The Grammy Awards are always polarizing every year. There’s always the drama behind the year’s biggest snubs and everyone wants a competitive spot on the nominee list. Once the nominations were released on November 24, the debate began within my family as we all take these awards very seriously.
Regardless of the outcome on January 31st, the date of the ceremony, here are my thoughts on the 2021 Grammy Awards.
Best Pop Solo Performance
For this category, I usually associate the best pop solo performances with the idea that these nominations consist of the catchiest songs that are usually found on the radio. I don’t think the Grammy Awards consider songwriting ability within this category, but more so the impact the performance has made on pop culture overall.
While Justin Bieber’s “Yummy” has a catchy melody to it, I don’t really believe that it has shaped pop culture in a significant way, especially when compared to the other five titan songs it’s running against. It’s a cute song, but definitely not his best. If anything, I was expecting “Blinding Lights” by The Weeknd to fill this spot. His performances of this were colossal from rooftop fireworks to over-the-top helicopters, it’s questionable how “Yummy” earned this spot above it if I’m being honest.
“Say So” by Doja Cat wasn’t a surprising nomination, on the other hand. That song has been played everywhere, and Doja Cat has been recognized as a popular new artist in the music industry. Her song was even remixed with verses from Nicki Minaj, another pop culture icon. Doja Cat’s voice is unique, switching from softer singing to a rougher tone in her rapping. It’s the perfect song to listen down with the windows rolled down.
I was excited to see Billie Eilish on the list of nominees again, especially after her success last year. Her song “everything i wanted” showcases her vocal range and darker songwriting abilities. Not to mention, the music video for this song racked up over 174 million views. It’s a catchy song overall and has all the “feels” a listener needs.
To be honest, I am happy that Dua Lipa made the cut for this nomination, but I was a little disappointed that it was for “Don’t Start Now.” Her lead single is catchy and a fun anthem to shout at an ex-lover, but it wasn’t her best from her critically-acclaimed Future Nostalgia album. I was expecting “Levitating” or “Break My Heart” in this slot, or even “Physical,” which is my favorite.
The strongest contender on this list, in my opinion, is Harry Styles’s “Watermelon Sugar.” It’s not just a good song, it’s a great song. Everyone I knew was either singing this song out loud or blasting it on speakers. It’s a summertime love song and it just makes you feel good. Every time I hear this, I’m instantly in a positive mood. I wouldn’t be surprised if this nomination wins this honor.
If “Watermelon Sugar” doesn’t win, the only single I’d be happy with as a winner is Taylor Swift’s life-changing “cardigan.” It’s a sweet nostalgiac song to drink coffee to while it’s raining and the lyrics are some of her best yet. More on the songwriting of this later. Sure it’s not as upbeat as its competitors, but it’s still a bop. I can definitely see this song winning big at the Grammy Awards.
The winner in my mind no matter what: “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
My thoughts on how the Grammy Awards chooses its nominees for best pop duo/group performance are the same as what I’ve mentioned above. These are nominees that have been chosen based on their impact on pop culture.
I can’t tell you as a Latinx individual how happy I was to see a song like “UN DIA (ONE DAY)” in a pop category. Spanish pop is becoming mainstream, and it’s exciting to see its impact on American culture. The combination of musical titans Bad Bunny and J Balvin always makes for a hit track, and the addition of Dua Lipa’s voice just elevates it all. It also helps that there’s some fire production happening from Tainy, a hit Puerto Rican producer who’s made quite a name for himself over the past few years.
Unlike “Yummy,” the song “Intentions” is one of Justin Bieber’s better songs as of recently. His collaboration with Quavo is fun, and it’s been a radio smash this past year. However, like “Yummy” in its own category, I also believe that “Intentions” is the weakest nominee for this category. As fun as Justin Beiber’s songs are, they just don’t stand strong against fellow pop gods and goddesses in the field.
In case you’ve been living under a rock, the phenomenon that is the K-Pop group BTS has been a hurricane in the mainstream arena. Just like “UN DIA (ONE DAY),” it brings me so much happiness to see a song from another culture rise through the ranks and impact American culture. Their hit song “Dynamite” has reached number one on the charts and is a feel-good song that you can’t get out of your head. I’m actually probably playing this song as you read this now.
Speaking of songs I’m playing right now, I’m probably also playing the anthem of 2020–“Rain On Me” by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande. There are so many amazing aspects of this song, I wouldn’t even know where to begin explaining how fabulous this collaboration is. The vocals are perfect, the dance sequence for the music video is perfect, the lyrics are perfect, the production is perfect. It’s the perfect song to dance to in your house during the pandemic and to scream the words to.
To be honest, I was surprised to see “Exile” by Taylor Swift and Bon Iver on this list, but not in a bad way. There was a lack of promotion for this masterpiece, but I’m happy to see that it was powerful enough to still make the impact that it did when Taylor’s newest album, folklore, dropped and blessed our ears. This song makes me cry every time I listen to it and the lyrics are deeply personal. Between Bon Iver’s deep voice and Taylor’s higher notes, it’s the greatest duet ever to hit mankind.
The winner in my mind no matter what: “Rain On Me” by Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande
Best Pop Vocal Album
According to the website for the Grammy Awards, this category is based on albums that contain at least 51% playing time of new pop vocal recordings. That being said, I have some questions and some confusion for a few of these nominees.
