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2015 Grammys—who will win and who should win

Taylor Swift with two Grammys. She should win one this year, but she might not
Taylor Swift with two Grammys. She should win one this year, but she might not
Kevin Winter/Getty

This will be the year of Sam Smith at the Grammys.

The artist is nominated in more categories than any other and, as a young, British singer-songwriter with a deeply soulful voice, is the second-coming of Adele. His only competition, really, is Beyoncé, who seems likely to win Album of the Year. But there are plenty of categories where Smith isn't nominated, so there's still room for the Grammys to spread the wealth.

Here are our predictions for who will win (and should win) at the 2015 Grammys:

Album of the Year

Who will win: Beyoncé for Beyoncé. This album was released with in the middle of the night without a soul knowing, complete with 14 perfect music videos. But even without its attention-grabbing origin story, it's an incredible album. There are some pitfalls here and there on this album. The last few songs fail to reach the same pinnacles as early tracks such as "Pretty Hurts" and "Drunk in Love." But those early tracks are rightfully stunning, and the story surrounding the album is powerful enough that music industry voters will be attracted to it. Smith could win (God forbid), but bet on Beyoncé.

Who should win: Beyoncé for Beyoncé. This masterfully mixed album spans the world of popular music today, leaping from R&B to pop with alacrity, all the while showcasing Beyoncé's voice.

Record of the Year

Who will win: "Stay With Me" by Sam Smith. Historically, Record of the Year has gone to inoffensive but popular songs with melodies that climb from whispering lows to soaring highs. "Stay With Me," a beautiful vocal performance laid atop two chords and a tambourine, fits that description almost perfectly. Several of the other nominated tracks are better here, but it won't matter. Smith seems likely to sweep several categories.

Who should win: "Shake it Off" by Taylor Swift. Swift and Max Martin created an infectiously produced earworm.

Song of the Year

Who will win: "Stay With Me" by James Napier, William Phillips, and Sam Smith. This award goes to a song's songwriters. At first blush, "Stay With Me," which repeats the same three words over and over again and features a fairly simple musical arrangement, seems an odd fit. But it will win because so little of this worldwide hit sounds produced. The song's simplicity works for it, making it easy to believe most of the talent on display stems from the songwriters.

Who should win: "Chandelier" by Sia Furler and Jesse Shatkin. Sia has always been a beautiful songwriter, but "Chandelier" is a knockout. Lyrically, it's heart-wrenching. Musically, it sweeps beautifully from the pits of despair to the heights of exaltation.

Best New Artist

Who will win: Sam Smith. And this is the one category where the huge praise heaped on Smith's young shoulders makes sense. None of the other artists nominated have had the cultural dominance Smith has enjoyed. His only real competition in that regard is Iggy Azalea, and we're betting the Academy doesn't want the headache of rewarding her in such a prominent category.

Who should win: A surprise Haim win would be welcome, but this is one category Smith deserves to win.

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Who will win: "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX. The descending, syncopated bass line that introduces "Fancy" is the most iconic sound of 2014. And even though Azalea raps throughout, the catchy hook from Charli XCX makes this a solid pop song. The production by The Invisible Men allows two incredibly distinct sounds (and songs) to blend together into one of 2014's biggest hits.

Who should win: "Dark Horse" by Katy Perry. This soaring song seems like it came out years ago. It seems unlikely the Academy will honor it this far afterward.

Best Pop Solo Performance

Who will win: Sam Smith. See also: the reasons he will win every other category.

Who should win: Sia for "Chandelier." The performance award technically rewards producers, in addition to vocalists, but c'mon. Listen to Sia's voice vaulting around the vocal register. That's the most impressive performance here.

Best Pop Vocal Performance

Who will win: Sam Smith.

Who should win: Ariana Grande. "Love Me Harder" is a more difficult song vocally than "Stay with Me,"and it should be rewarded.

Best Rap Album

Who will win: Iggy Azalea, allowing the world to explode in controversy. Despite the fact that this category features several solid albums, none of them are by huge names. Had Kendrick Lamar released his new album, Azalea might have lost, but instead, she's the lone A-list star, and the Grammys often reward familiarity. The New Classic is not a bad album, but on its strongest tracks, ("Fancy," "Black Widow," and "New Bitch") it's closer to pop than rap.

Who should win: Common's Nobody Smiling is both a great album and one no one will mistake for a pop album any time soon.

