2020 Grammy Predictions & Personal Picks

This year’s Grammy Awards are right around the corner.  Here’s a look at who two of our writers expect to win, and who we’d pick if it was up to us.  Check back on the big day – Sunday, January 26 – for a complete list of winners.

GENERAL FIELD

Record of the Year

Should Win:

  • Bon Iver, “Hey Ma”
  • Billie Eilish, “Bad Guy”
  • Ariana Grande, “7 Rings”
  • H.E.R., “Hard Place”
  • Khalid, “Talk”
  • Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, “Old Town Road” – JK
  • Lizzo, “Truth Hurts” – KJC
  • Post Malone & Swae Lee, “Sunflower”

Will Win:

  • Bon Iver, “Hey Ma”
  • Billie Eilish, “Bad Guy”
  • Ariana Grande, “7 Rings”
  • H.E.R., “Hard Place”
  • Khalid, “Talk”
  • Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, “Old Town Road” – KJC
  • Lizzo, “Truth Hurts” – JK
  • Post Malone & Swae Lee, “Sunflower”

JK: Part of me thinks Eilish is going to run the table this year, and I would not be surprised at all were she to win this. But I’m leaning more toward this being a year when voters spread the wealth, and this seems like the most obvious place to recognize Lizzo in one of the big four categories. Which I’m totally 100% fine with, though I would actually vote for “Old Town Road” for its upending of industry norms and zeitgeist-y hook.

KJC: Lizzo made the best record overall, but I think she’ll be edged out by the also worthy Lil Nas X, which will have the support of the Nashville voters behind it.  How great is it to be able to predict a hip-hop record could win, after “This is America” finally became the first to do so last year!

Album of the Year

Should Win:

  • Bon Iver – i,i
  • Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell! – KJC
  • Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go
  • Ariana Grande, Thank U, Next
  • H.E.R. – I Used to Know Her
  • Lil Nas X – 7
  • Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
  • Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride JK

Will Win:

  • Bon Iver – i,i
  • Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell!
  • Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep Where Do We Go
  • Ariana Grande, Thank U, NextJK, KJC
  • H.E.R. – I Used to Know Her
  • Lil Nas X – 7
  • Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
  • Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

JK: I don’t love any of these albums. Del Rey had the year’s most critically acclaimed album– which, as ever, I don’t care for her shtick at all, so hard pass– but NARAS still skews too conservative to give their biggest prize to something with the word “fucking” right there in the title. Kacey Musgraves benefited from a vote-split last year, but I don’t see a clear beneficiary this year with a field that’s balanced across pop, hip-hop, and rock. So I’ll go for the biggest pop star with a well-regarded album.

KJC: Lana Del Rey is long overdue for some Grammy love, and I’m more partial to her schtick than Jonathan. (She’s a favorite of my son, so I’ve heard her a lot.) Ariana Grande does seem the safest choice, though. 

Song of the Year

Should Win:

  • “Always Remember Us This Way” – Natalie Hemby, Lady Gaga, Hillary Lindsey, and Lori McKenna 
  • “Bad Guy” – Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell
  • “Bring My Flowers Now” – Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth, and Tanya Tucker 
  • “Hard Place” – Ruby Amanfu, Sam Ashworth, D, Arcelious Harris, H.E.R., and Rodney Jerkins
  • “Lover”- Taylor Swift
  • “Norman Fucking Rockwell” – Jack Antonoff and Lana Del Rey – KJC
  • “Someone You Loved” – Tom Barnes, Lewis Capaldi, Pete Kelleher, Benjamin Kohn, and Sam Roman
  • “Truth Hurts” – Steven Cheung, Eric Frederic, Melissa Jefferson, and Jesse Saint John – JK

Will Win:

  • “Always Remember Us This Way” – Natalie Hemby, Lady Gaga, Hillary Lindsey, and Lori McKenna
  • “Bad Guy” – Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell 
  • “Bring My Flowers Now” – Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth, and Tanya Tucker – JK, KJC
  • “Hard Place” – Ruby Amanfu, Sam Ashworth, D, Arcelious Harris, H.E.R., and Rodney Jerkins
  • “Lover”- Taylor Swift
  • “Norman Fucking Rockwell” – Jack Antonoff and Lana Del Rey
  • “Someone You Loved” – Tom Barnes, Lewis Capaldi, Pete Kelleher, Benjamin Kohn, and Sam Roman
  • “Truth Hurts” – Steven Cheung, Eric Frederic, Melissa Jefferson, and Jesse Saint John

JK: For me, this comes down to Lizzo’s inventive and memorable wordplay versus the Love Junkies and Gaga’s extraordinary melody and structure versus the raw emotion of Tucker’s single. “Bring My Flowers Now” strikes me as a song that should be hard for NARAS’ overall voting body to pass up… assuming enough of them actually heard it. They could throw a bone to Swift here, but I also wonder how much the industry will want to punish her for her ongoing battle with Scooter Braun over ownership of her work.

