Two beloved songwriters, almost half a century apart in age, are set to be stars of tonight's Grammy Awards.
Joni Mitchell, who nearly died from an aneurysm several years ago, will give her first Grammys performance at the age of 80. And Taylor Swift has a shot to win her fourth album of the year award, something no other artist has done.
But Swift, who has six nominations, faces tough competition. SZA leads the field with nine nominations for her acclaimed "SOS" album and hit single "Kill Bill." The pop and R&B singer Victoria Monét received seven nods; Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, Miley Cyrus, Jon Batiste, and the indie-rock trio boygenius have six apiece.
We asked three Times music critics - Jon Pareles, Jon Caramanica and Lindsay Zoladz - to share their thoughts on who might win tonight's awards.
Let's start with the big one, album of the year. Who do you expect will win?
Lindsay Zoladz: Taylor Swift looks like the front-runner here, less on the merits of "Midnights" than on the massive monocultural impact of her Eras Tour. But I'm going to bet the Grammy voters are experiencing a little Swift fatigue, so I'm predicting a slight upset: I think boygenius will win for "The Record," a gently forward-thinking folk-rock album with a nonetheless traditional, Grammy-approved sound. Personally, though, I'm rooting for Olivia Rodrigo's spunky "Guts" or Lana Del Rey's weird, sprawling "Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd."
Jon Pareles: I'd be delighted for SZA, Olivia Rodrigo, boygenius or Janelle Monáe to win - they were all among my picks for the year's best albums - and I wouldn't be too unhappy with a win by Lana Del Rey or Taylor Swift, either. If Swift wins, she will be the first musician with four album of the year awards, surpassing Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon.
Jon Caramanica: Taylor Swift will win, I think. Grammy voters have awarded this prize to her three times already, and they like familiarity. SZA's album was better, though. Olivia Rodrigo's and Lana Del Rey's too.
How about record of the year? (For readers who are unfamiliar, this is the award for the best single.)
Jon Pareles: To be calculating about it as a longtime Grammy observer, I'd guess that "What Was I Made For?," Billie Eilish's song for the "Barbie" movie, has an edge. Grammy voters love ballads (check), soundtrack songs (check) and previous Grammy winners (check).
Jon Caramanica: I think Jon Batiste will win this, and it brings me no joy to say so. The Grammys tend to reward conspicuous musicianship, and Batiste, even though the music he makes is not popular, plays well to the Grammy voters who fancy themselves too sophisticated to acknowledge the craftsmanship that goes into the creation of pop music.
Lindsay Zoladz: I'd love to see Olivia Rodrigo take this award for "Vampire," a sonically adventurous rock-operatic ballad produced with flair by Rodrigo's trusted collaborator Daniel Nigro. But I fear that the voters are going to play it safe here and go with Miley Cyrus's sleek, sturdily assembled "Flowers."
Even if you don't care about the winners, the Grammys usually have a live performance or two that are worth tuning in for. Are there any you're looking forward to this year?
Jon Pareles: I can't imagine missing the performance by Joni Mitchell. Her recovery from a life-threatening brain aneurysm in 2015 has been beyond heartening. An entire musical community rallied around her as she applied a lifetime of artistic instincts to the voice she has now. Her surprise comeback performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 2022, and her preternatural version of "Summertime" when she accepted the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, showed surpassing musicianship and an indomitable will.
Jon Caramanica: A couple of days ago, whispers began circulating that the Grammys might successfully pull off the seemingly unthinkable. No, not the debut Grammy performance of Joni Mitchell (at 80!), but instead the coaxing of Tracy Chapman out of post-music-industry invisibility to duet with Luke Combs, whose cover of her indelible 1988 hit "Fast Car" was one of last year's most impactful releases. Should that actually happen, it would be more than a coup.
So much great music comes out every year, and only a few artists at the top seem to win the big awards. If you were in charge, what unheralded artist would win a Grammy this year?
Jon Caramanica: The pop act with the highest batting average of the last two years is, indisputably, the K-pop girl group NewJeans. "Super Shy," "OMG," "Ditto" - they simply do not miss.
Jon Pareles: Not completely unheralded, but there is a glaring omission from the best new artist nominees: Peso Pluma, who spearheaded a blockbuster international year for regional Mexican music. His songs have racked up more than a billion plays on Spotify. His 2023 album, "Genésis," did get nominated way down in category 59, música Mexicana, but he deserved some notice in prime time.
Lindsay Zoladz: I would give at least one Grammy to the absurdist pop group 100 gecs, just to see them accept it in their signature neon wizard robes.
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Added to Library on February 4, 2024. (273)
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