Album of the Year
Winner - Kacey Musgraves "Golden Hour"
Runners Up - The Carters "Everything is Love", Janelle Monae "Dirty Computer", and Cardi B "Invasion of Privacy"
Commentary - The Carters proved they are the Queen and King of music, Janelle Monae was a revelation, and Cardi B was the breakout hit of the year. In a year of fantastic music though, it is Kacey Musgrave's magnificent Golden Hour that seems to be the one I keep coming back to. Musgraves hit it big with Same Trailer, Different Park, and avoided a sophomore slump with Pageant Material. Before those hit albums, she released many demos and hit singles, all leading up to what may end up being considered her magnum opus. Musgraves has never had it easy in country music. Just under a decade of the Dixie Chicks having their country music careers ruined for speaking out against Bush, Musgraves had the audacity to say that you should "kiss lots of boys or kiss lots of girls, if that's what your into". Country music radio has never embraced Musgraves for that very reason. Their listeners don't want to hear a pistol liberal female country singer. Despite this, Musgraves has managed to take 2018 by storm, and still won the Album of the Year at the CMAs, without endless radio play. It takes a lot to succeed when your genre's listeners ignore, but Musgraves does it with grit, charm, and jaw-dropping good music. Golden Hour is a genre-expanding, chill, rough and tumble, optimistic joy from start to finish. Highlights like Butterflies and Space Cowboy showcase her endless ability to create earworms, but there is not one false note throughout. Musgraves doesn't need country radio, but country radio needs to grow up and embrace her. She is the future of country music. Luckily the future is bright, as long as Kacey Musgraves keeps taking her own advice and following her arrow that is pointing her to soaring musical heights.
Single of the Year
Winner - Childish Gambino "This is America"
Runners Up - Kendrick Lamar & SZA "All the Stars", Janelle Monae "Pynk", and Ariana Grande "God is a Woman"
Commentary - In year of anger and protest anthems, none stood out like Childish Gambino's shockingly brutal, honest, and needed anthem This is America. The music video took people's breath away with its brutality, and the lyrics, while simple, shot straight through the heart of many who see the political and cultural upheaval of the last several years, and who see the problems that American neighborhoods and families face. It was simply brilliant, and easily the most effective and permeating song of the year.
Best New Artist
Winner - H.E.R.
Runners Up - Greta Van Fleet and Margo Price
Commentary - When Grammy nominations were released, a lot of folks were shocked to see H.E.R. in Album of the Year. I was pleasantly surprised. I didn't expect Grammy voters to go that way, but I was not shocked that the industry found H.E.R.'s work worthy. This is her first debut album, after a string of massively successful mixtapes. She has had tens of millions of people stream her music on multiple platforms and her first album went Gold. H.E.R. truly is a 21st Century artist, embracing streaming and social media to create a brand for herself. She also happens to be incredibly talented, and produces fantastic, modern R&B music.She has an incredible future in this industry, and is easily the most influential new artist of the year.
Best Pop Album
Winner - Troye Sivan "Bloom"
Runner Up - Ariana Grande "Sweetener"
Commentary - Troye Sivan not only makes pop music that is endlessly listenable, and endearing, but timely and relevant. Bloom feels like an artist who is, pun intended, finally in bloom. Where so many artists hit a sophomore slump, Sivan rose to the occasion with a positively exuberant album celebrating and exalting the queer experience. Easily the best pop album of the year.
Best Pop Performance
Winner - Ariana Grande "God is a Woman"
Runner Up - Troye Sivan "My, My, My!"
Commentary - Ariana Grande continues to prove that she deserves her place at the top of pop music. God is a Woman is the perfect representation of her talent. Showcasing her stunning vocals, her musical style, and delivering an empowering message, God is a Woman was one of those songs of 2018 we won't forget soon.
Best Rock/Alternative Album
Winner - St. Vincent "MASSEDUCTION"
Runners Up - Bjork "Utopia" and Father John Misty "God's Favorite Customer"
Commentary - St. Vincent scored again this year with MASSEDUCTION. Clark's alternative pop style, pulled from her own imagination, is a brilliant mixture of sweaty, fun hits and intimate quiet moments that all pull together for a beautifully constructed work of alternative music perfection.
Best Rock Performance
Winner - Elle King "Shame"
Runners Up - Greta Van Fleet "Highway Tune", Halestorm "Uncomfortable", St. Vincent "MASSEDUCTION"
Commentary - I love Elle King, and I love her raspy, bluesy take on rock music. It is a wonderful mix of rock, blues, country, and soul. One of her newest singles, Shame, is a perfect example of why she is such a welcomed voice in rock music.
Best Rap Album
Winner - Cardi B "Invasion of Privacy"
Runners Up - The Carters "Everything is Love" and Kendrick Lamar and Various Artist "Black Panther"
Commentary - Even with he success of Bodak Yellow, I don't think any of us thought that Cardi B, the reality star, would make such a splash with her debut album. But Invasion of Privacy supersedes all expectations. It is buoyant, confident debut, with great songs that bring a mix of ferocity, softness, and an immeasurable amount of effervescence. Invasion of Privacy is the start of what may end up being a brilliant new career.
Best Rap Performance
Winner - (TIE) Childish Gambino "This is America" and Nicki Minaj "Barbie Dreams"
Runners Up - Cardi B. feat. J. Balvin and Bad Bunny "I Like It" and The Carters "APESH*T"
Commentary - For This is America see Single of the Year. Nicki Minaj's Queen, as a whole effort, never did quite add up to the sum of its parts. And some of those parts were jaw-droppingly brilliant. For obvious reasons, Childish Gambino gets this award, but I could not leave without honoring the catchy, dirty, and brilliant Barbie Dreams. Riffing Biggie and playfully dissing ever major male rapper today, bringing mad flow and hilarious punchlines, Barbie Dreams reminds us that despite some challengers, Nicki is still the Queen.
Best R&B Album
Winner - Janelle Monae "Dirty Computer"
Runners Up - Bettye Lavette "Things Have Changed" and H.E.R. "H.E.R."
Commentary - Janelle Monae has been rocking our musical world for awhile, but I think Dirty Computer is her best yet. She still brings the funky ferocity of her earlier works, but also finds time to discuss personal triumphs and tragedies, and procure timely messages. Easily one of the best of the year.
Best R&B Performance
Winner - Janelle Monae "Make Me Feel"
Runners Up - The Carters "SUMMER" and SZA "Broken Clocks"
Commentary - This song made President Obama's best of 2018, and is the perfect representation of why Dirty Computer as an album and Janelle Monae as an artist were quiet simply the best of R&B this year.
Best Country Album
Winner - Kacey Musgraves "Golden Hour"
Runner Up - Chris Stapleton "From a Room, Vol. 2"
Commentary - See Album of the Year
Best Country Performance
Winner - Kacey Musgraves "Butterflies"
Runner Up - Chris Stapleton "Millionaire"
Commenary - See Album of the Year