While Changes by Justin Bieber features some amazing vocals and some catchy hooks, I’m a firm believer that this album took the spot of either The Weeknd’s After Hours or Halsey’s Manic. Even Selena Gomez’s Rare gained more popularity than Bieber did. It’s a bit of a mystery to me on the selection process for this album over the others. Not to continue being negative about Bieber, but I, again, believe that this is the weakest nomination within this category. Sorry, Justin.
Chromatica, while amazing in its own right, may not have been as popular as the other albums I mentioned above. This is a tough category, and while I do think that this Lady Gaga album deserved a nomination, it would have made more sense to have it stand next to The Weeknd’s or Halsey’s. On the flip side, I did enjoy this album. The instrumental tracks were so beautiful to me. Chromatica is also an all-around great album to dance your feelings out in typical Lady Gaga fashion.
Dua Lipa’s album, Future Nostalgia, also made for a fun pop album. I don’t have any complaints about this album as it contains some of my favorite pop songs, which I mentioned earlier. However, I don’t think this album stands above the next two albums I’m going to talk about.
Harry Styles’s Fine Line is a stark contrast from his previous sound in the band One Direction. This was the first time I acknowledged him as a solo pop icon. His songwriting is genius and this album serves as an ax that cuts ties with toxic masculinity. It’s raw and emotional, with tracks like “Golden” and “Adore You” that put other songs to shame. I also find myself tearing up anytime I hear “Falling.” Aside from “Watermelon Sugar,” this album has some major hits on it.
I can’t stop gushing over Taylor Swift’s folklore. I expected this to be a nominee, as I’m sure everyone did. It follows in the footsteps of Lover and reputation, which as amazing as they are, pale in comparison to the deeply emotional album that Taylor surprised us with. Even though it was branded with “alternative” for the genre, it still shaped the pop musical landscape, bringing us back from fun dance anthems to the unfiltered tracks that just give us the good cry we needed.
The winner in my mind no matter what: folklore by Taylor Swift
Song Of The Year
This is probably one of my favorite categories because it’s a songwriter award. It focuses on the lyrics and how they are conveyed in a song.
“Black Parade” by Beyonce is a celebration of what it means to be black. “Made a picket sign off your picket fence” and “ancestors on the wall, let the ghosts chit-chat” are my favorite lyrics. It’s empowering and a reminder to everyone just how powerful the black community is, despite the obstacles they face every single day.
On the surface, “The Box” by Roddy Ricch sounds like a flex on the rapper’s success, but it’s also about the idea of keeping yourself being trapped in something that prevents you from being the best version of yourself. The music video amplifies this theme and even switches up when Roddy is seen in a glass box by the end being preserved in a museum. The song has layers, which is what I appreciate when it comes to being nominated for song of the year at the Grammy Awards.
When Taylor Swift released “cardigan,” it was no surprise to me that I was going to fall in love with it. She is a master storyteller and her lyrics always hit me straight in the heart. “Leaving like a father, running like water” is a piece of gold that makes up the entire treasure chest that is this song. The song is about someone looking back on a past love and reminiscing on the cozy memories that came with it. Apart from “All Too Well,” it’s one of the greatest songs she’s ever written.
A huge surprise nomination to me was Post Malone’s “Circles.” It’s a catchy song, and I definitely love listening to it, but it was released in 2019 along with its music video. I was shocked to see it pop up for the 2021 Grammy Awards. I’m not sure if this song can hold up to the current hits that it’s running up against, despite its strengths as a well-written song. It hasn’t aged well with time, in my opinion.
Like I said earlier, “Don’t Start Now” by Dua Lipa isn’t my favorite single from her in the past year. So, it’s a little strange to see it in this category. I can see it fitting more-so in the record of the year category, which also focuses on production. I can see “Graveyard” by Halsey replacing this song for this category.
“everything i wanted” by Billie Eilish is a good contender. “I tried to scream/But my head was underwater/They called me weak/Like I’m not just somebody’s daughter” is the greatest verse in a song about a promise made to someone to look after them even in the darkest moments. I was pretty satisfied with this nomination.
Out of all of the songs in this list, “I Can’t Breathe” by H.E.R. gave me goosebumps. The lyrics are profound and create such an impact with a message about the violence that people of color face and the refusal to acknowledge the issue of racism that comes with this. It is one of the most important songs of our generation and still haunts me in my sleep at night.
“If the World Was Ending” by JP Saxe and Julia Michaels is the cutest song in the world. It’s a story of holding on to someone you love despite everything falling apart around you. It made a huge impact in the songwriting world given its context of being relatable to living in a pandemic.
The winner in my mind no matter what: “I Can’t Breathe” by H.E.R.
What are some of your thoughts about the 2021 Grammy Awards? Do you agree with mine? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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Scott Hill is a former middle school educator and current poet with multiple self-published collections. He has a degree in English Literature and Psychology from the University of Houston and resides nearby where he can be seen tending to plants at his job, snuggling with his dog on the sofa, or spending time with loved ones. He enjoys whiskey and wine nights and loves writing about other poets, personal life experiences, mental health, food, and sometimes Taylor Swift. Feel free to follow him on Instagram @scotthillpoetry!