The GRAMMY Awards are just a few days away -- taking place this Sunday night (Jan. 26) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles -- which means it's time to at long last finalize our predictions for the top prizes.
Album of the Year
Will Win: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, "The Heist"
Should Win: Kendrick Lamar, "good kid, m.A.A.d city"
The GRAMMY Awards have always hesitated at giving the top album prize to a rap album -- ask Kanye West or Eminem, who are a combined 0-for-6 in this category. "The Heist" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis is the perfect submission to win the first hip-hop album of the year since Outkast's "Speakerboxx/The Love Below" -- another album full of year-defining hits by a pair of personalities who are outlandish, thoughtful and largely inoffensive -- exactly a decade ago.
Although "The Heist" (like Taylor Swift's "Red," Daft Punk's "Random Access Memories" and Sara Bareilles' "The Blessed Unrest") is an album with enumerable highlights, Kendrick Lamar's "good kid, m.A.A.d city," as a complete work, is a watershed release for the genre. From the chest-thumping braggadocio of "Backseat Freestyle" to the harrowing realism of "m.A.A.d city" to the vacant sorrow of "Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst," Lamar's proper debut presents new revelations with each listen, and established its creator as hip-hop's next great hope. Even the Möbius-strip concept of the album's track sequencing is fantastic! King Kendrick deserves to be crowned here.
Record of the Year
Will Win: "Get Lucky" - Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers
Should Win: "Get Lucky" - Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams and Nile Rodgers
Daft Punk's comeback is one of the feel-good music stories of 2013: a pair of electronica geniuses striding back into view at the crest of the EDM wave, releasing an album that's as daring as it is reverent to its dusty inspirations. But the return of Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel De Homem-Christo would not have resonated nearly as well without "Get Lucky," a song that's seemingly impossible to dislike after one or one hundred listens. The record of the year competition is particularly stiff this year, with Lorde's snapping beats up against Imagine Dragons' apocalyptic howl, and with Bruno Mars and Robin Thicke trying to out-suave each other. Yet no song this year had a fuller sound than "Get Lucky," with Nile Rodgers' careening guitar licks, Pharrell Williams' seductive poses and Daft Punk's robo-breakdown coalescing into a lovable jam. "Get Lucky" is a bulletproof record, and we think the GRAMMYs honor that precision.
Song of the Year
Will Win: "Royals" - Lorde
Should Win: "Same Love" - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Mary Lambert
The songwriting award can go in wildly different directions this year: voters could recognize the effortlessness of P!nk's he-said-she-said quarrel, reward the swagger of Mars' and Katy Perry's pop jams, tout the consciousness of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' gay rights anthem, or nod toward the perceptiveness of Lorde's rejection of riches. With nominations in song of the year and record of the year, "Royals" is the type of stunningly unique hit single that inarguably works because of its songwriting -- and what sharp writing that song possesses thanks to a 16-year-old singer and her producer, Joel Little. "Same Love" pulls off something even trickier, though: it's a pro-gay rap song from a rookie MC, fresh-faced producer and an mostly-unknown vocalist, all of whom chisel a rallying cry down into a series of personal moments and reflections. It's a capital-I Important song that manages to say something simply without ever becoming saccharine. "Royals" is a great song, but "Same Love" deserves this award.
Best New Artist
Will Win: Ed Sheeran
Should Win: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
For those who are writing off left-field nominees like Kacey Musgraves and James Blake in the best new artist category: never forget that Esperanza Spalding trumped Justin Bieber in 2011, and that Bon Iver topped Nicki Minaj one year later. This is a category where commercial success is hardly a golden ticket, so those considering Macklemore & Ryan Lewis as a lock should shake off that notion. Instead, look for Ed Sheeran to be tiptoeing to the stage on GRAMMY night: having already snagged a song of the year nomination for "The A Team" last year, the U.K. folk artist has the type of distinctive style and wide-eyed promise that GRAMMY voters love to herald in this category. Still… what more do Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have to do to win this award? The rapper-producer pair reached an unthinkable creative and commercial apex on their first attempt, scoring ubiquitous hits and starting necessary conversations on their own terms. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis defined the past year in music as a new artist, and that should certainly be rewarded come GRAMMY night.