Grammy Predictions 2016: Swift v. Lamar

The Grammy Awards ceremony is less than three days away, and the Internet is ablaze with speculation as music journalists the world over place their bets on which of five established, commercially viable pop sensations made the music industry the most money in the past year. I jest, in part. Awards season often serves as an effective, if at times inflammatory, barometer of the public’s current disposition towards larger music trends; not because of the actual nominees and winners, but because of the reactions of avid music fans and critics during the post-awards online aftermath. Rather than brave the inevitable war zone that will be the comments section of your preferred ceremony-viewing platform, you can get all the Grammy complaints you’ll ever need right here in the Bottom Line. While I do believe that this year has the potential of being one of the more exciting awards seasons in recent history thanks to the heated competition between 1989 and To Pimp A Butterfly – seven and eleven nominations each, respectively – it also has a greater than average chance of falling flat on its face. Hey, if you can’t stop a train wreck, you may as well slow down and enjoy it, right?

A quick aside about the names of the categories before we get started, as this information might be key to understanding what the awards are actually recognizing, and the titles of the awards are unintuitive to say the least. A category for Best Song is recognizing the structure and songwriting on a particular track, and doesn’t necessarily relate directly to the actual recording of the song. Best Album recognizes the best complete LP’s in a specific genre. Best Record recognizes the personnel behind the recording of a particular track, not entire albums; in a way it is the counterpart to Best Song that focuses more on the technical aspect of tracks. Best Performance categories are basically Song and Record put together. Got it? No? That’s okay, the Academy doesn’t either.

Rock and Metal
It’s no secret that the Grammy Awards have no clue how to organize their music categories. Although any attempt to organize or quantify the vast dimensions of “metal” and “alternative,” and especially the ever-nebulous “rock,” would only serve to draw more ire towards the Academy for their lack of familiarity with the grand scheme of the music world, I don’t think it’s a stretch to argue that maybe an organization whose goal is to recognize the best musical efforts of the year should at least make some effort to actually listen to more music. Rather than expand the rock section and trim some of the fat in the earlier awards – sorry, Best Boxed or Special Limited Edition Package – the Academy would prefer for us to live in a world where Slipknot is nominated for Best Rock Album alongside Muse and Death Cab For Cutie. Anyway, on to the predictions:

Best Rock Performance
Who Will Win: Alabama Shakes – “Don’t Wanna Fight”
Who Should Win: Alabama Shakes – “Don’t Wanna Fight”
While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Sound and Color, the sophomore LP by Southern-ish rock darlings Alabama Shakes, it does deserve to win this category based on the quality of the instrumental structure, the production quality and use of classic rock grit alongside sleek modern techniques, and its sheer catchy swagger. It’s like if Wolfmother and the Black Keys teamed up to explore their slightly psychedelic side together as one.

Best Metal Performance

Who Will Win: Lamb of God – “512”
Who Should Win: Ghost – “Cirice”
Ghost dropped one of the most important metal releases from 2015 with Meliora, a gloomy yet glamorous LP that cemented Ghost as one of the preeminent metal forces of their time. Rather than forgo their occultist imagery to capitalize on their newfound fame, Ghost have expanded on it; their third album is perhaps the most technically advanced and straight-up fun record the band has released to date. That being the case, I think there’s a good chance that the Academy will choose to pretend it’s ten years ago and pick Lamb of God instead.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Deafheaven – “Brought to the Water”
I realize it came out two days after the September 30th cutoff for nominees, but this recording was an absolute masterpiece and deserves the recognition, and will most likely have lost its momentum by the time the next ceremony happens. Shame.

Best Rock Song

Who Will Win: Alabama Shakes – “Don’t Wanna Fight”
Who Should Win: Elle King – “Ex’s & Oh’s”
I know I said Alabama Shakes should win the performance version of this category, but Best Rock Song is, on paper, devoted to best songwriting. With that in mind, the biggest strength of “Don’t Wanna Fight” is its top-notch production; as a whole package Alabama Shakes have this category locked down, but dealing only with the merits of the songwriters, Elle King wins out.

Best Rock Album

Who Will Win: Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi, OR Muse – Drones
Who Should Win: Nobody
None of the bands in this category best represent rock music in 2015, but if I had to choose, Death Cab For Cutie has an edge in this one. Slipknot possibly has a chance if they decide to play it fast and loose with what “rock” means. Matchups like this – Slipknot being nominated alongside Muse – are why we need major category reform next year.

Best Alternative Album
Who Will Win: Wilco – Star Wars
Who Should Win: Tame Impala – Currents
Although Wilco may have had the more consistent overall album, Tame Impala deserves to win by virtue of knowing how best to capitalize on their strengths; excellent songwriting coupled with first-class production, featuring thick, punchy effects and reverb-soaked riffs that don’t overstay their welcome, Tame Impala haven’t just changed their formula with Currents, they’ve elevated it.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: The Front Bottoms – Back on Top
I have a soft spot for this album, and seeing it nominated would have put a smile on my face. This LP just didn’t have enough momentum behind it to get it a nomination in the only category that would have made sense.


Best Rap Performance
Who Will Win: Kanye West – “All Day”
Who Should Win: Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
This is going to be a situation similar to the Shakes v. King face-off in the rock categories; while Kendrick’s is definitely the better song overall, Yeezy’s track is assisted on its way to greatness by performances by Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom, and the immortal Paul McCartney. Fetty Wap is a strong dark horse candidate with “Trap Queen,” and may yet win this category if the stars align.

