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Music

First Grammy predictions! Lizzo and Billie Eilish will go home winners, as new acts triumph

Lizzo
R&B/hip-hop star Lizzo leads this year’s field with eight Grammy nominations, including nods for album, song, record and best new artist.
(Owen Sweeney / Invision/AP)

The Grammy Awards can usually be counted on for a good head-to-head showdown.

In 2017, the annual event put music’s preeminent divas, Adele and Beyoncé, against each other for album, record and song of the year; in 2018, Jay Z and Kendrick Lamar scored more nominations than anyone else, setting the stage for an East Coast-West Coast hip-hop battle. (Alas, Bruno Mars ended up taking the biggest prizes, a reminder of the Grammys’ predictable unpredictability.)

One made teen bedroom goth-pop with their sib, one hustled for years coast-to-coast, one went viral on TikTok with a country old. Together, they’re remaking the Grammys.

For the 62nd ceremony, set to take place Jan. 26 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, the key rivalry is between Billie Eilish and Lizzo, each of whom is nominated for album, record and song of the year, as well as best new artist — the first time two acts have gone 4 for 4 in the major categories in the same year.

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Here’s an early guide to how that duel is shaping up and to a few other races worth watching as final-round voting gets underway.

Album of the year

Bon Iver, “i,i”

Lana Del Rey, “Norman F— Rockwell!”

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Billie Eilish, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”

Ariana Grande, “Thank U, Next”

H.E.R., “I Used to Know Her”

Lil Nas X, “7”

Lizzo, “Cuz I Love You”

Vampire Weekend, “Father of the Bride”

Analysis: With no lead nominee over the age of 40 — and with three under the age of 25 — the Grammys’ flagship category clearly demonstrates the Recording Academy’s eagerness to shake its perception as a safe space for aging white rockers. Figure in that case that Eilish has the advantage here: At 18 by the time of next month’s show, she’d be the youngest album of the year winner in Grammys history (having bested Taylor Swift, who was 20 when “Fearless” won in 2010).

Front-runner: Billie Eilish

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Wild card: Lana Del Rey, whose Laurel Canyon-inspired collection could rally the academy’s “real”-instrument voting brigade.

Record of the year

Bon Iver, “Hey Ma”

Billie Eilish, “Bad Guy”

Ariana Grande, “7 Rings”

H.E.R., “Hard Place”

Khalid, “Talk”

Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus, “Old Town Road”

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Lizzo, “Truth Hurts”

Post Malone & Swae Lee, “Sunflower”

Analysis: The should-win nominee here (this award goes to the performing artist, producer, recording engineer and/or mixer) is obviously “Old Town Road,” which wasn’t merely the biggest single of the year (with a record-setting 19 weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100) but a victory for anybody who believes in pop as a kind of ground zero for cultural change. Typically, the academy’s historically iffy relationship with rap would be reason to worry that voters will screw this up. But Lil Nas X’s overrepresentation in total nods suggests they’re solidly behind him.

Front-runner: Lil Nas X

Wild card: Ariana Grande, whose sampling of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s classic “My Favorite Things” provides a welcome flash of familiarity.

Song of the year

“Always Remember Us This Way,” written by Natalie Hemby, Lady Gaga, Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna (performed by Lady Gaga)

“Bad Guy,” written by Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell (performed by Billie Eilish)

“Bring My Flowers Now,” written by Brandi Carlile, Phil Hanseroth, Tim Hanseroth and Tanya Tucker (performed by Tanya Tucker)

“Hard Place,” written by Ruby Amanfu, Sam Ashworth, D. Arcelious Harris, H.E.R. and Rodney Jerkins (performed by H.E.R.)

“Lover,” written by Taylor Swift (performed by Taylor Swift)

“Norman F— Rockwell,” written by Lana Del Rey and Jack Antonoff (performed by Lana Del Rey)

“Someone You Loved,” written by Tom Barnes, Lewis Capaldi, Pete Kelleher, Benjamin Kohn and Sam Roman (performed by Lewis Capaldi)

“Truth Hurts,” written by Steven Cheung, Eric Frederic, Melissa Jefferson and Jesse Saint John (performed by Lizzo)

Analysis: The messy public dispute over who precisely wrote “Truth Hurts” is likely to hurt Lizzo’s standing here, which improves Eilish’s chances and leaves an opening for Capaldi’s “Someone You Loved,” a weepy, old-fashioned piano ballad from a young inheritor of Adele and Sam Smith’s British soul tradition.

Front-runner: “Bad Guy”

Wild card: Tanya Tucker’s ragged country tune, which is ripe for the de facto lifetime-achievement treatment.

Best new artist

Black Pumas

Billie Eilish

Lil Nas X

Lizzo

Maggie Rogers

Rosalía

Tank and the Bangas

Yola

Analysis: From Jody Watley to Lauryn Hill to Shelby Lynne, plenty of secret veterans have been named best new artist at the Grammys, and this year’s not-quite-a-rookie is Lizzo, who’s been releasing music for the better part of a decade. Plus, winning this all-purpose prize (as opposed to album or song of the year) would better recognize Lizzo’s gifts as a multi-platform talent — y’know, the skills she’s been developing since the early 2010s.

Front-runner: Lizzo

Wildcard: Maggie Rogers, an actual rookie whose slick but quirky pop recalls Grammy faves Alessia Cara and Alanis Morissette.

Pop vocal album

Beyoncé, “The Lion King: The Gift”

Billie Eilish, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”

Ariana Grande, “Thank U, Next”

Ed Sheeran, “No. 6 Collaborations Project”

Taylor Swift, “Lover”

Analysis: Think of a nomination in this category as a consolation prize for each of the three superstars — Swift, Sheeran and Beyoncé — overlooked for album of the year. Of those, Swift’s “Lover” was the biggest critical and commercial success. Then again, her last disc, the triple-platinum “Reputation,” lost pop vocal album to Grande’s “Sweetener” at the 61st Grammys in February.

Front-runner: Ariana Grande

Wild card: Beyoncé, whose impressive but inessential “Lion King” soundtrack could garner votes from academy members desperate to award her something.

Rap album

Dreamville, “Revenge of the Dreamers III”

Meek Mill, “Championships”

21 Savage, “I Am > I Was”

Tyler, the Creator, “Igor”

YBN Cordae, “The Lost Boy”

Analysis: Many Grammy prognosticators thought that Tyler, the Creator would notch an album of the year nod with “Igor,” his tender yet bracing examination of his evolving sexuality. So although he sings more than he raps on the LP, which he produced himself, the well-connected Angeleno is likely to triumph in a field lacking the usual heavyweights.

Front-runner: Tyler, the Creator

Wild card: 21 Savage, whose much-publicized arrest by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in February boosted his recognition (and his perceived seriousness) among progressive voters.

Producer of the year, non-classical

Jack Antonoff

Dan Auerbach

John Hill

Finneas

Ricky Reed

Analysis: With principal creative roles on both Swift’s and Del Rey’s albums, Antonoff is the studio whiz to beat this year — unless voters are charmed by the vision of Eilish and her brother, Finneas, recording a No. 1 smash mostly at home in the singer’s childhood bedroom.

Front-runner: Jack Antonoff

Wild card: Dan Auerbach, the Black Keys frontman who produced Yola’s rootsy-soulful debut.


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