By EW Staff
Updated February 05, 2015 at 12:00 PM EST
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP

Ever wondered what’s really going through Grammy voters’ heads when they’re decide who should win the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences’ highest honor? Here, three industry powerhouses—a wild frontman whose work has brought him both cred and commercial success, a much-lauded studio force with a long string of singles, and a hit songwriter who’s one of the industry’s most proven (and legendary) hitmakers—go undercover to tell EW how they really cast their ballots. The Grammys air Sunday, Feb. 8 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

Album of the Year

The Contenders: Morning Phase, Beck

Beyoncé, Beyoncé

x, Ed Sheeran

In the Lonely Hour, Sam Smith

Girl, Pharrell Williams

The Artist: I know the one Sam Smith song because I think I heard it in yoga, and it didn’t strike me as something I would stand up for as Album of the Year. The Beyoncé record seemed to speak to people more than the other albums here did. I wasn’t passionate either way, but I did like some of her videos that I saw.

The Producer: Beyoncé did her thing and it was a great record, but I’m going with Beck. I love that he’s still out there constructing albums that you need to listen to as an album. Don’t listen to track 2 and 7, listen from beginning to end. There’s a whole story there you need to experience.

The Songwriter: It’s weird because none of these feel like Album of the Year to me. When I think of that, I think of, like, Adele and Stevie Wonder or Sting, where it’s going to be classic. I would go with Sam Smith because it’s heartfelt, not gimmicky. It’s songs with real performances.

Record of the Year

The Contenders: “Fancy,” Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX

“Chandelier,” Sia

“Stay With Me (Darkchild Version),” Sam Smith

“Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift

“All About That Bass,” Meghan Trainor

The Artist: The Iggy Azalea song [“Fancy”]. The times I’ve heard her, I always ask what it is, and people tell me, “Oh, that’s that Iggy girl, you know her!” And I’m always like, “I know Iggy Pop, I don’t know Iggy Azalea.” It would stick in my mind because of that.

The Producer: I know a lot of people are going to vote for “Shake It Off” or “Fancy,” but I love “Stay With Me.” I just like that it was so quiet. It was this cool, classy record. It had so much impact.

The Songwriter: Sam Smith. Taylor Swift could’ve won it before she said, “I’m not country anymore.” Because there are country voters going, “Bitch! You left us! We’re not voting for you this year. Good luck with all the pop voters.” And she was already pop anyway!

Song of the Year

The Contenders: “Take Me to Church,” Hozier

“Chandelier,” Sia

“Stay With Me (Darkchild Version),” Sam Smith

“Shake It Off,” Taylor Swift

“All About That Bass,” Meghan Trainor

The Artist: I would pick “Chandelier.” Sia’s only in a couple of these categories, and I really like that song. I think she deserves a win.

The Producer: “Stay With Me.” I knew it was a winner when my 4-year-old was singing it in the back of the car. I [also] like “Shake It Off.” I think people who say they’re not a fan of Taylor Swift are lying.

The Songwriter: I love Hozier’s “Take Me to Church.” I was on nitrous getting my teeth cleaned when I first heard it. I was like, “Holy shit!” And then I tracked it down after, and I still loved it. His voice just does something to me.

Best New Artist

The Contenders: Iggy Azalea


Brandy Clark


Sam Smith

The Artist: I like Iggy Azalea more than the others. If someone has to win, it might as well be her. She doesn’t look like she needs a Grammy, if you ask me. She looks like she doesn’t give a f—.

The Producer: Sam Smith. He’s here to stay.

The Songwriter: Sam Smith. I think he’s going to open the door for other things that are real. Record companies will go, “We want a soulful singer with a piano!” Like, “Really? It doesn’t have to be all synthed out and EDM? Nice!”

Best Alternative Music Album

The Contenders: This Is All Yours, alt-J

Reflektor, Arcade Fire

Melophobia, Cage the Elephant

St. Vincent, St. Vincent

Lazaretto, Jack White

The Artist: I would say alt-J. I like quite a few of their songs…. Enough to vote for them. I like Jack White even though I don’t really listen to his new record. St. Vincent is cool, but not as singularly compelling this year as alt-J.

The Producer: I thought this category was a little weak. Everybody loves Jack White, but I think St. Vincent hasn’t had nearly the shine that he has. Maybe it’s her time to be recognized.

The Songwriter: St. Vincent is a very cool and interesting artist, you kind of wonder what she’ll do next and how she could f— up a pop song (in a good way!) and go more mass appeal.

Best Pop Vocal Album

The Contenders: Ghost Stories, Coldplay

Bangerz, Miley Cyrus

My Everything, Ariana Grande

Prism, Katy Perry

x, Ed Sheeran

In the Lonely Hour, Sam Smith

The Artist: This is utterly easy. It’s Miley. She’s funny and smart and crazy as f—. Hopefully she wins and shows up and does something outrageous.

The Producer: This one always seems like a category they don’t need. I’m a big Katy Perry fan. I like Prism a lot. I think Ariana Grande’s record is strong too. And Sam Smith’s. Coldplay is great, but it’s not a pop vocal album.

The Songwriter: Let’s not even think twice about that shit. Congratulations, Sam Smith ! You walk away with that one. There was some good stuff in Miley’s album. But Sam brought it back to real, not overproduced, soulful, simple, great vocals.

Best Rock Album

The Contenders: Ryan Adams, Ryan Adams

Morning Phase, Beck

Turn Blue, The Black Keys

Hypnotic Eye, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Songs of Innocence, U2

The Artist: Let’s give it to Tom Petty. I love Tom Petty—he’s a cool guy and he stands for a lot of cool stuff. If he hasn’t already won 20 Grammys, he could win another one and it’d be fine by me.

The Producer: Morning Phase, by Beck. There’s a handful of dudes who can’t do anything wrong, and he’s in that category for me. He’s able to make it new and do it really well.

The Songwriter: I’d have to go with Beck, who still manages to keep making interesting albums.

Best Rap Album

The Contenders: The New Classic, Iggy Azalea

Because the Internet, Childish Gambino

Nobody’s Smiling, Common

The Marshall Mathers LP2, Eminem

Oxymoron, Schoolboy Q

Blacc Hollywood, Wiz Khalifa

The Artist: I’ve heard some of the Childish Gambino, and I liked it. But Schoolboy Q seemed like the most fun and the stupidest and the most partying of all the ones in the category. I always go with the people who are willing to party and have fun. I think the Grammys need that.

The Producer: I’m going to be controversial here and say Iggy Azalea. Look, I’ve spent a lot of time in Australia, and Australian white people are way whiter than American white people. They put extra mayonnaise on everything. So there’s something interesting about this girl from Australia dominating the hip-hop world.

The Songwriter: Skip! [Laughs]

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

The Contenders: “Fancy,” Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX

“A Sky Full of Stars,” Coldplay

“Say Something,” A Great Big World with Christina Aguilera

“Bang Bang,” Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj

“Dark Horse,” Katy Perry feat. Juicy J

The Artist: Dang. I would go with “Fancy.” Of all these songs, I think I’ve heard that one enough to get into it. Some of the other ones I like, but I don’t think I’ve accidentally liked them as much as Iggy Azalea.

The Producer: I gotta go with Katy Perry here. “Dark Horse” is one of my favorite tracks of the year. And it’s a freaking shame it isn’t up for Song of the Year. Booooo!

The Songwriter: I’d go for A Great Big World’s “Say Something.” It’s simple and beautiful and well sung. And I love that Christina [Aguilera] is on it, but she’s not overpowering them. She just rode in the backseat and added a nice thing to it.