The elaborate suits have been tailored, the repartee prescripted in preparation for music’s biggest night. No, the Super Bowl is next week; we’re talking about the 65th annual Grammy Awards, taking over living rooms and Los Angeles’ Crypto.com Arena on Sunday (5 p.m., CBS) to celebrate some of the past year’s top artists.
Once again, Pike Place Market busker-turned-talk of the music world Brandi Carlile is among the leading nominees, her seven nods trailing only generational stars Beyoncé (nine) and Kendrick Lamar (eight). She’s also a safe bet to crush a power note or two in her now annual performance during the televised award show.
For better and worse, Grammy voters have been known to throw some curveballs. No one saw the astonished Jon Batiste taking home last year’s album of the year award, including the lovable jazzman himself. It’s all part of the consistently maddening fun. For anyone playing along at home, here’s a short primer on the four most prestigious categories, including my best guess at who will walk with the hardware, plus some other Washingtonians to watch for while famous people read the teleprompter.
Album of the year
ABBA “Voyage.” Adele “30.” Bad Bunny “Un Verano Sin Ti.” Beyoncé “RENAISSANCE.” Mary J. Blige “Good Morning Gorgeous (Deluxe).” Brandi Carlile “In These Silent Days.” Coldplay “Music of the Spheres.” Kendrick Lamar “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.” Lizzo “Special.” Harry Styles “Harry’s House.”
2022 belonged to Bad Bunny, Puerto Rico’s stadium-conquering king of reggaeton whose summery album is the first Spanish-language release to receive an AOTY nod. To quote one of his competitors, it’s about damn time! “Un Verano Sin Ti” was undoubtedly the biggest blockbuster of the year, but does that hold any weight with an institution that tossed ABBA in here with a straight face?
Awarding Kendrick Lamar for his least great (but still exceptional) album would be a very Grammys move, though a win would hand a trophy to Lynnwood producer Mario Luciano, who contributed to the song “Savior.” Harry Styles and Lizzo made perfectly respectable pop albums containing two of the year’s preeminent singles, and as much as this ’90s child loves some Mary J. Blige, her main-category inclusion feels like a legacy pick.
The messiness could create a lane for Styles or our hometown hero Carlile, whose bar-raising seventh album has now yielded nominations in pop, rock and roots categories — a testament to the “folk rocker’s” creative range. But beyond the overrated “Harry’s House,” recent history suggests it could come down to Adele and Beyoncé, whose artful dance-floor pivot is guaranteed to claim the best dance/electronic album award over Seattle stars ODESZA. If the British balladeer dethrones Queen Bey, the most visionary artist of her generation, again as Adele did during her Big Three sweep six years ago, it could be more awkward than Will Smith’s Oscar slap.
Who should win: Bad Bunny
Who will win: Adele
Record of the year
ABBA “Don’t Shut Me Down.” Adele “Easy on Me.” Beyoncé “BREAK MY SOUL.” Mary J. Blige “Good Morning Gorgeous.” Brandi Carlile featuring Lucius “You and Me on the Rock.” Doja Cat “Woman.” Steve Lacy “Bad Habit.” Kendrick Lamar “The Heart Part 5.” Lizzo “About Damn Time.” Harry Styles “As it Was.”
There’s an uninspired amount of overlap in the big categories, making the always unpredictable Grammys slightly harder to call, including record of the year, which recognizes the artists, producers, engineers and others who worked on a song’s recording. There also isn’t a singular runaway smash that dominates this year the way Olivia Rodrigo’s “drivers license” did a year ago — a megahit derailed in the major categories by Silk Sonic’s retro appeal.
Styles’ sparkly new waver, Spotify’s most streamed song of 2022, is probably as close as it gets and an indie upset from Steve Lacy’s lo-fi earworm isn’t out of the question. Still, smart money’s always on Adele, who’s a perfect six for six in the top fields on her last two album cycles. The academy loves big-voice ballads and if Carlile’s walloping “Right on Time” couldn’t reel in one of the big prizes during an Adele-less 2022, it’s harder to see her breezy, Paul Simon-esque love song doing so this year.
Who should win: Harry Styles
Who will win: Adele
Song of the year
GAYLE “abcdefu.” Lizzo “About Damn Time.” Taylor Swift “All too Well (10 Minute Version).” Harry Styles “As It Was.” Steve Lacy “Bad Habit.” Beyoncé “BREAK MY SOUL.” Adele “Easy on Me.” DJ Khaled “GOD DID” Kendrick Lamar “The Heart Part 5.” Bonnie Raitt “Just Like That.”
It’s been a few years since this songwriter award has gone to a song that actually feels like the song of the year, at least in terms of pop culture resonance. That could change with Styles’ inescapable anthem — an addictive sugar rush from one of music’s most likable celebs — unless Adele’s latest piano sobber proves too much of a steamroller. Bonnie Raitt’s fireside longshot drinks like a cellared fine wine, but wasn’t exactly zeitgeisty. On the flip side, the generous inclusion of GAYLE’s viral alt-pop thumper feels like the Grammys saying: “See kids, we’re on TikTok, too!”
