Arts, Column

Chung: Front Runners and Dark Horses at This Year’s Grammy Awards

The 65th Annual Grammy Awards are on the horizon, and musical powerhouses like Adele, Harry Styles, and Beyoncé will compete for the most prestigious awards in the industry on Feb. 5. With final-round voting closed, here are some likely winners and dark horses to keep an open ear for in the four big categories: Record of the Year, Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best New Artist. 

Record of the Year: Harry Styles – “As It Was”

The Record of the Year award honors those involved in the technical aspects of the recording and production process. While I picked Harry Styles’ megahit “As It Was” to lead the race in this category, many anticipate that Beyoncé’s “BREAK MY SOUL” will win. With the most nominations this year—nine, including record, song, and album of the year—Beyoncé is yet again running the table, but she faces tough competition in the Record of the Year category. 

Harry Styles is another proven Grammy favorite. In 2020, Styles’ “Watermelon Sugar” won in the highly competitive Best Pop Solo Performance category, and it’s about time for a Record of the Year win for the ex-boy band member. “As It Was” is the lead single from Styles’ third album Harry’s House. The record encapsulates his melancholic feelings of loneliness, nostalgia, and change. The creators of “As It Was” deftly combine these emotions with a positive dance beat. The production of “As It Was” is extremely high-level—producers Kid Harpoon and Tyler Johnson blend Styles’ voice perfectly with dreamy, catchy chords. But my favorite aspect of the song is how the percussion comes together. The upbeat synths and tangy, fast instrumentals leave a lasting impression. 

Album of the year: Beyoncé – Renaissance

Conventionally, Album of the Year winners and their projects tend to have an overarching theme that works in favor of the artist. In other words, the album itself has to come together as a single body of art rather than just a bundle of songs. Beyoncé’s seventh studio album, Renaissance, perfectly fits this criterion. 

On Renaissance, Beyoncé completely deviates from ballads and sets her sights on dance music. The album’s hit single “BREAK MY SOUL” reached No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 for her first No. 1 hit since “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” secured the top spot 14 years ago. Renaissance pays homage to the variety that exists within the dance genre, as it explores iterations of fast-paced house, techno, and more. Throughout the latter half of the 2010s, Beyoncé released multiple projects that referenced the legacies of Black musicians and artists such as the critically acclaimed Lemonade. But Renaissance is a piece of Beyoncé’s larger artistic project—and a very important one—that honors the Black and gay roots of dance music. And as the title suggests, Beyoncé once again proves that she can pinpoint, reinvent, and revive the cultural zeitgeist better than anyone else. 

Song of the year: Steve Lacy – “Bad Habit” 

While Record of the Year honors all the producers and engineers who contributed to the creation of the record, Song of the Year recognizes the composers and songwriters. Steve Lacy grew up in California recording tracks on his iPhone, and now his genre-blending hit “Bad Habit” is a big contender for Song of the Year. Needless to say, Lacy’s “Bad Habit” brought upon a global phenomenon. “Bad Habit,” from Lacy’s sophomore album Gemini Rights, reached No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 in 2022 after going viral on TikTok. The clever, seven-word chorus—I wish I knew you wanted me—is relatable and full of ambiguity. The line captures a sense of hope in the form of mutual affection masked by sorrow and regret. Coupled with Lacy’s signature, scruffy production, the lyrical qualities of “Bad Habit” achieve the perfect balance between progressivity and familiarity—enough to attract the variety of Grammy voters. Adele, a veteran in the industry compared to Lacy (or, quite frankly, anyone), has previously won in this category with “Hello” and “Rolling in the Deep.” Both are formidable contestants sparking conversations among listeners, but Lacy’s lyricism and raw charisma are enough to gain him the slight nudge with the support of a new generation of listeners. 

Best New Artist: Omar Apollo or Latto

In 2022, Omar Apollo released his debut album Ivory—with features from Kali Uchis, Daniel Caesar, and producing support from the Neptunes. Omar Apollo’s ability to traverse genres is unmatched. He kick-started his career with multiple projects packed with lush R&B, soul, and alternative sounds. While his genre-hopping habit can potentially confuse more traditional listeners, Apollo effortlessly croons his way through romantic and tragic sentiments in Ivory. Apollo’s smash “Evergreen (You Didn’t Deserve Me At All)” went on to gain an additional viral boost on TikTok. 

Latto gained the most commercial success out of the nominees. In April 2022, the megahit “Big Energy” from her album 777 became Latto’s highest-charting song as it reached No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 100. With “Big Energy,” Latto proved her multitude of talents by shifting from the classic hip-hop sound in favor of cleverly mixing trendy, retro sounds into production. Latto made her first industry appearance in 2016, as she competed in reality television series The Rap Game and won the show’s first season as Miss Mulatto. After receiving an official Mariah Carey remix for “Big Energy” and a Grammy nomination, Latto is proving to be a formidable upcomer in the hip-hop scene and music industry as a whole. 

February 1, 2023