It’s the most exciting time of the year for music-industry awards watchers: Grammy season is officially here! The nominations for the 2023 Grammy Awards will be announced on Nov. 15, 2022. While the nominations in many key categories are up for grabs, and the Grammys are famously unpredictable, that’s no reason we can’t make our best guesses. Here’s what Rolling Stone staffers and music-business experts expect to see when the nominations are announced. (Note: We’ve left off artists like Silk Sonic, Drake, and the Weeknd, who have chosen not to submit their music for Grammy consideration this year.)
Album of the Year
Adele reasserted her dominion, Beyoncé made the planet her dance floor, and Rosalía created pop music without borders
Last November, after six long years, Adele finally followed up her 2015 Grammy-winning smash 25 with what will surely be another Grammy-winning smash, 30. The new album is a remarkable meditation on love, heartache, and divorce that pairs Adele’s unmatchable vocals with an equally expansive sonic palette (courtesy of longtime go-to producers like Greg Kurstin, Tobias Jesso Jr., Max Martin, and Shellback). Like her two previous albums — 25 and 2011’s 21 before it — 30 was the kind of cultural event only an artist of Adele’s stature can deliver, spending six weeks at Number One on the Billboard 200 chart and ending the year as the highest-selling album of 2021 — across all formats — according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. “Everything from airplay to streaming to all the metrics were on its side,” says Rob Kruz, program director of Hot 99.5 in Washington, D.C. “This album has just been tremendously successful for her.”
No one else can read the mood of the global room quite like Beyoncé. Six years after her landmark album Lemonade, she returned to a world in pure turmoil and offered it pure ecstasy. Renaissance — which had the biggest debut sales week of the year for a female artist — is steeped in house and disco, luxuriating in those timeless sounds and honoring their Black, brown, and queer origins while simultaneously carving out a new future for them. It’s all in service of the most noble goal: nailing the sweet spot between the “I” and “we,” finding self-love within the communal spirit of the club.
Harry Styles, Harry’s House
Harry Styles has only had a solo career for about five years, but in that time he’s established himself as the kind of artist that can keep you guessing, even as he keeps having huge pop hits. Harry’s House is the perfect example. “He’s had a couple different evolutions,” says Kruz, “and to me this is the perfect sound for him. Every song on the album is not only great music and well-produced, but also very relevant in an airplay standpoint, or applicable to different audiences, from the young to the upper end.”
Kendrick Lamar, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers
Another long-awaited return from another generation-defining talent, Kendrick Lamar’s Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers debuted at Number One this summer. An ambitious concept album that deals with the classic Kendrick theme of how to make meaningful art in a violent, racist society, Mr. Morale has classic bars to spare, along with an adventurous sonic palette filled with unexpected twists and turns. Lamar has always been unflinchingly honest, and that honesty is all over the album in a way that epitomizes the notion of a restlessly ambitious warts-and-all visionary.
Bad Bunny, Un Verano Sin Ti
By pretty much every metric, Bad Bunny’s Un Verano Sin Ti should be a shoo-in for Album of the Year. The Puerto Rican superstar’s fourth solo LP debuted at Number One on the Billboard 200 and stayed there for nine weeks; upon its release, it notched the biggest streaming week of 2022. Wendy Ong, manager and co-president of TaP Music, sums it all up: “Critics’ fave, global superstardom, and mainstream pop success! His creativity and genre bending is beyond infectious.” The only uncertainty surrounding Bad Bunny is whether the Recording Academy is ready to open up its biggest category to non-English-language music.
Another ostensible “obvious choice,” were it not for some of those bad Grammy habits. Motomami is the daring, delightful follow-up to Spanish star Rosalía’s 2018 breakthrough, El Mal Querer. The album finds Rosalía embracing the contradiction and tensions of a distinctly global sound that incorporates everything from flamenco, reggaeton, and hip-hop to bachata, salsa, and Top 40 pop. Though not exactly a certified smash — it peaked at Number 33 on the Billboard 200 and Number Three on the Top Latin Albums chart — its impact is clear and could make the album one of those surprisingly savvy Grammy picks. It’s a chance for the Recording Academy to show it’s still capable of recognizing an album that feels like the defining work of a game-changing new artist pushing music forward.
Megan Thee Stallion, Traumazine
After Megan Thee Stallion made her mark at the 2021 Grammys, winning three awards including Best New Artist, it was surprising to see her secure only one nomination the following year, with no nods for her celebrated debut, Good News. It would be even more surprising if the trailblazing Houston rapper’s latest, Traumazine, was snubbed again. Stuffed with brilliant bars, the album proves Meg can effortlessly create both pop hits and club staples like few artists out there, and it also reaffirms her status as a dexterous wordsmith capable of pulling off an honest, earnest confessional. “Megan Thee Stallion and what she has accomplished the last few years is just a primer of the things to come in hip-hop,” Giberga says. “She is at the forefront of these exciting times.”
Blackpink, Born Pink
The Grammys have an unfortunate history of ignoring Korean superstars — BTS were completely shut out of the 2020 nominations — so it wouldn’t be a total surprise if Blackpink were also overlooked. But they’d make history if they secured a nomination, just as they did when they became the first female Korean act to top the Billboard 200. As Alex Tear, Sirius’ vice president of pop programming says, “‘Pink Venom’ went straight into our bloodstream.”
Who Will Win: Adele
With 30 and Renaissance, the 2023 Grammys are poised to be an intriguing redux of 2017, when Adele’s 25 beat Beyoncé’s Lemonade for Album of the Year. So who will take the top honors this tiem? Well, Adele has won all 13 Grammys she’s been nominated for since 2012. And while Beyoncé is the most decorated female artist in Grammy history, she’s only won a major category once (Song of the Year for “Single Ladies”). Every now and then, the Grammys shock us and pull off a surprise. We’re pulling for another thrilling upset in 2023, but we’re not holding our breath.
Who Should Win: Beyoncé
There’s no reason why 2023 shouldn’t be Beyoncé’s year at the Grammys, especially considering 2015 and 2017 should have also been her years. She is long overdue for an Album of the Year award, and her winning one this year would be a little like when Martin Scorsese won a Best Picture Oscar in 2007 for The Departed. That’s not to say Renaissance doesn’t deserve the trophy on its own merits. Few records in recent memory deliver such needed dance-floor catharsis the way Beyoncé does on her seventh album, bringing Black and queer culture into the mainstream like no one else can. Giberga sums it up succinctly: “Renaissance is a tremendous body of work. Beyoncé has delivered hits and unpredictable, genre-bending brilliance.” —Jon Blistein and Angie Martoccio
Record of the Year
Taylor’s 10-minute masterpiece will battle it out with hits from Beyoncé, Harry Styles, and Adele, we predict
Adele, “Easy on Me”
Before “Easy on Me” hit in October 2021, there were plenty of reasons to wonder if Adele could summon the magic of her earlier classic hits. After all, it had been six long years since her last album, 2015’s 25. But when “Easy on Me” arrived, it erased all doubts about her queen status. The sparse-yet-soaring piano ballad was streamed 24 million times in its first day, beating the world record BTS had set with “Butter,” and it was on top of Billboard’s Hot 100 for 10 weeks. Fifteen years into her career, at a time when most pop stars are content to coast on past glories, Adele was still just getting started.
Beyoncé, “Break My Soul”
Beyoncé dropped “Break My Soul” on June 20, winning 2022’s Song of the Summer sweepstakes before spring was even over. Built around samples from Robin S.’s 1990s house classic “Show Me Love” and Big Freedia’s 2014 bounce jam “Explode,” the song topped charts all across the globe and became Bey’s first solo Number One single since “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” way back in 2008. “It has a throwback dance vibe to it,” says Rob Kruz, the program director of Washington, D.C.’s Hot 99.5. “It’s almost a return to that dance place where she started.”
