Grammy Predictions 2018: Who Will Win, Who Should Win

Our picks for who's most deserving – and who's likely take home the gold on Sunday night

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Grammy Predictions 2018: Who Will Win, Who Should Win

This time every year, as the Grammys loom on the horizon, we all try to second-guess the Recording Academy, hoping against hope that the best artists (or at least our favorites) will get to take something home from the big ceremony.

Once again, we've weighed the evidence and predicted who will be victorious, while also suggesting who should win and who should be angry they weren't nominated in there first place. How good are our guesses? We'll find out on Sunday. One thing's for sure: If the Grammy folks can deny Ed Sheeran a nomination for Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year, then truly anything is possible.

Album of the Year

"Awaken, My Love!," Childish Gambino
4:44, Jay-Z
Damn., Kendrick Lamar
Melodrama, Lorde
24K Magic, Bruno Mars

WILL WIN: Melodrama, Lorde
With two hip-hop albums vying for attention, and lingering anti-rap sentiment among some of the elders in the electorate, this fantastic album might just suffer a problematic triumph. This is Kendrick's year, in the same way 2017 was Beyonce's, and a win would put Lorde in the same awkward position that Adele found herself in last year.


SHOULD WIN: Damn., Kendrick Lamar
In a better world, K.Dot would sweep every category this year. Nothing else here comes close to matching the power of his stripped-down virtuosity – not Jay's honorable return to form, not Donald Glover's critically adored throwback funk, not Bruno Mars' retro razzle-dazzle, not even Lorde's technicolor experimental pop. OK, fine, Lorde does come close.


ROBBED: ÷, Ed Sheeran
Look, if we're talking quality albums, anyone could rattle off a dozen that belong in this category. But for Sheeran's mega-smash to be snubbed here verges on inexplicable, especially since "Shape of You" was locked out of the two major song categories too.

Song of the Year

"Despacito," Ramón Ayala Rodriguez, Justin Bieber, Jason Boyd, Erika Ender, Luis Fonsi & Marty James Garton Jr., songwriters (Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber)
"4:44," Shawn Carter & Dion Wilson, songwriters (Jay-Z)
"Issues," Benjamin Levin, Mikkel Storleer Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, Julia Michaels & Justin Drew Tranter, songwriters (Julia Michaels)
"1-800-273-8255," Alessia Caracciolo, Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, Arjun Ivatury, Khalid Robinson & Andrew Taggart, songwriters (Logic featuring Alessia Cara & Khalid)
"That's What I Like," Christopher Brody Brown, James Fauntleroy, Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars, Ray Charles McCullough II, Jeremy Reeves, Ray Romulus & Jonathan Yip, songwriters (Bruno Mars)

WILL WIN: "That's What I Like"
Bruno is a Grammy natural, but Lorde or possibly Kendrick will block him from Album of the Year. We can't imagine either Mars or "Despacito" going home empty-handed, so we suspect that they'll split the big song categories.


SHOULD WIN: "Despacito"
The weightiest thing here, Jay-Z's mea culpa, was an epic career move, but "Despacito" is a pop juggernaut.


ROBBED: "Praying"
Kesha's anthem, widely interpreted as a well-aimed barb at her former producer and alleged abuser Dr. Luke, wasn't just a powerful vocal performance; it's a well-structured song, with lyrics that offer nuanced insight into pain, resentment, and forgiveness.

Record of the Year

"Redbone,"  Childish Gambino
"Despacito," Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber
"The Story of O.J.," Jay-Z
"Humble.," Kendrick Lamar
"24K Magic," Bruno Mars

WILL WIN: "Despacito"
There was no bigger song in America this year. A hot reggaeton groove, a sweetly seductive vocal, and some bonus Bieber star power.


SHOULD WIN: "Despacito"
"Humble." and "The Story of O.J." are great and worthy rap tracks, but a "Despacito" win would also on some level serve as a small but honorable acknowledgment of the disgraceful abandonment of Puerto Rico by the U.S. government this year.


ROBBED: "Bad Liar," Selena Gomez
You'd be within your rights to wonder where Sam Hunt's "Body Like a Back Road" or Cardi B's "Bodak Yellow" are. But the most adventurous single of Selena's career, which critics went uncharacteristically bonkers for thanks to a sample from Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer," deserved better commercially, and a Grammy nomination would have been a nice consolation prize.

