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Predicting the 2017 Grammy Winners, From Beyoncé to Bowie

8 minute read

As Beyoncé and Adele duke it out for the top awards at this year’s Grammys, a number of familiar faces—Kanye West, Justin Bieber, Drake, and Frank Ocean, to name just a few—will be sitting out the ceremony, each for his own reasons. And though their absence leads many to question the relevance of what has long been considered music’s biggest night, what really matters are the winners, whether they show their faces or not.

Beyoncé heads into the evening with a healthy nine nominations, followed by Rihanna, Drake, Chance the Rapper and Adele across the seemingly endless number of categories. In preparation for the ceremony on Sunday, Feb. 12, here’s a run-down of what should happen, and what most likely will happen, across the biggest categories of the night.

Record of the Year

“Hello,” Adele
“Formation,” Beyoncé
“7 Years,” Lukas Graham
“Work,” Rihanna feat. Drake
“Stressed Out,” Twenty One Pilots

Who should win: Beyoncé. “Formation” was a seminal work with a powerful message. Record of the Year is intended to award the whole package, and this one was flawless, from its introduction (remember last year’s Super Bowl performance?) to the way it heralded Lemonade and reflected social turbulence in America.

Who will win: Adele. It’s hard to fight with the year’s biggest single, which lodged itself in the heads of millions while raking in the cash.

Song of the Year

“Hello,” Adele (Adele Adkins and Greg Kurstin, songwriters)
“Formation,” Beyoncé (Khalif Brown, Asheton Hogan, Beyoncé Knowles, and Michael L. Williams II, songwriters)
“7 Years,” Lukas Graham (Lukas Forchammer, Stefan Forrest, Morten Pilegaard, and Morten Ristorp, songwriters)
“Love Yourself,” Justin Bieber (Justin Bieber, Benjamin Levin, and Ed Sheeran, songwriters)
“I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” Mike Posner (Mike Posner, songwriter)

Who should win: Is there anything more cathartic than listening to “Hello” over and over again? It never leaves your head—and not in a bad way—which is unquestionably a feat of songwriting.

Who will win: Since this category awards pure songwriting, it has Adele’s name written all over it.

Album of the Year

25, Adele
Lemonade, Beyoncé
Views, Drake
Purpose, Justin Bieber
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson

Who should win: As a comprehensive work of art, storytelling and musical scope (incorporating everything from rock to country), Lemonade should take this, hands-down.

Who will win: Beyoncé. It would be hard for the voters to ignore the continuing relevance and timeliness of her work—although Adele or Sturgill Simpson could steal this in an upset.

Best New Artist

Anderson .Paak
Chance the Rapper
Kelsea Ballerini
Maren Morris
The Chainsmokers

Who should win: This has been 23-year-old Chicago-bred Chance’s breakout year. The exuberant Coloring Book sounds like nothing else out there—and it was a smash success, despite Chance’s insistence on keeping himself free from traditional record deals.

Who will win: It might be enough progress for the Grammys to have simply nominated Chance at all. When it comes to a new artist who blew up and dominated charts, The Chainsmokers are the act to look out for, given their uncanny ability to monopolize airwaves with single after single, the kind of dominance the Grammys tend to recognize.

Best Rap Album

Coloring Book, Chance the Rapper
And the Anonymous Nobody, De La Soul
Major Key, DJ Khaled
Views, Drake
Blank Face LP, Schoolboy Q
The Life of Pablo, Kanye West

Who should win: Again, Chance’s work on Coloring Book is impressive both for its infectiously fresh sound (all that gospel!) and its industry impact.

Who will win: This should have been Drake’s category to lose. With the blockbuster streaming success of Views, he remained the genre’s dominant force this year, and he only has one Grammy so far in his career. But Views was admittedly more of the same, whereas the groundswell of support for Chance has been undeniable, making the Chicago rapper the one to beat.

