Winner - Beyonce "Lemonade"
Runners Up - David Bowie "Blackstar", Solange "A Seat at the Table", Frank Ocean "Blonde"
Commentary - Bowie has won here before, and Solange and Ocean prove they are formidable. But no album was as well-written, culturally relevant, or had more impact on music this year than Beyonce's surprise HBO-driven Lemonade. It is a fierce, bold record that shows Beyonce trying new things (rock and country to start), and showing us why she is our finest pop star today. I also felt the need to support Beyonce on a social level. After staying true to the pop and R&B genres that have defined most of her work, Beyonce finally broke through those norms to create an album that speaks to the oppression of black people, Black Lives Matter, and other culturally relevant issues. This of course sparked a backlash. Look no further than the racist comments made after her CMA performance. I even mention Beyonce's name around some of my friends or co-workers, and I hear "she's racist" or "I don't like her anymore". Yes, unfortunately in 2016, when an artist speaks honestly about her culture and the issues facing her people, she is labeled racist. In this year especially, I salute her bravery and power.
Single of the Year
Winner - Beyonce "Formation"
Runners Up - David Bowie "Lazarus" and Solange "Cranes in the Sky"
Commentary - Mostly look at Album of the Year. One addition is this: If people were looking for a power anthem to rise up, Formation is it.
Best New Artist
Winner - Chance the Rapper
Runners Up - Anderson .Paak and Maren Morris
Commentary - This has been a great year for new artists, and some of the best nuggets from the Grammy nominations came from nominations for folks like Maren Morris and Anderson .Paak, both supremely talented artists, with bright futures ahead of them. But my favorite of the year was Chance the Rapper. He is making a name for himself in the hip-hop game with a blend of great lyrics, expertly produced tracks, and a mix of street cred and popular appeal.
Best Pop Album
Winner - Adele "25"
Runner Up - Troye Sivan "Blue Neighbourhood"
Commentary - I know! The indie music favorites are rolling their eyes at this win. I don't care. Yes I know that of here three albums 25 is probably a solid third place, and I don't care. In what seemed like a particularly weak year for pop music, Adele once again stole our hearts, and our airwaves with her catchy, and heartbreaking anthems.
Best Rap Album
Winner - Chance the Rapper "Coloring Book"
Runners Up - Kendrick Lamar "untitled unmastered" and Kanye West "The Life of Pablo"
Commentary - Lamar once again proved he is the best rapper in the game, and despite the ridiculousness that is Kanye West, The Life of Pablo proved that he is still an incredible artist. But Chance the Rapper's Coloring Book launched him into rap superstar-dom. Considered a mixtape, this complete work is an album at its core, and even earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Album in the process. Like Lemonade, Coloring Book is a beautifully constructed piece that explores black history and culture, blending in great featured performances, gospel and soul vibes, and a dose of honesty that is refreshing, and a wonderful and important listen.
Best Rock/Alternative Album
Winner - David Bowie "Blackstar"
Runners Up - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds "Skeleton Tree"
Commentary - Bowie had to go out on top, and boy did he ever with his final work, release not long before his death, Blackstar. Like Bowie himself, this final farewell was a brilliant mix of experimental sounds, jazz, blues, rock n' roll, with great lyrics, fun melodies, and was everything Bowie fans could hope for on their final outing with the legend.
Best R&B Album
Winner - (TIE) Beyonce "Lemonade" & Solange "A Seat at the Table"
Runners Up - Frank Ocean "Blonde" and Anderson Paak "Malibu"
Commentary - So you already know I loved Lemonade, but many forget that Beyonce has an incredibly talented younger sister. Solange is now rivaling her sister for incredible albums, as A Seat at the Table is easily on this year's best R&B records. Like her sister, she challenges the issues facing Black America today, but does so in a more subtle, painful way, compared to the loud formation of Lemonade. Both work imminently well, and prove that this family is not short on talent.
Best Country Album
Winner - Sturgill Simpson "A Sailor's Guide to Earth"
Runners Up - Brandy Clark "Big Day in a Small Town" and Maren Morris "Hero"
Commentary - One of the best surprises of Grammy nomination morning was the inclusion of Sturgill Simpson in the Album of the Year race. I tend to find most country music eye-rolling and cheesy. But Simpson proves that adding a bit of edge, a bit of soul, and a huge does of individuality, country music can be engaging, beautiful and heartfelt.
Winner - Adele "Hello"
Runners Up - Sia "Reaper" and Tegan and Sara "Boyfriend"
Commentary - Dare you to not start humming this song the second you read it. Enough said.
Winner - Kanye West Featuring Chance The Rapper, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin & The-Dream "Ultralight Beam"
Runner Ups - Chance the Rapper feat. Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz "No Problem" and Kendrick Lamar "untitled seven"
Commentary - So Kanye crazy, right? It's actually kind of scary how his mental health has seemed to overcome him as of late. In all honesty, while the TMZs and Twitters of the world make fun of him, write him off, or worse, say he deserves it, I do hope that whatever is causing him pain starts to heal. All of that being said, these awards are for music, and Ultralight Beam, with its R&B, gospel, and hip-hop mix is a bold record, with some of the best talent working today involved.
Best Rock Performance
Winner - Leonard Cohen "You Want it Darker"
Runners Up - David Bowie "Lazarus" and Angel Olsen "Sister"
Commentary - You know Bowie isn't the only legend we lost this year in music. Prince is one that comes to mind, and of course Leonard Cohen. His album will be eligible next year, and I have a feeling it will rack up a lot of support on my part. In his decades of great work, this final album, and its title song, might be his best, or least towards the top. Cohen is not for the weak at heart, and You Want it Darker is definitely Cohen at his deepest and darkest. Rest in peace Cohen, your music will live on forever.
Best R&B Performance
Winner - Beyonce "Formation"
Runners Up - Solange "Cranes in the Sky" and Frank Ocean "Pink + White"
Commentary - See Single of the Year
Best Country Performance
Winner - Maren Morris "80's Mercedes"
Runners Up - Brandy Clark "Love Can Go to Hell" and Loretta Lynn "Who's Gonna Miss Me?"
Commentary - Maren Morris is a breath of fresh air in country music, reminding me of the breakthroughs from Kacey Musgraves and Brandy Clark in recent years. She also continues a tradition of great female country artists who prove they can be just as good, and in most cases, better than the boys. She had a lot of great songs off of Hero, but 80's Mercedes is my personal favorite of the bunch.