2019 Grammy Awards: Predictions & Personal Picks

As the music industry continues to splinter and listeners have access to more music than ever, the Grammys will once again try to determine excellence among a wide variety of music. Here are the predictions and personal picks of three Country Universe writers for the Grammy Awards airing on Sunday, February 10.

General Field Categories

Record Of The Year – WILL WIN

  • “I Like It” — Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin
  • “The Joke” — Brandi Carlile – KJC
  • “This Is America” — Childish Gambino
  • “God’s Plan” — Drake
  • “Shallow” — Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper
  • “All The Stars” — Kendrick Lamar & SZA
  • “Rockstar” — Post Malone Featuring 21 Savage
  • “The Middle” — Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey – JK

Record Of The Year – SHOULD WIN

  • “I Like It” — Cardi B, Bad Bunny & J Balvin
  • “The Joke” — Brandi Carlile
  • “This Is America” — Childish Gambino – KJC
  • “God’s Plan” — Drake
  • “Shallow” — Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper
  • “All The Stars” — Kendrick Lamar & SZA – JK
  • “Rockstar” — Post Malone Featuring 21 Savage
  • “The Middle” — Zedd, Maren Morris & Grey

Jonathan: Janelle Monae’s “Make Me Feel” was the record of 2018, and I will not hear otherwise. But this isn’t a bad line-up at all. “All the Stars” would get my vote by a hair over “This is America,” “I Like It,” and “The Joke,” in that order. “The Middle” sounds like it was focus-group’ed to win this exact award, and I assume it will.

Kevin:  The stunning visuals of the “This is America” clip make it easy to miss just how brilliant a record it is in its own right.  Childish Gambino/Donald Glover for the win, if it was my call. The themes of “The Joke” and the low threshold needed for a plurality make it seem like the most likely winner for me.

Album Of The Year – WILL WIN

  • Cardi B, Invasion of Privacy
  • Brandi Carlile, By the Way I Forgive You
  • Drake, Scorpion
  • H.E.R., H.E.R.
  • Post Malone, Beerbongs and Bentleys
  • Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer
  • Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour  – JK, KJC
  • Various Artists, Black Panther: The Album

Album Of The Year – SHOULD WIN

  • Cardi B, Invasion of Privacy
  • Brandi Carlile, By the Way I Forgive You
  • Drake, Scorpion
  • H.E.R., H.E.R.
  • Post Malone, Beerbongs and Bentleys
  • Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer
  • Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour
  • Various Artists, Black Panther: The AlbumJK, KJC

Jonathan: The multiple hip-hop albums will fragment the vote in too many directions for any one of them to triumph; of this group, the soundtrack album for Black Panther would be my pick for being even deeper and more inspiring than the film it supports. Both Monae and Musgraves made albums that I like but would hesitate to champion as great on their own merits or as the best work of two of the most compelling artists in contemporary pop. I believe Musgraves will pull off the victory here, though, as the kind of anti-country-establishment win– see O Brother, Where Art Thou? and the Dixie Chicks– that the Grammys can’t resist.

Kevin:  The Nashville bloc should deliver Musgraves a deserved victory, but the Black Panther soundtrack edges it out in terms of vitality and how well it defined the year it was released.  Soundtracks don’t win as often as they should.

Song Of The Year – WILL WIN

  • “All The Stars” — Kendrick Duckworth, Solána Rowe, Al Shuckburgh, Mark Spears & Anthony Tiffith
  • “Boo’d Up” — Larrance Dopson, Joelle James, Ella Mai & Dijon McFarlane
  • “God’s Plan” — Aubrey Graham, Daveon Jackson, Brock Korsan, Ron LaTour, Matthew Samuels & Noah Shebib
  • “In My Blood” — Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris, Shawn Mendes & Geoffrey Warburton
  • “The Joke” — Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth & Tim Hanseroth – KJC
  • “The Middle” — Sarah Aarons, Jordan K. Johnson, Stefan Johnson, Marcus Lomax, Kyle Trewartha, Michael Trewartha & Anton Zaslavski
  • “Shallow” — Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando & Andrew Wyatt – JK
  • “This Is America” — Donald Glover & Ludwig Goransson