KJC: Lana Del Rey’s got the best song here, a visceral takedown of the man that she’s willing to settle for.  But the beautiful poetry of the very worthy “Bring My Flowers Now” is hard to bet against. 

Best New Artist

Should Win:

  • Black Pumas
  • Billie Eilish – KJC
  • Lil Nas X
  • Lizzo – JK
  • Maggie Rogers
  • Rosalía
  • Tank and the Bangas
  • Yola

Will Win:

  • Black Pumas
  • Billie Eilish – KJC
  • Lil Nas X
  • Lizzo
  • Maggie Rogers
  • Rosalía
  • Tank and the Bangas
  • Yola – JK

JK: Almost impossible to call for certain, this comes down to Eilish, Lizzo, and Yola, with Lil Nas X and Rogers both having outside shots. Personally, I’d go for force-of-nature Lizzo by just a hair over the wondrous Yola. But I think Yola is also the safest nominee for voters to rally around; that she seems poised for a fruitful, long-term career may give her just enough of an edge. But this one’s a crapshoot.

KJC:  Billie Eilish is exactly the kind of young singer-songwriter that has done well in this category, going all the way back to the Carly Simon days.  Her strength across the general categories indicates an easy win for her in this one. 

COUNTRY

Best Country Solo Performance

Should Win:

  • Tyler Childers, “All Your’n” – JK
  • Ashley McBryde, “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” – KJC
  • Willie Nelson, “Ride Me Back Home”
  • Blake Shelton, “God’s Country”
  • Tanya Tucker, “Bring My Flowers Now” 

Will Win:

  • Tyler Childers, “All Your’n”
  • Ashley McBryde, “Girl Goin’ Nowhere”
  • Willie Nelson, “Ride Me Back Home”
  • Blake Shelton, “God’s Country”
  • Tanya Tucker, “Bring My Flowers Now” – JK, KJC

JK: Conventional wisdom says that Tucker’s General Field nomination will translate to a win here, and what a richly deserved victory and compelling story that would be. McBryde would also be a fantastic choice; that my top 2 singles of the year were both nominated here is without precedent, so I’m pretty happy. But Childers had my #1 single for 2019, and I’m backing him here. “All Your’n,” traditionalist bitching be damned, is what I think country music should sound like right now. Shelton could win with the only actual hit in the line-up, and that would be the only truly poor outcome.

KJC: I will not be unhappy with a Tanya Tucker sweep, but for me, Ashley McBryde’s already fantastic song is elevated by her nuanced vocal performance. 

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

Should Win:

  • Brooks & Dunn with Luke Combs, “Brand New Man”
  • Brothers Osborne, “I Don’t Remember Me (Before You)” – JK, KJC
  • Dan + Shay, “Speechless”
  • Little Big Town, “The Daughters”
  • Maren Morris featuring Brandi Carlile, “Common”

Will Win:

  • Brooks & Dunn with Luke Combs, “Brand New Man”
  • Brothers Osborne, “I Don’t Remember Me (Before You)”
  • Dan + Shay, “Speechless” – JK
  • Little Big Town, “The Daughters”
  • Maren Morris featuring Brandi Carlile, “Common” –  KJC

JK: As weak a line-up as Solo Performance is strong. I like the intent of the LBT song more than its ponderous execution, but they’re a proven commodity in this category and could win. But Dan+Shay seem to have an inexplicable degree of industry clout and momentum right now. I remain firmly in BrOs’ corner, especially after seeing them open for– and, frankly, upstage– Chris Stapleton last fall.

KJC: Dan + Shay have the only big hit here, but I can’t discount the Grammy love for Morris and Carlile.  I don’t care for any of these records, but Brothers Osborne’s is okay, I guess. 