Best New Artist

Alessia Cara
Khalid
Lil Uzi Vert
Julia Michaels
SZA

WILL WIN: Alessia Cara
She's talented, she's got pipes, she's got songwriting chops, she's a little boring – in other words, Cara has that long-term chart potential Grammy voters love. And if all that wasn't enough, she participated in Logic's honorable suicide prevention anthem "1-800-273-8255."


SHOULD WIN: SZA
SZA's Ctrl placed her at the forefront of a crop of young black female songwriters who are pushing R&B into new territory.


ROBBED: Migos
Sure, they've been around forever, but this is the first year the Grammys are acknowledging them.

Best Pop Vocal Album

Kaleidoscope EP, Coldplay
Lust for Life, Lana Del Rey
Evolve, Imagine Dragons
Rainbow, Kesha
Joanne, Lady Gaga
÷, Ed Sheeran

WILL WIN: ÷, Ed Sheeran
As I mentioned above, Sheeran was shut out of the three biggest Grammy categories this year. This is his most prominent nomination for ÷, and we can't imagine him losing.


SHOULD WIN: Rainbow, Kesha
Neither Lana nor Gaga's albums are their strongest, and come Judgment Day, the nominating committee will surely be asked why that Coldplay EP is here. Sheeran's ÷ may be the blockbuster among this lot, but Kesha's comeback, a mix of big pop ballads, retro country and soul, and punky guitar rock, is the artistic triumph.


ROBBED: Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, Halsey
The Jersey-bred pop belter improved on her debut Badlands with this wide-ranging follow-up. The great singles "Bad at Love" and "Now or Never" are surrounded by a more solid (and eccentric) set of album tracks than you might have expected.

Best Pop Solo Performance

"Love So Soft," Kelly Clarkson
"Praying," Kesha
"Million Reasons," Lady Gaga
"What About Us," Pink
"Shape of You," Ed Sheeran

WILL WIN: "Shape of You," Ed Sheeran
See above – the Grammys aren't about to shut out a breadwinner like Sheeran entirely.


SHOULD WIN: "Praying," Kesha
Pink's hit ballad "What About Us" made pop political in a way that eluded poor Katy Perry, but a Kesha victory would not only reward a great song, but would be a powerful #MeToo moment.


ROBBED: "Sign of the Times," Harry Styles
The One Direction boys were shut out of the Grammy nominations entirely this year, even though you'd think this grand showstopper would fit right in here.

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

"Something Just like This," The Chainsmokers and Coldplay
"Despacito," Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber
"Thunder," Imagine Dragons
"Feel It Still," Portugal. The Man
"Stay," Zedd and Alessia Cara

WILL WIN: "Despacito"
"Despacito" towers over the competition here. Even if it gets shut out of the major categories, it will walk away with this one.

SHOULD WIN: "Despacito"
Look at the competition: Imagine Dragons and Portugal. The Man are (at least theoretically) rock bands. The Chainsmokers and Coldplay bring out the worst in each other, and "Stay" is run-of-the-mill EDM-pop.


ROBBED: "Wild Thoughts," DJ Khaled ft. Rihanna & Bryson Tiller
Actually, there should be a special award for the way Rih teases, "I know you wanna see me nakey-nakey-naked."

Best Rock Album

Emperor of Sand, Mastodon
Hardwired ... to Self-Destruct, Metallica
The Stories We Tell Ourselves, Nothing More
Villains, Queens of the Stone Age
A Deeper Understanding, The War on Drugs

WILL WIN: A Deeper Understanding, The War on Drugs

The rock nominations are strange as ever, raising questions both existential (what does "rock" mean in 2017?) and mundane (who are Nothing More?) There's just enough buzz behind relative newcomers the War on Drugs, who offer a soothing twist on familiar Eighties rock sounds, for them to clinch victory here.


SHOULD WIN: A Deeper Understanding, The War on Drugs
QOTSA's Villains is probably the strongest album here, but Josh Homme's recent onstage tantrum, during which he kicked a female photographer's camera, should disqualify him from major accolades.


