It’s the biggest award of the night and often becomes the most memorable moment of any Grammys telecast. Moments like Arcade Fire taking a surprise win here, or Adele’s reluctance to even accept the award over Beyonce last year have been some of the most memorable times for me. This year is one of the strongest sets of albums in recent memory, with not a single dud in sight. Could it be one of the tightest Album of the Year races in Grammy history? Let’s take a look at the nominees and then see just how deserving each of these albums are in depth.
“Awaken, My Love!” – Childish Gambino
4:44 – Jay-Z
DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
Melodrama – Lorde
24K Magic – Bruno Mars
As far as this category goes, I was totally off the mark with my predictions back in October, where I only managed to name one of the albums in the list above. I was more confident in my prediction that Ed Sheeran would not only be nominated here for Divide, but win the award on the night that I hadn’t even considered a scenario where I didn’t have to relisten to one of the year’s worst Pop records again. With no Ed here though, it’s made way for brilliant records I never even considered would make it from Lorde, Chidish Gambino and Jay-Z. With three of my top 5 albums of 2017 earning a nomination, I’m pretty happy all round.
Probably the most surprising inclusion in the list, Chldish Gambino is the only artist nominated this year who has never won a Grammy Award. Previously nominated in the Rap categories back in 2015, “Awaken, My Love!” saw him transition into a more traditional RnB with an unexpected Falsetto in tow, but all of the same energy that made his previous albums great. There’s a wonderful sense of knowing to ever song here, on an album that displays its influences in full view. Tracks like Boogieman, Terrified and the Record of the Year nominated Redbone ooze with soul and funk straight from the 1970s while closer Stand Tall recalls the politically charged energy of the same era. It’s a baffling album, full of bonkers sounds and even more bonkers vocals. It may not have had the big sales success that some of the other albums above had, but “Awaken, My Love” is unlike anything else released in recent memory. It would be a surprising winner and part of me thinks that he’s more likely to earn Record of the Year instead.
When the nominations were announced, the domination of Jay-Z’s best album in decades shouldn’t have come as a surprise, Jay-Z is he joint third most nominated artist in Grammy history, with his 8 nods in 2018 taking his total to a ridiculous 74! If he won all 8 of the trophies on the night he would become the most awarded performer in history, just behind Conductor Georg Solti. The Grammys love Jay-Z and when he’s delivering albums as good as 4:44 this far into his career it’s easy to understand why. Family Feud sheds a spotlight on one of the most public and yet private feuds in history alongside his wife Beyoncé of all people. The title track is a stark self reflection on his infidelity, through the eyes of his children made all the more poignant following the public allegations on Lemonade. The link to Lemonade can’t be overstated here too, which is why I’m conflicted on its chances as a winner. Either voters who felt ashamed that Beyoncé missed out on Album of the Year last year will see this a way to make up for the mistake, or it might push voters futher away from seemingly siding with the ‘guilty party’. I personally would love to see 4:44 claim Album of the Year , especially given that this is Jay-Z’s very first solo nomination in this category.
Without a doubt the favourite now that Ed Sheeran is out of the picture, DAMN. has just above every advantage over the rest of the pack that it can have. It’s the biggest selling album of the last 12 months in the US, it’s the most critically acclaimed album in the same time frame and comes from an artist who has been nominated for this award for 3 consecutive albums. All of that said though, I said something similar for his last album the politically charged and cultural moment that was To Pimp A Butterfly, and that was beaten to the trophy by Taylor Swift. DAMN. is my favourite music that Kendrick has ever made though, and for me it’s accessibility to a wider range of voters could keep it at the top of the pile. Tracks like LOVE., FEEL. and LOYALTY. take more influence from RnB than Rap, while HUMBLE. and DNA. are such huge ‘event songs’ that every listen is a meaty worthwhile experience. He’s still the favourite for me here, and it’s his most deserving Album of the Year contender so far.
Melodrama was my favourite album of 2017. It’s probably one of my favourite albums ever, which sounds like an exaggeration, but every single time I listen to it I feel something new. Green Light is HUGE, Sober goes off in a massive way, The Louvre is an alternative pop masterpiece and Perfect Places ends things with a massive middle finger. Its place here isn’t a surprise to me, it was the 2nd most critically acclaimed album of the year and Lorde is a previous General field winner when Royals took SOTY back in 2015. What I am surprised about is that the only nomination she received this year is Album of The Year. There hasn’t been an album nominated for Album of the Year and nothing else since You’re The One by Paul Simon back in 2001. It’s such a rare occurrence that I’m not really sure how to rate Lorde’s chances here. Surely she should have won Best Pop Vocal Album given that none of the 6 albums nominated there appear here? Her place as the only woman, and only artist who isn’t in the RnB/Rap world with her album could swing a lot of voters in her favour though.
Probably the only album that I don’t adore from the list above, 24K Magic is still a killer set of could be hits and is tellingly the most commercial sounding album of the bunch. I personally think it’s Bruno’s weakest effort yet, but it’s interesting that my favourite album of his, Unorthodox Jukebox is the only one to not pick up an Album of the Year nomination. There’s something a bit slimy about this brand of classic RnB, but on the most part the grooves are smooth enough to look past lyrics like ‘I’ll unzip the back and watch it fall, as I kiss your neck and shoulders’ on the catchy, but strangely seedy Versace on the Floor. It’s the big hits though that will carry Bruno here though, 24K Magic and That’s What I Like are already general field favourites and the recently remixed Finesse could potentially be an early 2019 contender if Cardi B pushes it to become the second #1 hit from the album. The timing of that release seems perfect for voters too, who might have needed a reminder of the album given its release 14 months ago. Bruno is the artist who could benefit the most from the absence of Divide too, where any undecided pop voters might side with the most easy to understand and obvious Pop leaning album of the bunch. If I was the type to take a risk, I’d put money on 24k Magic ending up as the winner on the night, but I’m far too cautious for that.
Most Likely To Win
1) DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar
2) 24K Magic – Bruno Mars
3) 4:44 – Jay-Z
4) Melodrama – Lorde
5) “Awaken, My Love” – Childish Gambino
1) Melodrama – Lorde
2) DAMN. Kendrick Lamar
3) 4:44 – Jay-Z
4) “Awaken, My Love” – Childish Gambino
5) 24K Magic – Bruno Mars