Three industry insiders — past winners and current nominees — share their unfiltered opinions about who they think (and hope!) will take home the big prizes when the 61st Grammy Awards air Feb. 10 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS. Our anonymous participants this year include a rock singer who knows a thing or two about owning a song and winning awards, one of Nashville’s most highly decorated songwriters, and a veteran producer for A-list pop, rock, and country artists.
As told to EW’s Sarah Rodman and Alex Suskind.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
- H.E.R. — H.E.R.
- By the Way, I Forgive You — Brandi Carlile
- Scorpion — Drake
- Black Panther: The Album — Various artists
- Golden Hour — Kacey Musgraves
- Beerbongs & Bentleys — Post Malone
- Invasion of Privacy — Cardi B
- Dirty Computer — Janelle Monáe
THE SINGER: The honesty of this Brandi Carlile album — it made me cry. It was like, “Wow, thank you so much for telling your truth and making me get emotional about it.”
THE SONGWRITER: I just think Kacey Musgraves has got it. My main reason is because there’s eight nominees. If there were five, I don’t think it would be as clear a path. There’s so many people that cross different genres, they’re spreading out votes. The people that vote for country are going to vote for Kacey.
THE PRODUCER: Brandi Carlile. It’s such a great body of work because of her storytelling. It’s the one record [I] listened to and didn’t stop and move on to the next. H.E.R. is awesome too. I love that album. But to me, Brandi should take it.
SONG OF THE YEAR
- “All the Stars” — Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Al Shuckburgh, Mark Spears, and Anthony Tiffith
- “Boo’d Up” — Larrance Dopson, Joelle James, Ella Mai, and Dijon McFarlane
- “God’s Plan” — Aubrey Graham, Daveon Jackson, Brock Korsan, Ron LaTour, Matthew Samuels, and Noah Shebib
- “In My Blood” — Shawn Mendes, Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris, and Geoffrey Warburton
- “The Joke” — Brandi Carlile, Dave Cobb, Phil Hanseroth, and Tim Hanseroth
- “The Middle” — Sarah Aarons, Jordan K. Johnson, Stefan Johnson, Marcus Lomax, Kyle Trewartha, Michael Trewartha, and Zedd
- “Shallow” — Lady Gaga, Mark Ronson, Anthony Rossomando, and Andrew Wyatt
- “This Is America” — Donald Glover, Ludwig Goransson, and Jeffery Lamar Williams
THE SINGER: Childish Gambino. The song is amazing and the video is perfect. He’s an innovator. And I think that he needs to be allowed a bigger platform in order to do that. I enjoy the danger of that.
THE SONGWRITER: That Childish Gambino video left such an impression that it made me really pay attention to the song.
THE PRODUCER: Brandi Carlile. The lyrical content and story are incredible. “This Is America” is badass, but in the [political] climate right now… it may be too controversial. The best song is [Carlile’s] “The Joke.” It’s a game-changer.
RECORD OF THE YEAR
- “This Is America” — Childish Gambino
- “God’s Plan” — Drake
- “I Like It” — Cardi B
- “The Middle” — Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey
- “Shallow” — Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
- “All the Stars” — SZA and Kendrick Lamar
- “Rockstar” — Post Malone featuring 21 Savage
- “The Joke” — Brandi Carlile
THE SINGER: Brandi Carlile. I don’t know whether it’s the times or just everything that I was praying for personally and professionally at the time [when I heard it] — it struck me all at once.
THE SONGWRITER: Lady Gaga. I feel like she’s in that place right now when it starts coming down to a process of elimination. It’s like, “Where do we honor that film in a big category?” It’s going to win, but it’s the worst song there.
THE PRODUCER: This one is between Drake, Gaga, and Brandi. But again I will vote for Brandi. To me it’s the far superior record from a songwriting point of view. Brandi came in out of nowhere and got six nominations. And she’s a credible artist. To me, it’s a no-brainer that she should sweep the Grammys.
BEST NEW ARTIST
- Dua Lipa
- Luke Combs
- Greta Van Fleet
- Bebe Rexha
- Chloe x Halle
- Jorja Smith
- Margo Price
THE SINGER: They get a lot of sh— for sounding like Zeppelin. I get it. Yes, they do. At the same time, the great thing about Greta Van Fleet is that they are holding a flag for kids that actually play instruments. Which is rock 101.
THE SONGWRITER: Dua Lipa’s a little more known outside of her specific genre. I feel like she has really left an impression on songwriters and creators.
THE PRODUCER: H.E.R. or Greta Van Fleet. I can’t absolutely tell you, because one is not standing out to me over the other.
BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM
- Camila — Camila Cabello
- Sweetener — Ariana Grande
- Reputation — Taylor Swift
- Shawn Mendes — Shawn Mendes
- Beautiful — Trauma Pink
- Meaning of Life — Kelly Clarkson
THE SINGER: Everyone’s like, “Oh yeah, whatever, it’s Pink. She does her thing.” But this album is beautiful. She still sings her ass off.
THE SONGWRITER: This category blows my mind. I believe most of these nominees were very much snubbed in the big categories. It’s Ariana Grande’s, and she should be nominated more places. She made a great record.
THE PRODUCER: Shawn Mendes is going to get it, but Pink deserves it. She’s just the superior singer. But he’s got a cute little thing going on. I don’t think Shawn is going to get the awards that he’s up for in the other categories [like Song of the Year]. This will probably be the one he gets, because he puts out great pop vocals.
BEST COUNTRY ALBUM
- Golden Hour — Kacey Musgraves
- Unapologetically — Kelsea Ballerini
- Port Saint Joe — Brothers Osborne
- Girl Going Nowhere — Ashley McBryde
- From a Room: Volume 2 — Chris Stapleton
THE SINGER: Chris Stapleton. I f—ing love him. He’s amazing. It’s what country music is supposed to be. It’s not supposed to be “We’re trying to be Bon Jovi” or “We’re trying to be pop music.” And it’s honest. I love the fact that it’s From a Room: Volume 2. Because that’s what it sounds like. He’s just in a room, writing the songs.
THE SONGWRITER: Kacey Musgraves has got the momentum. I think the fact that it has been a minute for her between records and because she came back with something that people weren’t expecting [will help].
THE PRODUCER: I don’t know these records as well. But Kacey is great. It’s a good record. People love it. I will give it to her.
BEST RAP SONG
- Swimming — Mac Miller
- Invasion of Privacy — Cardi B
- Victory Lap — Nipsey Hussle
- Daytona — Pusha T
- Astroworld — Travis Scott
THE SINGER: Eminem. The rapid-fire energy is what attracts me to it.
THE SONGWRITER: I love “God’s Plan.” I don’t have strong feelings about Drake. I just think this record and particularly this song are amazing.
THE PRODUCER: That one is hard. Travis, Kendrick, and Drake, it’s between those guys for sure. Kendrick is the superior act, but it could go to Travis because he’s like the hip, cool one. But Drake is also the seasoned favorite. I’m torn. I’m going with Drake.