Best Alternative Music Album

22, A Million, Bon Iver
Blackstar, David Bowie
The Hope Six Demolition Project, PJ Harvey
Post Pop Depression, Iggy Pop
A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead

Who should win: 22, A Million is as experimental as it is beautiful, a complex and well-reviewed album from a publicity-averse artist with a distinctive voice. But it finds itself in a stacked category with the likes of Blackstar and A Moon Shaped Pool, both fine bodies of work in their own right.

Who will win: Bowie’s Blackstar. One of music’s great innovators, Bowie received only two Grammys during his lifetime, one of which was honorary and the other of which recognized a music video. Bowie’s evolution as an artist is realized in Blackstar‘s haunting, prescient rock and should take home a posthumous award for this.

Best Music Video

“Formation,” Beyoncé
“River,” Leon Bridges
“Up&Up,” Coldplay
“Gosh,” Jamie xx
“Upside Down & Inside Out,” OK Go

Who should win: “Formation.” When it comes to a video’s impact on pop culture and political conversation, this one totally eclipses the competition. Its references to the Black Lives Matter movement and the post-Katrina crisis, mixed with its celebration of black beauty, sharp choreography, and a distinctive Southern Gothic aesthetic, pretty much sum up the whole Lemonade vibe in one video.

Who will win: “Formation.” OK Go’s viral entry is an innovative project, filmed in zero gravity—and making for some pretty cool visuals of weightlessness. But in this category, Beyoncé wins for the weight of her work, which made waves and moved the art form forward, .

Best Country Album

Big Day in a Small Town, Brandy Clark
Full Circle, Loretta Lynn
Hero, Maren Morris
A Sailor’s Guide to Earth, Sturgill Simpson
Ripcord, Keith Urban

Who should win: Newcomer Maren Morris is a fresh voice whose crossover hit “My Church” is a classic toe-tapper with a contemporary spin. It’s an apt description, in fact, of the entirety of Hero, her riotous debut. Plus, as a nominee for Best New Artist, she’s one to watch in more than just this category.

Who will win: Sturgill Simpson. He’s the only country artist whose work was also nominated for Album of the Year, and statistically speaking, it would be a definite upset for him to lose out in his home turf category.

Best Pop Vocal Album

25, Adele
Purpose, Justin Bieber
This Is Acting, Sia
Dangerous Woman, Ariana Grande
Confident, Demi Lovato

Who should win: In a year filled with powerhouse solo female vocalists in the pop space, Sia continued to break through time and again, thanks to massive tracks like “Cheap Thrills” and “The Greatest.” Her rousing, vulnerable music sounds distinctly her own.

Who will win: Adele. The hoopla over 25 makes it hard for the other talented singers to rise above her immense popularity.

Best Dance/Electronic Album

Skin, Flume
Electronica 1: The Time Machine, Jean-Michel Jarre
Epoch, Tycho
Barbara Barbara, We Face a Shining Future, Underworld
Louie Vega Starring… XXVII, Louie Vega

Who should win: Young Aussie producer Flume created a sound so unique and enviable in the dance and electronic worlds that it’s named after him. The “Flume Drop” even has its own Subreddit. In his second album, Skin, he smartly collaborated with rappers like Vic Mensa and Vince Staples to elevate his satisfyingly staticky, synth-heavy melodies into bona fide hits. “Never Be Like You” even made the ultimate crossover into mainstream radio success.

Who will win: Flume has this category on lock. It’s worth noting that the dance/electronic category is one of the Grammys’ broadest, though, ostensibly encompassing everything from house to pop; previous winners have ranged from Madonna and Lady Gaga to Daft Punk and Skrillex. In that context, this collection of nominees is a veritable fruit salad.

Best Urban Contemporary Album

Lemonade, Beyoncé
Ology, Gallant
We Are King, KING
Malibu, Anderson .Paak
Anti, Rihanna

Who should win: It’s a Beyoncé-Rihanna toss up. Anti is by far Rihanna’s best and most intriguing body of work to date, filled with underrated tracks that skipped chart-chasing to instead focus on a fresher, freer expression for the ingenue.

Who will win: If Queen Bey gets on a roll, we can expect her to clean up in this category, too.

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Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com