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SZA, Swift and Bridgers top the Grammy list. AP writers predict who will win on music's big night

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Women lead the major categories at the Grammys this year – names like SZA, Taylor Swift, Victoria Monét, Phoebe Bridgers, Olivia Rodrigo and Brandy Clark top the list.

But who will take home music’s most coveted trophies on Feb. 4?

Associated Press Music Writer Maria Sherman and Entertainment Writer Jonathan Landrum Jr. break down the close races for Grammy glory.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

“World Music Radio,” Jon Batiste; “the record,” boygenius; “Endless Summer Vacation,” Miley Cyrus; “Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd,” Lana Del Rey; “The Age Of Pleasure,” Janelle Monáe; “GUTS,” Olivia Rodrigo; “Midnights,” Taylor Swift; “SOS,” SZA

SHERMAN: The level of talent here is out of this world ... If Taylor Swift wins for “Midnights,” she will become the first artist in Grammy history to win the top prize four times. It would be a news-breaking moment, but I’m not sure I see it in the tea leaves. Instead, they’re spelling out “S-O-S.”

Of the above list, no album has received near total critical acclaim as SZA’s “SOS.” She seems like the most obvious choice — no disrespect to the other nominees.

LANDRUM: Initially, Swift’s “Midnights” first came to mind, but then my heart interjected with SZA’s “SOS.” But after thinking over this a little longer, I couldn’t forget about “World Music Radio” by Jon Batiste — a multi-genre performer who stunningly claimed victory in this same category in 2022. That year, he surprisingly overcame favorites such as Swift, Billie Eilish, Lady Gaga, Olivia Rodrigo and Justin Bieber who had more commercial success. So it’s not too far-fetched of an idea that Batiste has a bona fide chance here. SZA seems like the obvious choice, but I’m rolling with Batiste on this one.

RECORD OF THE YEAR

“Worship,” Jon Batiste; “Not Strong Enough,” boygenius; “Flowers,” Miley Cyrus; “What Was I Made For?,” Billie Eilish; “On My Mama,” Victoria Monét; “vampire,” Olivia Rodrigo; “Anti-Hero,” Taylor Swift; “Kill Bill,” SZA

LANDRUM: Just like Victoria Monét’s young daughter, my little girl sings the chorus of “On My Mama” more often than any other tune out today. I’ve seen this song — which was born while Monét struggled with postpartum depression — breathe joy into people’s lives during car rides and parties.

I put this on my mama: Monét’s track will be the cream that rises to the top of this category.

SHERMAN: Looking at the 2024 nominations as a whole — Victoria Monét is the second-most nominated (alongside Phoebe Bridgers and just behind SZA). I believe this is hers for the taking.

But just to play devil's advocate: I could see a world where the academy awards Swift for “Anti-Hero," largely because I'm not so confident “Midnights” will get shine — but it seems to me that Monét will win.

SONG OF THE YEAR (songwriter’s award)

“A&W,” Jack Antonoff, Lana Del Rey and Sam Dew; “Anti-Hero,” Jack Antonoff and Taylor Swift; “Butterfly,” Jon Batiste and Dan Wilson; “Dance The Night,” Caroline Ailin, Dua Lipa, Mark Ronson and Andrew Wyatt; “Flowers,” Miley Cyrus, Gregory Aldae Hein and Michael Pollack; “Kill Bill,” Rob Bisel, Carter Lang and Solána Rowe; “vampire,” Daniel Nigro and Olivia Rodrigo; “What Was I Made For?,” Billie Eilish O’Connell and Finneas O’Connell

SHERMAN: This category is filled with performers the Recording Academy loves to award: Jon Batiste, Taylor Swift, and Billie Eilish, particularly. (And, conversely, artists it loves to nominate but not award: both Lana Del Rey and Miley Cyrus have yet to receive a Grammy. I'd like to see that change.) My gut says this one will go to Eilish — if her “Barbie” hit “What Was I Made For?” isn’t awarded record of the year.

LANDRUM: It’s hard for me to disagree. I believe Miley Cyrus could have a shot to win her first-ever Grammy with “Flowers.” But I feel like “What Was I Made For?” was made for this songwriter’s award. Chalk this one up to another sibling Grammy win for Eilish and her brother, Finneas.

BEST NEW ARTIST

Gracie Abrams; Fred again..; Ice Spice; Jelly Roll; Coco Jones; Noah Kahan; Victoria Monét; The War And Treaty

LANDRUM: Last year, jazz artist Samara Joy unexpectedly reigned supreme in a wide-open category. But this year, there’s one runaway winner: Victoria Monét.

Yes, it’s a loaded category with standouts Jelly Roll, Ice Spice, Coco Jones, and The War and Treaty. With Monét being the second-most nominated artist, I think that holds major weight in her favor in this category. It’s her time here.

SHERMAN: Can I leave this one with, “Ditto”?

BEST POP SOLO PERFORMANCE

"Flowers,” Miley Cyrus; “Paint The Town Red,” Doja Cat; “What Was I Made For?,” Billie Eilish; “vampire,” Olivia Rodrigo; “Anti-Hero,” Taylor Swift

SHERMAN: No doubt, these are all hits in their own way. My sense is this one will go to Swift or Rodrigo. As much as it pains me to say it, I don’t see a world where voters choose Doja Cat or Miley Cyrus over those two pop powerhouses, and I think Eilish’s “What Was I Made For?” sweep will be reserved for the main songwriter category. I'd love to see a Cyrus win, but I’ve been burned before!

LANDRUM: I definitely believe Cyrus has a very good chance of claiming the top spot, but I feel like this is where Swift will make her mark. The trophy could very well be handed to Eilish or Rodrigo, but it's hard for me to envision “Anti-Hero” being shut out — especially after Swift's exceptional year.

