Grammys preview: Sam Smith, Beyonce, Iggy Azalea lead L.A. Times' nominee picks

L.A. Times music staff members make their picks for who will be up for Grammy nominations this year

Before the Grammy nominations are revealed Friday, members of the Los Angeles Times music staff were polled for their picks in the big four categories (album of the year, record of the year, song of the year and best new artist).

There were predictions, wishes and -- given the Recording Academy's knack for the unexpected -- a few cynical choices.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Beyonce, Ariana Grande, Sam Smith, Iggy Azalea and Pharrell Williams topped all of our lists. These were the big stories of the year.

But from there, things went a number of ways.

In the album race, Beyonce’s ambitious self-titled album, which the singer issued in the dead of night without warning late last year, is a strong bet. Also a given? The debut from breakout British singer Sam Smith. Jack White’s “Lazaretto” was pegged on multiple ballots, as was Pharrell’s first album in eight years, “GIRL,” and Ed Sheeran’s “X.”

Miranda Lambert’s “Platinum” and Eric Church’s “The Outsiders” were the only country efforts that made any of our lists, while Katy Perry appears to be a dark horse. Albums from St. Vincent, Coldplay and Sia and the "Frozen" soundtrack were a few outliers, but no one pegged traditional Grammy bait such as Barbra Streisand’s duets album “Partners,” the Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga’s collaboration, “Cheek to Cheek,” or a rap album as potential entries.

A host of ubiquitous singles dominated our picks in the record and song races. “Drunk In Love” (Beyonce, featuring Jay Z), “Sing” (Ed Sheeran), “Let It Go” (Idina Menzel), “Fancy” (Iggy Azalea, featuring Charli XCX), “All of Me” (John Legend), “Chandelier” (Sia), “Happy” (Pharrell), “Stay With Me” (Sam Smith), “Problem” (Ariana Grande, featuring Iggy Azalea) and “All About That Bass” (Meghan Trainor) left little room for left field entries, especially with Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” as the country-turned-pop-singer’s sole, yet strong, eligible entry in the race.

Times staff writer Todd Martens included some of the most diverse entries in those categories, pegging tunes from Lana Del Rey (“West Coast”), Haim (“The Wire”), FKA Twigs (“Two Weeks”) and Perry (“Dark Horse”) as candidates.

Naturally Smith, the 22-year-old British soul sensation, is the frontrunner in the new artist race.  An almost assured multiple nominee, Smith could make history come Friday. If he scores a nod in the top four slots, he’ll only be the second male solo artist to do so behind Christopher Cross. 

Azalea, the pop-rapper from Australia, landed on all but one of our ballots. Ariana Grande and Haim, acts that were ignored last year, are now contenders in our eyes -- especially Grande, who blew up with her sophomore effort “My Everything” and a handful of huge singles, including the collaboration with Azalea. Schoolboy Q, 5 Seconds of Summer and FKA Twigs were pegged on numerous ballots. 

As for potential dark horses?  Bastille, Jhene Aiko, Magic!, Sam Hunt and Brantley Gilbert all made the cut. 

See below for the full list of picks: 

Lorraine Ali

Album of the year

“Beyonce,” Beyonce

“GIRL,” Pharrell

“X,” Ed Sheeran

“Lazaretto,” Jack White

“In the Lonely Hour,” Sam Smith

Record of the year

“Happy,” Pharrell

“Stay With Me,” Sam Smith

“Drunk in Love,” Beyonce, featuring Jay Z

“Let It Go” Idina Menzel

“Shake It Off” Taylor Swift

Song of the year

“Sing” (Ed Sheeran)

“Drunk in Love” (Beyonce, featuring Jay Z)

“Fancy” (Iggy Azalea, featuring Charli XCX)

“All About That Bass” (Meghan Trainor)

“All of Me” (John Legend)

Best new artist

Sam Smith

Ariana Grande

Iggy Azalea

Schoolboy Q

Haim

Chris Barton

Album of the year

“Beyonce,” Beyonce

“The Outsiders,” Eric Church

“X,” Ed Sheeran

“Ghost Stories,” Coldplay

“In the Lonely Hour,” Sam Smith

Record of the year

“Happy,” Pharrell

“Stay With Me,” Sam Smith

“Sky Full of Stars,” Coldplay

“Let It Go,” Idina Menzel

“Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift

Song of the year

“Sing” (Ed Sheeran)

“Drunk In Love” (Beyonce, featuring Jay Z)

“Fancy” (Iggy Azalea, featuring Charli XCX)

“Chandelier” (Sia)

“Animals” (Maroon 5)

Best new artist

Sam Smith

Ariana Grande

Iggy Azalea

Magic!

