Dimas SanfiorenzoDimas Sanfiorenzo is the Managing Editor for Okayplayer. He specializes…
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Here are our official 2021 Grammy predictions, from Best New Artist to Record of the Year.
The first thing to remember about the Grammy awards: it’s not an award based on what the best music of the previous year was. It’s an award based on what Grammy institutions want to honor. That is two very different things. And this is where the conflict occurs: Grammys have done a poor job honoring the — mostly Black — artists moving music forward. The members of the Recording Academy — who decide the winners — are a vast network of music professionals, from artists to songwriters to producers. This voting committee has a history of awarding the artists who make conservative music or who usually have the biggest machine behind them. (It’s why artists like Taylor Swift and Adele constantly kill.)
Basically, the Grammys isn’t an award about merit but politics, which can be frustrating for artists like The Weeknd, who recently announced that he wasn’t submitting his music to the Grammys anymore. Who ends up winning a Grammy is largely based on things like timing, label support, visibility, and the artistic sensibilities of the committee.
So we factor all that in when making our official 2021 Grammy predictions. Check out our picks below.
Best New Artist
Megan Thee Stallion
Our Prediction: Phoebe Bridgers
Despite releasing a lackluster debut, Megan Thee Stallion legit had a superstar year. She was in the running for best rapper of 2020 (right beside Lil Baby.) She is, quite clearly, the best new artist of 2020.
With that being said, I do not trust the Grammys to make the right decision here.
I think Phoebe Bridgers takes it. Best New Artist is, historically, one of the whiter categories, and only three Black rap acts have won the award (Arrested Development, Lauryn Hill, and Chance the Rapper.) Plus, Bridgers’ 2020 album, Punisher, fits some of the alt-rock characteristics that the Grammys love to award, and the album got a ton of coverage in traditional media outlets last year.
Best R&B Performance
Jhené Aiko featuring John Legend — “Lightning & Thunder”
Beyoncé — “Black Parade”
Jacob Collier featuring Mahalia & Ty Dolla $ign — “All I Need”
Brittany Howard — “Goat Head”
Emily King — “See Me”
Our Prediction: Beyoncé — “Black Parade”
With 10 nominations, they are going to find a way to give Beyoncé some Grammys. They won’t JAY-Z her this year. And beacuse “Black Parade” wasn’t a huge hit, it won’t win any of the big awards. So expect Bey to rack up the Best R&B Performance statue. An easy tell if she’ll win this Grammy is if they decide to televise this award instead of stick it in the pre-show ghetto.
Urban Contemporary award. (Not sure what Urban Contemporary means.) Jhené has had a nice career — with legit classic projects — but no wins yet. Chilombo isn’t one of her better pieces of work, but I think Grammy voters will realize she is someone who should have a statue. Expect her to get the W.
Best Traditional R&B Performance:
The Baylor Project featuring Jean Baylor & Marcus Baylor — “Sit On Down”
Chloe x Halle — “Wonder What She Thinks of Me”
Mykal Kilgore — “Let Me Go”
Ledisi — “Anything for You”
Yebba — “Distance”
Our Prediction: Ledisi “Anything for You”
This usually isn’t a star-driven award. In the past, you have seen great blue-collar singers like Lalah Hathaway, Robert Glasper, PJ Morton take home statues. So I expect that tradition to continue. Something to note here is that Ledisi was nominated for this award a couple of years ago and didn’t win. She’s nominated again for “Anything for You,” which remakes D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel).” It’s the type of song Grammy voters eat up. So I’m picking her.
Best R&B Song
Robert Glasper featuring H.E.R. & Meshell Ndegeocello — “Better Than I Imagine”
Beyoncé — “Black Parade”
Tiana Major9 & EarthGang — “Collide”
Chloe x Halle — “Do It”
Skip Marley & H.E.R. — “Slow Down”
Best R&B Song: Beyoncé — “Black Parade”
Best R&B Song is a legacy award. The first winner of the award was Otis Redding and, over the years, you’ve seen icons like Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers, Michael Jackson, D’Angelo, and Maxwell take wins in this category. This kind of stuff factors in the decision Grammy voters make. Beyoncé has already won this award three times but I think she will pick up a fourth here to maintain the prestige this category holds.
