60th Grammy Award Picks: TPM’s Music Writers’ Picks

Ah, the Grammy Awards are here again. Just because we aren’t given a ballot doesn’t mean we won’t share our picks for most of the major categories.

Written by Mason Cheng and Sarah Medeiros

General Field

Grammys LogoRecord of the Year

Sarah’s Pick: “Redbone” by Childish Gambino

There’s not enough that can be said about this track so I’ll keep it short. Off of the hottest album of the year, Childish Gambino brought something that we haven’t heard in decades – since perhaps Funkadelic’s heyday – or really ever.

Mason’s Pick: “The Story Of OJ” by Jay Z

As much as I loved Redbone and Humble, The Story of OJ blow them out of the water. It’s socially conscious pessimistic statement about the perception of race in America, coupled with great production and Hova’s smooth delivery make this another classic in Jay Z’s storied career.

Album of the Year

Sarah’s Pick: Awaken, My Love by Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino positively rocked 2017: “Me and Your Mama”, “Redbone”, and “Terrified” proved to be killer singles, while the rest of the album was able to weave together ecstatically colorful psych and funk with down and dirty soul and R&B. No other album was as creative aside from perhaps Lorde’s ‘Melodrama’.

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Kopari Beauty Coconut Glowing Skin

Mason’s Pick: DAMN by Kendrick Lamar

I think it speaks volumes about Kendrick Lamar’s ability to create classics when arguably his debatably weakest release since Section 80 is still the best album of 2018 (well, at least out of the Grammy nominations).

Song of the Year

Sarah’s Pick: “Despacito” by Luis Fonsi ft. Daddy Yankee

Alright, so this article is a judgement free zone, right? The first time I heard “Despacito” I was sitting in a parking lot (boredly in a car, might I add). The DJ of the radio station I was listening to introduced it as “probably the filthiest song on the radio right now”, and I’m not going to lie – that piqued my interest. So with this heightened interest I listened to the entire song, enjoying every little bit of the cheesy-pop and looked forward to hearing it again. I didn’t know what I was wishing for because as we all know now, there’s no getting away from it. I could run away to Timbuktu and still hear it surely. In the house, the car, the store… constantly it’s in my head. I’m not actually rooting for “Despacito” to win song of the year: “Despacito” is.

Mason’s Pick: “4:44” by Jay Z

Out of the nominated songs for this category “4:44” is my pick, but it wasn’t even the best song off of 4:44. This is both a testament to Jay Z as an artist and a castigation against Grammy voters.

Best New Artist

Sarah’s Pick: Khalid

The young R&B artist took his debut album to platinum within 10 months this past year – a feat that’s quite difficult to achieve in the age of streaming.

Mason’s Pick: SZA or Khalid

In my opinion, this award is really between SZA and Khalid and both equally deserve it.

Pop

Portugal The Man
Source: Scott Legato / Getty Images

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Sarah’s Pick: “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man

Saying “Despacito” won’t win this category is something like a pipe dream, but finally Portugal. The Man is charting across the world, finally the band is getting some recognition outside of your typical indie circles, so yes, ‘Feel It Still’ will definitely win this one.

Mason’s Pick: “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man

It’s crazy to think that Portugal. The Man is now considered pop, but I’m glad because I didn’t exactly enjoy the rest of the nominees for this award.

Best Pop Solo Performance

Sarah’s Pick: “Shape of You” by Ed Sheeran

This category is studded with all of the heavy hitters: Lady Gaga, P!nk, Kesha, Kelly Clarkson, Ed. But it’s the latter who’s going to go away with the award on Sunday due to the sheer gleefulness of the track.

Mason’s Pick: “Praying” by Kesha

I’m not at all a Kesha fan, but I can appreciate the emotion she pours into the performance of this song.

Best Traditional Pop Album

Sarah’s Pick: In Full Swing by Seth McFarlane

For the sake of being honest, Michael Bublé will probably win, Bob Dylan probably deserves it, I just think Seth McFarlane is funny.

Mason’s Pick: In Full Swing by Seth McFarlane

This is one of those categories where I used the process of elimination to pick between the nominees. I did enjoy Tony Bennet’s album, but I feel like its almost cheating when most of the performances on the album are made in honor of you instead of by you.

Dance/Electronic

Animated Gorillaz band
Source: Gorillaz

Best Dance Recording

Sarah’s Pick: “Andromeda” by Gorillaz ft. DRAM

Gorillaz. Let’s spell it out. G-O-R-I-L-L-A-Z. This track was the fourth single off their Humanz album and named after a nightclub in Spain – the same country ravers from around the world fly to for the nightclub/dance culture, so the only logical conclusion is? You guessed it: Gorillaz.

Mason’s Pick: “Tonite” by LCD Soundsystem

I’m not going to lie, I wasn’t a fan of any of these; but if I were forced to pick, I’d pick LCD Soundsystem over the rest.

Best Dance/Electronic Album

Sarah’s Pick: 3-D The Catalog by Kraftwerk

Almost like Gorillaz, all you have to do is say Kraftwerk and it’s already a foregone win to me.

Mason’s Pick: Mura Masa by Mura Masa

If it weren’t for A$AP Rocky, I would’ve never heard of Mura Masa. I’m not usually a fan of electronic music but I really dug Mura Masa’s self-titled debut.

Rock/Alternative

Source: Matador Records

Best Rock Album

Sarah’s Pick: A Deeper Understanding by The War On Drugs

I’m personally a fan of The War On Drugs, so this inclusion is based all out of love, but Nothing More’s “The Stories We Tell Ourselves” is set to take home this award, as the band just may be the night’s dark horse.