Stephanie Beatriz and the Cast of Encanto, “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”
If “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from the Encanto soundtrack wins Song of the Year, writer Lin-Manuel Miranda will accept the award. But the Grammys are also likely to recognize the work of singer Stephanie Beatriz and the cast of Encanto by nominating them for Record of the Year. It’s the first Disney song since Aladdin’s “A Whole New World” to top the charts, introducing people all around the globe to the magic of Colombian music. “I really love that it’s not reggaeton,” Beatriz said. “This is so much more. This is salsa music. This is cha-cha-chá. This is different rhythms, and then with this amazing mix that Lin-Manuel Miranda does with this hip-hop vibes … it’s such a huge song.”
Harry Styles, “As It Was”
Styles has been a star since One Direction hit a decade ago, but he shifted his career into another gear this year with the Eighties synth-pop throwback “As It Was.” Like Styles’ Seventies-steeped hit “Watermelon Sugar,” it showcased his knack for making vintage sounds hit home with Gen Z pop fans. “He now has an extremely wide demo,” says Kruz. “And ‘As It Was’ is one of the most well-constructed pop songs in recent memory. It can fit next to most any song on the radio. That’s something really special.”
Taylor Swift, “All Too Well (Taylor’s Version)”
Swift released seven singles from her 2012 album, Red — nearly half of the album — and amazingly, “All Too Well” was not one of them. But hardcore fans fixated on this gut-wrenching breakup song, which contains some of the most vivid writing of Swift’s career. Over the years, rumors of a lost 10-minute take of “All Too Well” grew into Swiftian legend. She finally unveiled that version last year — along with an Oscar-worthy short film starring Sadie Sink and Dylan O’Brien — when she rerecorded Red as part of her Taylor’s Version campaign. It was worth the wait. At double the length of the original, the song piled up even more indelibly sad memories, like the time her ex (who is almost certainly Jake Gyllenhaal) failed to show up at her 21st-birthday party. A 10-year-old song winning Record of the Year would be without any real Grammy precedent, but if anyone can pull off such a feat, it’s Swift.
Doja Cat, “Woman”
Doja Cat has landed a lot of songs in the Top 10 over the past couple of years, but none of them connected quite like “Woman.” The Afrobeats-tinged song — which references everyone from Rihanna to Regina George from Mean Girls and rips into a society that makes women compete against one another — slowly rose through the charts for months and months before finally reaching the Top 10. It was the sort of song that connected to people across all demographics and solidified Doja as a major force in the pop universe. “‘Woman’ cuts through the speakers,” says Cruz. “And it’s really made her a household name.”
Lizzo, “About Damn Time”
Built around an interpolation of the 1984 classic “Hey DJ,” by the World’s Famous Supreme Team, Lizzo’s “About Damn Time” was the public’s first look at her fourth LP, Special. The disco-infused tune, in which Lizzo declares “it’s bad bitch o’clock,” inspired a TikTok dance craze and shot to Number One on the Hot 100. All these months later, it’s still in heavy rotation on Top 40 radio. “It just puts a smile on your face,” says Kruz. “There’s no conversation about song of the summer where you don’t talk about this song.”
Dove Cameron, “Boyfriend”
Up until this year, Cameron’s fame was largely confined to young fans of her Disney Channel show, Liv and Maddie, and the three Descendants movies she has starred in. But the 26-year-old actress-singer finally crossed over into the adult marketplace this year with “Boyfriend,” a very un-Disney song in which she tries to convince a woman to fixate on her instead of a man. The song was rushed out as a single last February — ahead of her as-yet-unfinished debut album — and it eventually reached Number 16 on the Hot 100. “This one hit our audience in a pretty bold way,” explains Kruz. “It broke her to a really wide, wide audience.”
Who Will Win: Adele
“Easy on Me” arrived way back in October 2021, right after the Grammy-eligibility window opened up for this year, but there’s little reason to think that’ll work against it. Adele’s three previous albums racked up a combined 15 Grammys. In 2016, the last time she released music that was eligible, Adele walked away with Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Album of the Year. She may not quite pull that out this time, considering she’s facing off against Beyoncé, but “Easy on Me” is poised to at least win Record of the Year. Even among Adele’s many hits, it stands out in its stark majesty and searingly personal intensity. Inspired by her attempt to save her failing marriage, it’s another landmark example of Adele turning her own pain into classic pop.
Who Should Win: Taylor Swift
Swift is pressing the Oscars to nominate “All Too Well” in the Best Short Film category, but we’d be just as happy to see it take home Record of the Year. That’s because the 10-minute “All Too Well” became so much more to fans than a peek into Taylor’s bad breakup with a movie star. This epic song’s lyrical detail and the jaw-dropping intensity of Swift’s delivery make it arguably her greatest songwriting triumph. Jake Gyllenhaal said in a recent interview that he hasn’t even heard “All Too Well,” claiming that “it has nothing to do with me.” He’s right. The song isn’t about him, or any boy — it’s about one woman’s genius at turning her memories into a powerful piece of music that will endure long after yesterday’s tired gossip fades. —Andy Greene
Song of the Year
Top 40 superstars and bold innovators face off in the Big Four category that recognizes great songwriting
Adele, “Easy on Me”
The record to contend with in this category is an obvious one: perennial Grammy favorite Adele’s comeback single, co-written by her and Greg Kurstin, after a four-plus-year absence from the charts. “It would be hard to imagine a category without Adele and ‘Easy on Me’ in it,” says Hot 99.5’s Rob Kruz, who notes that the song did even bigger numbers than her last lead single, “Hello.”
Harry Styles, “As It Was”
Written with producer Kid Harpoon and longtime collaborator Tyler Johnson, Styles’ arguably biggest solo hit to date is a sure lock in this category, which recognizes songwriters. “I would be shocked if we didn’t see some kind of nomination for this song,” says Kruz. Like Adele’s smash, it’s near impossible to imagine this song not earning both Record and Song of the Year nods.
Lizzo, “About Damn Time”
After earning eight Grammy nominations for her major-label debut, Cuz I Love You, there’s every reason to believe that the well-crafted pop on her second major-label LP will be well represented at this year’s awards. “About Damn Time,” with its eight credited songwriters, has not only become one of the singer’s biggest hits to date, but it’s still fresh in the ears of Grammy voters.
Kendrick Lamar, “N95”
The lead single off Lamar’s ambitious Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers hit Number Three on the singles charts and took off on streaming platforms. The song has “penetrated the popular sphere” despite not taking off on radio, says Kruz, which makes it only a mildly left-field choice, and Lamar’s rep as a rap standard-bearer should push this song into the nomination pool.
Jack Harlow, “First Class”
Harlow’s blockbuster hit has been so ubiquitous the past few months that it may earn him his first solo Big Four nomination. “It just impacted immediately,” Kruz says of the song, with its 14 credited writers (including Fergie). Throw in the Grammys’ love for white rappers and “First Class” is a strong contender.
Beyoncé, “Break My Soul”
Beyoncé’s return to the dance floor gave the singer her first Number One as a lead artist in 14 years. Bey hardly needs that type of Top 40 saturation to catch voters’ ears, but it can’t hurt. Bonus: A nomination in this category would reward the songwriters of Robin S.’ “Show Me Love” and give Big Freedia an overdue first-ever Grammy nod.
Bad Bunny, “Tití Me Preguntó”
The Grammys can no longer ignore one of the most streamed artists in the world. (Bad Bunny’s only Big Four nomination thus far is as a featured artist on Cardi B’s “I Like It.”) This Top Five pop hit, written solely by San Benito himself, is a strong candidate for a Song of the Year nomination.
