2021 Grammy Awards: Predicted Winners and Personal Picks

Here are the predicted winners and personal picks from Country Universe writers in the general, country, and country-adjacent categories of the 2021 Grammy Awards.

GENERAL FIELD

Record of the Year

Predicted Winner:

  • Beyoncé, “Black Parade”
  • Black Pumas, “Colors” – KJC
  • DaBaby Featuring Roddy Ricch, “Rockstar”
  • Doja Cat, “Say So”
  • Billie Eilish, “Everything I Wanted” – JK
  • Dua Lipa, “Don’t Start Now”
  • Post Malone, “Circles”
  • Megan Thee Stallion Featuring Beyoncé, “Savage”

Personal Picks:

  • Beyoncé, “Black Parade” – KJC
  • Black Pumas, “Colors”
  • DaBaby Featuring Roddy Ricch, “Rockstar”
  • Doja Cat, “Say So”
  • Billie Eilish, “Everything I Wanted”
  • Dua Lipa, “Don’t Start Now”
  • Post Malone, “Circles”
  • Megan Thee Stallion Featuring Beyoncé, “Savage” – JK

JK: I don’t love any of these singles, but “Savage” would edge “Don’t Start Now” as my pick for the most essential. I imagine voters will happily pat themselves on the back for last year’s anointment of Eilish by giving her a repeat win, but I honestly don’t have a great feel for how this one will go.

KJC:  “This is America” aside, it’s rare for a contemporary R&B or hip-hop record to actually win this category, despite usually dominating the nominations every year.  “Colors” seems a logical way to acknowledge this past year’s racial reckoning, but I’m most impressed by the ambition and creativity of “Black Parade.”

 

Album of the Year

Predicted Winner:

  • Jhené Aiko, Chilombo
  • Black Pumas, Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition)
  • Coldplay, Everyday Life
  • Jacob Collier, Djesse Vol. 3
  • HAIM, Women in Music Pt. III
  • Dua Lipa, Future Nostalgia – JK
  • Post Malone, Hollywood’s Bleeding
  • Taylor Swift, folklore  KJC

Personal Picks:

  • Jhené Aiko, Chilombo
  • Black Pumas, Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition)
  • Coldplay, Everyday Life
  • Jacob Collier, Djesse Vol. 3KJC
  • HAIM, Women in Music Pt. III
  • Dua Lipa, Future Nostalgia
  • Post Malone, Hollywood’s Bleeding
  • Taylor Swift, folklore – JK

JK: Who’d ever have thought that I’d be endorsing Swift? But folklore is both her best album to date and one of 2020’s strongest. But will she win this award for a third time? I just don’t think NARAS likes her that much. This category too often favors the token veteran pop-rock act, but a win for Coldplay in 2021 would be among the squarest in Grammy history. I’m hoping enough voters will validate Dua Lipa’s prior Best New Artist award with a victory here for her terrific Future Nostalgia.

KJC:  Full disclosure: I’ve only listened to most of these albums once, so I can’t adjust for how they would live with me over time.  That being said, Djesse Vol. 3 has been on repeat for the past 24 hours.  It’s fascinatingly bizarre and I want to hear everything Jacob Collier has ever done now.   Folklore, however, seems best positioned to win, given the support Swift has across the pop, country, and American roots branches.  

Song of the Year

Predicted Winner:

  • “Black Parade” – Denisia Andrews, Beyoncé, Stephen Bray, Shawn Carter, Brittany Coney, Derek James Dixie, Akil King, Kim “Kaydence” Krysiuk & Rickie “Caso” Tice, songwriters (Beyoncé)
  • “The Box” – Samuel Gloade & Rodrick Moore
  • “Cardigan” – Aaron Dessner & Taylor Swift
  • “Circles” – Louis Bell, Adam Feeney, Kaan Gunesberk, Austin Post & Billy Walsh
  • “Don’t Start Now” – Caroline Ailin, Ian Kirkpatrick, Dua Lipa & Emily Warren
  • “Everything I Wanted” – Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell
  • “I Can’t Breathe” – Dernst Emile II, H.E.R. & Tiara Thomas – JK, KJC
  • “If the World Was Ending” – Julia Michaels & JP Saxe