ROBBED: After Laughter, Paramore
Well, whaddya know – another list of rock bands without any women on it. In 2017. Very cool, Grammys. It's almost like the Grammy definition of "rock" is "music men make." If only an established, commercially successful rock band fronted by a woman had put out a great record last year. Oh, wait, one did.

Best Urban Contemporary Album

Free 6lack, 6lack
"Awaken, My Love!," Childish Gambino
American Teen, Khalid
Ctrl, SZA
Starboy, The Weeknd

WILL WIN: "Awaken, My Love!," Childish Gambino
Grammy voters should find the retro mood of Donald Glover's funk-soul pastiche just novel enough to be notable and just familiar enough not to scare them off.


SHOULD WIN: Ctrl, SZA
Especially if she doesn't win Best New Artist. Which she won't.


ROBBED: SweetSexySavage, Kehlani
This subtle, tuneful debut was overlooked by too many listeners and critics alike.

Best Rap Album

4:44, Jay-Z
Damn., Kendrick Lamar
Culture, Migos
Laila's Wisdom, Rapsody
Flower Boy, Tyler, the Creator

WILL WIN: Damn., Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick has become the one MC every music fan must acknowledge, regardless of how rap-averse they are, and here's where that status will come into play.


SHOULD WIN: Damn., Kendrick Lamar
Duh.


ROBBED: We Got It From Here ... Thank You 4 Your Service, A Tribe Called Quest
Released in late 2016, this comeback was fiery and political at moments, wise and buoyant at others, and mature and sincere all around.

Best Country Album

Cosmic Hallelujah, Kenny Chesney
Heart Break, Lady Antebellum
The Breaker, Little Big Town
Life Changes, Thomas Rhett
From A Room: Volume 1, Chris Stapleton

WILL WIN: From A Room: Volume 1, Chris Stapleton
Stapleton's big, brawny, soulful, manly voice is everything a Grammy voter thinks country music should be.


SHOULD WIN: From A Room: Volume 1, Chris Stapleton
We guess? It's a weak crop of challengers, for sure, and he edges out a pair of likable mixed-sex groups, a typically unremarkable Chesney album, and Rhett's Life Changes, which points to a poppy post–bro country future. Can Sam Hunt release a new album already?


ROBBED: God's Problem Child, Willie Nelson
Probably not even in the top half of the countless albums he's recorded in his lifetime, and still better than anything on this list.

Best Americana Album

Southern Blood, Gregg Allman
Shine on Rainy Day, Brent Cobb
Beast Epic, Iron & Wine
The Nashville Sound, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit
Brand New Day, The Mavericks

WILL WIN: Southern Blood, Gregg Allman
A rock titan's farewell album, this is the sentimental favorite. And Grammy voters are sentimental.


SHOULD WIN: The Nashville Sound, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit

Isbell is probably the best songwriter working today, and not only does his latest album engages social and political issues without being preachy or evasive -- he's also rocking harder than ever.


ROBBED: Rule 62, Whitney Rose

If not this brilliant Canadian singer-songwriter (whose EP South Texas Suite was just as sharp as her full-length) then how about one of the dozen other brilliant women in Americana ignored this year: Angaleena Pressley? Sunny Sweeney? Rhiannon Giddens? Valerie June? All made records that top everything here but Isbell's. There are far too many boys-only lists at the Grammys this year, but this one rankles the most.

Best Alternative Music Album

Everything Now, Arcade Fire
Humanz, Gorillaz
American Dream, LCD Soundsystem
Pure Comedy, Father John Misty
Sleep Well Beast, The National

WILL WIN: Everything Now, Arcade Fire
The Canadian collective's latest was a disappointment critically and commercially, but these perennial alternative Grammy nominees are former Album of the Year winners. After a solid year of everyone asking who the fuck they were in 2012, they've got name recognition among voters.


SHOULD WIN: Sleep Well Beast, The National
Matt Berninger is a sharper lyricist than anyone else in this category (even James Murphy, especially Father John Misty) and the band continues to find new ways to expand their sound without drastically altering it.


ROBBED: City of No Reply, Amber Coffman
Another all-male category here. Yes, St. Vincent released her album after the deadline, and presumably Waxahatchee is a little too indie for the Grammy folks. So how about this smartly po-pwise album from the former Dirty Projectors singer, which got too little notice overall?