As the 13-month eligibility period for the 64th annual Grammy Awards comes to an end on Thursday (Sept. 30), it’s time to survey the field of likely album of the year nominees.
The Recording Academy’s bombshell announcement in April that it is disbanding its nominations review committees means that this will be the first time in 27 years that voting members will have the final say on the nominations in the Big Four categories: album, record and song of the year plus best new artist.
Last year, 1,225 albums were entered in the album of the year category. The top 20 vote-getters went to the committee, which picked the eight nominees. This year, the top eight vote-getters will become the nominees.
Here are the eight best bets for album of the year nominations (listed alphabetically), followed by a dozen alternates (also listed alphabetically). We also share how high each album climbed on the all-genre Billboard 200.
Doja Cat, Planet Her: Doja Cat, who received three nominations last year, solidified her stardom this year, landing another smash in “Kiss Me More” (featuring SZA) and hosting the VMAs. This album, her third, reached No. 2.
Drake, Certified Lover Boy: This blockbuster, which has spent its first three weeks at No. 1, would be Drake’s third consecutive studio album (following Views and Scorpion) to receive an album of the year nod. Drake would be the third hip-hop artist, following Kanye West and Lamar, to receive album of the year nods for three studio albums in a row. Drake has won just four Grammys, a surprisingly low total for an artist of his stature.
Billie Eilish, Happier Than Ever: Eilish’s sophomore album spent its first three weeks at No. 1. Eilish would be the first artist to be nominated in this category with both of their first two proper studio albums since Lady Gaga a decade ago. Eilish has won seven Grammys in two years.
Ariana Grande, Positions: This would be the pop superstar’s second nod in this category in three years. She was nominated two years ago for Thank U, Next. Both albums spent their first two weeks at No. 1. Grande won her second Grammy, best pop duo/group performance for her Lady Gaga collab “Rain on Me,” at the 63rd annual Grammy Awards in March.
H.E.R., Back of My Mind: H.E.R. was nominated in this category with two compilation albums, H.E.R. and I Used to Know Her, making it hard to bet against her first proper studio album. This album reached No. 6, H.E.R.’s best showing to date. H.E.R. won two Grammys, including song of the year, in March. Six weeks later, she won an Oscar for best original song. That’s what you call a hot streak.
Lil Nas X, Montero: As with H.E.R., the headline-maker was nominated in this category even before the release of his first official studio album. That album, with the artist’s birth name as its title, enters the Billboard 200 at No. 2 this week. Lil Nas X’s EP 7 was nominated in this category two years ago, when he won his first two Grammys.
Olivia Rodrigo, Sour: This album has logged five weeks at No. 1. It also made history as the first debut album to include two singles that entered the Hot 100 at No. 1: the classic breakup ballad “Drivers License” and the pop-punk smash “Good 4 U.”
Taylor Swift, Evermore: If Evermore is nominated, it would mark a first for Swift, who has never been nominated for album of the year with her follow-up to an album of the year winner. (In other words, Speak Now and Reputation, which followed Fearless and 1989, respectively, fell short). Evermore, Swift’s follow-up to Folklore, spent four weeks at No. 1. Swift is an 11-time Grammy winner.
Justin Bieber, Justice: Bieber was nominated in this category five years ago with Purpose, when the extent of his maturation from teen idol to mainstream pop star first became apparent. Justice spent two weeks at No. 1 in April. Bieber won his second Grammy in March for “10,000 Hours,” his hit collab with Dan Shay. (Oddly, he has won in dance music and country but not yet in pop.)
Bad Bunny, El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo: This would make history as the first Latin album to land an album of the year nod. (José Feliciano’s Feliciano!, nominated in 1968, was an English-language pop album.) Bad Bunny’s album reached No. 1 in December. He won his first Grammy in March: best Latin pop or urban album for YHLQMDLG.
Foo Fighters, Medicine at Midnight: The Foos are on a victory lap. In May, they were announced as 2021 inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In September, they were named the inaugural global icon winners at the VMAs. The Foos, 12-time Grammy winners, have been nominated in this category twice, for Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace (2007) and Wasting Light (2011). This album reached No. 3.
Halsey, If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power: This album, produced by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, constitutes one of the most unexpected and intriguing artist/producer pairings in recent years. The album reached No. 2. Halsey has yet to win a Grammy and has been nominated just twice, for featured roles on recordings by Bieber and The Chainsmokers.
Megan Thee Stallion, Good News: Megan, who won three Grammys in March, could join the growing list of female hip-hop artists to receive a nod in this category. Cardi B and Lizzo were nominated in the past three years. Good News, which reached No. 2, was nominated for album of the year at the BET Awards in June.
Kacey Musgraves, Star-Crossed: Musgraves won in this category three years ago with Golden Hour. She would be the first female country artist with two album of the year nods since Swift (who was a country artist at the time of her first two nominations.). Star-Crossed reached No. 3. Musgraves is a six-time Grammy winner.
Chris Stapleton, Starting Over: Stapleton was nominated in this category six years ago for Traveller. If Starting Over is nominated, he’ll become the first male country artist ever to receive two nominations in this category. Starting Over, which reached No. 3, is up for a CMA Award for album of the year. Stapleton has won five Grammys.
Jazmine Sullivan, Heaux Tales: This album reached No. 4, Sullivan’s best showing to date. It won album of the year at the BET Awards. While Sullivan has gone 0-12 at the Grammys over the years, this may well be her year to finally bring one (or more) home.
Tyler, the Creator, Call Me If You Get Lost: This album, which debuted at No. 1 in July, is one of the year’s most critically lauded releases. This would be the rapper’s first album of the year nod as a lead artist, though he was nominated as a featured artist nine years ago on Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange. Tyler’s previous album, Igor, won a Grammy for best rap album.
Morgan Wallen, Dangerous: The Double Album: This country blockbuster logged 10 weeks at No. 1, more than any other album in this eligibility period. It would have had a much better shot if Wallen hadn’t used a racial slur earlier this year. To many, if not most, voters, he’s still under a cloud. This is up for a CMA Award for album of the year.
Kanye West, Donda: This would be West’s fourth nod in this category, which would be the most by any hip-hop artist (as a lead artist). It would be West’s first album of the year nod in 14 years. The album debuted at No. 1 in early September. West won his 22nd Grammy in March: best Christian music album for Jesus Is King. West has yet to win in a Big Four category, a sore point with him (as it is with such other similarly situated artists as Jay-Z).
Wizkid, Made in Lagos: This could be a sleeper. Made in Lagos is the second major-label album by the Nigerian singer and songwriter. It features guest appearances from such artists as Ella Mai, H.E.R., Damian Marley and Burna Boy. On Aug. 27, a deluxe edition was released with a guest appearance by Bieber. The album has climbed as high as No. 28. Wizkid won his first Grammy in March as a featured artist on Beyoncé’s “Brown Skin Girl” music video.