Song Of The Year – SHOULD WIN

  • “All The Stars” — Kendrick Duckworth, Solána Rowe, Al Shuckburgh, Mark Spears & Anthony Tiffith
  • “Boo’d Up” — Larrance Dopson, Joelle James, Ella Mai & Dijon McFarlane
  • “God’s Plan” — Aubrey Graham, Daveon Jackson, Brock Korsan, Ron LaTour, Matthew Samuels & Noah Shebib
  • “In My Blood” — Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris, Shawn Mendes & Geoffrey Warburton
  • “The Joke” — Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth & Tim Hanseroth – JK, KJC
  • “The Middle” — Sarah Aarons, Jordan K. Johnson, Stefan Johnson, Marcus Lomax, Kyle Trewartha, Michael Trewartha & Anton Zaslavski
  • “Shallow” — Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando & Andrew Wyatt
  • “This Is America” — Donald Glover & Ludwig Goransson

Jonathan: It works as it should as a plot device, and I get why it has been the focus track for the A Star Is Born awards push, but I really just don’t think “Shallow” is a well-written song. Now, if we were talking about “Always Remember Me This Way” or “Maybe It’s Time” from that soundtrack, that would be a different conversation. I could see “This is America” as a potential spoiler here if the voters are feeling particularly salty in their topicality, but I think “The Joke” could also fill that role. Carlile has a look at this one, and with the best composition of the line-up, too.

Kevin:  The music industry is a collection of marginalized people who left for the big cities, and if they listen to “The Joke,” it will hit home for them.  I see Carlile being one of the evening’s biggest winners on the strength of this song.

Best New Artist – WILL WIN

  • Chloe x Halle
  • Luke Combs – KJC
  • Greta Van Fleet
  • H.E.R.
  • Dua Lipa – JK
  • Margo Price
  • Bebe Rexha
  • Jorja Smith

Best New Artist – SHOULD WIN

  • Chloe x Halle
  • Luke Combs
  • Greta Van Fleet
  • H.E.R.
  • Dua Lipa
  • Margo Price – JK, KJC
  • Bebe Rexha
  • Jorja Smith

Jonathan: Greta Van Fleet could win if enough voters read the viral Pitchfork review of their album. History says a woman will win this, but which one? Dua Lipa probably has the greatest name recognition of the lot, but Rexha’s assault on multiple radio formats over the course of 2018 could put her in contention, too. Yes, I know that she’s on her second album, but Margo Price would get my vote without reservation. I fully believe she’s in it for the long haul.

Kevin: Margo Price is the only artist I find interesting enough to listen to, but again, I think the wider field benefits Nashville artists, and that will give Luke Combs, of all people, a General Category Grammy.

Country Field Categories

Best Country Solo Performance – WILL WIN

  • “Wouldn’t It Be Great?” — Loretta Lynn
  • “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters” — Maren Morris
  • “Butterflies” — Kacey Musgraves – JK, KJC
  • “Millionaire” — Chris Stapleton – LW
  • “Parallel Line” — Keith Urban

Best Country Solo Performance – SHOULD WIN

  • “Wouldn’t It Be Great?” — Loretta Lynn – LW,  KJC
  • “Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters” — Maren Morris
  • “Butterflies” — Kacey Musgraves
  • “Millionaire” — Chris Stapleton – JK
  • “Parallel Line” — Keith Urban

Leeann: I think Stapleton has an edge on likely winning this, but I am blown away by how great Loretta Lynn’s voice still is and I would be ecstatic if she won!

Jonathan: An appalling category, honestly. I’d have voted for Musgraves here for “Space Cowboy,” but “Butterflies” feels a bit too slight for me to get behind it, especially in comparison to Chris Stapleton covering Kevin Welch. I wouldn’t be mad at a win for Lynn, either, though “Ain’t No Time To Go” would have been an even stronger nomination for her.

