It’s well into fall 2020, and the eligibility period for the 2021 Grammy Awards has closed. So why not begin discussing who the leading contenders might be? Here’s our early 2021 Grammy Awards predictions, featuring the Chicks, Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Fiona Apple, Selena Gomez, and many more.
2021 Grammy Awards: Eligibility Period
The eligibility window began wayyyy back on September 1, 2019 and runs through September 2020. Voting will take place in November. That means that a lot of great albums released in late 2019 will be eligible for the 2021 Grammys.
We’ve been saying for years that the Grammys need to adjust their eligibility window so that it more closely matches the calendar year, and it would be easy to do so by shortening the voting period windows, but so far, the Recording Academy has stubbornly refused to do so.
2021 Grammy Predictions: The Leading Contenders So Far
Among the albums that will be in consideration will be Post Malone’s Hollywood’s Bleeding. Malone’s last album Beerbongs & Bentleys was nominated for Album of the Year, and given how huge his starpower is right now, it’s likely the follow-up will appear in that category as well.
Harry Styles’ Fine Line arrived late in 2019 and produced hits like “Adore You” and “Watermelon Sugar.” Styles has expanded his audience with acclaimed appearances on SNL and the Howard Stern Show, and likely has the cred to earn multiple nominations. Album of the Year will be tough, but he could definitely appear in the Pop Vocal Album and Pop Solo Performance categories.
Fiona Apple has only 1 Grammy win in 8 career nominations. She’s a sure bet to end up as an Album of the Year nominee for her universally-acclaimed Fetch the Bolt Cutters. It was the only album that came out during the quarantine which seemed to capture the public’s imagination.
Billie Eilish will be back in contention with “No Time to Die,” her James Bond theme. Expect it to appear in the songwriting category for tracks written for motion pictures. Selena Gomez has never been a Grammy favorite but might be in consideration with “Lose You to Love Me” (Finneas was a producer on her album.)
The (formerly Dixie) Chicks have a new album. Lead single “Gaslighter” is a strong single, as were tracks “Sleep at Night” and “March March,” With its production by Jack Antonoff, they’ll be strong contenders to rack up several nominations.
The only question is… which field? The Academy might seem out of touch by placing them in the Country field, so perhaps they’ll be moved to Pop. Or even Americana.
Lady Gaga has released Chromatica. The album debuted at #1 and produced a chart-topping single in “Rain On Me.” But it remains to be seen whether the album will have legs. It may drop off everyone’s radar by the fall. Gaga’s duet partner Ariana Grande has appeared on a number of collaborations and should make it back to the Grammys in 2021.
Justin Bieber and Sam Smith have released new singles. They’re past Grammy winners and will be contenders to appear in the 2021 field, though Bieber’s new music doesn’t seem to have the same kind of acclaim as his previous music. Smith’s “To Die For” would be a great fit for Song of the Year.
Taylor Swift’s surprise summer album Folklore was critically acclaimed and should garner Academy attention. She failed to earn an Album of the Year nod for her last two releases; will this one be different?
We do expect Swift to get an Album of the Year nod, unless the Academy decides that she’d be a shoo-in for another win, in which case they may want to keep her out to give the other nominees a chance.
As for Record of the Year, Maren Morris will be eligible for “The Bones,” even though it feels like that song came out at least a year ago. The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” is a strong contender.
Roddy Ricch’s “The Box” was perhaps the biggest hip-hop hit of the year, and then he followed that up with the DaBaby collab “RockStar.” Given how the Grammys are constantly criticized for not recognizing rap acts in main categories, it would be hard to imagine them not nominating one or both of those massive hits. Doja Cat’s “Say So” also became a sleeper hit and has better than 50/50 odds of getting a nod here.
Important note: Cardi B opted NOT to submit “WAP” for Grammy consideration this year, choosing it to hold it back until next year when her full album comes out.
As for Best New Artist, our personal favorite is Rita Sawayama. Given that the category now features 8 nominees, she has a very good chance. Megan Thee Stallion and Doja Cat feel like locks. Tones and I could also appear here, if voters overlook the fact that her hit “Dance Monkey” will be nearly two years old by the time the 2021 Grammys arrive.
Other artists who should be in contention in various fields include Dua Lipa, the Highwomen, Halsey, the 1975, Luke Combs, Bob Dylan, Travis Scott, Drake, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, and Brittany Howard.
Artists Who Would Be Contenders at the 63rd Annual Grammys If They Release New Music
Adele is always the elephant in the room when it comes to early Grammy predictions. The Grammy darling was slated to release an album in 2020, which would make her the big favorite to appear in the Album of the Year category, which she has already won twice. However, the eligibility deadline passed and she did not release any music.
Beyonce and Rihanna are the other big names in this discussion. After faithfully releasing new music every year for a lengthy stretch, RiRi has gone quiet. Her Army is dying to hear something new from her in 2020, but it doesn’t look like it will happen. After The Lion King, it’s about time for Beyonce to drop a new project as well. Bey did appear on Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage Remix,” which will earn nods in the rap categories at the very least.
Other artists who would’ve become immediate 2021 Grammy nominee contenders if they had released new music include Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, Coldplay, and Bruno Mars. Oh well… perhaps we’ll see them at the 2022 Grammys!
Of course, it remains to be seen how music will be received in the era of coronavirus. Virtually every major concert tour has been canceled, so some artists may not want to drop a new album if they can’t tour to promote it. We’ll have to wait out the coronavirus situation and see whether labels keep issuing a steady stream of new music every week as planned.
Last Year’s Nominations and Top Winners
At the 2020 ceremony, Billie Eilish took home five awards, along with her producer and brother Finneas. Lizzo and Lil Nas X walked away with multiple awards as well.
The 63rd Annual Grammy Awards are schedule to take place on January 31, 2021 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Will Alicia Keys come back to host for a third straight year? We’ll await the announcement.