Personal Picks:

  • “Black Parade” – Denisia Andrews, Beyoncé, Stephen Bray, Shawn Carter, Brittany Coney, Derek James Dixie, Akil King, Kim “Kaydence” Krysiuk & Rickie “Caso” Tice, songwriters (Beyoncé) – KJC
  • “The Box” – Samuel Gloade & Rodrick Moore
  • “Cardigan” – Aaron Dessner & Taylor Swift
  • “Circles” – Louis Bell, Adam Feeney, Kaan Gunesberk, Austin Post & Billy Walsh
  • “Don’t Start Now” – Caroline Ailin, Ian Kirkpatrick, Dua Lipa & Emily Warren
  • “Everything I Wanted” – Billie Eilish O’Connell & Finneas O’Connell
  • “I Can’t Breathe” – Dernst Emile II, H.E.R. & Tiara Thomas – JK
  • “If the World Was Ending” – Julia Michaels & JP Saxe

JK: The Grammys have been all-in on H.E.R. for a few years now, at a level that’s been substantially above her commercial impact. But it seems like the general public is finally catching on to this major talent, and she’s nominated here for her most impactful single to date. An easy “will” and “should” win here.

KJC:  “I Can’t Breathe” takes the “Colors” slot here as the obvious way to acknowledge the past year, but again, I’m more impressed by the scale and scope of “Black Parade.”

 

Best New Artist

Predicted Winner:

  • Ingrid Andress
  • Phoebe Bridgers – JK
  • Chika
  • Noah Cyrus
  • D Smoke
  • Doja Cat
  • Kaytranada
  • Megan Thee Stallion – KJC

Personal Picks:

  • Ingrid Andress
  • Phoebe Bridgers
  • Chika
  • Noah Cyrus
  • D Smoke
  • Doja Cat
  • Kaytranada
  • Megan Thee Stallion – JK, KJC

JK: For the first time ever, the music industry is allowing more than one woman rapper to be successful at the same time, and I love that Megan Thee Stallion has had a breakout year. This category’s history is not on her side, but I do think she has a good look at this. But Bridgers, who’d be my close-second choice, seems like a far safer bet, especially since she was making headlines during the end of the voting period because a lot of deeply stupid people were mad that she smashed a guitar on SNL. I think it comes down to those two: I’m still not convinced Andress is going to have much staying power, and Doja Cat is massively problematic for a history of bigoted social media posts, cultural appropriation, and affiliation with scumbag Dr. Luke.

KJC: Megan Thee Stallion is the most promising talent among the many nominated this year, and I think her high profile across the ballot will help her eke out a win. 

COUNTRY

Best Country Solo Performance

Predicted Winner:

  • Eric Church, “Stick That in Your Country Song”
  • Brandy Clark, “Who You Thought I Was”
  • Vince Gill, “When My Amy Prays”
  • Mickey Guyton, “Black Like Me” – JK, KJC
  • Miranda Lambert, “Bluebird”

Personal Picks:

  • Eric Church, “Stick That in Your Country Song”
  • Brandy Clark, “Who You Thought I Was” – JK
  • Vince Gill, “When My Amy Prays”
  • Mickey Guyton, “Black Like Me” – KJC
  • Miranda Lambert, “Bluebird”

JK: A super strong line-up this year. I don’t love Church’s single, but he performs it with fire and conviction; it’s the weakest entry here, and I wouldn’t even be all that mad if he won. But this will come down to the women. Lambert will pull the most commercial-skewing votes for her biggest hit in ages, while Guyton seems poised to ride the historical significance of her nomination to a victory for her stellar composition and performance. She’ll be a thoroughly deserving winner on merit– but look to the predictable corners for accusations of NARAS’ “virtue signaling”– but Clark actually gave my favorite performance and has my pick for the best single of this lot.

KJC: I echo Jonathan’s comments about the overall strength of this lineup.  I’m rooting for either Guyton or Clark to take this one home. 

