Grammy predictions 2021: Who will and should win this year’s biggest awards?

Believe it or not, the Grammy Awards are this weekend. 

We’d hardly blame you for forgetting: After all, nominations were announced nearly four months ago and the ceremony was moved off its original January date due to – you guessed it – the pandemic. But now, here we are, and some type of show will be happening Sunday on CBS (8 EST/5 PST). “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah will oversee the reimagined event, which will be held on five different stages in Los Angeles (one for presenters and four for performers such as Taylor Swift, Cardi B and Billie Eilish). 

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Eilish dominated the four major categories at the 2020 awards, winning best new artist, album of the year (“When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”), and record and song of the year (“Bad Guy”). Who will reign victorious this year? We break down the key races:  

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Dua Lipa, center, performing on the American Music Awards in November. (Photo: American Broadcasting Companies,)

Album of the year

  • “Chilombo” — Jhené Aiko
  • “Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition)” — Black Pumas
  • “Everyday Life” — Coldplay
  • “Djesse Vol. 3” — Jacob Collier
  • “Women in Music Pt. III” — Haim
  • “Future Nostalgia” — Dua Lipa
  • “Hollywood’s Bleeding” — Post Malone
  • “Folklore” — Taylor Swift

Should win: Taylor Swift, “Folklore” 

Will win: Dua Lipa, “Future Nostalgia” 

Should’ve been nominated: Chloe x Halle, “Ungodly Hour” 

Taylor Swift had the year’s best album in summertime surprise “Folklore,” a wistful and understated return to form after the boldface-pop grab bags of 2019’s “Lover” and 2017’s “Reputation.” With its escapist storytelling and emotional maturity, “Folklore” comfortably reinvents Swift as an indie folk-rock artist, and Grammy voters should want to award the next step in her evolution, after naming her synth-pop makeover “1989” album of the year in 2016. 

But now just 31 years old with a long career still ahead of her, will the Recording Academy really want to give Swift a third AOTY prize so soon? (She also won for “Fearless” in 2010.) She would become the first female artist and only the fourth artist ever to win three, joining Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon. Plus, there’s a chance that cynical voters will think that “Folklore” sister album “Evermore,” released in December, somehow cheapens the power of its predecessor, or that they can simply honor Swift for both at next year’s Grammys. 

Which is why we think that Dua Lipa could upset in the category. Her stellar sophomore effort, “Future Nostalgia,” has been everywhere this past year, thanks in part to Lipa’s aggressive campaigning through TV performances, magazine covers, and deluxe and remix albums. Although the Grammys don’t usually go for straight pop in AOTY, “Future Nostalgia” is an accessible throwback to ’70s disco that could scratch the same itch for voters as Bruno Mars’ retro-funk “24K Magic,” which won AOTY in 2018. Lipa is also a recent Grammy winner for best new artist who’s made good on her potential, and academy members never miss a chance to pat themselves on the back. 

Record of the year

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

Should win: Billie Eilish, “Everything I Wanted” 

Will win: Beyoncé, “Black Parade” 

Should’ve been nominated: The Weeknd, “Blinding Lights” 

After doing “Lemonade” dirty in 2017 with no wins in major categories, the Grammys would be foolish to once again slight Beyoncé, who leads this year’s nominations with nine. She has two worthy ROTY contenders in her braggadocious “Savage” remix with Megan Thee Stallion and joyous “Black Parade,” although we’d give the latter the edge for its magnificent production and timely celebration of Black culture. If there is a spoiler, we could see Dua Lipa’s catchy chart-topper “Don’t Start Now” or Billie Eilish’s melancholy “Everything I Wanted,” given Lipa’s strong showing in this year’s nominations and Eilish’s sweep of the 2020 awards. 

Song of the year

  • “Black Parade” — Beyoncé
  • “The Box” — Roddy Ricch
  • “Cardigan” — Taylor Swift
  • “Circles” — Post Malone
  • “Don’t Start Now” — Dua Lipa
  • “Everything I Wanted” — Billie Eilish
  • “I Can’t Breathe” — H.E.R.
  • “If the World Was Ending” — JP Saxe featuring Julia Michaels

Should and will win: Taylor Swift, “Cardigan” 

Should’ve been nominated: Harry Styles, “Watermelon Sugar” 

The winners for record and song of the year have overlapped six times in the past decade, so there’s a fair chance if “Black Parade” earns record, it’ll also take this one. That said, Taylor Swift’s “Folklore” is all about showcasing her gift for evocative songwriting, and no song does that better than her achingly gorgeous “Cardigan,” which easily ranks among the best she’s ever released. If Swift only brings home one major trophy this year, then at least let it be this one. 

Megan Thee Stallion is up for four Grammy Awards, including record of the year for "Savage." (Photo: Rich Fury, Getty Images for Visible)

Best new artist

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

Should and will win: Megan Thee Stallion 

Should’ve been nominated: Rina Sawayama 

The first and only female rapper to win the best new artist Grammy was Lauryn Hill in 1999, despite nominations for Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea in years since. More than two decades later, that should hopefully change Sunday with Megan Thee Stallion, whose combination of talent, grace and charisma make her an easy person to root for. No artist in any genre has enjoyed a faster and more well-deserved rise than Megan this past year, between her culture-defining Cardi B collab “WAP” and self-assured debut album “Good News.” The only artist who could topple the Houston MC in this category is Phoebe Bridgers, the guitar-smashing critics’ favorite who’s also up for three other awards including best rock song (“Kyoto”). 

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