Leading up to the Grammy nominations on Nov. 10, Rolling Stone is breaking down 16 different categories. For each, we’re predicting the nominees, as well as who will (and who should) win on Grammy night.
Taylor Swift’s Midnights and SZA’s SOS feel like the undeniable front-runners for the Album of the Year prize at the 2024 Grammys — but then again, Recording Academy voters are equally capable of being totally predictable and wildly unpredictable. So let’s run through some other possible scenarios. Olivia Rodrigo’s Guts pipping those two albums certainly wouldn’t be a shocker, and as John Stein, Spotify’s head of North America editorial says, not winning AOTY last year might make Rodrigo a good bet this year: “I think in the Grammy conversation, having an album as huge as Sour not win sets her up really nicely for this one.” On the other hand, if Midnights, SOS, and Guts all split votes, that could leave room for someone like controversial country star Morgan Wallen to pull away with a surprise win.
The dark horse in this category might be the Foo Fighters’ But Here We Are. The band has never won AOTY, though it has been nominated twice for the award. It’s easy to see voters rallying around an album that turned a terrible tragedy into an artistic triumph — an old favorite breaking new ground under the weight of devastating circumstances. As Jaime Zeluck-Hindlin, founder of Nonstop Management, puts it: “The Grammys love them, the world loves them — that could be one that comes in and maybe surprises some people.”
Few things in life are certain: Death, taxes, and Taylor Swift Album of the Year nominations. “She’s always a shoo-in, because she’s just so good and keeps reinventing herself and raising the bar every single time,” says Zeluck-Hindlin. Midnights is another triumph in a catalog filled with them, and it’s been backed by one of the biggest tours in history. Swift already has three AOTY wins, and another here would make her the first artist to take the prize home four times (a feat only accomplished, so far, by mixing and mastering engineers). “I think she’s got a great chance to win it again,” says stein. Especially “when Grammy voters consider the success across the tour and her back catalog, all this in 2023.”
Olivia Rodrigo upended the music world with her 2021 debut, Sour, and scored three Grammys for her efforts, including Best New Artist. While many tapped her to win Album of the Year that year too, she came up short to Jon Batiste — but that may put her in an even stronger position this time around. Since Sour, Rodrigo has only accumulated more star power, and Guts is both a refinement and evolution of the alt-inflected pop rock that made her stand out in a crowded pop landscape. “This project feels really personal, like a really strong natural development for her as an artist,” Stein says.
But Here We Are
Grief underpins and amplifies Foo Fighters’ maximum rock & roll on But Here We Are, made in the wake of drummer Taylor Hawkins’ sudden, tragic death last year, as well as the passing of Dave Grohl’s mother. Foo Fighters confront all this anguish with a striking immediacy and adventurous playing that opens up new realms for the arena-rock stalwarts. The result: a cathartic yawp for bandmates and fans alike. “Obviously, you hear the emotion in all of the songs,” says Zeluck-Hindlin. “And just knowing that made this listen a little bit different. They went through something crazy, and it brought them together as a band in a way they hadn’t been before.”
A Gift & a Curse
A Gift & a Curse is both vintage Gunna and something striking, raw, and singular. It’s 15 tracks, no features, and throughout most of it, Gunna bears the weight of the ongoing YSL gang trial, addressing his decision to take a best-interest plea and pushing back against the negativity he’s received even though his deal did not compel him to testify against his former co-defendants (who include Young Thug). But Gunna balances the tumult with moments of well-deserved triumph — encapsulated by the hit single “Fukumean” — giving the album plenty of repeat power. “When it first came out, I listened to it and I was like, ‘This is sick — it’s just different,’” Zeluck-Hindlin says. “Another one I just wanted to listen to over and over again.”
It was absolutely worth the wait: SZA’s second album, released five years after her breakthrough debut, is a stunning exhibition in futuristic pop R&B, flush with unparalleled vocal acrobatics, brilliant bars, and profound, intimate revelations. “What SZA and her team did with SOS was groundbreaking,” says Dina Sahim, an artist manager at SAL&CO. “From the creative, to the timing of the record, every step was carefully thought out.” SOS has not only proven to have serious staying power, but Stein even posits that the wait between Ctrl and SOS might work in SZA’s favor: “She’s remained part of the conversation in between those two albums, and to come back after five years with such a strong album is really going to help her chances.”
As Stein puts it, it’s both “fair and unfair” to label boygenius a supergroup. Yes, it is three elite songwriters — Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus, and Julien Baker — combining powers; but rather than all three simply doing their thing and backing one another up, The Record sounds like it was made by a band. “It’s such a cohesive, intentional album,” Stein says, noting the way it embodies a twangy blend of indie, country, and folk that’s been attracting more and more listeners in recent years. That growth is undeniably reflected in boygenius’ fervent support. “I love what boygenius has done culturally, the fan base they’ve built, and the music they’re putting out,” says Zeluck-Hindlin. “They’re creating their own world that’s really special.”
Lana Del Rey
Did You Know That There’s a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd
…Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd at times feels like a survey of Lana Del Rey’s career up to this point, mixing the candid, intimate singer-songwriter tones of her recent output with the hip-hop and left-field-pop influences that defined her earliest records. The result is a sprawling but continually compelling record that reaffirms Del Rey as “one of the most distinct artists in the world right now,” as Stein puts it. Zeluck-Hindlin adds, “When she’s in the running, you can’t really go wrong with her. She’s another one that reinvents herself all the time.… It’s just such a unique record and, personally, that one’s got my vote. Love it so much.”
One Thing at a Time
From a charts perspective, Morgan Wallen’s One Thing at a Time has dominated 2023, notching 15 nonconsecutive weeks (at the time of writing) at Number One on the Billboard 200. It’s undeniably a crowning moment for the country star, who’s infamously weathered and tried to atone for some serious controversies in recent years. But through it all, Wallen’s Everyman tunes and gritty-yet-tender vocals have endeared him to an ever-growing audience. Stein suggests the crossover success of One Thing at a Time’s smash single “Last Night” likely sets up Wallen for a nomination. “He’s officially broken out of country. I think his broad appeal is much clearer now, and the continued success of the album overall is really impressive,” Stein says. “It’s a rare thing to see nowadays.”
This story is adapted from Rolling Stone’s fourth annual Grammy Preview issue, released ahead of the start of first-round voting on Oct. 13. We featured SZA on the cover, spoke to some of the year’s biggest artists about the albums and singles that could earn them a statue come February, made our best predictions for the nominees in the top categories, and more, providing a full guide to what to watch for leading up to the 2024 awards.