ella Mai

Should Win: With love to the addictive “Boo’d Up,” H.E.R.’s the surprise of the Grammy nomination season, and the lush, harp-swathed “Focus” is welcome evidence that there’s more to her than her marketing team.



Best Urban Contemporary Album

The Carters – Everything Is Love

Chloe x Halle – The Kids Are Alright

Chris Dave and the Drumhedz – Chris Dave and the Drumhedz

Miguel – War & Leisure

Meshell Ndegeocello – Ventriloquism

Will Win: The Carters

Should Win: While it pains me to say this is the only Miguel album to not make me root for it, Ndegeocello’s most interesting work in years is a reminder of her immense, never-quite-lauded-enough talent.



Best R&B Album

Toni Braxton – Sex & Cigarettes

Leon Bridges – Good Thing

Lalah Hathaway – Honestly

H.E.R. – H.E.R.

PJ Morton – Gumbo Unplugged (Live)


Will Win: H.E.R.

Should Win: No one who listens to R&B in 2019 would call this cross-section representative, but Toni Braxton’s made some of her strongest music ever in the 2010s (particularly her 2014 concept album with fellow lost vet Babyface), and is thusly the rare Grammy dinosaur who would totally deserve the honor.



Best Dance/Electronic Album

Jon Hopkins – Singularity

Justice – Woman

Sofi Tukker – Treehouse

SOPHIE – Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides

TOKiMONSTA – Lune Rouge

Will Win: Let’s go for broke and say SOPHIE, who’s worked with Grammy darlings from Madonna to Kendrick alike, even if Jon Hopkins has his prints on Coldplay records.

Should Win: In hands down the most lovely surprise of the Grammy season, SOPHIE’s genuinely challenging tour de force finally earned her an even bigger audience than previously thought capable for a PC Music alum. Did you take “Ponyboy” for an awards-show bullseye?



Best Song Written for Visual Media

Kendrick Lamar & SZA – All the Stars

Sufjan Stevens – Mystery of Love

Miguel – Remember Me [ft. Natalia Lafourcade]

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – Shallow

Keala Settle & the Greatest Showman Ensemble – This Is Me

Will Win: Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper

Should Win: Black Panther was such across-the-board excellence that I can’t wait for the musical. Somehow its excellent soundtrack still managed to be kind of underrated for a Kendrick Lamar project, but this is both his and SZA’s purest pop song, and they did it without bowing to any chart trend. As classic a soundtrack power-ballad as ever was, and try singing her chorus aloud if you think the melody’s so simple.



Best Recording Package

Mitski – Be the Cowboy

BTS – Love Yourself: Tear

St. Vincent – Masseduction

The Chairman – The Offering

Foxhole – Well Kept Thing

Will Win: Is there such a thing as a lock for this category? St. Vincent is actually performing, so maybe she’s a sure shot.

Should Win: Giving Mitski a Grammy would be a delightful capper to her Pitchfork– (and world-) winning year, plus the art really is great.



Producer of the Year, Non-Classical


Larry Klein

Linda Perry

Kanye West

Pharrell Williams

Will Win: Pharrell Williams

Should Win: I wholeheartedly believe that giving a Grammy to Kanye West in 2019 is enabling some kind of addiction, even though he managed to underwrite two legitimately good and two legitimately great records, all distinct from each other, in his sleep. For your own ability to sleep, the guy who helmed Ariana Grande’s damn good Sweetener and N.E.R.D.’s criminally overlooked comeback will do fine.



Best Music Video

The Carters – Apeshit

Childish Gambino – This Is America

Joyner Lucas – I’m Not Racist

Janelle Monáe – PYNK

Tierra Whack – MUMBO JUMBO

Will Win:  Childish Gambino, though the Carters in the Louvre could be the one place they aren’t shut out.

Should Win: Philadelphia wunderkind Tierra Whack’s 15-minute wondertrip Whack World doubled as one of 2018’s greatest albums, even if it was her more underrated debut clip being nominated for this honor. So please let her or Janelle (or even Donald Glover’s not-unworthy conversation piece) snatch this one from the corroded white hands of something called “I’m Not Racist.” 



Record of the Year

Cardi B – I Like It

Brandi Carlile – The Joke

Childish Gambino – This Is America

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – Shallow

Drake – God’s Plan

Kendrick Lamar & SZA – All the Stars

Post Malone & 21 Savage – Rockstar

Zedd & Maren Morris – The Middle

Will Win: This one’s either “Shallow” or “This Is America,” and neither feels like a crime, but neither is much to write home about either.

Should Win: “This Is America,” for better or worse, and really it’s mostly better, summed up 2018 on all levels, authenticity debate and all.



Song of the Year

Kendrick Lamar & SZA – All the Stars

Ella Mai – Boo’d Up

Drake – God’s Plan

Shawn Mendes – In My Blood

Brandi Carlile – The Joke

Zedd & Maren Morris – The Middle

Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper – Shallow

Childish Gambino – This Is America

Will Win: There’s no reason to believe that whatever grabs Record of the Year won’t grab this one, too.

Should Win: If there was a split, though, give Gaga the performance award and Donald Glover this one.



Album of the Year

H.E.R. – H.E.R.

Brandi Carlile – By the Way, I Forgive You

Drake – Scorpion

Various Artists – Black Panther: The Album

Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour

Post Malone – Beerbongs & Bentleys

Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy

Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer

Will Win: Unlike the critic’s polls, Kacey being shut out everywhere else means there’s less chance of an upset for her here. Much as this would be an incredible Cardi party, her fellow performer of the evening Janelle Monáe could walk away with this one. I mean, Prince’s ghost and Brian Wilson are on it.

Should Win: Several of these are legitimately good records, even Drake’s, but a Monáe win would mean something for black artists, female artists, LGBT artists, and a deserving collection of music (and videos!). Kacey would feel less disappointing here than she did taking probably-the-final Pazz & Jop over four women of color, and Cardi or Black Panther would be justice to a degree the Grammys are not equipped to provide. It’s Ms. Monáe’s to lose.


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Dan Weiss

Dan Weiss is a freelance writer living in New Jersey.

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