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

Predicted Winner:

  • Brothers Osborne, “All Night”
  • Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber, “10,000 Hours” – JK, KJC
  • Lady A, “Ocean”
  • Little Big Town, “Sugar Coat”
  • Old Dominion, “Some People Do”

Personal Picks:

  • Brothers Osborne, “All Night” – JK, KJC
  • Dan + Shay and Justin Bieber, “10,000 Hours”
  • Lady A, “Ocean”
  • Little Big Town, “Sugar Coat”
  • Old Dominion, “Some People Do”

JK: Speaking of accusations of “virtue signaling,” the wailing and gnashing of teeth would certainly continue if BrOs were to win this category. They’d easily be my choice among this weak field, though I’m just going to pretend it would be a make-up award for “It Ain’t My Fault” or “Shoot Me Straight.” The other nominees are just kind of appalling, especially given the absence of The Highwomen here. Remember all of the people screaming about how Lady ButWeHaveBlackFriends were victims of (not an actual thing) Cancel Culture? That was neat. Anyway, Dan + Shay will probably win, and whatever. They remain terrible.

KJC:  So “Gaslighter” should be the slam dunk here, but apparently, the Chicks decided to submit to Pop and American Roots instead of claiming their rightful handful of country Grammys for their long-gestating Gaslighter project.  I don’t actually think any of these five performances deserve   a Grammy, but since someone has to win, I’d take Brothers Osborne or Old Dominion winning their first trophies, with Brothers Osborne having seniority.

Best Country Song

Predicted Winner:

  • “Bluebird” – Luke Dick, Natalie Hemby & Miranda Lambert
  • “The Bones” – Maren Morris, Jimmy Robbins & Laura Veltz – JK, KJC
  • “Crowded Table” – Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby & Lori McKenna
  • “More Hearts Than Mine” – Ingrid Andress, Sam Ellis & Derrick Southerland
  • “Some People Do” – Jesse Frasure, Shane McAnally, Matthew Ramsey & Thomas Rhett

Personal Picks:

  • “Bluebird” – Luke Dick, Natalie Hemby & Miranda Lambert
  • “The Bones” – Maren Morris, Jimmy Robbins & Laura Veltz
  • “Crowded Table” – Brandi Carlile, Natalie Hemby & Lori McKenna – JK, KJC
  • “More Hearts Than Mine” – Ingrid Andress, Sam Ellis & Derrick Southerland
  • “Some People Do” – Jesse Frasure, Shane McAnally, Matthew Ramsey & Thomas Rhett

JK: There’s a lot of wealth-spreading among the nominees in the country field, which makes it hard to pick actual winners. Is this the bone they throw to Lambert? Is this where they back up Andress’ BNA nomination? Is this where they recognize perennial favorite Morris for a big crossover hit? Do they realize that they messed up with the lack of nominations for The Highwomen? Do they really think False Tricksy Hobbit is most noteworthy as a songwriter? Throwing a dart, I landed on Morris, but “Crowded Table” has both my brain and my heart.

KJC: The Highwomen’s only shot of getting acknowledged is here, though getting past the award-sweeping Maren Morris hit will not be easy. 

Best Country Album

Predicted Winner:

  • Ingrid Andress, Lady Like
  • Brandy Clark, Your Life is a Record
  • Miranda Lambert, Wildcard – JK
  • Little Big Town, Nightfall
  • Ashley McBryde, Never Will  – KJC

Personal Picks:

  • Ingrid Andress, Lady Like
  • Brandy Clark, Your Life is a Record – JK, KJC
  • Miranda Lambert, Wildcard
  • Little Big Town, Nightfall
  • Ashley McBryde, Never Will

JK: Sorry not sorry, but I think that Little Big Town album is just heinous, and I’ve gone to bat for them plenty over the years. They are at their best when they remember they’re not good songwriters themselves and when they don’t sound like they recorded their album at the bottom of the well from The Ring. But that album has its fans, and I could see them winning if there’s a strong split among the solo women. Wildcard is Lambert’s worst album, but far worse albums have won this award. My pick would be Clark’s extraordinary third album by a hair over McBryde’s also-extraordinary sophomore set.