Megan Thee Stallion and Dua Lipa, “Sweetest Pie”
This tag team from two recent Best New Artists (Megan in 2021, Dua in 2019) has high Grammy blockbuster potential. The only question is whether the song — a major crossover moment for Megan — will be relegated to a pop or rap genre category, or makes the cut for a major nomination like this one.
Who Will Win: Adele
Given her unbeatable Grammy track record, there’s no reason to think Adele won’t win several of the Big Four categories, as she’s done with her past two studio albums. “It was hard to imagine her doing anything to top ‘Hello,’ ” says Kruz. “But this song has just built and built and built.”
Who Should Win: Bad Bunny
One of several of Bad Bunny’s blockbusters this year, this scorching tune became his signature hit when he performed it for the VMAs at Yankee Stadium in August. No artist has won Song of the Year with a non-English song since the very first Grammys in 1959 (“Volare,” by Italian crooner Domenico Modugno); it’s time for that to change. —Jonathan Bernstein
Best New Artist
Some blew up on TikTok, some took the more traditional radio route — they’re all moving music forward
Over the past couple of years, the Recording Academy has not shied away from recognizing that TikTok vitality can be an important meter of success and acclaim. Gayle’s ability to release a first single, the sassy kiss-off “ABCDEFU,” that morphed from heavy TikTok usage to bona fide pop success, was extraordinary. Since blowing up, the song has been streamed nearly a billion times, and her debut EP, A Study of the Human Experience Volume One, also cracked the Top 200.
Latto has had an exciting and surprising 2022. The Atlanta-raised rap star had been struggling to carve out a name for herself over the past few years, until she broke through with her sophomore album, 777. The LP’s lead single, “Big Energy,” quickly became a massive moment this past spring, thanks to its familiar sample of Tom Tom Club’s “Genius of Love.” A remix co-sign from Mariah Carey (who previously sampled the same track on “Fantasy”) helped give “Big Energy” — and Latto — an even bigger spike.
After appearing on Wizkid’s hit “Essence” in 2020, Nigerian pop artist Tems has been on a fast track to superstardom (as well as her first Grammy nomination). Since the success of “Essence,” she’s had another massive hit with the Drake and Future collaboration “Wait for U,” an appearance on Beyoncé’s critically acclaimed Renaissance (alongside Grace Jones, no less), praise from Adele, and her own great EP, If Orange Was a Place. The singer-songwriter has seen herself successfully break out from the shadow of “Essence” and become a budding global star in her own right, much like some of her biggest, most vocal fans.
The Kentucky rapper is in a tricky position and could start a few big arguments in the Recording Academy over his eligibility this year. The latest requirements for Best New Artist are the loosest they’ve ever been: You can have previous nominations, but there also needs to be a clear case that the year you’re nominated has been the year of your breakthrough into public consciousness. Harlow got his first three Grammy nominations last year, with his single “Whats Poppin” and his appearance on Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby,” but his sophomore LP, Come Home the Kids Miss You, and Fergie-sampling single “First Class” make the case for this being his true breakthrough year. He could easily be primed for Grammy-darling status, thanks to the high likelihood of his appearance in other major categories.
No band has been buzzier this year than Wet Leg. The British duo quickly gained traction with their fun and fuzzy debut single, “Chaise Lounge,” last year and have only become more prominent in 2022, with the viral success of their frothy hit “Wet Dream” and their self-titled debut album, which topped the U.K. charts. They got a major co-sign from top Album of the Year contender Harry Styles, who covered “Wet Dream” and asked them to tour with him in 2023.
Singer-songwriter Tate McRae made a huge splash with her debut album, I Used to Think I Could Fly. Featuring a host of Grammy-beloved songwriters and producers like Greg Kurstin, Charlie Puth, and Finneas, McRae cracked the Top 20 on her first go and gathered a lot of critical acclaim along the way.
The Oklahoma-bred country artist could nab a spot this year thanks to his major-label debut, American Heartbreak. He was a star from the jump, gaining country’s biggest debut week of 2022 with the triple album. He had further success a couple of months later, with the EP Summertime Blues, cementing him as the biggest newcomer in the genre this year.
Thanks to TikTok and her debut mixtape, To Hell With It, PinkPantheress is pop’s newest arty dark horse. Her tracks — which are steeped in U.K. dance styles like garage and drum-and-bass — were as notable for their catchiness as for their very short lengths. Since then, she’s opened for Halsey and collaborated with Willow, Mura Masa, and Lil Uzi Vert. Her debut album is on its way.
Who Will Win: Tems
Tuma Basa, YouTube’s director of Black Music & Culture, notes that a fruitful relationship between Tems and the Recording Academy is bound to happen sooner or later: “Tems is going to be a Grammy darling at one point,” he says. “Whether it’s this year or next year. But you can already tell she’s going to get there.”
Who Should Win: Tems
Tems has some of the biggest names in music (and Grammy history) backing her, and for good reason. She’s clearly the most likely to continue being on the stage year after year, thanks to her smart selection of collaborators, global sound, and ineffable ability to create music history so early in her career. —Brittany Spanos
Best Rap Album
It was a big year for long-standing superstars and veterans like Pusha T and Future, who deserve some Grammy love
Kendrick Lamar, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers
Wrestling with abuse, gender, celebrity, and personal demons, Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers is Lamar’s most divisive album to date. His confessions and observations are weighty and often uncomfortable (like “Auntie Diaries,” his touchy reflection on life with trans relatives). Yet, as with everything the Pulitzer Prize winner does, his work here is compelling. “What he dropped is so sophisticated,” says YouTube’s Director of Black Music & Culture Tuma Basa. “It’s literature.”
Pusha T, It’s Almost Dry
Two decades after he made his debut on Clipse’s Lord Willin’, Pusha T landed his first chart-topping album with It’s Almost Dry. Aptly calling himself “Cocaine’s Dr. Seuss,” Pusha paints a vivid picture of a drug kingpin’s life with wordplay that’s at once effortless and dense with allusions, imagery, slick humor, and shit talking. The album’s producers serve as master co-conspirators behind the boards, creating a sound that straddles modern hip-hop and classic grit.
Future, I Never Liked You
Future’s otherworldly quaver has been an influential hip-hop fixture for years, and the Atlanta rapper’s latest album, I Never Liked You, is one of his most successful to date, spawning a serious contender for Song of the Year with “Wait for U,” which features Drake and Tems. It’s the centerpiece of an album that mixes Future’s characteristic player pomp with a more sensitive fare. He’s been nominated four times before (all for his work with other artists), but this could be the year he gets his due.
Vince Staples, Ramona Park Broke My Heart
Vince Staples has reliably been one of the most intriguing rappers on wax since delivering his debut album, Summertime ‘06, in 2015. His five critically acclaimed albums are vividly diverse, yet share thematic throughlines informed by the harsh realities of his native Long Beach, California. His latest effort is brilliant, subtle, and succinct as it pans around gang life and its complex reach. Staples has said that Ramona Park, named for his LBC neighborhood, may be the last work anthologizing his past life there. A Grammy nod would be a deserved bookend.
Jack Harlow, Come Home the Kids Miss You
Harlow built his success on pop-star appeal rather than undeniable rap talent, but his chart-topping charisma will likely be enough for him to clinch another Grammy nomination (“What’s Poppin” earned a nod for Best Rap Performance at the 2021 awards, and he got two more for his appearance on Lil Nas X’s “Industry Baby”). Come Home the Kids Miss You was one of the year’s biggest releases, hosting a major collaboration with Drake and the TikTok smash turned chart-topper turned MTV Video Music Awards’ Song of the Summer, “First Class.”
