The eligibility period for the 59th Annual Grammy Awards came to a close on September 30, and now the biggest stars in music will wait to hear if their names are called when nominations are announced on December 6. The most coveted award of the night, Album of the Year, has seemed like a two-woman race since the beginning of the year: Adele vs. Beyonce. But is it really?
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Adele won the award in 2011 for her smash hit “21,” and hopes to do it again with her diamond-certified follow-up, “25.” Meanwhile Beyonce, who has already won an astounding 20 Grammys, has yet to take home the grand prize. She’s hoping this will be the year because her innovative release, “Lemonade,” is the most critically acclaimed of her career and puts Queen Bey in her best position yet to be the night’s big winner.
But not so fast! Grammy voters do often recognize the biggest star of the year (Taylor Swift won last year for “1989”), but that isn’t always the case. Who could forget less than two years ago when Beck sent the Beyhive swarming after his relatively under-the-radar “Morning Phase” won Album of the Year over Beyonce’s self-titled album as well as fellow pop stars Ed Sheeran (“X”), Pharrell Williams (“GIRL”), and Sam Smith (“In the Lonely Hour”)?
In addition to Adele and Beyonce, other big names this year such as Drake (“Views”), Rihanna (“Anti”) and Kanye West (“The Life of Pablo”) may get nominations, but I don’t think they’re likely to win. There are at least four artists, however, who pose a serious threat to steal the top prize from both divas if they can manage to secure a nomination.
The rock legend’s final studio album was both a critical and commercial success. Released just two days before his death, “Blackstar” debuted at number-one in nearly 30 countries – including the United States where it became his first ever chart-topper. The album also earned Bowie some of the best reviews of his career, boasting an impressive score of 87 on MetaCritic. Also factoring into the argument for a Bowie win is the sentimental vote. Not only was his death a tragic loss for the music industry, but his career overall has been mostly ignored by Grammy voters. Although he was given the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006, his only competitive Grammy win was in 1984 for Best Short Form Video (“Jazzin’ for Blue Jean”). Bowie was nominated in the Album of the Year category just once before, in 1983 for “Let’s Dance.”
The highly anticipated sophomore album from the R&B star debuted at number-one on the Billboard 200 albums chart and is also one of the top-reviewed albums of the year, scoring 87 on MetaCritic just like “Blackstar.” The release caused some controversy when it came out on Ocean’s own label, Boys Don’t Cry, just two days after a visual album, “Endless,” concluded his contract with major music label Universal. Will Grammy voters applaud the singer’s fight for independence? Or will they side with the label, who may feel slighted by the bold move? Ocean was previously nominated for Album of the Year in 2012 for his debut album “Channel Orange,” and has two Grammy wins to date.
The English rock group is no stranger to critical acclaim, and their latest release was no different, earning a score of 88 on MetaCritic. They have been on Grammy voters’ radar since 1997 when they received their first Album of the Year nomination for “OK Computer.” They were nominated twice more in this category – in 2000 for “Kid A” and again in 2008 for “In Rainbows.” Radiohead has won three Grammy Awards so far, but they’re still hoping for the top prize. Will this finally be their year?
4. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Skeleton Tree”
This year’s shocking upset could come from the Australian band that released the single best reviewed album of 2016. Although the group isn’t well-known in the US, critics are absolutely raving about this album, which could be enough for them to sneak into the race for the first time in their 30-year career. The collection of songs, inspired by the tragic death of front man Nick Cave’s 15-year old son, scored an industry-leading 94 on MetaCritic.