Support independent, student-run journalism.

Your support helps give staff members from all backgrounds the opportunity to conduct meaningful reporting on important issues at Stanford. All contributions are tax-deductible.

Predictions for the 2020 Grammys experience

By

The biggest night in music — the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards — will be held on Sunday, January 26th, when popular musicians perform hits and take home prizes for musical achievements. Awarded by the Recording Academy, the Grammys have a reputation for recognizing mainstream and commercially successful music, and a lot of industry politics dictate the decisions as well. For that reason, the artists who will win and artists who should win are not always the same, and “dark horses” can unexpectedly snag wins as well. Here is an assessment of all three types of artists for the major categories, including the “big four”: Record Of The Year, Album Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best New Artist. You can tune in at 5 p.m. PST on CBS — watch the ceremony on cable, online at CBS.com, or Hulu. 

1. Record Of The Year

Who will win: “Truth Hurts” — Lizzo

Who should win: “Bad Guy” — Billie Eilish

Wild card: “7 Rings” — Ariana Grande

It’s hard to imagine that Lizzo won’t win anything in the four major categories. Given the songwriting disputes over “Truth Hurts,” however, it would be more appropriate to recognize everyone who worked on this song (including producers and engineers) through Record of the Year. But the sleek, stripped-down beat and nonchalant attitude of “Bad Guy” capture the spirit of 2019 and the rise of alternative pop sounds. “Old Town Road,” while genre-bending and viral, is too short, and the production is incredibly generic and unimpressive. “7 Rings” might have lost its impact because of its early release, but it has a refreshing production. With its twist on “My Favorite Things” from the classic film “The Sound of Music” (1965) and its trap-inspired cadences, it would be a nice choice for this prize. 

2. Album Of The Year

Who will win: “Norman F*cking Rockwell” —  Lana Del Rey; or, “When we all fall asleep, where do we go?” — Billie Eilish

Who should win: “Norman F*cking Rockwell” — Lana Del Rey

Wild cards: “Father of the Bride” — Vampire Weekend; or, “I,I” — Bon Iver

“Album of the Year” has consistently gone to questionable winners, sometimes not even the commercial or critical favorite. In the past, the Recording Academy has favored pop and rock albums and noticeably passed over hip-hop projects. That preference may work out for the soft rock “Norman F*cking Rockwell,” though it had a more modest commercial performance than other nominees. Lana Del Rey’s best album to date deserves the nod here, and it would be nice to award her decade-long artistic evolution. Billie can win in categories for single tracks; she doesn’t need to win this category, but with both commercial success and positive critic reviews, she can take home the most coveted prize. Ultimately, the Grammy voters might award other major artists like Bon Iver or Vampire Weekend for their strong albums.

3. Song Of The Year

Who will win: “Bad Guy” — Billie Eilish

Who should win: “Norman F*cking Rockwell” — Lana Del Rey

Wild card: “Lover” — Taylor Swift

“Song of the Year” is a songwriting award, and the strange thing about this year’s nominees is that no one song jumps out as a strong contender. Legal disputes over credits on “Truth Hurts” decreased Lizzo’s chances of winning this category. “Bad Guy,” while a viral hit, has strange, suggestive and eyebrow-raising lyrics; we’ll see if the Recording Academy notices. “Norman F*cking Rockwell” is far from Lana Del Rey’s best-written album, but it’s still the best out of all the nominees, with impressive lines like “Self-loathing poet, resident Laurel Canyon know-it-all.” “Lover” might get mixed up with other romantic ballads like “Someone You Loved” or “Hard Place,” but it only has one writer — the Academy might award Taylor Swift for that achievement. 

4. Best New Artist

Who will win: Billie Eilish; or, Lizzo

Who should win: Billie Eilish

Wild cards: Maggie Rogers; or, Rosalia

Everyone seems to agree that this category is a toss-up between Billie Eilish and Lizzo. Both of these artists have die-hard fans and garnered nominations in the four major categories, with Billie setting a record as the youngest artist ever nominated for all four at the age of seventeen. Lizzo’s musical career, however, began much earlier than Billie’s. Lizzo released her first studio album in 2013, making Billie the true “new” artist. She has been a viral force of nature since her breakout single “Ocean Eyes” back in 2016, so she deserves this prize for reshaping the mainstream pop sound. Maggie Rogers and Rosalia, with their smaller but fervent fan bases, can similarly take the prize. Less-mainstream artists have won before: in 2018, Alessia Cara bested Khalid, Lil Uzi Vert, SZA and Julia Michaels. 

5. Best Pop Vocal Album

Who will win: “thank u, next” — Ariana Grande

Who should win: “thank u, next” — Ariana Grande

Wild card: “Lover” — Taylor Swift

Not only did “thank u, next” produce some of the biggest hits and memes of 2019, it shows refreshing innovation from Ariana tinged with hip-hop influence. Her production is more sophisticated, and her vocal performance oozes with more personality on top of her impressive vocal skills. Since Billie Eilish is likely to sweep some of the major categories, giving Best Pop Vocal Album to Ariana would be nice. Although, the Recording Academy notably passed over Taylor Swift’s “Reputation” last year for Ariana Grande instead, and they might flip it around this year. 

6. Best Music Video

Who will win: “Cellophane” — FKA twigs

Who should win: “Cellophane” — FKA twigs

Wild card: “Old Town Road” — Lil Nas X

If the Grammy voters have the tiniest appreciation for art — art that shocks, transforms, provokes — the winner jumps out as FKA twigs. This music video is a landmark achievement in the 2010s with breathtaking choreography, imaginative cinematography, video effects, and editing. Reclaiming pole dancing as an art rather than a strictly sexual performance, FKA twigs turns her body into a vessel for her deepest pains, fears and desires. She does not have mainstream fame to her advantage, but as the most unique female artist in the music industry right now, she and her crew deserve to win for this video. But the Grammys are not always good at recognizing the best art, and they might choose to award Lil Nas X instead for the humorous and anachronistic music video for “Old Town Road.” 

Contact Nadia Jo at nejo ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Nadia Jo '23 is a political science major from Korea/Virginia/Massachusetts. She can be found crying at 3am listening to Brahms, Ravel, Kendrick Lamar, Phantom of the Opera, and the Game of Thrones soundtracks.