Leading up to the Grammy nominations on Nov. 10, Rolling Stone is breaking down 16 different categories. For each, we’re predicting the nominees, as well as who will (and who should) win on Grammy night.
If it is truly “the year of the girl” as many have claimed in light of Barbie’s success, then look no further than the women in pop who dominated the charts. In addition to Number Ones from SZA, Swift, Cyrus, and Rodrigo, Lipa and Eilish’s contributions to the Barbie soundtrack were excellent enough to create hits for these two former Best New Artist winners, even while between album cycles. It’s a stacked field, but SiriusXM’s Alex Tear only has ears for SZA. “It’s SZA’s year,” he says. Taking home this trophy would be well-deserved for the star, but the competition is tough indeed. “Respectfully, Miley and Taylor are crushing it,” he adds. “Our audience reaction to all three are neck and neck.”
Miley Cyrus’ past few years have been all about reshaping the narrative around her career. The Disney kid turned pop bad girl has not only chilled out but also given ample space to let her big, raw vocals be the focal point. This year, she had a return to the pop charts with “Flowers,” leading off the excellent and varied Endless Summer Vacation. The song was so big that it has now taken the crown as her biggest hit to date. This could mean that Cyrus — who’s had just two Grammy nominations and no wins in the past — could finally get some long overdue recognition at this year’s ceremony.
Taylor Swift’s year is on par with “Beatlemania,” according to Tear, and all that happened was kicked off by the first single from her 10th album, Midnights. As with Folklore and Evermore before it, Swift waited to release a single until the album dropped in full, a smart strategy. Luckily, listeners agreed with her choice for the album’s first single — the self-deprecating “Anti-Hero” became Swift’s longest-running Number One song. She’s had even more hits off Midnights and her older albums since the Eras Tour kicked off, but this one is a major change of pace from her oeuvre that could give her a leg up.
“What Was I Made For?”
Over the past few years, Eilish has quickly become a Grammy darling, racking up 19 nominations and seven wins. And even between album cycles she can still make a big hit. This time out, it’s with the somber ballad off the blockbuster Barbie soundtrack, which has a life of its own, generating a viral moment on TikTok, topping charts around the globe, and peaking at Number 14 on the Billboard Hot 100 a few weeks after the movie’s release. This wouldn’t be the first time Eilish stole the show with a one-off song: 2019’s “Everything I Wanted” — released as a stand-alone single eight months after Eilish’s debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? — ended up surprising everyone with a Record of the Year win.
Rodrigo had a big showing at her first Grammy Awards in 2022, going three for seven. And she could continue her streak thanks to the success of Guts’ lead single, “Vampire.” Since its release in June, the song has kept pace in the Top 10, competing against many of the other artists’ releases in this category to maintain it. Guts — one of the year’s most anticipated albums — sets her up nicely to repeat her success in Best Pop Vocal Solo, which she won in 2022 for “Drivers License.”
It took a long time for SZA to get her sophomore album, SOS, out into the world, but the LP was well worth the wait. “Kill Bill” not only helped the album have the numbers to match the anticipation, but also widened the singer’s audience. “I might kill my ex/Not the best idea” became a ubiquitous refrain across TikTok while the song also had massive success on radio and streaming. SZA’s first Number One follows her first Grammy win last year, for the Doja Cat collaboration “Kiss Me More.” She may be the new one to beat in the pop categories.
“Dance the Night”
The lead single off the Barbie soundtrack stands to get an added boost from the film’s overwhelming success. The track is peak pop done by some of the Recording Academy’s favorite names: Mark Ronson, Andrew Wyatt, and, of course, Dua Lipa. (Among all of them they have 11 wins.) The song built into a global smash, cracking the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100 nearly two months after it was first released. “Dance the Night” is a bold burst of colorful pop, and it could be both too big and too much fun for the Grammys to overlook.
This story is adapted from Rolling Stone’s fourth annual Grammy Preview issue, released ahead of the start of first-round voting on Oct. 13th. We featured SZA on the cover, spoke to some of the year’s biggest artists about the albums and singles that could earn them a statue come February, made our best predictions for the nominees in the top categories, and more, providing a full guide to what to watch for in the lead-up to the 2024 awards.