Grammys 2017: Contenders for music’s biggest night

The 60th Annual Grammy Awards will release their music nominations on Nov. 28.

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Another year in music comes to a close, and so the nominations for “Music’s Biggest Night” are due to be released on Nov. 28. With music being such a large industry, there will undoubtedly be snubs and a couple of surprise appearances. At the same time, the Grammys are infamous for gravitating towards more commercially successful albums, despite those album's lukewarm critical reception. Nevertheless, based on albums by artists familiar to the Grammys, others that received critical adoration and records that sold well, there are a few artists who flew under the mainstream who will find their music on the ballot in a few weeks.

The calendar, as always, spans from October of the previous year through September of the current year, so there are a few older albums that could still be in Grammy voters’ hearts. 24K Magic has aged well, with numerous singles and a successful tour from the always dazzling and critically adored Bruno Mars, giving him leverage for Album, Record, and Song of the Year, as well as Best Pop Album and Pop Song nominations. Lady Gaga’s latest, Joanne, didn’t have the same impact with singles as previous efforts, and its divergence from her pop-driven sounds could work either for or against her chances. A last-minute shoo-in from 2016 could see A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service in Best Rap Album, but probably nothing more.

As far as 2017 goes, there are a few surefire artists that will see their new albums on the ballot. Lorde proved to be a breakout with her first album from 2013, and saw her fame grow alongside her musical abilities as Melodrama was loved by both critics and audiences. You can expect to see her in Best Pop Album, Best Pop Song, Song and Record of the Year and maybe even Album of the Year if the cards play in her favor. From A Room: Volume One, Chris Stapleton’s latest release, opened to critical acclaim as well, and it’s important to note that Stapleton is no stranger to Grammy and various other awards recognitions. Chris will definitely see more Album, Performance and Song nominees for country, and perhaps even an Album of the Year nomination. Thundercat’s latest album, Drunk, stands unparalleled as far as jazz exposure into the mainstream, partly due to Thundercat’s close contributions to Kendrick Lamar, so he could garner many jazz category nominations to bring the genre to mainstream Grammy attention.

If one album shook the country more than any other this year, DAMN. and its singles landed with a hip-hop explosion. Kendrick Lamar’s album debuted at number one on the Billboard Charts and was released to unanimous critical acclaim, making it a definite front-runner for Album of the Year, and virtually every Rap category nomination. While Lamar’s previous album, To Pimp a Butterfly, didn’t quite hit with casual audiences due to its jazz-driven sound (a feature I thought was one of the album’s hallmarks), DAMN.’s contemporary hip-hop sounds reassert Kendrick Lamar over anyone else in music today.

Hip-hop has seen a healthy output this year, even outside of Lamar, with albums More Life and Culture by Drake and Migos, respectively, both enjoying critical success and audience love, while Jay-Z made a triumphant return with 4:44. Future could also be in the running as one of hip-hop’s most well-known voices, with not one, but two number-one albums back to back: Future and HNDRXX. While Future hasn’t had any individual Grammy nominations yet, his popularity and trap’s reemergence into the mainstream may be what Migos and him need to grab voters’ attention.

Two heartthrobs that may score are Grammy vet Ed Sheeran for Divide and the newly-solo Harry Styles with his self-titled debut album. While both didn’t enjoy major critical success, radio play and sales were high for both artists’ songs and albums, so they may stay relevant in Grammy voters’ eyes.

As with any year, there are some albums that will take a miracle to gain Grammy prominence, but go down as some of the better releases of 2017. Run the Jewels 3 by the titular hip-hop duo brought forth some of the sharpest commentary in post-election America, and American Dream was a grand statement by the revitalized LCD Soundsystem, reuniting to push their electronic alternative sound in new directions. Arcade Fire’s Everything Now polarized critics, and after their previous Reflektor only picked up one nomination despite warm critical response, they may find themselves releasing an album without any nominations for the first time in their career.

The Grammys’ nominations (and infamously, many of their winners) are always a surprise, for better or worse. However, the albums and artists mentioned are solid bets as some of the names we’ll see on the ballot on Nov. 28. Music in 2017 saw many triumphant returns and some great debuts from new faces, but only time will tell as to who the Grammys will recognize as the best.

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