BEST RAP PERFORMANCE

"The Hillbillies,” Baby Keem Featuring Kendrick Lamar; “Love Letter,” Black Thought; “Rich Flex,” Drake & 21 Savage; “SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS,” Killer Mike Featuring André 3000, Future And Eryn Allen Kane; “Players,” Coi Leray

LANDRUM: Kendrick Lamar and his cousin Baby Keem won this category last year. But I don’t see the family duo coming away victorious this time for their song “The Hillbillies.” I feel that way about Drake and 21 Savage’s “Rich Flex,” which is a certified banger.

But in the rap world, the biggest wave over the past year in this category was created by Killer Mike ’s “SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS” featuring Future, Eryn Allen Kane and Andre 3000 of the legendary hip-hop duo OutKast. The standout song was so well crafted with Future’s hoarse vocals, Kane’s superb crooning and fine verses delivered by Mike and Andre 3000 - who has lately released more flute music than rap.

But when Andre 3000 — also known as 3 Stacks — blessed us with his lyrical expertise, we all listened closely. I believe voters heard him and everyone else loud and clear as well.

SHERMAN: “SCIENTISTS & ENGINEERS” is the clear standout, in my opinion, but I'd love to give a shoutout to Coi Leray's “Players.” It's the Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” interpolation for me, and that song was totally ubiquitous for a period — but likely not for the Grammys.

BEST COUNTRY SOLO PERFORMANCE

“In Your Love,” Tyler Childers; “Buried,” Brandy Clark; “Fast Car,” Luke Combs; “The Last Thing On My Mind,” Dolly Parton; “White Horse,” Chris Stapleton

SHERMAN: The Recording Academy might be doing something clever with the Dolly Parton nomination, and in a year where new country music performers are seeing success with all-genres audiences. “The Last Thing on My Mind” is a song she’s performed numerous times throughout her career. She reimagined the song for a Doc Watson tribute album in 2023, the same year she released her debut rock ‘n’ roll album, “Rockstar.”

That said, I'd like to see a Brandy Clark win. She’s tied with the likes of Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus with six nominations, and I think it is her time to finally take home a trophy.

Though I could see a sweep for Luke Comb’s cover of the Tracy Chapman classic “Fast Car” as well. It allowed him to dominate the Country Music Awards last year.

LANDRUM: It would be fitting if Parton slipped in as a nominee and won. I think being mentioned in this group proves this legendary singer is as relevant as ever. I mean, Parton was very impressive at her Thanksgiving halftime performance at a Dallas Cowboys-Washington Commanders football game last year. She stole the show.

But I think the real competition is between Stapleton and Combs — whose “Fast Car” should have a little more steam to slightly pull away.

BEST R&B PERFORMANCE

“Summer Too Hot,” Chris Brown; “Back To Love,” Robert Glasper Featuring SiR & Alex Isley; “ICU,” Coco Jones; “How Does It Make You Feel,” Victoria Monét; “Kill Bill,” SZA

LANDRUM: This is a tough call. In my opinion, it’s a three-woman race between SZA, Monét and Coco Jones. There’s strong appeal with Monét’s silky “How Does It Make You Feel?,” which has classic vibes written all over it. Jones' “ICU” was so impactful that even Justin Timberlake jumped on the remix. But all indications point toward SZA’s revenge anthem “Kill Bill” to win. Her lead single helped propel “SOS” into elite status, and her track is the only one in this category that’s nominated for both record and song of the year. I’d be surprised if the trophy goes elsewhere.

SHERMAN: “I might kill my ex / Not the best idea....” but writing “Kill Bill” certainly was. This one is SZA’s — no question about it.

BEST MÚSICA MEXCIANA ALBUM (INCLUDING TEJANO)

“Bordado A Mano,” Ana Bárbara; “La Sánchez,” Lila Downs; “Motherflower,” Flor De Toloache; “Amor Como En Las Películas De Antes,” Lupita Infante; “GÉNESIS,” Peso Pluma

SHERMAN: Regional Mexican music -- a catchall term that encompasses mariachi, banda, corridos, norteño, sierreño and other genres – has had a remarkable year. And yet, it was overlooked by the academy, in many ways.

However: if the Grammys are meant to reflect a kind of all-genres cultural consensus, then this one should no doubt go to Peso Pluma. For many people around the globe – and certainly in America – he’s the reason they know about the genre.

But he's no shoo-in. There are a lot of incredible women in this category, including the American mariachi band Flor de Toloache and Lupita Infante, granddaughter of the legendary actor and singer Pedro Infante.

LANDRUM: Whew, I feel your pain. Many in the rap community have complained over the years about voters being “ out of touch ” from the culture. It's definitely worth addressing.

Here’s my predicted winner in this category:

Peso Pluma is undoubtedly the most popular artist. He’ll probably win. But if we’re talking about the artist with the best album in this category, then this should really be handed to either Lila Downs or Ana Bárbara.

Between them, I’m choosing Bárbara. Downs’ vocals were a phenomenal force meshed with traditional Mexican instruments. It was beautiful harmony. But I’m leaning toward Bárbara‘s “Bordado A Mano” because it’s the most well-rounded album, featuring two songs with two of Mexico’s biggest artists: Vincente Hernandez and Christian Nodal. It bridges the gap between the old and new school. With Bárbara’s soothing voice, l never felt like skipping to the next track.

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This story has been updated to show that Victoria Monét’s nominations did not include album of the year and song of the year.

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The 66th annual Grammy Awards will air on Feb. 4 on CBS and Paramount+.

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For more Grammy coverage, visit https://apnews.com/hub/grammy-awards