The Recording Academy today announced the nominations for the 59th annual Grammy Awards. And while it is of course "an honor to be nominated," as they say, let's be honest: Some awards hold more weight than others. Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year are the BIG DAWGS. The stans (Beliebers, Beyhive, et al) are duking it out on social media; now, let's hear from the experts. Below, the REVOLT staff picks the artists who deserve the biggest bragging rights — until 2018, that is. Let's get ready to rumble!
Album of the Year: This category is like asking a tsunami to face off against an earthquake. REVOLT already declared 2016 the Year of Drake, and while some people might think it's really just a battle between King Bey and the 6 God, almost all of these albums shattered records with their releases and moved the needle forward. The nominees are 25, Adele; Lemonade, Beyoncé; Views, Drake; Purpose, Justin Bieber; and A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson.
Listen, Lemonade was fine. Views was good (though longtime fans openly complained about wanting "more" from Drake.) Adele's super power is getting people to actually buy music again. But Purpose showed growth. On that album, Justin Bieber proved he could weather the storm from bratty teen idol to thriving artist, and showed a level of self-awareness no one expected. It was a much-celebrated musical mea culpa for his public missteps. He showed depth, reach, and versatility across 19* ("What Do You Mean?" appears twice) well-crafted pop and R&B songs, with features from Big Sean, Travis Scott, and even Nas! Sorry, Drizzy, but I don't think you're the right Canadian for this job. —Driadonna Roland
While Lemonade should receive a clean win (let's revisit this one more time), let's not forget that Justin Bieber made an album worthy of the top Grammys prize with 2015's Purpose. Thinking rationally without the influence of any biases, Bieber’s massively successful album, despite dropping a year ago, fully took over pop radio — and pop culture for that matter — just like much of this year’s top releases. While Adele’s 25, Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and Drake’s Views took up the most sales of 2016, Purpose grew enough legs to run against the top-tier LPs. Thanks to the tour, the international success, and the fact that it shattered first-week streaming records globally (and domestically) and scored the singer eight entries) in the Guinness World Records 2017 Edition (most streamed track on Spotify in one week, most simultaneous new entries in the Hot 100 by a solo artist, and more), the allure behind Bieber’s album turned a nation of Bieber haters into Beliebers. —Ralph Bristout
As many photos as I’ve seen of Beyoncé struggling to cradle all her golden gramophones post-show, I’d for sure thought that one of them, by now, had to have been for Album of the Year. Turns out I was wrong: Dangerously In Love, B’Day, and I Am… hit their peaks with Best Contemporary R&B album wins, 4 saw no noms at all, and the rule-breaker that was her self-titled effort Beyoncé, despite being nominated for AOTY, lost to Beck and instead got recognized for its Surround Sound(?). Mmkay. So this has got to be her year, right? Like, Adele’s 25 was cool, but (honestly) didn’t live up to the promise that “Hello” made us. And Drake’s Views is, undoubtedly, an unstoppable juggernaut in terms of singles — as is Biebs’ Purpose but, like a child trying to get on Santa’s Nice List before Christmas, he acted like a little sh-t almost the entire year (see: scuffles, face tattoos, full-frontal nudity, and attention-seeking Instagram “deletions”). No rap artist has won AOTY since Outkast in 2004, so the likelihood for Drizzy is low. So, 2016 probably belongs to Bey. Like she’s not out here slaying tours, being her blackest self known to date, and delivering unmatched visual masterpieces for no reason, right? —Danielle Cheesman
Album of the Year winner: Justin Bieber, Purpose
Song of The Year: The distinction between Record of the Year and Song of the Year is unknown to most people, but understanding the difference shades the arguments immensely. Both honor a single recording, but Song of the year recognizes the songwriter, while Record of the Year is given to the recording artist, producer, recording engineer and/or mixer. In other words — it takes a village, and lyrics matter. The nominees are "Formation" by Beyoncé; "Hello" by Adele; "I Took A Pill In Ibiza," Mike Posner; "Love Yourself," Justin Bieber; "7 Years," Lukas Graham