Best Rap Song

Who will win: Drake for "0 to 100/The Catch Up," one of the best songs released in 2014. Drake varies the speed of his flow throughout, which keeps the cadence of the song constantly shifting and the listener constantly guessing.

Who should win: "i" by Kendrick Lamar. Lamar turns over a new lead, melodically and thematically, here.

Best Rap Performance

Who will win: Kendrick Lamar for "i." Lamar long ago proved he can rhyme in a way that's both catchy and emotionally affecting. But on "i," Lamar extends that magic to a new thematic tone. It's not often that a rap song as filled with raw positivity as "i" maintains its complicated rhythms, but that's what Lamar manages here.

Who should win: Kendrick Lamar.

Best Rap/Sung Collaboration

Who will win: "BOUND 2." Kanye West will never get over the reality that Graduation didn't win Album of the Year, but that doesn't mean the Academy ignores him. He'll win here. "BOUND 2" is exactly the kind of song the Recording Academy likes to reward: it's popular, it took a risk, and the recurring "uh-huh honey" sure is catchy.

Who should win: Sure. Give this one to Kanye.

Best Alternative Music Album

Who will win: Lazaretto by Jack White. It's possible Arcade Fire, popular with the Academy, wins here, but Jack White is also beloved. Lazaretto has many backing musicians (meaning lots of people in the Academy will have worked on it or know someone who did), and White is one of the best rock composers working today. Even though this isn't his best album, it should be enough to put him over the top.

Who should win: St. Vincent by St. Vincent. This is an unstoppable album that builds momentum all the way through.

Best Rock Album

Who will win: U2. It almost doesn't matter what this album sounds like, because U2 is such an Academy darling. Plus, it was in the news, thanks to everyone having it forced upon them by Apple. Songs of Innocence wasn't the best album produced last year by any means, but it's full of nostalgia.

Who should win: Turn Blue by The Black Keys

Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance

Who will win: The Black Keys for "Fever." The Recording Academy likes The Black Keys, and "Fever" shows why. It has brilliant chord progressions for every instrument. The bass line is groovy, the keyboard is symphonic, and the vocals don't lag from verse to chorus.

Who should win: "Gimme Something Good" by Ryan Adams. I didn't love Adams' album, but "Gimme Something Good" is an excellently executed song.

Best Country Album

Who will win: Eric Church's album is darker than most country, mixing up genres to showcase that darkness. It's also a dazzling example of how to build an album front to back.

Who should win: Miranda Lambert for Platinum. She's never won a Grammy, and Platinum raises the kind of hell that female country artists are increasingly famous for.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance

Who will win: "Something Bad" by Carrie Underwood and Miranda Lambert. Both Underwood and Lambert have perfected songs about a woman chewing out her romantic partner separately over the years. This song brings them together to do just that, with fantastic results. It's simple musically, with three chords and heavy drums, but vocally, it's incredible.

Who should win: "Something Bad"

Best Country Solo Performance

Who will win: Carrie Underwood's "Something in the Water" lets her alternate between angry yelps and the belting highs of the chorus. It's a terrific performance

Who should win: Miranda Lambert will never win this category, but "Automatic" is a great song.

Best Country Song

Who will win: Glen Campbell's subtle, emotional "I'm Not Gonna Miss You." The subdued piano intro and a male country star slipping into the higher end of his vocal range are two surefire signs of a Grammy win coming. And this sad ode to broken relationships is a nice turn by Campbell.

Who should win: Not Kenny Chesney's "American Kids." That song is bad.

Best R&B Album

Who will win: Toni Braxton and Babyface for Love, Marriage & Divorce. It's hard to imagine the Grammys not awarding a Braxton/Babyface Collaboration. Love, Marriage & Divorce is a slow-building album that channels R&B's past of breathy vocals with the future of complex backing beats and rising melodies.

Who should win: I really liked Aloe Blacc's quietly haunting Lift Your Spirit, but it lacks the name recognition to win over Grammy voters.

Best R&B Song

Who will win: Beyoncé's "Drunk in Love" takes this. It's the most popular song in the category, yes, but it's also a song that is genuinely loved. Yes, it features Jay Z rapping in one verse, but it's still, unmistakably, an R&B track.

Who should win: "Good Kisser" by Usher is a great, hidden hit, and it's also a purer pick for the R&B category.

Best R&B Performance

Who will win: "Drunk in Love" wins again here.

Who should win: "Drunk in Love."

Best Urban Contemporary Album

Who will and should win: Must we repeat ourselves? Beyoncé.

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