2021 Album of the Year Grammy Nominees:
• Chilombo, Jhene Aiko
• Black Pumas (Deluxe Edition), Black Pumas
• Everyday Life, Coldplay
• Djesse Vol. 3, Jacob Collier
• Women in Music Pt. III, Haim
• Future Nostalgia, Dua Lipa
• Hollywood’s Bleeding, Post Malone
• Folklore, Taylor Swift
This year’s batch of Album of the Year nominees might be the most bizarre in the 63-year history of the Grammys. It is truly mindblowing that some obvious choices were left out. We cannot even begin to fathom what the quality control panel that has the final say on nominees was thinking.
We can’t begin to assess the category without first acknowledging the critically and commercially successful albums that were snubbed. Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters is a near-unanimous choice for best album of the year by rock critics. The Weeknd got completely shut out from the Grammys despite his After Hours being massively successful. Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher and Bob Dylan’s Rough and Rowdy Ways were also more than worthy of being nominated.
Instead, the Recording Academy gave us a group that includes 4 mainstream nominees and 4 that would be viewed more as outsiders. Taylor Swift is the big name here. After getting passed over in this category for her last two albums, she’s back with the quiet, rootsy Folklore. This is her fourth career nom in this category, which she’s already won twice.
Swift is the heavy favorite. If she doesn’t pull it out, it will be because middle-of-the-road Grammy voters have Swift fatigue and decide to look elsewhere. If that happens, Dua Lipa and Coldplay are the likeliest contenders.
Lipa has quickly become a Grammy darling with her Best New Artist win two years ago and her six nominations this year. Future Nostalgia was one of the year’s best pop and dance records. She’s a worthy nominee. But if Lady Gaga could never win this award, we wonder whether a less well-known dance-pop act could really pull it out.
Coldplay, meanwhile, have no business being in this category. We completely forgot that the band even released an album last year. It produced only one minor hit (“Orphans”) and was immediately forgotten. Still, they are inoffensive enough to appeal to the average Grammy voter, which gives them a real chance here.
RELATED ARTICLE: Why Coldplay Have a Real Shot at Winning Album of the Year
Everyday Life is a good record, but it wasn’t one of the eight best of the past 12 months. Coldplay won both Record and Song of the Year in the past, so they’ll join some exclusive company if they can add Album of the Year as well.
The sister act Haim is an incredibly talented band. But the time to nominate them for Album of the Year was 3 years ago, when they were at the peak of their relevance. Let’s be honest: Haim made no cultural impact in 2020. Including them here at the expense of Fiona Apple is, well, criminal. But because of their appeal to rock and pop audiences, Haim are the dark horses in this category.
The other four nominees figure to have little chance. The Academy keeps nominating Post Malone for Album of the Year, even though he’s clearly a singles artist. Malone has a very outside shot here if Swift, Lipa, and Coldplay evenly split the vote from the more conservative Grammy voters.
Jhene Aiko is a wonderful R&B artist. We’ve been in love with her since seeing her gorgeous early-afternoon set at Lollapalooza in 2014. But it’s a stretch to say that she belongs in this category.
The Austin duo Black Pumas had an overlooked gem this year with “Colors.” Nominated for the deluxe version of their self-titled album, the soulful rock duo is actually more deserving of appearing in this category than many of their fellow nominees. But they stand little chance of winning.
And finally, Jacob Collier takes the prize for “most unknown artist ever to earn an Album of the Year nomination.” The London-based multi-instrumentalist has already won 4 Grammys for his arranging, and he has a great deal of industry respect, so he’s sort of in the Esperanza Spalding mold.
Could Collier pull an upset here, much like Spalding did when she beat out Justin Bieber to win Best New Artist in 2011? Nope, not when he’s competing against Taylor Swift and Coldplay.
Album of the Year Prediction
The Recording Academy must now pray that its voters don’t end up choosing Coldplay. If, in a year in which there was so much memorable hip hop, pop, and dance music, the Recording Academy gives Album of the Year to a nondescript pop-rock band more than 10 years past its prime, that would go down as one of the most embarrassing decisions in the history of the Grammys.
In our estimation, Folklore was the fourth-best album of 2020, behind the records by Apple, Bridgers, and Run the Jewels. Since those three aren’t nominated, Folklore deserves to win this one. And it will.
We predict that Taylor Swift will indeed become the first woman ever to win Album of the Year three times. Coldplay and Dua Lipa have a shot, but Folklore will edge them out.
2021 Grammy Awards: Album of the Year prediction
Deserves to win: Folklore, Taylor Swift
Will win: Folklore, Taylor Swift
Should have been nominated: Fetch the Bolt Cutters, Fiona Apple