2021 Best Pop Vocal Album Grammy Nominees:
• Changes, Justin Bieber
• Chromatica, Lady Gaga
• Future Nostalgia, Dua Lipa
• Fine Line, Harry Styles
• Folklore, Taylor Swift
Best Pop Vocal Album is a fascinating category at the Grammys this year because it pits Taylor Swift against one of her many exes, Harry Styles. A lot of Grammy pundits thought these two would battle it out for Album of the Year, but Styles wasn’t nominated in that category. So they have to settle for doing battle here in the Pop Vocal category.
Swift’s Folklore was received as her “indie” album, and it reminded people of the power of Swift’s songwriting, which had sometimes gotten overlooked in the glitzy packaging of the 1989 and Reputation eras. As an established Grammy darling, Swift is the frontrunner in this category. Surprisingly, she’s only won Best Pop Vocal Album once before, for 1989.
Styles, though, has a real shot at winning. What a year he had with Fine Line, which launched the hit singles “Watermelon Sugar” and “Adore You.” While critics and fans had enjoyed Styles’ previous solo work, this year he expressed a willingness to break conventional norms and express his individuality, which made him more likable on a personal level. He comes across as the coolest guy in the room. Never underestimate how much that can factor into Grammy voters’ decision-making process.
Dance-pop acts Lady Gaga and Dua Lipa both earned nods. This is Gaga’s fourth nomination here. She won in 2011 for The Fame Monster. Gaga is on a career upswing after the success of A Star is Born and “Shallow,” both of which dominated the Grammys. Lipa is at the peak of her career, earning 6 total noms this year. It’s likely, however, that they’ll split the dance-pop vote and cancel each other out.
That just leaves Justin Bieber. What in the world is he doing here? Bieber publicly criticized the Grammys for nominating him here, rather than for Best R&B Album. Talk about a silly and privileged complaint. (There’s already controversy about the R&B category because all five nominees are men – can you imagine how much more controversy there would be if an outsider like Bieber had been one of those nominees?)
Bieber isn’t the hitmaker he once was, but his album Changes did garner a surprising amount of critical acclaim. And of course, he has Scooter Braun, one of the most powerful people in the music business, working for him, which no doubt helped persuade a few voters. Bieber isn’t going to win, and nominating him here is a head-scratcher.
Best Pop Vocal Album Prediction
Most observers think T-Swift has this one in the bag. Or they think (for some reason) that Dua Lipa is going to win. Dua has little chance here, especially since she’s up against a bigger dance-pop name in Lady Gaga.
The truth is that this is a two-horse race between Swift and Styles. And it’s going to be way closer than many people think. Fine Line really took Styles to a new place, both in terms of commercial success and industry respect.
For our Best Pop Vocal Album prediction, we’re going to go the safe route and pick Taylor Swift. But don’t be surprised if Harry Styles upsets his ex to take the Grammy. Wouldn’t that make for some great drama?
2021 Grammy Awards: Best Pop Vocal Album Prediction
Deserves to win: Folklore, Taylor Swift
Will win: Folklore, Taylor Swift
Should have been nominated: Sawayama, Rina Sawayama
See also our complete list of 2021 Grammy predictions. And here’s a list of every Best Pop Vocal Album nominee and winner in history.