Who Will Win: Kendrick Lamar
In 2014, the Grammys made one of their worst screw-ups ever when they awarded Macklemore the Best Rap Album over Lamar’s cinematic opus good kid, m.A.A.d city. The academy righted that wrong by giving the award to Kendrick’s two subsequent albums, 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly and 2017’s DAMN., meaning he hasn’t lost in this category since. It’s hard to believe this will be the year he does, especially since Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers is the kind of ultra-ambitious work Grammy voters love to celebrate. His well-earned — not to mention historic — AOTY three-peat is pretty much in the bank.
Who Should Win: Pusha T
At a concert this spring, Pusha T confidently asserted that It’s Almost Dry was “the rap album of the motherfucking year.” It would be nice if Grammy voters agreed with his assessment. His fourth solo effort is, in fact, a master class in committing to a bit, as he dives deep into his role as rap’s cocaine king with stories, flows, and sounds that feel both innovative and classic, both grave and joyous. “[It] has a long shelf life,” Basa says, praising its timelessness. “It’s not dated in terms of jumping on trends.” Still, it feels unlikely that It’s Almost Dry will take home the gold, and even Pusha seems to know it: On the It’s Almost Dry standout “Dreamin of the Past,” he raps, perhaps prophetically, “Award shows are the only way bitches can rob me.” —Mankaprr Conteh
Best Rap Song
In a stacked field, a rising Brooklyn drill rapper and a hot new Atlanta star will go up against veteran hip-hop heroes
Latto feat. Mariah Carey and DJ Khaled, “Big Energy (Remix)”
An indelible staple at Planet Fitnesses all over, Latto’s “Big Energy” is a certified bop — enhanced by a playful repurposing of Tom Tom Club’s Eighties dance classic (and early hip-hop keystone) “Genius of Love” — that dominated both the treadmill and the turn-up, peaking at Number One on Billboard’s Top 40 chart. On this seductive remix, the Georgia rapper links up with Carey, who sampled the very same song on her 1995 smash, “Fantasy.”
Pusha T feat. Jay-Z and Pharrell Williams, “Neck & Wrist”
We’ve always known Pusha T can string together endlessly brilliant verses, but this glorious high point from his career pinnacle It’s Almost Dry proves how good he can be when he turns his intentions toward infectious bops. Featuring a coveted Jay-Z verse and a catchy Pharrell hook, “Neck & Wrist” delivers pop thrills along with the Byzantine bars that make Pusha a legend. “The money counter ding is so exciting/Summertime, Winterfell, I’m the Night King,” he raps on the song. Watching his throne is one of hip-hop’s true pleasures.
Fivio Foreign feat. Ye and Alicia Keys, “City of Gods”
“City of Gods” is a legit drill song driven by a soaring hook worthy of Rodgers and Hammerstein. The single, which peaked at Number 15 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart, hijacked the whole year. Its rugged charm is owed to Fivio Foreign’s exuberant energy, which he conveys through his enthusiastic bars. His bold introduction, “This my shit, welcome to the city of gods,” is dripping with hometown pride that, nevertheless, makes you want to conquer the world.
Kendrick Lamar, “N95”
Lamar brilliantly unpacks the phrase “we outside” with the explosive “N95,” the standout single from his ambitious album Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers. All of the past two years’ worth of pandemic-saturated boredom and paranoia seems to be synthesized into this subversive smash. Lamar cleverly instructs us to shed all the ego-feeding, high-priced accoutrements we sometimes rely on — but he does it over buzzing bass and crystalline piano enticing enough to make Instagram models mouth the song’s lyrics. It’s more proof that he’s a master at making challenging material go down extra smooth.
Cardi B feat. Ye and Lil Durk, “Hot Shit”
Cardi B’s “Hot Shit” is like the aural equivalent of a pint of Carolina Reaper. Her blistering single, which peaked at Number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, is fueled by a frenetic trap tempo, and Cardi sounds winningly hood when she brags, “I might get in the tub with all my ice on some Pac shit,” as if she were confessing that she was about to take a dish-soap bubble bath. Everything we love about Cardi — from the whimsical one-liners to the brash enunciation — is present on this streets-approved scorcher.
Who Will Win: Kendrick Lamar
“N95” represents one of those rare moments in which one of the greatest artists of his generation blesses us with a brilliant song that makes us dance, even as it makes us think about the world we live in. Lamar takes on a huge responsibility in speaking about the pandemic, which remains an unfortunate reality potentially affecting us all. It’s a testament to the song’s pervasive power that it’s also a bona fide banger. Rob Kenner, a former voting member for past Grammys ceremonies, thinks that “N95” possesses undeniable appeal. “It’s thought-provoking bars,” he says. “Insightful, funky hip-hop.”
Who Should Win: Kendrick Lamar
“N95” is a chart topper from a critically lauded Pulitzer Prize winner. Not to mention that after a decade in, Lamar is well into the “legacy” phase of his career. And that’s a milestone that the academy has acknowledged by awarding him with wins in this category going back to 2015’s “i.” But “N95” is so astute and relatable that it would be difficult to rationalize why it wouldn’t win this time. “You can go as deep into this shit as you wanna go,” says Kenner, speaking of the absorbing allure of “N95.” “At the same time, it’s not pretentious or phony — it’s connected to real life.” —Will Dukes
Best R&B Album
The category is full of adventurous, deeply satisfying efforts — but we predict that Summer Walker’s breakup opus is the one to beat
Brent Faiyaz, Wasteland
Fans who mobbed for a glimpse of Faiyaz in Atlanta, New York, and London can attest to how hotly anticipated the Sonder singer’s second studio album was. In turn, the album has made a long-term home on the Billboard 200, where it debuted at Number Two. Faiyaz has just one Grammy nod to his name, for his appearance on rapper Goldlink’s “Crew.” This should be the year he gets some solo recognition.
Lucky Daye, Candydrip
The Grammys have shown Daye love since the singer released his debut, Painted, more than three years ago; he’s earned six nominations and one win across the R&B categories. “Lucky Daye is a musician’s musician, and I feel like we need more of them back in the mainstream,” says Tatiana “Yan” Snead, Pandora’s music-programming coordinator for R&B. “The vocals and the top line and the stacking and just the vocal ability — it’s very reminiscent of classic R&B that we grew up on.” Candydrip is lush and bouncy, as fun as it is sexy, turned up with a slight hip-hop edge, thanks to rappers Lil Durk and Smino contributing slick verses (and Daye spitting a bit as well).
Summer Walker, Still Over It
Walker’s second album chronicles a devastating breakup with clarity and without melodrama, an impressive feat given that much of the album seems to reflect her rocky relationship with London on Da Track, a credited producer on nearly half of it. Some moments are heart-wrenching; others are shocking, like the lay-him-out confessional “4th Baby Mama.” Walker communicates a messy heartbreak with true vulnerability and tickling vulgarity, in a similar vein as Jazmine Sullivan’s Heaux Tales, a wide-ranging EP about sex and love that won the Best R&B Album last year.
Giveon, Give or Take
Giveon is another budding Grammy darling, earning a nomination in this category for his debut EP, Take Time, in 2021, among other nods. “His voice sounds like an instrument, like a saxophone almost,” says Snead. On his debut studio album, Give or Take, Giveon successfully contorts it around new sounds to lovely effect. “He’s trying different production styles,” Snead praises. “He has classic R&B on here, he has ballads on here, and then he has trap soul on here. It’s a nice, healthy balance of a bunch of different kinds of R&B while still staying very authentic to his sound.”