Best Country Song

Should Win:

  • “Bring My Flowers Now” – Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth, and Tanya Tucker – KJC
  • “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” – Jeremy Bussey and Ashley McBryde – JK
  • “It All Comes Out in the Wash” – Miranda Lambert, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, and Liz Rose
  • “Some of It” – Eric Church, Clint Daniels, Jeff Hyde, and Bobby Pinson
  • “Speechless” – Shay Mooney, Jordan Reynolds, Dan Smyers, and Laura Veltz

Will Win:

  • “Bring My Flowers Now” – Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth, and Tanya Tucker – JK, KJC
  • “Girl Goin’ Nowhere” – Jeremy Bussey and Ashley McBryde
  • “It All Comes Out in the Wash” – Miranda Lambert, Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna, and Liz Rose
  • “Some of It” – Eric Church, Clint Daniels, Jeff Hyde, and Bobby Pinson
  • “Speechless” – Shay Mooney, Jordan Reynolds, Dan Smyers, and Laura Veltz

JK: Again, the General Field nomination should translate to a win in the genre category, and that’s just fine. Personally, I would vote for McBryde’s extraordinary bit of autobiographical songwriting.

KJC: “Bring My Flowers Now” is what you get when the Carter Family is shone through the dual prisms of Tucker’s hard grit and Carlile’s empathetic spirit.  Deserves the win. 

Best Country Album

Should Win:

  • Eric Church, Desperate Man
  • Reba McEntire, Stronger Than the Truth
  • Pistol Annies, Interstate GospelJK, KJC
  • Thomas Rhett, Center Point Road
  • Tanya Tucker, While I’m Livin’

Will Win:

  • Eric Church, Desperate Man
  • Reba McEntire, Stronger Than the Truth
  • Pistol Annies, Interstate Gospel
  • Thomas Rhett, Center Point Road
  • Tanya Tucker, While I’m Livin’ JK, KJC

JK: Four fantastic country albums square off against yet another collection of Bruno Mars and Maroon 5 knock-offs from the most baffling star the genre has produced in generations. But those other four albums? Any would be a worthy winner. The Pistol Annies, finally recognized as a legit outfit worthy of award nominations, would get my vote for one of the decade’s best albums. But, prediction-wise, it’s probably wisest to stick with Tucker. Part of me would love to see Reba win, too.

KJC: This lineup of albums proves how strong the genre is, despite how little of the great music out there that radio is willing to play. Tanya Tucker is likely to sweep the country categories, finally adding some Grammys to her awards collection.  I would be happy to see any of these albums win, sans Rhett. My personal favorite is the Pistol Annies collection. 

AMERICAN ROOTS MUSIC

Best American Roots Performance

Should Win:

  • Sara Bareilles, “Saint Honesty”
  • Calexico and Iron & Wine, “Father Mountain”
  • Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi, “I’m On My Way” – JK, KJC
  • I’m With Her, “Call My Name”
  • Yola, “Faraway Look”

Will Win:

  • Sara Bareilles, “Saint Honesty”
  • Calexico and Iron & Wine, “Father Mountain”
  • Rhiannon Giddens with Francesco Turrisi, “I’m On My Way”
  • I’m With Her, “Call My Name”
  • Yola, “Faraway Look” – JK, KJC

JK: I am dead that Sara Bareilles, always an inexplicable Grammy darling for her middling adult pop, is somehow now Americana. I think Yola will take every category she’s nominated in this year, and “Faraway Look” is terrific. I also love the I’m With Her single, but Rhiannon Giddens is simply on a different plane than most other contemporary artists.

KJC: I love Yola and I hope she’s on stage next year collecting a Grammy with the Highwomen. However, Rhiannon Giddens is far and away the finest singer nominated, and her collaboration with Francesco Turrisi is a keeper. 

