The Beyhive is all abuzz over the possibility that Beyoncé will have a chance to make Grammy history this year, which should make for an exciting awards show as she’s up against heavy hitters Adele, Kendrick Lamar and Harry Styles.
She’ll need just four more trophies to ascend to the top decorated artist in the Recording Academy. Odds are in her favor in most of the categories she’s nominated in, including album of the year and record of the year.
Associated Press Entertainment Writers Jonathan Landrum Jr. and Kristin M. Hall break down the extremely close races for Grammy glory. The 65th annual Grammy Awards will air on Sunday on CBS and Paramount+.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: “Voyage,” ABBA; “30,” Adele; “Un Verano Sin Ti,” Bad Bunny; “Renaissance,” Beyoncé; “Good Morning Gorgeous” (Deluxe), Mary J. Blige; “In These Silent Days,” Brandi Carlile; “Music of the Spheres,” Coldplay; “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers,” Kendrick Lamar; “Special,” Lizzo; “Harry’s House,” Harry Styles.
LANDRUM: Beyoncé is going after her Grammy throne, again. With the superstar singer being on the cusp of becoming the most decorated artist in Grammy history, it’s no coincidence Queen Bey returned to the live show stage for the first time in four years with a spectacular, star-studded performance at Dubai’s newest luxury hotel last month. She even held a two-night “Club Renaissance” event in Los Angeles last month with Amazon Music to celebrate her seventh album “Renaissance,” an album of the year candidate. Beyoncé’s lead up game is strong, and both of her remarkable displays feel like a grand tour toward her multiple Grammy crowning. No disrespect to the other more-than-worthy nominees in the category, but Beyoncé is an easy choice here. It just makes sense.
HALL: The last time Adele and Beyoncé were both nominated in this category, the British singer-songwriter used her acceptance speech to heap praise on Beyoncé, calling her the “artist of my life.” It’s one of the toughest years in this category with so many deserving albums from the biggest names. It would be amazing to see Bad Bunny take home the award for his incredibly popular “Un Verano Sin Ti,” but I agree, Jonathan, all signs are pointing to a record-breaking year for Beyoncé.
RECORD OF THE YEAR: “Don’t Shut Me Down,” ABBA; “Easy on Me,” Adele; “Break My Soul,” Beyoncé; “Good Morning Gorgeous,” Mary J. Blige; “You and Me on the Rock,” Brandi Carlile featuring Lucius; “Woman,” Doja Cat; “Bad Habit,” Steve Lacy; “The Heart Part 5,” Kendrick Lamar; “About Damn Time,” Lizzo; “As It Was,” Harry Styles.
HALL: So many danceable bops this year to choose from! Lizzo is a powerhouse at delivering good-time positive bangers with catchy lyrics and Harry Styles’ pop rock jam “As It Was” is an undeniable hit and fan favorite. While Adele absolutely kills her performance of “Easy on Me,” I don’t think it has the dominance of her other record of the year hit “Hello.” For me, the best two in the category are “Break My Soul” and “Bad Habit.” The ’90s house music-inspired “Break My Soul” captures an entire mood and an exciting pivot for Beyoncé, so she’ll likely add this award to her wall of Grammys.
LANDRUM: I totally rode the Beyoncé album-of-the-year bandwagon, but I’m riding with Harry Styles’ “As It Was” in this category. Kudos to the other nominees from Kendrick Lamar, Steve Lacy and Adele — who are also deserving of this award. But “As It Was” was just too massive in a category where the biggest commercial hits usually reign supreme. For me, it seems like I’ve heard his infectious jam whenever I go out. Even my 2-year-old daughter perks up when she hears the song, sings along and requests to listen to it again, again, and again.Beyoncé at the 2021 Grammys
SONG OF THE YEAR (songwriter’s award): “abcdefu,” Sara Davis, GAYLE and Dave Pittenger; “About Damn Time,” Melissa “Lizzo” Jefferson, Eric Frederic, Blake Slatkin and Theron Makiel Thomas; “All Too Well (10 Minute Version – The Short Film),” Liz Rose and Taylor Swift; “As It Was,” Tyler Johnson, Kid Harpoon and Harry Styles; “Bad Habit,” Matthew Castellanos, Brittany Fousheé, Diana Gordon, John Carroll Kirby and Steve Lacy; “Break My Soul,” Beyoncé, S. Carter, Terius “The Dream” Gesteelde-Diamant and Christopher A. Stewart; “Easy on Me,” Adele Adkins and Greg Kurstin; “God Did,” Tarik Azzouz, E. Blackmon, Khaled Khaled, F. LeBlanc, Shawn Carter, John Stephens, Dwayne Carter, William Roberts and Nicholas Warwar; “The Heart Part 5,” Jake Kosich, Johnny Kosich, Kendrick Lamar and Matt Schaeffer; “Just Like That,” Bonnie Raitt.
LANDRUM: I might’ve chosen Harry Styles to pull away victorious with record of the year, but Beyoncé’s powerful words in “Break My Soul” spoke to my spirit — especially in a category for songwriters who wrote the lyrics or melodies to one song. Her tune became a dance floor anthem after the pandemic thanks to the attractive upbeat melody and the well-written lyrics by the formidable writing team comprised of Beyoncé, her husband Jay-Z, The-Dream and Tricky Stewart — who’s behind penning big singles including Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Mary J. Blige’s “Just Fine.” In this collaboration, the writing foursome created a collection of inspiring words suited for Beyoncé who took the proverbial baton and sang with beautiful authority. In the end, “Break My Soul” should cross the finish line first as song of the year.