Ella Mai, Heart on My Sleeve
Mai took home the Best R&B Song trophy in 2019 for “Boo’d Up,” an inescapable hit that drew eyes and accolades to her self-titled debut. The success of this year’s follow-up, Heart on My Sleeve, feels a little more subtle in comparison, but Mai’s second album deftly navigates the thrills and pitfalls of love with texture and surprise. The singer’s brisk croon slides on top of sexy slow jams and uptempo bops, overseen by hip-hop producer Mustard and complemented by refreshing guests like Kirk Franklin and Latto — a recipe that could easily add up to another nomination for the 27-year-old London native.
Who Will Win: Summer Walker
There are few women as powerful and beloved in contemporary R&B as Walker. As one of the most earnest singers out there, she’s made her mark being true to herself, from social media to her songwriting. There also isn’t an album with as much anticipation and lore in this category as Still Over It, whose pre-release track list alone generated tons of buzz.
Who Should Win: Summer Walker
Walker’s star power is undeniable; Still Over It, her sophomore album, cemented it. A cultural and critical success, the LP has remained on the Billboard 200 since debuting at Number One last November, and it had the biggest streaming week of all time for an R&B album by a woman, besting a record set by none other than Beyoncé (with Lemonade). Still Over It earned a place on at least a dozen lists of the best albums of 2021, including Rolling Stone’s, and it deserves to take home the gold in this category. —Mankaprr Conteh
Best Música Urbana Album
Bad Bunny’s record-breaking ode to summer looks like the favorite, but he’ll have to beat out a legend taking his final bow
Bad Bunny, Un Verano Sin Ti
Bad Bunny channeled all the warmth of a tropical vacation onto the sprawling, 23-track album Un Verano Sin Ti, which was full of dazzling collaborations with unexpected indie stars such as Bomba Estéreo, the Marías, and others. But even with its breezy, laid-back undertones, the LP made history, becoming the album that spent the most time atop the Billboard 200 this year. It also helped Bad Bunny clinch a few big milestones, including sold-out shows at Yankee Stadium and a VMA for Artist of the Year.
Daddy Yankee, Legendaddy
After three decades in the industry, Puerto Rican icon Daddy Yankee announced his retirement this year. But he still had one big swing left in him: In March, he released his final album, Legendaddy, packed with the charged sounds he’s made his signature. Meanwhile, collaborations with Bad Bunny, Rauw Alejandro, and others showed off fresh talent in the genre he helped build. “It’s a true goodbye gift for reggaeton fans,” says Maykol Sanchez, Spotify’s head of artist and label partnerships, Latin America and U.S. Latin.
Trueno, Bien o Mal
The Argentine rapper is barely 20 years old, yet he delivered one of the most mature rap en español albums this year with Bien o Mal. The artist, who developed his skills in Buenos Aires’ raucous freestyle battles, maintains a sense of spontaneity on songs such as “Hoop Hoop,” featuring his dad, the rapper Pedro Peligro. But Trueno also looks back at deep-rooted Latin American traditions and history: “Tierra Zanta” is a highlight that mixes Trueno’s sharp verses with samples of the folk singer Victor Heredia and the late rock en español luminary Gustavo Cerati.
Lots of reggaeton acts embraced electronic sounds in 2022, but no one served those up quite like Mora on Microdosis. The Puerto Rican multi-hyphenate, known for production credits on Bad Bunny’s YHLQMDLG and El Último Tour del Mundo, pushed himself to a new level on his sophomore album. He experimented freely, offering tracks such as the woozy breakup ballad “Tus Lagrimas.” “This album is full of lyrics and sounds that speak to the mind of an all-new generation of reggaeton fans,” Sanchez says.
Anuel AA, Las Leyendas Nunca Mueren
Though it was released toward the end of the previous year, Anuel AA’s victorious album Las Leyendas Nunca Mueren reminded people that the Puerto Rican rapper is one of the most skilled spitters in the game. He drew inspiration from sports legends such as Michael Jordan, Conor McGregor, Kobe Bryant, and Floyd Mayweather as he laid out bold, blustery rhymes with ease, a callback to his Latin-trap days. “It’s a very triumphant album, especially if you think about a song like ‘McGregor,’” says Jesús Triviño Alarcón, senior director of global Latin culture and content at Tidal. “At the end of the day, it’s raw and uncut hip-hop.”
Who Will Win: Bad Bunny
We’re living in Bad Bunny’s world. The record-breaking artist delivered a historic album that was among the most important across the pop stratosphere. “I don’t think there is an album out there with so many cultural references and Easter eggs,” Sanchez says. Given what a huge year Bad Bunny had, it’ll be a shock if anyone else takes this category.
Who Should Win: Daddy Yankee
This might be Daddy Yankee’s last chance to snag a Grammy. He’s been nominated four times but has never won, and Legendaddy is a final curtain call worthy of the genre’s biggest award. The album is tightly produced, featuring production mavericks such as Play-N-Skills, Tainy, Luny, Dimelo Flow, and others. Still, if the Grammy ends up going to Bad Bunny, it’ll be a deserved win for an artist who stayed at the top of his game in 2022. —Julyssa Lopez
Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album
Artists representing a wide range of sounds could be contenders here, but Rosalía is a clear favorite
Silvana Estrada, Marchita
Mexican singer-songwriter Estrada grew up watching her parents make instruments in their workshop in Veracruz, and her debut album, Marchita, has a gorgeous, handmade quality that reflects her childhood. Minimal production emphasizes her piercing voice and mature lyricism about love and heartbreak. “Tristeza,” for example, is a song so fragile it sounds like it could break at any second. And while the 25-year-old draws from Mexican folk traditions such as huapango and son jarocho, she also mixes in her deep training in jazz and baroque choir music.
Jorge Drexler, Tinta y Tiempo
The strains and isolation of the pandemic almost kept Uruguayan singer-songwriter Drexler from finishing his lush album Tinta y Tiempo. Luckily, Drexler completed the project by adding ornate arrangements: “I said, ‘Screw it. I want to make something with all the instruments in the world,’” he tells Rolling Stone. Collaborations with Ruben Blades, C. Tangana, and Noga Erez add to the joyous spirit of the album, an impressive one for Drexler, who’s been nominated for five Grammys.
The prismatic, boundless sounds on Motomami elude categorization, but the album is definitely a contender for the Best Latin Rock or Alternative Album award. The category is, after all, one Rosalía took in 2020 with her impressive sophomore effort, El Mal Querer. For Motomami, she dove deeper into unexpected fusions and experimental production, merging salsa, reggaeton, bachata, and more into one stunning and solidly produced collection of songs. “It starts with a complete KO,” says Tidal’s Jesus Triviño Alarcón. “And it continues to wallop you with hit after hit.”
El Mató a un Policía Motorizado, Unas Vacaciones Raras
The members of the Argentinean rock band El Mató a un Policía Motorizado teamed up in high school. But despite decades spent together, they found a way to recharge their sound on Unas Vacaciones Raras. The project actually started with a prompt from Netflix: The streaming service decided to relaunch a famed Argentinean series from the 2000s called Okupas, and asked the band to create the soundtrack. As the group worked on new music, it revisited some of its classics and came up with brand-new songs. “These gave us that essence we know from the band, but with some new flair,” Spotify’s Maykol Sanchez says.
Pehuenche, Vida Ventura
On his surprising debut album, Vida Ventura, the Veracruz-born artist Pehuenche looks to the past to build a dreamy future. A slightly retro quality in his voice, and a knack for finding inspiration in boleros and romantic balladry, give the music a warm, nostalgic feeling. Still, his ear for contemporary pop comes through loud and clear on songs such as “Dos Amantes” and “Brillando,” which show exactly why he’s become an alt-pop favorite. “His voice, the backdrops he finds, they’re very magical,” Triviño Alarcón says. “It really takes you away from the norm and lets you enter your own personal utopia, whatever that may be.”