Since Song of the Year, as aptly titled, recognizes the songwriter (and not necessarily the performer, if different), the pettiest side of my personality would love to see this go to Biebs. It’s no surprise that all these tracks killed it with storytelling and/or visual imagery, but “Love Yourself” is the sassiest and shadiest send-off gone mainstream. And it’s sung softly and over an acoustic guitar for an extra dig, like when you keep your cool during an argument just to further irritate your hyped opponent. It’s the musical equivalent of the childish, rhetorical jab “If you love it so much, why don’t you marry it?” and I. am. here. for. it. Plus, it was free from expletives and made moms everywhere feel special (and go “mmhmm, that’s right!”), and they’ve got all the vote-swaying power. But the award will probably go to Adele because folks can say Beyoncé took a shot at the country’s beloved cops (“albino alligators”) and that Mike Posner (if they remember him at all) glorified drug culture and the Grammys will stand for neither, damnit. —DC
Like she typically does around album mode, Beyoncé took the world by storm with her splash of Lemonade, but it wouldn't have been possible without "Formation." Granted, anything King Bey does ultimately transforms the entire globe into her own personal Beyhive. However, "Formation" served as the perfect precursor. Considering its impactful music video, its live debut at the Super Bowl Halftime Show, the legendary set at the MTV Video Music Awards, and its ever-growing list of mimics — Beyoncé's world-class club banger gave 2016 an undeniable anthem and one of its most powerful statements in the era of #BlackLivesMatter. Not only was it a great record, it was necessary, and its engrossing impact overshadows every record in this category. —RB
I think "Formation" is going to win, obviously, because of the impact the song had for the Black Lives Matter movement, the controversy that occurred at the Super Bowl, and just the fact that it's Beyoncé and she wins every award every year. —Cena Zarin
This one should go without saying: Beyoncé. But let's just do process of elimination. That Lukas Graham song was entirely too long and sounded like the embodiment of death and despair. "Hello" was an underwhelming return after Adele was off the scene for so long. "Love Yourself," while great lyrically, was not as ubiquitous as "Sorry," which should have been nominated. And Mike Posner is underrated, but I have zero awareness of this Ibiza song. Nuff said. —DR
Song of the Year Winner: "Beyoncé" Formation
Record of The Year: The contenders are "Hello," Adele; "Formation," Beyoncé; "7 Years," Lukas Graham; "Work," Rihanna feat. Drake; "Stressed Out," Twenty One Pilots
As Record of the Year recognizes both the song’s performer and its production (engineers, mixers, and producers), “Formation” deserves this. Listen again and hear Mike Will Made It and Pluss’ dense instrumentation: the bouncy and reverberating pingy intro, creeping zippy synths, thumping bass, marching band–ready rattling, spurts of horn, trappy twinkles, grunts and yelps (and, if you’re listening to the music video version, incorporation of Big Freedia and Messy Mya’s spoken words)—and yet none of it, despite all of it, overshadows Bey’s delivery: prideful, headstrong, and sharp as nails. —DC
Give the d-mn thing to #Aubrih, people! This record spoke to the current globalization of music, bringing us all into the bassment to show the sexiness and jubilance of soca and dancehall, simulatenously showcasing Barbadian Rihanna squarely in her element. Just as important, the chemistry between her and Drake was undeniable. Champagne Papi waited a long time for that wine, and it's worth noting that both his first and second Hot 100 No. 1 records were as RiRi's co-star. —DR
"Hello... from the other side." That's what Adele's massive 25 single is telling us these days just one year after its debut. Because 2016 saw so many other massive anthems ("Formation," "Work"), it's easy to forget what once was. Before Bey assembled the world into "Formation," and Rih Rih put the summer to "Work," Adele said “Hello” and everyone listened — like tens of millions. Whether she was singing to an ex, her younger self, or revisiting Lionel Richie's perennial anthem, the intense, yet stark, production helped this emotional jackhammer put everyone — yes, like tens of millions — in their feelings. A simple "hello" went a long way. —RB
Well, RIck Ross only did one remix. —Rob Hansen
Record of the Year Winner: "Hello" Adele
To see how on point we are, tune into the 59th annual Grammy Awards on CBS on February 12, 2017.