Best R&B Album
Ant Clemons — Happy 2 Be Here Giveon — Take Time Luke James — To Feel Love/D John Legend — Bigger Love Gregory Porter — All Rise John Legend — Bigger Love
Best R&B Song: John Legend — Bigger Love
I’m not going to overthink this one. John Legend has a staggering 11 Grammy wins. And I think voters will see his name and just pencil him in.
Best Rap Performance
Big Sean featuring Nipsey Hussle — “Deep Reverence”
DaBaby — “Bop”
Jack Harlow — “Whats Poppin”
Lil Baby — “The Bigger Picture”
Megan Thee Stallion featuring Beyoncé — “Savage”
Pop Smoke — “Dior”
Our Prediction: Lil Baby — “The Bigger Picture”
Lil Baby’s “The Bigger Picture” is the kind of song rap romantics think about when they look at hip-hop as being a force of good. Add that to the fact that award shows want to reward “important work” and Lil Baby’s label did a good job marketing this song as the soundtrack to the George Floyd uprisings. This song is a lock to win. Side note: It will be cool to see Lil Baby win a grammy (even if I wish it was for “We Paid,” a vastly superior song.)
famously shaded the Grammys a couple of years ago, and something tells me that move affected his standing with voters. Beacuse of that, I think Anderson .Paak takes home another Grammy win simply because “Lockdown” — another “important” song — sounds like a song Grammy voters would love.
Best Rap Song
Lil Baby — The Bigger Picture”
Roddy Ricch — “The Box”
Drake featuring Lil Durk — “Laugh Now Cry Later”
DaBaby featuring Roddy Ricch — “Rockstar”
Megan thee Stallion featuring Beyoncé —”Savage”
I’m going with “Savage” here. The majority of these songs are on the more experimental, melodic side. “Savage” is a good old fashion hip-hop, R&B collabo by two of the best and most important artists working now.
Best Rap Album
D Smoke — Black Habits Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist — Alfredo Jay Electronica — A Written Testimony Nas — King’s Disease Royce da 5’9″ — The Allegory
Our Prediction: Nas — King Disease
Many rap fans on the Internet consider Freddie Gibbs and The Alchemist’s Alfredo last year’s album of the year. And while that album is great, I don’t think Grammys voters give a fuck about what Rap Twitter thinks. Voters will see Nas, who has 14 nominations and zero wins, and give him his Scent of a Women, career achievement Grammy.
Album of the Year
Jhené Aiko — Chilombo Black Pumas — Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition)
Coldplay — Everyday Life
Jacob Collier — Djesse Vol. 3
Haim — Women in Music Pt. III
Dua Lipa — Future Nostalgia
Post Malone — Hollywood’s Bleeding
Taylor Swift — Folklore
Our Prediction: Dua Lipa — Future Nostalgia
Folklore is a heavy favorite to win Album of the Year. And it makes sense: Taylor has been a Grammy darling for years and Folklore is “the prestigious” Taylor album. But I’m zagging a bit — I think Dua Lipa will take it. Every year there’s an artist who sort of comes out of nowhere and dominates the big award. This will be Dua’s year. She’s a Best New Artist alumni and her album, Future Nostalgia, was one of the biggest of the year last year.
Song of the Year
Beyoncé — “Black Parade”
Roddy Ricch — “The Box” Taylor Swift — “Cardigan” Post Malone — “Circles” Post Malone Dua Lipa — “Don’t Start Now” Dua Lipa Billie Eilish — “Everything I Wanted” Billie Eilish H.E.R. — “I Can’t Breath” Saxe featuring Michaels — “If the World Was Ending”
Our Prediction: H.E.R — I Can’t Breath”
Here is my biggest shocker of the night: I think Grammys will give this award to H.E.R. Despite last year’s race reckoning from elite insinuations, you don’t always see those themes represented in the work. “I Can’t Breath” is one of the few overtly political songs to be nominated for one of the major awards. Grammys desperately need a social justice moment and this will be their opportunity.
Usually, a massive hit wins the biggest award of the night. So you can scratch out “Colors” and “Black Parade.” Billie Eilish cleaned up last year, so don’t think they will give her another big award so soon. “Rockstar” and “Circles” were genuinely big records but feel too radical for this award. And Beyoncé has never won a Record of the Year Grammy and don’t think they will let a duet be her first. So that leaves Doja Cat’s “Say So” and Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” — two massive, disco-inspired pop records. I think, ultimately, Dua takes it. It’s a better record and I just think Grammys will pick the white pop star over the Black one.