Kevin: I don’t care if it’s the third time she’s recorded “Wouldn’t It Be Great?”  The newest take is the definitive version, a sad coda to “Don’t Come Home a- Drinkin’” at  the tail end of a marriage to an alcoholic. Musgraves is positioned to sweep this year, but I think that “Butterflies” has a melody that the talented writer should’ve gifted to a stronger singer.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance – WILL WIN

  • “Shoot Me Straight” — Brothers Osborne – LW
  • “Tequila” — Dan + Shay – KJC
  • ”When Someone Stops Loving You” — Little Big Town
  • “Dear Hate” — Maren Morris Featuring Vince Gill – JK
  • “Meant To Be” — Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line

Best Country Duo/Group Performance – SHOULD WIN

  • “Shoot Me Straight” — Brothers Osborne – LW, JK
  • “Tequila” — Dan + Shay
  • ”When Someone Stops Loving You” — Little Big Town – KJC
  • “Dear Hate” — Maren Morris Featuring Vince Gill
  • “Meant To Be” — Bebe Rexha & Florida Georgia Line

Leeann: While I wouldn’t mind seeing Vince Gill win another Grammy at this stage of his career and I think this song’s heart is in the right place, I’m not wowed by its idealistic, middle of the road lyrics. Ultimately, I think Brothers Osborne has the best and coolest song in this category.

Jonathan: My sincere hope is that the runaway popularity of “Meant To Be” is its own reward, so voters won’t feel compelled to give a Grammy to such a nothing of a song and performance. But then I remember all of the Grammys Lady Antebellum has won, so who knows? NARAS clearly loves Morris right now and, historically, has loved Vince Gill, so I think “Dear Hate” is the most likely winner. But Brothers Osborne’s country-dancepunk move is my pick for the easy standout of these five, an example of how the genre can tend to its roots while still sounding progressive.

Kevin:  I’m quite fond of the Little Big Town track.  “Tequila” seems like the omnipresent hit that voters can get behind.  If “Meant to Be” couldn’t triumph at the CMA Awards, I have trouble seeing it win a Grammy.

Best Country Song – WILL WIN

  • “Break Up in the End” — Jessie Jo Dillon, Chase McGill & Jon Nite
  • “Dear Hate” — Tom Douglas, David Hodges & Maren Morris
  • “I Lived It” — Rhett Akins, Ross Copperman, Ashley Gorley & Ben Hayslip
  • “Space Cowboy” — Luke Laird, Shane McAnally & Kacey Musgraves – LW, JK, KJC
  • “Tequila” — Nicolle Galyon, Jordan Reynolds & Dan Smyers
  • “When Someone Stops Loving You” — Hillary Lindsey, Chase McGill & Lori McKenna

Best Country Song – SHOULD WIN

  • “Break Up in the End” — Jessie Jo Dillon, Chase McGill & Jon Nite
  • “Dear Hate” — Tom Douglas, David Hodges & Maren Morris
  • “I Lived It” — Rhett Akins, Ross Copperman, Ashley Gorley & Ben Hayslip
  • “Space Cowboy” —  & Kacey Musgraves – LW, JK, KJC
  • “Tequila” — Nicolle Galyon, Jordan Reynolds & Dan Smyers
  • “When Someone Stops Loving You” — Hillary Lindsey, Chase McGill & Lori McKenna

Jonathan: “Space Cowboy” for the win, which is as it should be. Only “Dear Hate” seems like a possible upset, and far, far worse songs than that one have triumphed in this category before.

Leeann: I don’t love any of these songs, but if I have to choose, “Space Cowboy” is the best of them.

Kevin: “Space Cowboy,” for better demonstrating the impact of a missing comma than anything since Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.