KJC: I’m with Jonathan, giving Clark the edge over McBryde, with my reasoning being the same as with Brothers Osborne: Clark has been waiting just a bit longer.  Call me crazy, but I think McBryde has the best shot at winning.  The Grammys have never gone as over the top with Lambert as other shows have, and McBryde has been on their radar already for a few cycles now.  I think she’ll take it home. 

AMERICAN ROOTS MUSIC

Best American Roots Performance

Predicted Winner:

  • Black Pumas, “Colors” – JK, KJC
  • Bonny Light Horseman, “Deep in Love”
  • Brittany Howard, “Short and Sweet”
  • Norah Jones & Mavis Staples, “I’ll Be Gone”
  • John Prine, “I Remember Everything”

Personal Picks:

  • Black Pumas, “Colors”
  • Bonny Light Horseman, “Deep in Love”
  • Brittany Howard, “Short and Sweet”
  • Norah Jones & Mavis Staples, “I’ll Be Gone”
  • John Prine, “I Remember Everything” – JK, KJC

JK: Occam’s Razor says that Black Pumas’ General Field nominations will translate to wins here. Part of me would love to see the powerhouse Howard win awards in all three Fields she’s nominated in. But Prine’s final single is the class of this field; I hope he wins posthumously, but NARAS is historically less susceptible to that than the Oscars have been.

KJC:  “I Remember Everything” would be the rightful winner even if it wasn’t an inadvertent epitaph.  But as Jonathan notes above, “Colors” is up for Record of the Year, so it’s likely to win here. 

Best American Roots Song

Predicted Winner:

  • “Cabin” – Laura Rogers & Lydia Rogers
  • “Ceiling to the Floor” – Sierra Hull & Kai Welch
  • “Hometown” – Sarah Jarosz
  • “I Remember Everything” – Pat McLaughlin & John Prine – KJC
  • “Man Without a Soul” – Tom Overby & Lucinda Williams – JK

Personal Picks:

  • “Cabin” – Laura Rogers & Lydia Rogers
  • “Ceiling to the Floor” – Sierra Hull & Kai Welch
  • “Hometown” – Sarah Jarosz
  • “I Remember Everything” – Pat McLaughlin & John Prine – JK, KJC
  • “Man Without a Soul” – Tom Overby & Lucinda Williams

JK: I’m most optimistic about Prine’s chances in this category, since he’s known as a songwriter’s songwriter, but I also wonder if voters will be able to pass up Williams’ fiery rebuke of the Trump administration. Jarosz has also emerged as something of a Grammy favorite– and rightfully so!– of late. Those three seem to be the most likely winners.

KJC:  I think that the combination of sentiment and low profile competition should result in Prine scoring a posthumous Grammy. 

Best Americana Album

Predicted Winner:

  • Courtney Marie Andrews, Old Flowers
  • Hiss Golden Messenger, Terms of Surrender
  • Sarah Jarosz, World On the Ground – JK
  • Marcus King, El Dorado
  • Lucinda Williams, Good Souls Better Angels  – KJC

Personal Picks:

  • Courtney Marie Andrews, Old Flowers
  • Hiss Golden Messenger, Terms of Surrender
  • Sarah Jarosz, World On the GroundKJC
  • Marcus King, El Dorado
  • Lucinda Williams, Good Souls Better Angels – JK

JK: Thrilled to see Andrews as a Grammy nominee, though I wish it had been for her previous album, which I liked far better than this one. Jarosz, again, seems like a solid bet here, and her album is fantastic. But Williams’ album is her best in quite a long time, and she’d get my note by a hair. King’s album does have a vocal fanbase, but I honestly wasn’t impressed by its bluster.

KJC: Sarah Jarosz made the best album, but Lucinda Williams is the more known quantity, even if she hasn’t won this category since 1998.  As Jonathan notes, this is one of Lucinda’s better albums in recent years, which should help her over the finish line. 

