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THE GRAMMY CHEW:
NOT TO BE MISSED

Here are a few contenders for both top-tier and genre categories that we’d urge folks not to overlook.

Tyler, The Creator: Tyler’s Igor was one of the most creative, musically inventive releases of the year, and his live performances are outstanding. Look for him to be acknowledged in top-tier and genre categories—possibly including Rap Album, Rap Performance, Rap Sung Performance and/or R&B Song.

Lana Del Rey: The singer/songwriter stepped up her game with Norman F***ing Rockwell, and her nuanced approach to socially relevant subjects earned serious plaudits. Could this be her big moment? It wouldn’t be shocking to see her in any or all of the Big Three categories (AOTY, ROTY And SOTY); she could also be a player in the Pop categories.

Summer Walker: The breakout phenom, whose recent streaming success is being credited for an R&B mini-revival, dropped her strong album too late for the eligibility cutoff—but her single with Drake, “Girls Need Love (Remix),” gives the Academy a chance to acknowledge her now. It’s up for R&B Perf and Song. No matter what happens this time, look for Walker to be a serious presence going forward.

Dan + Shay: The CMAs have long guided Grammy, nearly always in the country categories and often in top-tier ones as well. We expect this duo, who blew minds with their Grammy perf last time—and who have had more traction at Pop radio than most of their Nashville contemporaries—will sail from a big CMA look to Grammy love. Their “Speechless” is up for Country Duo/Group Perf and Country Song).

Vampire Weekend: The Modern Rock stalwarts will be on a stack of best-of lists for Father of the Bride, which is on the ballot for Alternative Album, and their lovely, uplifting single “Harmony Hall” is in the running for Rock Performance and Song. Abiding affection for this band and its spirit of musical exploration could raise the stakes.

Carrie Underwood: Another artist who may get a big CMA springboard, particularly if she wins for Entertainer, Underwood has had something of a renaissance of late and gotten big exposure from TV sports syncs. Her approach to hot-button issues on songs like “The Bullet” and “Love Wins” (up for Country Solo Perf and Song) may also stoke warm feelings from Grammy.

Tyler Childers: His last album is called Country Squire, but this Kentuckian dwells outside the country mainstream, crafting emotionally powerful material—whatever you call it, it’s the real deal. He’s still a contender for top-tier recognition (including Best New Artist) though a longshot for Best Country Solo Performance, Song and Album.

Gary Clark Jr.: Clark is up for Contemporary Blues Album—which doesn’t really recognize the stylistic range of his strong 2019 set, but he is singing about the blues we’re all feeling right now. Single “This Land” is up for Best Rock Performance and Song and should be acknowledged for its aural power and political punch. The singer/songwriter and guitar god is a Grammy favorite, so look for the committee to find a lane—and a show spot—for him.

Sharon Van Etten: Van Etten’s mesmerizing sonics and blazing honesty evoke such forces of nature as Patti Smith and Chrissie Hynde—and support our surmise that the next wave of important rock music may well be led by female artists. She’s on the ballot for Alternative Album; a nod would be richly deserved.

Saweetie: The distaff energy in hip-hop is building, and this fast-breaking, charismatic artist could make a noise in Best Rap Performance and/or Song. Saweetie has taken some heat for the “vulgarity” of this material, which is a grotesque example of a double standard. A more meaningful question: Did she surge too late to move the Grammy needle?

Hozier: Though the Irish troubadour had a #1 bow with adventurous sophomore album Wasteland, Baby!, that set—lacking a hit to rival “Take Me to Church”—didn’t get a proper hearing. But his duet with Maren Morris on “The Bones” and the newer material’s impact on tour are increasing the buzz, though he would be a dark horse for Rock Album.

Jade Bird: The English singer/songwriter won a lot of hearts and minds, though it may be a steep climb for her to make the cut on top-tier categories like BNA, Album, Record and Song. Could she be an out-of-left-field contender in the Brandi Carlile mold? Stranger things have happened.

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