Who Will Win: Rosalía
This category has always been a tough one, mostly because of how broad it is. Triviño Alarcón says Pehuenche could win, while Sanchez sees El Mató a un Policía Motorizado as a major contender. Drexler’s album is also one of the most beautifully composed in the Latin-music industry this year. But Rosalía demanded attention with Motomami, and she got it. If she were to take this category for the second time, it would be a deserved win.
Who Should Win: Rosalía
Rosalía has won respect from critics and music nerds for her futuristic production and incredible vocal performances. The category titles here are bound to stir up feelings: Many have pointed out that Rosalía is a Spanish artist who wins “Latin” awards. But that’s not likely to deter voters. “She’s another one who, like Bad Bunny, has come into her own,” Triviño Alarcón says. —Julyssa Lopez
Best Pop Vocal Album
Four of pop’s biggest stars will battle it out with a Spanish artist who made the year’s most delightfully eccentric album, we predict
Taylor Swift, Red (Taylor’s Version)
Swift’s rerecording of her fourth album made the eligibility cut by a month, meaning the 30-track LP — containing the previously unheard and long-rumored 10-minute “All Too Well” and deep cuts like “I Bet You Think About Me” and “Message in a Bottle” — could win, despite the songs being a decade old. And winning could vindicate the Swifties, who have always believed Red deserved to win Album of the Year over Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories back in 2014.
With 18 nominations and 15 wins, the Grammys have always gone easy on Adele. It’s a safe bet that the heart-wrenching, explosive 30 will earn a few nominations, and if it wins Album of the Year, Adele will become just the second female artist (behind Swift) to win that category three times. And if it doesn’t, winning Best Pop Album wouldn’t be so bad, either — especially in a field like this.
Rosalía has two nominations under her belt: Best New Artist and Best Latin Rock, Urban, or Alternative Album, for which 2018’s El Mal Querer won. From “La Fama,” with the Weeknd, to the delicate melodies on “Hentai,” the excellent Motomami could be the Spanish star’s breakthrough into pop.
Harry Styles, Harry’s House
2019’s Fine Line received a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album, but the glitzy pop bulldozer that is Harry’s House is likely to have a bigger impact. All 13 tracks charted on the Billboard 100, and nearly half of them were in regular rotation on Sirius XM’s Hits One. “Harry Styles is royalty,” says Alex Tear, Sirius’ vice president of pop programming. “It’s almost as if we could play all Harry all the time — he’s been part of our DNA for so long.”
The superstar waited six years to properly follow up Lemonade, and it proved worth the wait: The joyous, dazzling juggernaut was Beyoncé’s seventh album to debut atop the Billboard 200. It’s likely to secure several nominations and that Best Pop Vocal Album will be one of them.
Who Will Win: Beyoncé
Beyoncé has been winning Grammys for more than two decades, and it’s hard to imagine anyone in the pop category beating Renaissance this year. “Beyoncé came back and turned heads on the pop scene,” says Tear, who thinks either she or Styles will take home the statue in this category. “It’s really hard to be predictable. This is a horse race.”
Who Should Win: Rosalía
Motomami is a thrilling work of art, and that’s not just because there’s a song called “Chicken Teriyaki” on it. The delightfully avant-garde record fuses flamenco and reggaeton with tinges of indie rock, crossing over into the mainstream as more Americans latch onto Spanish-language music. Unfortunately, being up against Grammy heavyweights like Adele and Beyoncé will make it nearly impossible for Rosalía to win — at least for now. “Rosalía is somebody [who] keeps pushing through the pop side, bubbling in the Hits One world,” Tear says. “Like everyone else, [I’m]really excited to watch her continue to grow into mass popularity.” —Angie Martoccio
Best Pop Solo Performance
Adele has won this category three times. Will the academy be able to resist her in 2023? (Probably not)
Adele, “Easy on Me”
After a six-year hiatus, Adele returned to music with 30, a wine-soaked, post-divorce album brimming with meditations on self-love, motherhood, and steamy late-night encounters. Ahead of the album’s release, she shared “Easy on Me,” a stirring ballad about the pain of ending her marriage that flaunted her familiar, raspy belt. The song, which broke Spotify records the day it came out, was co-written and produced by the singer’s 25 collaborator Greg Kurstin, who also worked with her on the hit “Hello.”
Beyoncé, “Break My Soul”
Beyoncé nearly broke the internet (again) when Renaissance dropped, and the first single, “Break My Soul,” showed exactly how she was paying homage to Black queer joy and ballroom culture on the album. The track is an explosive, bounce-tinged house anthem that features New Orleans icon Big Freedia, and captures the escapism of a sweaty dance floor. Quickly, it became the song of the summer and fit in seamlessly with the rest of her excellent LP, which spans Eighties disco, dancehall, and dance pop.
Harry Styles, “As It Was”
On his most radio-friendly album, Harry’s House, Styles drew inspiration from Japanese musician Haruomi Hosono’s 1970s record Hosono’s House, creating an introspective pop opus centered on romance and self-examination. Styles pushed himself vocally, keeping his voice feather-light on the standout smash “As It Was,” which evokes the effervescent Eighties pop of A-ha. The song, written alongside his frequent collaborators Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson, was a major hit that spent 15 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100.
Taylor Swift, “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)”
Red (Taylor’s Version) has been Swift’s most enthralling rerecording yet, and it just so happens that — after some debate — it’s actually eligible for Grammy consideration. That means the 10-minute masterwork could be a serious contender here, and for good reason: It’s a heart-wrenching expansion of one of Swift’s most emotional songs ever, and it continues to show off her deeply intimate, confessional lyricism.
Lizzo, “About Damn Time”
The bubbly single “About Damn Time” was the very last song Lizzo recorded for Special, her bright follow-up to 2019’s Cuz I Love You, but it set the tone for a glossy project that flawlessly blends soulful R&B, funk, and more. An instant disco-pop earworm, the catchy track became Lizzo’s fourth Top 10 hit on the Billboard 100 and ignited a viral TikTok trend, proving the multi-hyphenate’s staying power in the industry and showcasing her ability to find new vocal avenues on her musical quest for pleasure and self-love.
Who Will Win: Adele
This category has always favored mainstream pop acts, and Adele has been a mainstay here: She took it in 2012 with “Someone Like You,” in 2013 with her live rendition of “Set Fire to the Rain,” and in 2017 with “Hello.” The Grammys tend to play it safe, so she’s the likely front-runner again. The traditional approach of “Easy on Me,” along with the hype surrounding the album, help as well.
Who Should Win: Beyoncé
This year’s Grammys might cause a little déjà vu as Adele and Beyoncé face off in several categories again. Unfortunately, the awards have a history of failing Black artists, women, and people of color, so “Break My Soul” might not get the flowers it deserves. However, it would be an exciting twist if, like everyone else, the academy recognizes the brilliance of Bey’s latest work. —Ilana Kaplan
Best Country Album
Maren Morris’ country-rock journey, Carrie Underwood’s sparkly showstopper, and Miranda Lambert’s horse of a different color
Miranda Lambert, Palomino
It’s no secret that Grammy voters love Lambert. Of the singer’s 23 total Grammy nominations, six of those have been for Best Country Album. She won the category two of those years, for Platinum and Wildcard. Her 2022 release, Palomino, deepens her story of fearless, forward-thinking songwriting and albums that sound like no one else’s. CMT’s Leslie Fram says she’s the “most authentic” voice out there, while Apple Music Country’s Kelleigh Bannen notes, “This is a personal listening favorite of mine because sonically it’s a trip, and literally it’s a trip.”