DJ Khaled’s star-studded track (with guest spots from Jay-Z, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross) pulls too many hip-hop voters off Lamar’s lyrical labyrinth. The Grammys love a throwback, making Lizzo’s disco banger and Beyoncé’s dressed-to-sweat “BREAK MY SOUL” — which bridges New Orleans bounce and ’90s dance pop — strong contenders. Still, Beyoncé might have a better chance at finally winning AOTY with “RENAISSANCE,” her intoxicating shrine to dance music’s Black and queer roots. Taylor Swift, who has somehow never won this award, is the big wild card here with a 10-year-old song extrapolated into a newish 10-minute epic. But someone should probably start clearing mantle space in Harry’s house.
Who should win: Beyoncé
Who will win: Harry Styles
Best new artist
Anitta. Omar Apollo. DOMi and JD Beck. Muni Long. Samara Joy. Latto. Måneskin. Tobe Nwigwe. Molly Tuttle. Wet Leg.
In a criminal oversight, former Washington state Navy man Zach Bryan is nowhere to be found among the otherwise solid best new artist nominees. The Oklahoman singer-songwriter, who lived on Whidbey Island for a time, became one of music’s coolest success stories, taking the country world by storm after receiving an honorable discharge as his emotionally toiled songs exploded online. Bryan’s lone nomination (best country solo performance) for “Something in the Orange,” a streaming sensation recorded at Woodinville’s Bear Creek Studio, doesn’t reflect the impact the blue-collar songsmith-turned-arena headliner has made.
Nevertheless, it is a rare treat to see some jazz love in the best new artist mix and there are two terrific picks on opposite ends of the spectrum. Samara Joy (who plays Jazz Alley on March 17) is an old-soul vocalist with a voice warm enough to melt Vladimir Putin’s heart, while Gen Z prodigies DOMi and JD Beck make freaky/groovy tracks for generation YouTube. Neither really stand a chance in what looks like a three- or four-horse race. THING festival standouts Wet Leg were the talk of the indie rock world and sexed-up Italian rockers Måneskin have become a glam-pop spectacle since crossing over from “Eurovision” into the American consciousness.
One upside of the streaming era is that it has (very slowly) forced the industry to better acknowledge non-English-language artists like Brazilian pop star Anitta — not exactly a newcomer, but someone American audiences may have met via collabs with Iggy Azalea, Major Lazer and others. Armed with a TikTok-boosted reggaeton hit in “Envolver,” Anitta has a real chance to overcome the language bias and stiff competition from Wet Leg and Latto, the smart-money pick. The equally deserving Atlanta rapper has had more mainstream exposure in the States, thanks to a tour with Lizzo and the ubiquity of her breakout single “Big Energy.” Latto scored another weighty co-sign when Mariah Carey, who used the same sample in her ’90s hit “Fantasy,” hopped on the remix alongside DJ Khaled.
Who should win: Wet Leg
Who will win: Latto
The Maple Valley trophy collector and her songwriting/life buds Tim and Phil Hanseroth face a tough road in their two big categories. But don’t count on them going home empty-handed, with five other nominations, most of which will likely get doled out during a smaller livestreamed ceremony earlier in the day.
Even if Carlile’s trail-riding album cut “Broken Horses” somehow gets lost in the hodgepodge best rock song/performance categories — squaring off with cool-kid indie favorites (Turnstile, IDLES) and legacy rockers (Ozzy Osbourne, Red Hot Chili Peppers) — “In These Silent Days” should be a lock for best Americana album. And after the year she’s had, it’s hard to see their sweet Lucius collab “You and Me on the Rock” striking out on both best Americana performance and best American roots song.
Around the Sound
Carlile isn’t the only Washingtonian to watch on Sunday, though the winners in categories our other Seattle music reps are up for will likely be revealed before the main telecast.
It’s a shame cinematic beatsmiths ODESZA bump up against Beyoncé, who will very likely become the most awarded artist in Grammys history this year. (Her 28 wins are tied with Quincy Jones for the second most, trailing only the late conductor Georg Solti with 31.) If not for a pop icon’s dance-music dalliance, the Seattle indie-electronic duo’s “The Last Goodbye” would be a serious contender for best dance/electronic music album. In 2022, ODESZA returned with a crystallized vision (and eager to dance) on their first album in five years, a soulful post-lockdown release stretching from exuberant house bangers to soothing sunrise cuts.
Perfume Genius, the musical vehicle of Seattle-reared Mike Hadreas, could take home his first Grammy for his feature on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs comeback single “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” (best alternative music performance). The adventurous art-pop songsmith lent a spectral falsetto that hangs in midair during the glistening track’s apocalyptic lurch, though it could be tough to edge Wet Leg’s quirky surprise hit “Chaise Longue.”
Elsewhere, Lakewood native J’Nai Bridges scored her second consecutive nod in the classical field, as one of the featured vocalists on “Lord, How Come Me Here?” The project helmed by composer Shawn Okpebholo is up for best classical solo vocal album.
Also of note, another Lakewood native, lophiile, co-produced the song “Side Piece” off Jack Harlow’s nominated album “Come Home the Kids Miss You” (best rap album). And the engineers who worked on “Chloë and the Next 20th Century,” the latest album from onetime Seattleite and current Sub Pop star Father John Misty, are up for best engineered album, nonclassical.
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