Best American Roots Song

Should Win:

  • “Black Myself” – Amythyst Kiah – JK, KJC
  • “Call My Name” – Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan, and Sara Watkins
  • “Crossing to Jerusalem” – Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal
  • “Faraway Look” – Dan Auerbach, Yola, and Pat McLaughlin
  • “I Don’t Wanna Ride the Rails No More” – Vince Gill

Will Win:

  • “Black Myself” – Amythyst Kiah
  • “Call My Name” – Sarah Jarosz, Aoife O’Donovan, and Sara Watkins
  • “Crossing to Jerusalem” – Rosanne Cash and John Leventhal
  • “Faraway Look” – Dan Auerbach, Yola, and Pat McLaughlin – JK, KJC
  • “I Don’t Wanna Ride the Rails No More” – Vince Gill

JK: I figure Yola is going to have a very big night. All five of these songs are great on their own merits, but “Black Myself” from the Our Native Daughters project draws from country, folk, and blues traditions at their very best.

KJC:  “Black Myself” is the strongest composition here.  The Grammys tend not to share the love in these categories, though, so I expect Yola to sweep. 

Best Americana Album

Should Win:

  • Calexico and Iron & Wine, Years to Burn
  • Madison Cunningham, Who Are You Now
  • Keb’ Mo’, Oklahoma
  • J.S. Ondara, Tales of America
  • Yola, Walk Through FireJK, KJC

Will Win:

  • Calexico and Iron & Wine, Years to Burn
  • Madison Cunningham, Who Are You Now
  • Keb’ Mo’, Oklahoma
  • J.S. Ondara, Tales of America
  • Yola, Walk Through FireJK, KJC

JK: An underwhelming line-up. The Calexico and Iron & Wine and the Keb’ Mo’ albums are just wheel-spinners from established acts. Yola will win this and, though it wasn’t my favorite album of 2019, it will be well-deserved among this group.

KJC: A rare year where the country album lineup is actually stronger than the Americana lineup. Yola should and will win. 

Best Bluegrass Album

Should Win:

  • Michael Cleveland, Tall Fiddler
  • Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Live in Prague, Czech Republic
  • The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, Toil, Tears & Trouble
  • Missy Raines, Royal TravellerJK
  • Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, If You Can’t Stand the Heat

Will Win:

  • Michael Cleveland, Tall Fiddler
  • Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Live in Prague, Czech Republic JK
  • The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys, Toil, Tears & Trouble
  • Missy Raines, Royal Traveller
  • Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, If You Can’t Stand the Heat

JK: I’ve heard only two of these; Raines album is terrific, but I wonder if she has the deep genre support to overcome the name recognition of Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, who put out a very good live record.

Best Folk Album

Should Win:

  • Andrew Bird, My Finest Work Yet
  • Che Apalache, Rearrange My Heart
  • Patty Griffin, Patty Griffin
  • Gregory Alan Isakov, Evening Machines
  • Joy Williams, Front PorchJK, KJC

Will Win:

  • Andrew Bird, My Finest Work Yet
  • Che Apalache, Rearrange My Heart
  • Patty Griffin, Patty GriffinJK, KJC
  • Gregory Alan Isakov, Evening Machines
  • Joy Williams, Front Porch

JK: I am baffled that Our Native Daughters weren’t nominated here, especially over the incorrectly-titled set by Andrew Bird. Williams made the best album of the five by some margin; I think Griffin probably has the edge in a category that skews toward veteran artists, but I really could not get into that album.

KJC:  Patty Griffin’s album isn’t up to her usual standards, but the Grammys do love to give belated acknowledgment for an impressive body of work, and Griffin is overdue.  Williams had the best album of the five.

5 Comments

  1. The Bluegrass nominees are very strong = I would regard Michael Cleveland’s TALL FIDDLER as the strongest album of the group, but any of the five would be worthy winners. Of course most Grammy voters know little about bluegrass and probably only listened to one or two of these albums so JK’s comment is probably correct. I would regard the most recent Chris Jones album as better than any of these but he wasn’t even nominated

  2. Honestly most of the nominations are underwhelming. Although I would love LBT to win (simply because of radio’s resistance to the song), Brothers Osborne have been nominated consecutively in this category for 5 years and are yet to win (although at the same time I don’t want them to win and START releasing trash). I will not mind Ashley McBryde winning both categories and Eric/Pistol Annies/Reba winning album.

  3. I’ll be happy if Tanya Tucker wins at least two, out of the country albums nominations if Tanya or Reba win I’ll be happy, they’re great albums and show that women of a certain age can do produce great country music. Looking forward to seeing Tanya Tucker performing “Bring My Flowers Now “

  4. The revelations are funny though because the country categories here are usually better than at the CMAs and ACMs. Without what she describes, what would the nominees look like?

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