FKA Twigs

August Brown

Album of the year

“Beyonce,” Beyonce

“In the Lonely Hour,” Sam Smith

“Prism,” Katy Perry

“The Outsiders,” Eric Church

“Lazaretto,” Jack White

Record of the year

“Let It Go,” Idina Menzel

“Happy,” Pharrell Williams

“Stay With Me,” Sam Smith

“Drunk In Love,” Beyonce, featuring Jay Z

“Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift

Song of the year

“Stay With Me” (Sam Smith)

“Drunk In Love” (Beyonce, featuring Jay Z)

“Chandelier” (Sia)

“Sing” (Ed Sheeran)

“All of Me” (John Legend)

Best new artist

Sam Smith

Iggy Azalea

Schoolboy Q

Brantley Gilbert

FKA Twigs

Gerrick D. Kennedy

Album of the year

“Beyonce,” Beyonce

“GIRL,” Pharrell Williams

“In the Lonely Hour,” Sam Smith

“Platinum,” Miranda Lambert

“1000 Forms of Fear,” Sia

Record of the year

“Happy,” Pharrell

“Stay With Me,” Sam Smith

“Drunk in Love,” Beyonce, featuring Jay Z

“Let It Go,” Idina Menzel

“Problem,” Ariana Grande, featuring Iggy Azalea

Song of the year

“Drunk in Love” (Beyonce, featuring Jay Z)

“All Of Me” (John Legend)

“Fancy” (Iggy Azalea, featuring Charli XCX)

“Chandelier” (Sia)

“All About That Bass” (Meghan Trainor)

Best new artist

Sam Smith

Iggy Azalea

Ariana Grande

Jhene Aiko

Haim

Randy Lewis

Album of the year

“Beyonce,” Beyonce

“The Outsiders,” Eric Church

“X,” Ed Sheeran

“Lazaretto,” Jack White

“GIRL,” Pharrell Williams

Record of the year

“A Sky Full of Stars,” Coldplay

“Drunk in Love,” Beyonce, featuring Jay Z

“Let It Go,” Idina Menzel

“Stay With Me,” Sam Smith

“Chandelier,” Sia

“Happy,” Pharrell Williams

Song of the year

“All of Me” (John Legend)

“Happy” (Pharrell)

“Let It Go” (Idina Menzel)  

“The Monster” (Eminem feat Rihanna)

“Stay With Me” (Sam Smith)

Best new artist

Iggy Azalea

5 Seconds of Summer

Ariana Grande

Sam Hunt

Sam Smith

Todd Martens

Album of the year

“Beyonce,” Beyonce

“GIRL,” Pharrell Williams

“St. Vincent,” St. Vincent

“Prism,” Katy Perry

“Platinum,” Miranda Lambert

Record of the year

“Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift

“Happy,” Pharrell Williams  

“Chandelier,” Sia

“Fancy,” Iggy Azalea, featuring Charli XCX

“Two Weeks,” FKA Twigs

Song of the year

“Let It Go” (Idina Menzel)

“Drunk in Love” (Beyonce, featuring Jay Z)

“The Wire” (Haim)

“Dark Horse” (Katy Perry, featuring Juicy J)

“West Coast” (Lana Del Rey)

Best new artist

Sam Smith

FKA Twigs

Ariana Grande

Haim

Schoolboy Q

Randall Roberts

Album of the year

“Beyonce,” Beyonce

“In the Lonely Hour,” Sam Smith

“X,” Ed Sheeran

“Platinum,” Miranda Lambert

“Ghost Stories,” Coldplay

Record of the year

“Problem,” Ariana Grande, featuring Iggy Azalea

“Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift

“Stay with Me,” Sam Smith

“Happy,” Pharrell Williams

“Fancy,” Iggy Azalea, featuring Charli XCX

Song of the year

“Drunk in Love” (Beyonce, featuring Jay Z)

“Happy” (Pharrell Williams)

“Let it Go” (Idina Menzel)

“Stay With Me” (Sam Smith)

“All About That Bass” (Meghan Trainor)

Best new artist

Haim

5 Seconds of Summer

Iggy Azalea

SchoolboyQ

Sam Smith

Mikael Wood

Album of the year

“In the Lonely Hour,” Sam Smith

“Beyonce,” Beyonce

“Frozen,” Various artists

“Ghost Stories,” Coldplay

“Platinum,” Miranda Lambert

Record of the year

“Happy,” Pharrell Williams

“Fancy,” Iggy Azalea, featuring Charli XCX

“Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift

“Drunk in Love,” Beyonce, featuring Jay Z

“Problem,” Ariana Grande, featuring Iggy Azalea

Song of the year

“Happy” (Pharrell Williams)

“Let It Go” (Idina Menzel)

“Chandelier” (Sia)

“XO” (Beyonce)

“Stay with Me” (Sam Smith)

Best new artist

Sam Smith

Bastille

Iggy Azalea

Aloe Blacc

Haim

Follow me on Twitter @GerrickKennedy.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
58°