Album of the Year by Maanasi Chintamani
Prediction: RENAISSANCE, Beyoncé
Should Win: RENAISSANCE, Beyoncé
This year’s Album of the Year nominations leave much to be desired, from puzzling omissions—like Rosalía’s genre-bending and career-defining album MOTOMAMI—to equally puzzling inclusions, such as Lizzo’s ironically unremarkable Special, which feels Old Navy commercial-bound, not GRAMMY-worthy.
The category is dominated by GRAMMY veterans: The nominees have already amassed a combined 85 GRAMMYs. But past successes don’t guarantee continued quality work. Coldplay’s Music of the Spheres is a far cry from the sweeping instrumentation and signature stirring lyricism of the band’s previous albums. Meanwhile, on Harry’s House, Harry Styles offers a pleasant, coherent listening experience but hews too closely to his reference material—’70s hits and modern indie-rock—thus failing to innovate.
The legitimate contenders in this category are Bad Bunny’s record-breaking soundtrack of the summer, Un Verano Sin Ti; Kendrick Lamar’s poignantly self-examining Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers; and, finally, the album of the year in every conceivable sense, Beyoncé’s RENAISSANCE. The year’s most salient musical development was the return of house music to the mainstream, and RENAISSANCE is the pinnacle. The album offers range, balancing a slick, lush seamlessness (“PLASTIC OFF THE SOFA”) with a grittier, more fiery sound (“CHURCH GIRL”). With lyrics overflowing with confidence and sensuality, RENAISSANCE concocts a vibrant style exuding liberation and release. Beyoncé deftly harkens back to house music’s rich history while pushing the genre forward. When a stellar album from a perennial GRAMMY favorite also achieves tremendous commercial success, the Academy would be foolish not to acclaim it.
Record of the Year by Adora Adeyemi
Prediction: “Easy on Me” by Adele
Should Win: “About Damn Time” by Lizzo or “Bad Habit” by Steve Lacy
If you’re wondering what the difference is between Record of the Year (ROTY) and Song of the Year (SOTY), let me explain: ROTY awards the artists and producers involved in recording the track, while SOTY awards composition, and is presented to songwriters. Now let’s dig into the real tea!
Defining one year with a single record is difficult. It’s an incredibly diverse category—from pulsating diva-house club anthems to cozy country croons—and each song is a strong representative of its respective genre. “Easy on Me,”Adele’s long-awaited comeback, is a simple yet powerful pop ballad, and it’s no secret that Adele is a GRAMMYs darling. Though this seems the most likely win for ROTY, it doesn’t move me with each listen the way some of the other nominations do.
One deserving recipient is “About Damn Time,” the groovy disco track that served as Lizzo’s lead single from her latest album, Special (2022). With an intoxicating bassline leading the charge, each layer of its production radiates through its listener. Another fitting winner would be Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit,” whose chorus took over TikTok. Not only is it a head-bopping earworm, its lengthy beatbox outro is an undeniable showcase of production prowess. So while it may be tempting for the Recording Academy to fall back into old habits, honoring innovative design and production may open up the floor for something more inspired.
Song of the Year by Ajani Jones
Prediction: “BREAK MY SOUL” by Beyoncé or “Easy On Me” by Adele
Should Win: “BREAK MY SOUL” by Beyoncé
The highly coveted SOTY category for songwriters is always fairly contentious. This year, the nominations are chock-full of incredible talents and culturally formative tracks. Barring the occasional sneak nomination (looking at you, “abcdefu”), this year’s award could take many paths.
Singles like Taylor Swift’s “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (The Short Film)” and Steve Lacy’s “Bad Habit” dominated pop culture.
Yet the artists making big comebacks hold greater gravity. In their long-awaited full-length solo albums, both Beyoncé and Adele released singles (“BREAK MY SOUL,” “Easy On Me”) that shook the industry. Both singles are lyrically and sonically phenomenal, resonating deeply with a public consciousness centering resilience and loss alike.
But it’s “BREAK MY SOUL” that should be victorious. Beyoncé’s lead single on her seventh studio album has maintained its initial relevance, and has a much more immediate and palpable cultural impact when compared to Adele’s more personal and self-contained “Easy On Me.” Beyoncé’s first and only SOTY win was for “Single Ladies”; let’s hope she brings home one more.
Best New Artist by Maya Kominsky
Prediction: Muni Long
Should Win: Omar Apollo
The GRAMMYs have a loose definition of “new” in the Best New Artist category. Nominees must have at least five singles or one album, and there is no limitation on the length of discography. But the main criteria is that they “must have achieved a breakthrough into the public consciousness and impacted the musical landscape” in the qualifying year. Though the subjectiveness of “a breakthrough” makes the category difficult to judge, none of the nominees had a standout year like Omar Apollo.
His nomination may seem overdue, but 2022 was undoubtedly his breakthrough. The son of Mexican immigrants, Apollo draws on mariachi and corrido influences—and sings in English and Spanish—in his heart-wrenchingly mournful love songs and his upbeat electropop hits. Although he’s released three EPs since his 2017 breakout single “Ugotme,” the success of his debut album Ivory (2022) and the deluxe version Marfil (2022) have brought him to center stage. After a well-received international tour, Apollo was announced as the opener for R&B superstar SZA’s upcoming (sold-out) tour.
Apollo appears to be the obvious frontrunner; however, Muni Long is a more predictable GRAMMY pick. She’s co-written hits for artists like Rihanna and Ariana Grande, and finally had her own breakout song this year with “Hrs and Hrs.” Though Long would be a deserving recipient, Apollo’s unique blend of influences and genres gives him the potential to be a voice of a generation.
Tune in to the GRAMMYs on Sunday, Feb. 5, at 8 p.m., and follow along with our live coverage on Twitter @VoiceHalftime.