Best Bluegrass Album

Predicted Winner:

  • Danny Barnes, Man On Fire
  • Thomm Jutz, To Live in Two Worlds, Vol. 1
  • Steep Canyon Rangers, North Carolina Songbook – JK
  • Billy Strings, Home
  • Various Artists, The John Hartford Fiddle Tune Project, Vol. 1

Personal Picks:

  • Danny Barnes, Man On Fire
  • Thomm Jutz, To Live in Two Worlds, Vol. 1
  • Steep Canyon Rangers, North Carolina Songbook
  • Billy Strings, HomeJK
  • Various Artists, The John Hartford Fiddle Tune Project, Vol. 1

JK: A better line-up here than in many previous years. Compilation albums rarely win at the Grammys, but the John Hartford project was awfully well-done. Gut reaction is that this comes down to Barnes, Steep Canyon Rangers, and Strings. Voting trends tend to favor groups in this category, so I’ll point to SCR here. Strings is a massive emerging talent, though.

 

Best Folk Album

Predicted Winner:

  • Bonny Light Horseman, Bonny Light Horseman
  • Leonard Cohen, Thanks For the Dance – JK, KJC
  • Laura Marling, Song For Our Daughter
  • The Secret Sisters, Saturn Return 
  • Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, All the Good Times

Personal Picks:

  • Bonny Light Horseman, Bonny Light Horseman
  • Leonard Cohen, Thanks For the Dance
  • Laura Marling, Song For Our Daughter
  • The Secret Sisters, Saturn Return – JK, KJC
  • Gillian Welch & David Rawlings, All the Good Times

JK: A disappointing lot here. Only The Secret Sisters’ album really stuck with me of these. Cohen is the biggest name here, so he’s likely the safest bet, but I could also see Welch & Rawlings or BLH winning.

KJC:  Doing a lot of JK co-signing today!  I really like the Secret Sisters album, but Leonard Cohen is a towering figure and will be hard to beat!

6 Comments

  1. I’ll only comment on the Bluegrass category – while the Hartford tribute is excellent, Billy Strings is a transcendent talent. I would pick either Strings or Thomm Jutz as the best album in this category

  2. I might as well mention that in the Best Music Film category is Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice, and so I hope that one wins (even if it’s up against, among others, Beyonce).

  3. Brandy for country solo performance and best country album. If she doesn’t win, Mickey Guyton for solo and Ashley McBryde for album.

  4. Record: Don’t Stop Now (Dua Lipa)
    Album: Folklore (Taylor Swift)
    Song: I Can’t Breathe (H.E.R.)
    New Artist: Kaytranada
    Country Solo: Black Like Me (Mickey Guyton)
    Country Duo/Group: Sugar Coat (Little Big Town)
    Country Song: Crowded Table (The Highwomen)
    Country Album: Nightfall (Little Big Town)
    American Roots Performance: I’ll Be Gone (Norah Jones & Mavis Staples)
    American Roots Song: Man Without a Soul (Lucinda Williams)
    Americana: El Dorado (Marcus King)
    Bluegrass Album: Home (Billy Strings)
    Folk Album: Saturn Return (Secret Sisters)

  5. Another album that calls to mind just how polarizing Little Big Town’s “Nightfall” is for many listeners is Alan Jackson’s 2006 Alison Krauss produced “Like Red on a Rose.”

    What Jonathan calls “heinous,” “Taste of Country” celebrates as the best album of 2020.

    Many other reviews of the album struggle to cross this same critical chasm. There is very little middle ground. It’s either loved or hated.

    This kind of passionate reaction, positive or negative, often suggests an artist taking risks or challenging expectations. The music strikes a chord either way.

    I believe the Grammys will shine a light on this album tonight and it will win best country album on its atmospheric merits.

    More importantly, I truly believe history will be equally kind to what Little Big Town accomplished with “Nightfall.”

  6. I actually like Nightfall and it’s the album of theirs that I like the best, but I definitely would not call it the best album of 2020! I would give it to Brandy Clark’s My Life Is A Record.

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