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Grammys Preview: The Best Bets For The Big Four Awards

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

Sheeran has racked up ­nominations ­numbering in the double digits (and in 2016 won song of the year for “Thinking Out Loud”). Lamar has more trophies to his name (seven to Sheeran’s two), but none in the general categories. Regardless, Sheeran’s Divide and Lamar’s DAMN. should be locks for ­nominations. Joining those likely frontrunners, Lorde’s Melodrama is a solid bet: Though her follow-up to 2013’s Pure Heroine came up a little short commercially, it was ­considered a daring, winning step forward after her rookie success. JAY-Z’s 4:44 – a ­thoughtful, confessional album from a true icon – looks like it could nab him long overdue recognition in a category in which he has never been nominated ­(provided the album’s exclusive TIDAL release didn’t limit its audience too much).

Don’t discount the influence of two of the year’s most powerful artist ­narratives. Gaga’s ­intimate Joanne met lukewarm reviews, but it has Mark Ronson’s imprimatur and caps off a year when Gaga won plenty of hearts with a triumphant Super Bowl performance, her revelation of her chronic battle with fibromyalgia and the release of her well-received Netflix ­documentary, Gaga: Five Foot Two. And with We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service, A Tribe Called Quest offered a ­stunning, unexpected comeback recorded with Phife Dawg before his death in 2016 – and, as Q-Tip and crew announced, their final project.

Elsewhere, Harry Styles, inspired by classic rock from Bowie to Badfinger, was a remarkable transformation for the former One Direction-er. The Bruno Mars juggernaut could well roll on with 24K Magic, as could The Weeknd with Starboy. Miranda Lambert’s powerful double album, The Weight of These Wings, was arguably Nashville’s strongest ­offering this year. Though Metallica has never been ­nominated in a general category, its Hardwired… To Self-Destruct was widely seen as a welcome return to form. Among rap’s contenders, Logic’s Everybody and Big Sean’s I Decided were big hits that earned critical notice. As to who might fill the unexpected outsider slot Sturgill Simpson occupied in 2017, Americana favorite Jason Isbell’s The Nashville Sound (the rare indie release to hit No. 1 on the country albums chart) and Father John Misty’s Pure Comedy garnered sufficient support to make both long-shot contenders.

RECORD OF THE YEAR

With nearly 5 billion streams and 4 ­billion video views, Luis Fonsi’s “Despacito” (featuring Daddy Yankee and, on the remix, Justin Bieber) was the year’s biggest sensation. Honoring the first Spanish-language song since “Macarena” to top the Hot 100 – which went on to tie Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men’s “One Sweet Day” for most weeks ever at No. 1 on the chart – would be an ideal opportunity for The Recording Academy to recognize Latin music’s ever-increasing impact on the mainstream. Among the year’s other chart-toppers, Sheeran’s “Shape of You” and Lamar’s “Humble” seem like ­shoo-ins. At least one of Mars’ two hits, “That’s What I Like” and “24K Magic,” should earn a spot. Styles’ soaring “Sign of the Times” could earn recognition as a strong debut single. And among Nashville ­voters, Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road” – which topped the Hot Country Songs chart for a record-shattering 34 weeks (and crossed over to the Hot 100’s top 10) – should get the biggest push in this category.

From there, the year’s biggest singles covered a wide range of styles. The ­massive success of Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles” and Migos’ “Bad and Boujee” made next-gen Atlanta rap ­impossible to ignore. “Malibu” epitomized Miley Cyrus’ ’70s Southern California reboot, and The Weeknd delivered two strong tracks in “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming.” The unlikely (but highly ­successful) ­combination of The Chainsmokers and Coldplay for “Something Just Like This” ticks a lot of boxes for ­voters, while Imagine Dragons’ “Believer” could ­represent for modern rock. And though “Look What You Made Me Do” was ­polarizing, never underestimate the power of Taylor Swift – did any other song ­generate more debate this year?

SONG OF THE YEAR

Sheeran’s “Shape of You” (written with a team including producer Steve Mac) and Lamar’s “Humble” (credited to Lamar and Mike WiLL Made-It) will likely face off again for the top ­songwriting honor, and many other record of the year ­competitors could join them: Styles and a team led by producer Jeff Bhasker for “Sign of the Times”; Mars and crew ­(including ­production teams Shampoo Press & Curl and The Stereotypes) for “That’s What I Like” or “24K Magic”; Cyrus and collaborator Oren Yoel for “Malibu”; and Hunt alongside Zach Crowell, Shane McAnally and Josh Osborne for “Body Like a Back Road.”

That cohort’s strongest competition might come from songs with timely (or timeless) messages. Gaga’s raw ­vulnerability on “Million Reasons” – ­written with Hillary Lindsey and Ronson, and roundly ­considered the most solid ­offering on Joanne – makes it her best chance at a major ­nomination. Logic’s “1-800-273-8255,” ­written with Arjun Ivatury and featured vocalists Alessia Cara and Khalid, was an ambitious ­commentary on suicide ­prevention that has peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100.