Luke Combs, Growin’ Up
Combs showed a different side of his personality and artistry on his third album, Growin’ Up, which should benefit the young country superstar. Still, Grammy nods have proven elusive for Combs so far. “This should be the record he’s nominated for,” Fram says. “[It] could have been Part B of the second album, but instead it pushes forward,” Bannen adds. “It’s chock-full of hits — it sounds fantastic.”
Maren Morris, Humble Quest
A 13-time nominee, Morris got her first and only Grammy win for “My Church,” a song she slyly references in the autobiographical single “Circles Around This Town.” That track, which also nods to “80s Mercedes,” appears on her 2022 album, Humble Quest, which upended expectations yet again for the versatile performer, as she scaled down her production and offered a glimpse into her home life. “[I] thought it would be bigger and poppier, and in a lot of ways, it was smaller and more intimate,” Bannen says. “And we saw a really grounded side of Maren, topically.”
Thomas Rhett, Where We Started
Rhett has landed in the Best Country Album nominations for Life Changes and Center Point Road, but he hasn’t taken home the big prize just yet. With his recent albums, including Where We Started, he’s “getting back to country,” Fram points out, a move that his fans appreciate. Rhett is also exploring larger issues about fatherhood, the idea of home, and even incarceration (he wrote “Death Row” after a sobering Christmastime visit to a men’s prison in Nashville). “He’s making records that matter in some deeper way,” Bannen adds. “They’re not just commercially tasty.”
Carrie Underwood, Denim & Rhinestones
With 16 nominations and eight wins, Underwood has earned a spot in Grammy history. She still hasn’t taken home the prize for Best Country Album, though. Her latest studio effort, Denim & Rhinestones, which she co-produced, doubles down on her platinum-selling vocals and intriguing character studies, while also kicking up her heels a bit — it’s as sparkly as its title suggests. “We know that Carrie is precise and very collected in what she presents to the world, but this is like her version of cutting loose,” Bannen says. “I love that she took risks.”
Who Will Win: Miranda Lambert
Lambert is rightly recognized as one of country’s most visionary artists, putting out one excellent album after another. Palomino boasts some of her finest songwriting yet, like the haunting “Carousel,” and the collection’s loose theme of traveling feels like being on a journey with thousands of possibilities. It’s thrilling to see a top-tier superstar still throwing curveballs, just because she can. You can bet the Recording Academy voters have been paying attention.
Who Should Win: Miranda Lambert
Lambert’s competitors are no slouches, to be certain, but the excellent, restless Palomino gives her an edge. (The record even includes a cameo by the B-52’s!) She’s regularly a popular Grammy nominee, and always a threat to win Best Country Album. It’s been over a year since Wildcard took home the prize, so it seems like it’s about time to make a little space on the shelf. —Jon Freeman
Best Americana Album
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ long-awaited reunion, Amanda Shires’ sonic adventure, and another epic from Brandi Carlile
Brandi Carlile, In These Silent Days
Carlile’s past two solo albums were both nominated in this category, and she’s received multiple Grammy nods each year since 2019, when she won Best Americana Album. Her latest record, In These Silent Days, is “the one to beat” this year, says Logan Rogers, VP of marketing at New West Records. “And it’s hard to argue with it — the way she writes, sings, works, and carries the flag for Americana.”
Amanda Shires, Take It Like a Man
Shires has been making sturdy singer-songwriter records for years, but her latest collection of vulnerable, revealing portraits is receiving some of the best reviews of her career. “It’s the record everything has led up to,” says Rogers, who released some of Shires’ earlier albums on his own Lightning Rod Records. “This is her time.” Plus, the connection to her Highwomen bandmate Brandi Carlile, a Grammy favorite, can’t hurt her chances.
Lyle Lovett, 12th of June
The 64-year-old Texas legend has 17 career Grammy nominations in everything from pop to country to contemporary folk. But Lovett’s first album in a decade, a mix of jazzy ballads and country confessionals, is a natural fit for this category. “Lyle was Americana before there was Americana,” says Rogers. “This music, as a genre, was basically built on his back.”
Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, Raise the Roof
The last time this power duo (Krauss alone has 42 career nominations) released an album, they swept each of their five categories, including what was then known as Folk/Americana. Their 2022 follow-up to 2007’s Raising Sand “checks all the boxes, as far as what typically wins in this genre,” says Rogers. “It’s hard to argue with.” Unless their album is submitted for another category, a nomination in the Americana field seems like a sure bet.
Bonnie Raitt, Just Like That …
The only question surrounding this late-career highlight LP from the legendary singer-guitarist is which category she ends up being nominated in. Raitt has previously earned nods in rock, blues, and pop, but her most recent Grammy nomination came when she won in this category in 2013. Her last album earned her an Americana Honors & Awards nomination in 2016, which might suggest that she’ll be included here. We expect Raitt to add to her 26 total Grammy nominations, a tally that began way back in 1980.
Who Will Win: Brandi Carlile
Although she may face stiff competition from über-Grammy darlings Plant and Krauss, there’s every reason to believe this category is Carlile’s to lose. In These Silent Days’ lead single, “Right on Time,” already earned Big Four nominations for Song and Record of the Year at last year’s awards. This time, the genre category is a straightforward way to acknowledge Carlile, who’s become synonymous with the Grammys in recent years, as both a producer and a solo artist.
Who Should Win: Amanda Shires
After releasing four superb, daring solo albums over the past decade, Shires (who occasionally plays with her husband, Jason Isbell) is long overdue for some wider industry recognition. She dug even deeper into raw emotional territory and took sonic risks while still sounding entirely like herself on Take It Like a Man. The academy would be wise to acknowledge one of the genre’s sharpest songwriters releasing their most broadly accessible collection to date. —Jonathan Bernstein
Best Country Solo Performance
Vocal fireworks from Carrie Underwood, a message of inspiration from Cody Johnson, and a sultry slow burner by Luke Combs
Cody Johnson, “’Til You Can’t”
“This song is undeniable and has zero burnout for the fans: You can hear it over and over again,” says CMT exec Leslie Fram of Johnson’s breakout radio hit. With his big Texas voice and unwavering confidence, Johnson delivers one of the year’s most stirring vocal performances. Keep on going until you can’t any longer? When Johnson preaches that message, it sounds like stone-cold country gospel.
Miranda Lambert, “Actin’ Up”
Lambert has swagger to burn in this vocal tour de force off her equally superb album Palomino. “Even Tiger Woods couldn’t swing it this good,” she boasts. “I’m actin’ up.” Lambert has always known how to deliver a lyric; in this recording, it feels especially effortless. “Her performance is so nuanced and dynamite,” Kelleigh Bannen, host of Today’s Country on Apple Music, says. “Her embodying this person on that song, I love every second.”
Maren Morris, “Circles Around This Town”
Morris won her Grammy in this category back in 2017 with “My Church.” She shouts out that award-winning song in the lyrics to this one, offering a sly wink at how far she’s come. “What’s appealing to me about this song is actually how relaxed Maren is in it,” says Bannen. “Instead of showing us every little thing she can do with her voice, she sounds so at ease.” Bannen’s right: That restraint is the mark of a master at work.
Luke Combs, “The Kind of Love We Make”
There are few artists in Nashville who sing on the level of Combs. Grammy voters have noticed: Two of his three career nominations have been in vocal-performance categories. He’s yet to win, but with this sultry slow burner, his number may come up. “He just is barreling right for you vocally — he sings his ass off,” Bannen says. Adds Fram, “Luke is proving over and over again what a soulful singer he is.”