HALL: If you’ve only heard the TikTok snippet from Steve Lacy’s dreamy confessional song, do yourself a favor and listen to the whole thing, and then his whole album, too. The song, like Lacy, is experimental and complicated and the song twists and distorts into something brand new while his voice is charmingly disarming. I think he’s a dark horse in this category, though, going up against so many crazy talented songwriters.
BEST NEW ARTIST: Anitta; Omar Apollo; DOMi & JD Beck; Muni Long; Samara Joy; Latto; Månekskin; Tobe Nwigwe; Molly Tuttle; Wet Leg.
HALL: Normally I feel like there are one or two heavy hitters in this category that are riding the wave of a big debut hit, but this category is wide open this year. Bluegrass musician Molly Tuttle and R&B singer-songwriter Muni Long are well-established in their respective music fields and it would be great for them to get the widespread attention they deserve with a win in this category. But I think Anitta has a big advantage with her multi-platinum global hit “Envolver,” even if she may not be as familiar to American audiences.
LANDRUM: Anitta certainly feels like the leading choice in this loaded category. The Brazilian artist has been nothing short of phenomenal with her trilingual album “Versions of Me,” which was led by her single “Envolver.” Månekskin, Muni Long and Latto can make their claim here too. But I’m going with a category dark horse: Tobe Nwigwe. He broke through with “I Need You To,” a 44-seconds long song that called attention to the police killing of Breonna Taylor in Kentucky. It was reposted by big names like LeBron James, Madonna and Diddy. Along with that, the Nigerian singer-rapper has posted an original song and video every week across social media for the past several years. He performs alongside his wife, Fat Nwigwe, and their ballad “Fye Fye” is a legit smooth hit.
BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE: “Easy on Me,” Adele; “Moscow Mule,” Bad Bunny; “Woman,” Doja Cat; “Bad Habit,” Steve Lacy; “About Damn Time,” Lizzo; “As It Was,” Harry Styles.
LANDRUM: This is a tough one. Each song is a certified hit. My gut tells me Adele or Steve Lacy could prevail in a category filled with strong contenders. But my mind, heart and soul is screaming “HARRY STYLES.” I’m going with my latter feelings. “As it Was” for me, please.
HALL: Adele is likely to pick up a win here, if voters are more inclined to choose Beyoncé in the top categories.
BEST RAP PERFORMANCE: “GOD DID,” DJ Khaled featuring Rick Ross, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, John Legend & Fridayy; “Vegas,” Doja Cat; “pushing P,” Gunna & Future featuring Young Thug; “F.N.F. (Let’s Go),” Hitkidd & GloRilla; “The Heart Part 5,” Kendrick Lamar
HALL: I gotta give all the love to Memphis-native GloRilla for her first Grammy nomination for her breakout hit “F.N.F. (Let’s Go).” Her toughness and bravado show up well on the track that celebrates being free of no-count scrubs and proves she can go as hard as any male rapper.
LANDRUM: Kendrick Lamar’s “The Heart Part 5” will win, but DJ Khaled’s “GOD DID” should be victorious. Why? Because with Khaled bringing together Jay-Z, Lil Wayne, Mr. EGOT John Legend and Rick Ross on one track, God certainly did that!
BEST R&B PERFORMANCE: “VIRGO’S GROOVE,” Beyoncé; “Here With Me,” Mary J. Blige featuring Anderson .Paak; “Hrs & Hrs,” Muni Long; “Over,” Lucky Daye; “Hurt Me So Good,” Jazmine Sullivan
LANDRUM: Jazmine Sullivan could pull a repeat with “Hurt Me So Good” after she won in this same category last year for “Pick Up Your Feelings.” The sheer appeal of Beyoncé’s “VIRGO’S GROOVE” gives her a strong shot to win as well. There are other viable contenders including Mary J. Blige and Lucky Daye, who had big hits in their own right. But if I was a betting man, my money would be on Muni Long’s “Hrs & Hrs,” a breakthrough hit for the best new artist contender. After maintaining strong momentum throughout a year, I believe Muni (pronounced as Money) will be ready to cash in as this category’s victor.
HALL: When Muni Long starts the song by whispering “Can I sing to you?” in that breathy voice of hers, it’s clear she is masterfully in control. I hope she gets this win.
BEST COUNTRY SOLO PERFORMANCE: “Heartfirst,” Kelsea Ballerini; “Something In The Orange,” Zach Bryan; “In His Arms,” Miranda Lambert; “Circles Around This Town,” Maren Morris; “Live Forever,” Willie Nelson
HALL: I think the Recording Academy voters are trying to send a message by nominating “Live Forever” from Willie Nelson, who is (remarkably) turning 90 this year and is showing no signs of slowing down. But I think new artist Zach Bryan has momentum this year and lots of buzz, so the slow-burning “Something In The Orange” should win.
LANDRUM: I think Zach Bryan is Willie Nelson’s biggest threat here. But with Nelson still performing at a high level at 90, his song “Live Forever” is a fitting title for his musical legacy.
For more on this year’s Grammy Awards, visit: www.apnews.com/GrammyAwards