Other new artists with chances for a nod: James Arthur, whose “Say You Won’t Let Go” (by Arthur, Neil Ormandy and Steve Solomon) was the year’s breakout low-key ballad, and Julia Michaels, whose “Issues,” written with Justin Tranter and producers Benny Blanco and Stargate, introduced her as a major new voice. And yet again, don’t count out Swift – this time for “Better Man,” a song she wrote alone (a possible plus to some ­authenticity-seeking voters) and then handed off to her friends in Little Big Town.

6

“I’ve felt a huge responsibility to not screw it up. I perhaps didn’t fully appreciate how iconic he (Hanks Williams) is in the US until I arrived in Nashville. I went there six weeks before we were due to start shooting.

I stayed with a musician called Rodney Crowell for five weeks and we sang and played every day, and he was amazing. Being in Nashville, being in the whole atmosphere of country blues music, the history – he loosened me up.“

– Tom Hiddleston, ShortList Magazine (2015)

Guardaré tus mejores recuerdos conmigo, porque últimamente se te ha dado la necedad de ser más terco y empañarte con opiniones que no son tuyas. Y cambiar. Aquí conmigo, seguirás siendo tú.
—  Estás cambiando, querido amigo.

Playback
to the tune of Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire
filk lyrics by Andrew Ross

Mary Shelley, HG Wells, people meeting at hotels 
Rudyard Kipling, people singing ditties at the bar
Gilbert, Sullivan, rounds of Young Man Mulligan
Poul and Karen Anderson, songs in Key of R

Martha Keller, Tolkein, songs of worlds as yet unseen
TH White’s Arthurians, Frederick Pohl’s Futurians
Tom Lehrer, Mondegreens, Slan Shacks, fanzines
Music circles, Reprints, Jacobs has a misprint!

We shouted “MacIntyre!”
It’s our cry of battle for the Old Dun Cattle
We shouted “MacIntyre!”
And we haven’t parted since the circle started

Amazing Stories Annuals, Pelz’s Filksong Manuals
Dr. Demento tunes, Callahan’s Crosstime Saloons
Hope Eyrie, Leslie Fish, bounced potatoes off the dish
Robert Aspirin, Gwen Zak, Dawson’s Christian, Captain Jack

Off Centaur, Teri Lee, making love in zero-G
Filthy Pierre, Longcor, black market Tullamore
Juanita Coulson, Red Lions, badges marked with Dandelions
Dorsai have a Fan Club! Jello in the bathtub!

Don’t set the cat on fire
It will only fight it if you try to light it
Don’t set the cat on fire
And we haven’t parted since the circle started

Peter Beagle, Consonance, chili cursed with sentience 
HOPSFA, NESFA, ConChord, and the Pegasus Award
PFNEN, Ose, Amway, Talk Like a Pirate Day
Dandelion Digitals, Julia Ecklar and the gulls

Bob Laurent, Asimov, Jeff and Maya Bohnhoff
Rocky Horror Muppet Shows, Frank Hayes feeling indisposed
Bill Sutton DIY, Marischiello goodbye
Challenger! Final tour! What else must we all endure?

We saw the sky on fire
While the world was staring, we were Jordin Karing
We saw the sky on fire
And we haven’t parted since the circle started

Kathy Mar, Next Gen, Tullamore is back again
Steve Macdonald, Elfquest, Interfilk funds a guest
Tom Smith, 307 Ale, Lee Gold, Heather Dale
Phoenyx, Keepers of the Flame, Filkontario’s Hall of Fame

Echo’s Children, Bab-5, need a fool to feed the drive
Hamlet done by John Woo, Marilisa Valtazanou 
GaFilk, Urban Tapestry, lives rich in fantasy
Airwalls down at Orycon! Firebells at Baycon!

We didn’t start a fire
We were all but deafened, and began Kanefin’
We didn’t start a fire
And we haven’t parted since the circle started

Blake Hodgetts, Proteins, Vixy, Tony, Thirteen
Stone Dragons, Moxie, Zander, Heather into Alexander
Bill and Gretchen, dead mouse, alligators in the house
ConFlikt, Judi Filksign, Tragedy at East Hill Mine

Mary Crowell, Faerieworlds, brony boys and Wicked Girls
Britain’s Talis Kimberly, Seanan’s Kellis-Amberlee
Doubleclicks! Browncoats! Cats! FuMP! Toy Boat!
Release the Cello! Sasquon! Thor! Pass another Tullamore!

We didn’t start the choir
It’s been so cathartic for the longest bardic
We didn’t start the choir
But when our turns have gone, it will still go on and on until the dawn…