Carrie Underwood, “Ghost Story”
“Ghost Story” is just the latest monster vocal performance for Underwood, a frequent nominee (and winner) in this category. Here, both the instrumentation and her voice build until they reach a spine-tingling crescendo. “This is one of those examples of Carrie unleashing her vocal power in a super specific way. I don’t think we as listeners understand how fiercely she’s competing with herself as a vocalist,” Bannen says. “From a performance aspect, her singing kills me.”
Who Will Win: Carrie Underwood
Underwood may benefit from being so well-known with Grammy voters in this category, but there’s a reason for that: Her voice is undeniable. “Ghost Story” will win and haunt her fellow nominees who came up short.
Who Should Win: Cody Johnson
The Texan was already a superstar in his home state before releasing “’Til You Can’t.” Johnson sells the song’s inspiring chorus as hard as a motivational speaker, making you believe every word. Expect to see the title on tattoos everywhere. —Joseph Hudak
Best Country Song
From the autobiographical to the aspirational, these likely nominees embody the best of country songwriting
Maren Morris, “Circles Around This Town”
Voters expect honesty in country lyrics, and Morris speaks her truth here. With an irresistible chorus, this co-write with husband Ryan Hurd, Julia Michaels, and Jimmy Robbins details the country-pop star’s real-life hustle to get her music heard. Morris admits to times of getting her “ass kicked trying to compete” in Nashville, but she celebrates her eventual hits, too: “one about a car and the one about a church.” Says CMT exec Leslie Fram, “It’s not only autobiographical for her — it’s the story of every artist who comes here and has to go through what they have to go through.”
Miranda Lambert, “If I Was a Cowboy”
Lambert and co-writer Jesse Frasure upended gender narratives in this cheeky but empowering confection that cast Lambert as the archetypal cowboy, one who numbs their pain with whiskey and enjoys both the loving and the leaving in equal measure. “Since the massive success of Yellowstone, the cowboy era has emerged,” says Fram. “There have been a lot of cowboy songs recently, and this is the best one.” The lyrics are rich in Western-movie allusions, nodding to Tombstone and Lonesome Dove in one verse. But for all the wordplay, the songwriters never lose sight of the premise: that women can “grow up to be cowboys” too.
Cody Johnson, “’Til You Can’t”
Texas native Johnson is a relative unknown to Grammy voters, but the message of his first country-radio hit — written by Ben Stennis and Matt Rogers — is universal: Seize the day. Whether it’s finding a partner in life, taking a phone call from your mom, or fixing up that classic car you got sitting in the garage, Johnson makes a strong case that the time is now. “The fact that it’s a message song tees it up perfectly for a Grammy nomination,” says Kelleigh Bannen, host of Today’s Country on Apple Music. “With its integrity, and the real-deal part of [his] story, it isn’t a manufactured song. There’s all this credibility building with it.”
Carrie Underwood, “Ghost Story”
David Garcia, Josh Kear, and Hillary Lindsey are money in the bank when it comes to country songwriting, but it takes a voice like Underwood’s to fully sell this metaphor of an ex-lover who haunts your memories like a specter. (It doesn’t hurt that Underwood is an avid horror-movie fan, too.) “I think Carrie is so comfortable playing a character,” Bannen says. “She does it better than anybody.” Adds Fram, “When you hear how it builds — and the instrumentation — it’s just epic.”
Carly Pearce With Ashley McBryde, “Never Wanted to Be That Girl”
Two country singers on pace to become future icons came together for this classic cheating song, co-written with Grammy winner Shane McAnally. “I never wanted to be that girl/I never wanted to hate myself,” Pearce and McBryde sing, giving voice to both the other woman and the one waiting home alone. “This song is all about perspective,” Bannen says. “It’s such a disarming, unusual perspective on the topic.”
Who Will Win: Maren Morris
Morris is a four-time nominee in this category but has never won. That should change this year, thanks to the personal history that informs “Circles Around This Town.” Grammy voters look for real-life experience in country songwriting; they’ll find it here, delivered with both vulnerability and defiance.
Who Should Win: Carly Pearce With Ashley McBryde
This duet in the style of Reba McEntire and Linda Davis’ 1993 collaboration, “Does He Love You,” was released near the start of the eligibility period, so it might suffer from being in voters’ rearviews. But it’s about as pure “country” as songwriting gets. Listen to the way it adapts the chorus for the points of view of each woman, and try not to sympathize with both. —Joseph Hudak
Best Rock Album
A superb solo effort by a grunge-era legend, a return to form for a blues-rock duo, and a record cut in an actual barn
Eddie Vedder, Earthling
For his first solo album since 2011’s Ukulele Songs, Vedder assembled a backing band that included Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, ex-RHCP guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, and even Stevie Wonder and Elton John. The result is a deeply personal work that features a virtual duet with his biological father (“On My Way”), a ballad that would fit nicely on a Nineties Pearl Jam record (“Long Way”), and a meditation on grief (“Brother the Cloud”) that stirs up sad memories of Chris Cornell. It’s the clearest sign in ages that Vedder isn’t willing to coast on past glories.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, Unlimited Love
The Peppers hit a whole other gear when guitarist John Frusciante is in the band, the prime creative force behind their 1991 classic, Blood Sugar Sex Magik. He’s back for a third act with Unlimited Love. Leadoff single “Black Summer” went into heavy rotation on rock radio and fits seamlessly into their set list, while the rest of the album is a mixture of funk jams and psychedelia. “Every time these guys get back with John, the music seems like it’s at its best,” says SiriusXM Alt Nation host Justin Kade. “He’s the missing piece.”
Black Keys, Dropout Boogie
The Black Keys went retro on 2021’s Delta Kream, a collection of hill-country blues covers that paved the way for Dropout Boogie, an album many critics argue is the band’s finest in almost a decade. The Keys allowed outside songwriters into their creative process, too, including ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Reigning Sound’s Greg Cartwright. The group won Best Rock Album in 2013 for El Camino and were nominated again two years later. A third nomination for Dropout Boogie feels like a safe bet. Says Bill Weston, program director at Philadelphia’s WMMR: “It’s a very tasty record.”
Neil Young and Crazy Horse, Barn
Young has a weird history with the Grammys. He’s been nominated nearly 30 times, but only won twice: Best Rock Song in 2011, for the forgettable “Angry World,” and a package award in 2010 for a box set. They’ve dangled Best Rock Album in front of him seven times, and another may be on the way for Barn. Cut with Crazy Horse in a Colorado barn, it’s a mellow album about growing old, the depletion of our planet’s resources, and the healing nature of love. “He’s not afraid to stand up for what he believes in,” says Kade, “and he should be given some love while he’s still here.”
Jack White, Fear of the Dawn
This loud, abrasive album is an obvious choice: It hearkens back to both White’s early solo LPs and his White Stripes days. Many songs revolve around eosophobia, an ancient Greek term that translates into fear of the dawn. It gives the album a gritty, paranoid vibe that never lets up. “People talk about rock being in such a dire place,” says Weston. “But he’s one of the bright lights.”
Who Will Win: Red Hot Chili Peppers
The last time the Red Hot Chili Peppers won Best Rock Album was in 2007, for Stadium Arcadium. Not coincidentally, that was their last time cutting an album with guitarist John Frusciante, prior to Unlimited Love. Now that he’s back, the time feels right for them to take home the award again.
Who Should Win: Eddie Vedder
Pearl Jam have never been Grammy favorites. When they won back in 1996 for “Spin the Black Circle,” Vedder dryly said onstage, “I don’t think it means anything. … Thanks, I guess.” Even though Earthling is sublime and Vedder is nothing like his 1996 self, early perceptions can be hard to shake. —Andy Greene