Mason’s Pick: Villains by Queens of the Stone Age

2017 really felt like a weak year for rock. Other than Villains, there just seemed to be a lot of disappointment with the releases from major artists. That being said, Villains was the first QOTSA album I thoroughly enjoyed.

Best Alternative Music Album

Sarah’s Pick: Humanz by Gorillaz

I loved it so much I stood outside of a record store for four hours on Black Friday to get it on vinyl – it was a special picture disc format. And okay, maybe I was outside of that store for other vinyl’s too, but the point is, this album is a return to form for Gorillaz. Maybe it’s not completely innovative, but then again, can you really expect something groundbreaking with every release?

Mason’s Pick: Pure Comedy by Father John Misty

Any other year, I would have given this award to Sleep Well Beast by The National; but, unfortunately for them, Father John Misty released a modern classic this year. Listening to this album while reading the writings of Jean-Paul Sartre is an enjoyable way to experience an existential crisis.

R&B

Awaken My Love Album Cover
Source: Glassnote Records

Best R&B Song

Sarah’s Pick: “Redbone” by Childish Gambino
Stay woke.
Mason’s Pick: “First Began” by PJ Morton

I was about to give this to “Redbone”, but then I checked out this song. If you want a throwback to that Motown sound, go check it out.

Best Urban Contemporary Album

Sarah’s Pick: Starboy by The Weeknd

This eighteen track album absolutely trashed the charts and is owner of three of my favorite songs from the past year, something the other albums in this category can’t say for themselves.

Mason’s Pick: American Teen or Ctrl

Again, I can’t choose between SZA and Khalid. You can’t go wrong with either album.

Best R&B Album

Sarah’s Pick: 24K Magic by Bruno Mars

To think anyone else would win is foolish. Remind me I said this when PJ Morton wins with Gumbo.

Mason’s Pick: Gumbo by PJ Morton

It deeply saddens me that this album got as little attention as it did. PJ Morton’s soulful voice and keyboard playing, coupled with the old-school R&B instrumentals make this album seem like a lost record from the golden age of Motown.

Rap

Jay Z B-sides Live
Source: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Live Nation

Best Rap Song

Sarah’s Pick: “Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B

I’m not just suggesting Cardi B will win because it’s the only track in this category I know all the words too. As a music writer I’m above that.

Mason’s Pick: “The Story of O.J.” by Jay Z

It wouldn’t make sense to give this song the record of the year and not have it win Best Rap Song unless they put a snub on the list.

Best Rap Album

Sarah’s Pick: Culture by Migos

Not Kendrick Lamar? Heresy! I know, I know, but Migos’ album was being played everywhere in my neck of the woods, and we all know the Grammys is purely a popularity contest.

Mason’s Pick: Flower Boy by Tyler the Creator

Before I talk about how great of an album Flower Boy is, I’d like to say that there were some serious snubs for this award. Run The Jewels 3, despite being released on Christmas Eve 2016, was eligible for a nomination. That would have been my pick for this award, followed by Joey Bada$$’s All Amerikkkan Bada$$ and any of Brokhampton’s Saturation albums.

Disregarding those snubs, Flower Boy deserves the Grammy out of the bunch for how well constructed it was. It didn’t have the classic songs like in the other nominees, but it was more consistent than the rest.

Music Video/Movie Soundtrack

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 Cover
Source: Marvel Music

Best Music Video

Sarah’s Pick: “Up All Night” by Beck

It’s the greatest music video since “Thriller”. Just kidding, it’s alright, but so are all the others.

Mason’s Pick: “The Story of O.J.” by Jay Z

While Humble was visually stunning, “The Story Of O.J.” best conveyed the message in the song. The early Disney animated style they went for provided the perfect complimentary visual medium to experience the classic track.

Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media

Sarah’s Pick: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 or Baby Driver

To put Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 versus Baby Driver in the same category is like putting a basket of kittens playing with balls of yarn up against a litter of border collie puppies who just happen to have baked you chocolate chip cookies because they’re magical puppies. How does one decide?? Baby Driver pluses: The Damned, The Modern Lovers, and ‘Bellbottoms’… lest I forget only one of the greatest guitar driven songs of all time ‘Brighton Rock’ by Queen. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 pluses: every single song on this soundtrack is pure honey to the ears. George Harrison, Jay & The Americans, Sweet, ELO. But who will most likely win? Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

Mason’s Pick: La La Land by Justin Hurwitz

It would be fitting for one of the best musical movies of recent memory to also have the best movie soundtrack. Justin Hurwitz (also the composer of Whiplash) has continually failed to disappoint.

Miscellaneous

Pure Comedy Album Cover
Source: Sub Pop Records

Best Production

Sarah’s Pick: Greg Kurstin

Mr. Kurstin produced tracks from artists such as the Foo Fighters, Beck, Kendrick Lamar, and Liam Gallagher. All impressive feats.

Mason’s Pick: Blake Mills
Blake Mills deserves this award just for the John Legend songs. “Darkness And Light” and “God Only Knows” has almost flawless vocal mixing, which is a lot harder to do than you’d think. Also Blake Mills is an incredible guitar player, if you have some extra time on your hands, go check out his work.

Best Packaging

Sarah’s Pick: El Orisha De La Rosa

More album covers should have snarling cats, striking snakes, and waves encircled by roses.

Mason’s Pick: Pure Comedy (Deluxe Edition)

How can you beat this?

 

Mason Cheng

Music Intern

I like music. Sometimes I write about it.

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