Best Country Album – WILL WIN

  • Kelsea Ballerini, Unapologetically
  • Brothers Osborne, Port Saint JoeLW
  • Ashley McBryde, Girl Going Nowhere
  • Kacey Musgraves, Golden Hour  – JK, KJC
  • Chris Stapleton, From a Room, Volume Two

Best Country Album – SHOULD WIN

  • Kelsea Ballerini, Unapologetically
  • Brothers Osborne, Port Saint Joe
  • Ashley McBryde, Girl Going Nowhere LW, JK
  • Kacey Musgraves, Golden HourKJC
  • Chris Stapleton, From a Room, Volume Two

Leeann: I could see and be happy for Brothers Osborne, Stapleton, Musgraves or Mcbryde winning Album of the Year, but I’m confused by Ballerini’s nomination.

Jonathan: If this goes to anyone other than Musgraves, which I wouldn’t bet on happening, it will go to Stapleton in a particularly lazy vote. Ballerini’s nomination is an abomination; there’s this small but vocal contingent of support she has as some kind of contemporary pop-country feminist, and the actual text of her album in no way justifies that reading. Brothers Osborne’s album is terrific, but McBryde’s Girl Going Nowhere is my choice for the strongest of the lot.

Kevin: Ashley McBryde’s debut is fantastic, but I give the overall edge in quality to Kacey Musgraves, for an album that has persistently grown on me with time.

American Roots / Americana Categories

Best American Roots Performance – WILL WIN

  • “Kick Rocks” — Sean Ardoin
  • “Saint James Infirmary Blues” — Jon Batiste
  • “The Joke”  Brandi Carlile – JK, KJC
  • “All On My Mind” — Anderson East
  • “Last Man Standing” — Willie Nelson

Best American Roots Performance – SHOULD WIN

  • “Kick Rocks” — Sean Ardoin
  • “Saint James Infirmary Blues” — Jon Batiste
  • “The Joke”  Brandi Carlile – JK, KJC
  • “All On My Mind” — Anderson East
  • “Last Man Standing” — Willie Nelson

Jonathan: This one should be Carlile’s safest bet of the night, given her support across the ballot and the extraordinary vocal masterclass she gives on “The Joke.” Nice to see the recognition for Anderson East, too.

Kevin:  Carlile makes fascinating choices while singing “The Joke,” imbuing the already powerful lyric with humor, awkwardness, and cathartic wails.  A win seems a given.

Best American Roots Song – WILL WIN

  • “All the Trouble” — Waylon Payne, Lee Ann Womack & Adam Wright
  • “Build a Bridge” — Jeff Tweedy
  • “The Joke” — Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth & Tim Hanseroth – LW, JK, KJC
  • “Knockin’ On Your Screen Door” — Pat McLaughlin & John Prine
  • “Summer’s End” — Pat McLaughlin & John Prine

Best American Roots Song – SHOULD WIN

  • “All the Trouble” — Waylon Payne, Lee Ann Womack & Adam Wright
  • “Build a Bridge” — Jeff Tweedy
  • “The Joke” — Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth & Tim Hanseroth – KJC
  • “Knockin’ On Your Screen Door” — Pat McLaughlin & John Prine – LW, JK
  • “Summer’s End” — Pat McLaughlin & John Prine

Jonathan: On paper, it seems like this one should be another lock for Carlile, but will voters be able to pass up a chance to give John Prine a Grammy for his songwriting? Had only one of his songs been nominated, I’d predict him for the upset win, but there’s no way he can avoid a vote-split. “All The Trouble” would also be a worthy winner, and I wish Womack had been nominated in the American Roots Performance category (or, real talk, Best Country Solo Performance instead of Morris or Urban) for her blistering vocal turn.

Leeann: I suspect this is Brandi Carlile’s year and I’m very happy for her, but John Prine and Lee Ann Womack have my personal favorite songs in this category.

Kevin:  I echo the sentiments for “All the Trouble” and “Knockin’ On Your Screen Door,” but I give my personal edge to the likely winner. There’s something monumental about “The Joke” at this particular moment of time, when laughing at the marginalized has re-emerged as a national sport.