Best Rap Song
Who Will Win: Kendrick Lamar – “Alright,” OR “Trap Queen” by Fetty Wap if they’ve got moxie.
Who Should Win: Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”
Come on, you know it’s gonna be Kendrick. Don’t play that game. He’s hot off the release of the most important rap album of the decade so far and is top contender to take home the coveted Album of the Year. I’m all for variety and would hate to see every award go to the same person, but I’d also hate to see credit not be given where it’s due, and oh my goodness is credit due.

Best Rap Album
Who Will Win: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
Who Should Win: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
Kendrick has succeeded in raising the standards of storytelling, production, and songwriting in the rap community to unanticipated heights, some would argue for the second time in his career so far after the genius good kid, m.A.A.d. city. This one is a no-brainer.
Who Should Have Been Nominated: Hamilton – The Original Cast Recording of the Broadway Musical
Even though we all know it wouldn’t win, Hamilton was an incredible journey through history as told through the eyes of one of the most pivotal figures of the American Revolution. It’s a transcendental album that crosses genres and blazes its own trail, and it deserves a nomination beyond Best Musical Theater Album.


Best Pop Solo Performance
Who Will Win: Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”
Who Should Win: The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face”
Let’s be real for a second; we all know T-Swift is going to dominate the pop categories, but hear me out. “Can’t Feel My Face” is one of probably three or four songs on Beauty Behind the Madness that isn’t completely asinine, and I would argue that it’s a better song than “Blank Spaces,” and much of that hinges on The Weeknd’s fantastic vocal performance on this song. Based on that and the excellent production at play here, The Weeknd has my grudging vote.

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Who Will Win: Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk”

Who Should Win: Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar – “Bad Blood”

It’s undeniable that “Uptown Funk” is the fan-favorite to win this category, but for the sake of a memorable narrative in which T-Swift and Kendrick set aside their differences to destroy Wiz Khalifa’s already-meager chances at winning, I saw we give it to them.

Best Pop Vocal Album

Who Will Win: Taylor Swift – 1989

Who Should Win: Taylor Swift – 1989, OR Mark Ronson – Uptown Special

Any other year, Mark Ronson would probably have this one in the bag. Sorry buddy, but you made the mistake of going up against Taylor Swift, Destroyer of Charts. Based on everything from production to performance, spirit to danceability, 1989 is just the better album, and it wish it didn’t have to be that way.

Big Four Categories

Best New Artist

Who Will Win: Meghan Trainor

Who Should Win: Courtney Barnett

Realistically, Meghan Trainor is the best choice for this one. She has the most hype and commercial viability surrounding her, but it doesn’t feel right giving this award out when indie favorite Courtney Barnett had a much stronger breakout release this year. Not only was Barnett’s soulful debut an emotional delight to listen to, but it is also legitimately her first album; the same cannot be said for Trainor, who has had three so far in her career. Based on her meteoric rise to the top, Trainor has an advantage, but for the sake of hipster cred and better responses from the alternative crowd they might give it to Barnett.

Record of the Year

Who Will Win: Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”

Who Should Win: Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”

I’m really surprised Alabama Shakes isn’t nominated in this category; their technical proficiency and studio savvy are usually the group’s chief strength on Sound and Color. Nevertheless, it will be an absolute travesty if “Alright” doesn’t take this one home, seeing how To Pimp A Butterfly turned rap production on its head last year. That said, I’m predicting either T-Swift or dark horse D’Angelo and the Vanguard if they’re feeling particularly snub-happy.

Song of the Year

Who Will Win: Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud”

Who Should Win: Taylor Swift – “Blank Space”

I know, right? I honestly think Taylor Swift has a better song on her hands here, but the Academy have a propensity for recognizing adorably emotional singer-songwriter types like Ed Sheeran over the logical choice. If there is any justice, T-Swift will prevail; “Blank Space” is by far the most recognized and lauded pop performance of the year, and with the amount of overlap in the Swift/Sheeran fanbases it only makes sense for Swift to win out. Lest we forget though, Metallica lost Best Hard Rock/Metal Album the year …And Justice for All came out. The world isn’t always fair, and the Grammy Awards are no exception.

Album of the Year

Who Will Win: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

Who Should Win: Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

In the interest of securing the safety of my fellow Bottom Line writers, I would like to note that this is not our publication’s official stance on the Swift v. Lamar issue. While 1989 will be remembered as a pivotal moment in pop music history, To Pimp A Butterfly represents a genre coming into its own again after a long period of awards-season dormancy. The days of genres wax and wane, and for the first time in nearly a decade a true rap album is nominated for album of the year and actually stands a chance at winning. I won’t be upset if Taylor wins; she definitely deserves it based on the strength and consistency of 1989, not just from a technical standpoint but from a songwriting perspective as well, and she had the strongest commercial showing of any album in 2015. To go back to a similar point made earlier in this article, in any other year Taylor would have this one, no questions asked. But, this is the real world, and To Pimp A Butterfly is a tour de force that deserves to be recognized. This category is going to be the Iowa caucus of the music world, with Swift portraying the established pop sensation going up against the worldly, more socially aware Kendrick Lamar. We all know one of these candidates will take the night’s highest honor, the only question is what the Academy will use to base their decision; will it be prestige and finesse, or innovation and auteur spirit?

Previous post

Deadpool: A New Kind of Superhero Movie

Next post

A Family Affair: George W. Bush Stumps for Jeb in South Carolina

1 Comment