NEW YORK — Kendrick Lamar has a chance to become the first rapper to win album of the year since Outkast took the prize in 2004 for “Speakerboxxx/The Love Below.”
He could also be the first rapper of all time to win song of the year.
But if you know The Recording Academy, you know that they often shade rappers when it comes to the top four categories, which include record of the year and best new artist.
Lamar is the leader with 11 nominations, and he’ll likely sweep the rap categories, but we’re predicting he won’t go home with the night’s biggest honors, especially with competition from his pal Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Alabama Shakes and the Weeknd.
Here’s how Associated Press music writers Mesfin Fekadu and Nekesa Mumbi Moody think the show will pan out when the Grammys air live at 8 p.m. Monday on CBS from Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“Sound & Color,” Alabama Shakes; “To Pimp a Butterfly,” Kendrick Lamar; “Traveller,” Chris Stapleton; “1989,” Taylor Swift; “Beauty Behind the Madness,” The Weeknd.
FEKADU: As a proud citizen of the land that belongs to King Kendrick, I believe he deserves to win, but that won’t happen. While Stapleton and Weeknd’s albums were impressive, they are not his problem here. Lamar and Swift will split some of the popular votes, which means Alabama Shakes could snag enough to win, and they will come close, but won’t beat “1989.” That album not only marked a transition for Swift, but it sold tremendously well, launched seven hit singles and a massive world tour, all while Swift took down Apple for not paying musicians and stood her ground against Spotify.
MOODY: You would think with all those accomplishments, plus taking half the industry on tour with her, Taylor would be a lock. But even though her album is amazing and she was basically deified for battling streaming services, I think there are still folks who may feel it’s too soon to crown her with the honor when she won it in 2010. Plus, voters love to pick an act left of mainstream as often as possible, as long as it’s not rap. That makes the battle between Stapleton and Alabama Shakes. And while both are Southern-based acts with electrifying stage shows, the Brittany Howard-fronted Alabama Shakes will win voters over.
“Really Love,” D’Angelo and the Vanguard; “Uptown Funk,” Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars; “Thinking Out Loud,” Ed Sheeran; “Blank Space,” Taylor Swift; “Can’t Feel My Face,” The Weeknd.
MOODY: D’Angelo made a brilliant comeback album with “Black Messiah,” but let’s be honest: Virtually no one but die-hard fans and music critics know this song. That leaves the hits that actually defined the year: While “Uptown Funk” deserves this badly, Grammy voters adore male singer-songwriters in the tradition of James Taylor and Ed Sheeran has taken that mantle. “Thinking Out Loud” wins here.
FEKADU: You are right. Sheeran will win here. BUT, for the sake of disagreeing, I am going to go with “Uptown Funk” just because I can’t stop reliving that Super Bowl halftime moment in my head.
“Alright,” Kendrick Lamar, Pharrell Williams, Kawan Prather and Mark Anthony Spears; “Blank Space,” Taylor Swift, Max Martin and Shellback; “Girl Crush,” Liz Rose, Hillary Lindsey and Lori McKenna; “See You Again,” Charlie Puth, Wiz Khalifa, Andrew Cedar and Justin Franks; “Thinking Out Loud,” Ed Sheeran and Amy Wadge.
FEKADU: Everyone has a crush on “Girl Crush,” including the Grammys.
MOODY: Have to agree here. “Girl Crush” represents a master class when it comes to songwriting.
Courtney Barnett; James Bay; Sam Hunt; Tori Kelly; Meghan Trainor.
MOODY: Courtney Barnett is a singer-songwriter musician who’s eclectic, indie and a critic’s darling. She even runs her own label. Though she’s not well known, she’s edgy. And that’s why she’ll take home the trophy, like Spalding did a few years ago.
FEKADU: Part of the problem is that most of the nominees here seem too new to win. That leaves us with Trainor and Hunt. But Hunt, who has successfully blended country music with R&B, pop and electronica, along with writing hit songs for his fellow countrymen, has moved mountains in his debut year, and it’s clear he’s only going to rise higher, especially with a win here.
“Apparently,” J. Cole; “Back to Back,” Drake; “Trap Queen,” Fetty Wap; “Alright,” Kendrick Lamar; “Truffle Butter,” Nicki Minaj featuring Drake and Lil Wayne; “All Day,” Kanye West featuring Paul McCartney, Theophilus London and Allan Kingdom.
MOODY: There’s a part of me that says Grammy voters will see Paul McCartney in this category and blindly vote for “All Day,” the weakest song here. But I’m going to have faith that the Recording Academy will do the right thing and award Lamar’s “Alright.”
FEKADU: Yes, they will see McCartney’s name and want to vote, but then they’ll wonder who the heck Theophilus London and Allan Kingdom are? That’s when they retrieve and select “Alright.” All right!
“Montevallo,” Sam Hunt; “Pain Killer,” Little Big Town; “The Blade,” Ashley Monroe; “Pageant Material,” Kacey Musgraves; “Traveller,” Chris Stapleton.
FEKADU: All five of these albums are amazing, but Hunt’s album is my favorite, and the only one to sell over one million units. But the newbie will have to take a backseat to another newbie who also writes songs for other artists. Stapleton wins here.
MOODY: Stapleton had this won when he rocked the Country Music Association Awards with Justin Timberlake last fall. Voters will have that performance in mind when they check off Stapleton’s name.