Best Americana Album – WILL WIN

  • Brandi Carlile, By The Way, I Forgive You – LW, JK, KJC
  • Bettye LaVette, Things Have Changed
  • John Prine, The Tree of Forgiveness
  • Lee Ann Womack, The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone
  • The Wood Brothers, One Drop of Truth

Best Americana Album – SHOULD WIN

  • Brandi Carlile, By The Way, I Forgive You – JK
  • Bettye LaVette, Things Have Changed
  • John Prine, The Tree of ForgivenessLW
  • Lee Ann Womack, The Lonely, the Lonesome & the Gone  – KJC
  • The Wood Brothers, One Drop of Truth

Leeann: I’m rooting for John Prine’s The Tree of Forgiveness, but I’ll be happy for Brandi Carlile.

Jonathan: A terrific line-up here, and not one of these albums would be a poor choice for a winner. LaVette’s career renaissance throughout the aughts has been one of the most under-appreciated stories in music, and Things Have Changed is an excellent set. Prine’s triumphant don’t-call-it-a-comeback album will draw a sizable contingent of votes, and rightfully so. Again, he’s the only nominee I could see pulling off an upset victory. But this award will most likely go to Carlile, whose By the Way, I Forgive You clearly resonated with a broad swath of Grammy voters; she’d be my choice by a hair over Prine, too.

Kevin:  I think Lee Ann Womack’s album is the strongest, but as is usually the case in this category, you can’t whiff at a bat. Every album is worthy of acknowledgement and acclaim.

Best Folk Album – WILL WIN

  • Joan Baez, Whistle Down the WindJK
  • Dom Flemons, Black Cowboys
  • Mary Gauthier, Rifles & Rosary Beads
  • Iron & Wine, Weed Garden
  • Punch Brothers, All Ashore

Best Folk Album – SHOULD WIN

  • Joan Baez, Whistle Down the Wind
  • Dom Flemons, Black Cowboys
  • Mary Gauthier, Rifles & Rosary BeadsJK
  • Iron & Wine, Weed Garden
  • Punch Brothers, All Ashore

Jonathan: It’s wonderful to see Gauthier’s poignant and fiercely political album recognized in this category. Despite strong challenges from Iron & Wine and especially from Punch Brothers, Gauthier made the year’s purest and strongest folk album in the true spirit of the genre. But will folk purists be able to pass by that first name they’ll see on the ballot?

Best Bluegrass Album – WILL WIN

  • Mike Barnett, Portraits in Fiddles
  • Sister Sadie, Sister Sadie II
  • Special Consensus, Rivers and Roads
  • The Travelin’ McCourys, The Travelin’ McCourys – JK?
  • Wood & Wire, North of Despair

Best Bluegrass Album – SHOULD WIN

  • Mike Barnett, Portraits in Fiddles
  • Sister Sadie, Sister Sadie II
  • Special Consensus, Rivers and Roads
  • The Travelin’ McCourys, The Travelin’ McCourys
  • Wood & Wire, North of Despair

Jonathan: For the first time I can recall, I haven’t heard any of the albums nominated in this category in their entirety, so I’ll abstain from a “should win” pick. The name recognition for the McCourys may give them the edge over the competition, but I’ll admit I’m out of the loop on who the Bluegrass diehards will rally around this year. I’ll do better in 2019!

2 Comments

  1. Interesting article in today’s WaPo on-line re Margo Price and America’s poisoned politics. Listened to MP for the first time
    last evening. Some good stuff.
    As usual I probably won’t watch (never heard of most of the performers) but I’ll root for LBT’s “When Someone Stops Loving You”. If they lose, i’d go with “Dear Hate”.

  2. Probably won’t watch any of the Grammys, but on the bluegrass nominees…definitely do yourself a favor and check out the Special Consensus album. It won album of the year at the IBMA’s, and their record is a nice showcase of their harmonies, and has a really, good diverse collections of songs. I can’t give much feedback on the other nominees, other than to say that I really liked the little I’ve heard off the Sister Sadie album, and would also probably lean towards the McCourrys getting the Grammy due to name recognition.

    As far as the country categories go, as long as “Meant to Be” and Ballerini don’t win, I don’t see any major issues with any of the victors. But, I’d imagine Musgraves will have a good night.

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