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The 2018 Grammys are almost upon us. The 60th edition of ‘music’s biggest night’ will be streamed live this Sunday from Madison Square Garden, the first time the ceremony has left its longtime home of Los Angeles in over a decade. And though recent years have proven that the Recording Academy’s choices for the night’s top prizes have been… out of touch, to put it generously, we’re holding out hope that this year may actually see some artists and pieces of music worthy of being honored.

This is not simply wishful thinking; for the first time in years, the nominees for the top prizes are fairly spot on. It means that picking a clear favorite is nearly impossible when you have Kendrick Lamar, JAY-Z, Childish Gambino and Lorde competing against each other. Barring an egregious upset, each category is likely to see someone majorly deserving (or in some cases, long overdue) to emerge with a Grammy in hand by evening’s end.

With that in mind, we’re taking a look at the ‘big four’ categories and offering our best predictions for who will win, in addition to who should win. Gauge our thoughts below and tune in to the 2018 Grammys on Sunday, January 28 at 7:30PM EST.

Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images

Record of the Year

Nominees:

Bruno Mars – “24K Magic”
Childish Gambino – “Redbone”
JAY-Z – “The Story of O.J.”
Kendrick Lamar – “HUMBLE.”
Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee – “Despacito” ft. Justin Bieber

Who Should Win:

“Despacito” may have been an earworm more infectious than a herpes outbreak in a freshmen dorm in 2017, but – along with Bruno Mars’ insufferable, collagist interpretation of funk that is “24K Magic” – doesn’t quite match the quality of songcraft present in the other nominees. “Redbone” was the sparkling highlight of Childish Gambino’s far more enjoyable collagist interpretation of funk, while “The Story of O.J.” was one of a handful of tracks on JAY-Z’s triumphant 4:44 that lingered in the mind long after the first listen. But let’s not play games, we all know who deserves this one.

Our pick: Kendrick Lamar – “HUMBLE.”

Who Will Win:

This one could go a number of ways. An ideal scenario would be a Kendrick-clean sweep of each category he’s nominated in (a much-needed reparation for his Grammy snubs for both of his previous albums). However, the difference between Record of the Year and Song of the Year is that record goes to the performer, not the composer. This makes Childish Gambino a contender, as none of the other nominees can compete for his breathtaking, bravura falsetto performance. Voters could also be swayed to honor JAY-Z, who has never had so many shots at taking the top trophies in his illustrious career.

Our prediction: Kendrick Lamar – “HUMBLE.”, though Childish Gambino – “Redbone” is a strong darkhorse candidate.

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Album of the Year

Nominees:

Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”
JAY-Z – 4:44
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
Lorde – Melodrama

Who Should Win:

Aside from Bruno Mars’ 24K Magic which has stumbled in from 2016 and crashed this party like a belligerently drunk neighbor at a children’s birthday party, any one of these albums can be named Album of the Year and we wouldn’t bat an eye. In terms of quality we can rule out Gambino, as – despite it being a solid listen – is not on par with its fellow nominees. Lorde’s Melodrama is a masterpiece, and JAY-Z’s 4:44 was the most satisfying surprise of last year. But again, we all know who should be getting this one.

Our pick: Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.

Who Will Win:

This one is a true 50/50 toss up between either Kendrick or JAY. Both would be historic wins; in Grammy history, there have been only two (two!) albums in the genre of hip-hop/rap to have won Album of the Year: Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. A win for either Kendrick or JAY would make them the first solo rapper to ever win the top prize. And both of them would represent a much-needed apology from the Grammys in overlooking their work; Kendrick somehow lost both good kid, m.A.A.d. City and To Pimp a Butterfly to Daft Punk and Taylor Swift, respectively, while JAY-Z has gone his entire, innovative, iconic career without even being nominated for this prize until this year.

Our prediction: Truly too close to call, but we’re going with Kendrick, perhaps out of wishful thinking.

Nicholas Hunt / Getty Images

Song of the Year

Nominees:

Bruno Mars – “That’s What I Like”
JAY-Z – “4:44”
Julia Michaels – “Issues”
Logic – “1-800-273-8255” ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid
Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee – “Despacito” ft. Justin Bieber

Who Should Win:

We’re not sure what Bruno Mars did to insert himself into every one of the top categories because it sure doesn’t seem like the answer can be chalked up to quality. Yet here is again, for a song that is somehow even more unlistenable than the title track to 24K Magic. Moving right along, Julia Michaels is the real surprise entry here, but not one we could get behind. “Despacito,” despite its very necessary place in this world, wouldn’t hold up against Logic or JAY-Z. Either one of them would make for a decent win here.

Our pick: JAY-Z – “4:44,” because even in Hov’s magisterial reign over rap, he’s never turned in bars quite like this before.

Who Will Win:

Here we can also quickly rule out Bruno Mars and Julia Michaels, which leaves an even playing field for our remaining three nominees. “Despacito” could very easily snag this one, as in a superb year for music, this little ditty emerged as the unlikely (and sole) candidate for the bona fide hit of the year. The placement of Logic in this category is also telling; the Grammys have an affinity for crossover tracks that appeal to the heart, particularly in this category. And of course if Grammy voters were swayed toward Kendrick in the other two categories, this could be their chance to give one to JAY.

Our prediction: Based on this category’s history, and schmaltzy subject matter, we’re calling a win for Logic.

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Best New Artist

Nominees:

Alessia Cara
Julia Michaels
Khalid
Lil Uzi Vert
SZA

Who Should Win:

Ooof. This is a tough one. And no shade to Alessia, Julia or Khalid, but this is a tug of war between SZA and Uzi. Both had the kind of breakout year in 2017 that happens to only a handful of the most talented artists, and even then only if they’re lucky. SZA’s Ctrl was universally lauded as one of the best albums of the year, while Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” is a Cinderella-story that encapsulates the thrilling twists and turns of how a hit song becomes a ‘hit’ in the complex world of music today. But if forced to choose…

Our pick: SZA, because despite Uzi’s rapid ascendance to cultural relevance, SZA is immediately timeless.

Who Will Win:

The Grammys notoriously are unpredictable in this category; many still lose sleep at the thought of the 2011 ceremony, when Esperanza Spalding beat Drake, Justin Bieber, Florence + the Machine and Mumford & Sons for this title. That said, SZA is probably the safest best – who doesn’t love her? But an educated guess would also leave room for Khalid or Alessia Cara to nab this one.

Our prediction: SZA.

Still got Grammys on the brain? Check out our ranking of every winner of the Best Rap Album right here.

  • Cover Image: Kevin Winter / Getty Images
Words by Jake Boyer
Music Editor
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