The 60th Grammy Awards are just around the corner and chatter has begun around who will walk away with little gold-plated gramophones at music’s biggest popularity contest.
In previous years, pop artists have dominated the general field categories — with nods to rock, indie and country artists — leaving musicians of color in their dust. Who could forget last year when Adele swept the general field awards over artists like Beyoncé and Drake? Or when Beck shockingly took home Album of the Year in 2015? What about the time Macklemore undeservedly won Best New Artist over Kendrick Lamar? I could go on.
This year, however, they will not be ignored. Nominations for the 2018 Grammys, released in November, finally reflect the overwhelming presence and quality of rap and R&B in music.
Whether a response to #GrammysSoWhite, a mere reflection of the past year’s charts or an overdue recognition of the current state of music, Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars have taken the general field categories by storm. Though there is a stark lack of women among the nominees for these major awards, Lorde and SZA still receive nods.
Here’s who I think should win the general field awards:
Best New Artist: SZA
SZA took the world by storm in 2017 with her sophomore album “Ctrl.” Her personal, conversational lyrics and cool vocals make the album half diary, half scathing letter. While other nominees this year like Lil Uzi Vert and Khalid also made some unforgettable marks on the current music scene, the work that SZA did in 2017 will likely be discussed for the rest of her career. She deserves this win.
Song of the Year: “That’s What I Like”
The nominees for Song of the Year are rather disappointing. Sure, Logic’s suicide awareness song was sweet but at times it felt too forced and generic. Jay-Z’s “4:44” did have impeccable production but his rapping leaves something to be desired. The award will likely go to “Despacito” because of the way it dominated the radio and our ears for months, but this is, of course, not about predictions. It’s about who should win. So, of the less than satisfactory nominees, “That’s What I Like” is the obvious choice. Not only is it a banger, it doesn’t present questions of cultural appropriation like Justin Bieber’s remix of Luis Fonsi’s song.
Album of the Year: “DAMN.”
I spent a lot of time debating this one, attempting to take a step back and judge each album based on how they held up as collective works. It came down to two: Kendrick Lamar’s “DAMN.” and Lorde’s “Melodrama.” These are two vastly different albums, both in genre and content. How does one compare a pop breakup album with a soul-searching rap album? Still, they are both cohesive works with impeccable songwriting and killer production . Ultimately, I settled on “DAMN.” Lamar’s album holds a certain cyclical quality — emphasized by the release of the collector’s edition of the album that lists the tracks in reverse order — that creates a more complete feeling than Lorde’s “Melodrama.”
Record of the Year: “HUMBLE.”
The Record of the Year award is meant to honor not only the artist but also the producers and engineers behind the song. While songs like “24K Magic” and “Despacito” were inescapable this year, “HUMBLE.” stands among the nominees because, even with a rather simple, repetitive beat, it still bangs. At times, the producers fill up some of the empty space with background vocals, but just as often, the music drops out, letting Lamar’s complex and personal rapping carry the track. “HUMBLE.” is a testament to the way in which artist, producer and engineer can work with and for each other to create a cohesive piece of music.