Cardi B, Bad Bunny, & J Balvin: “I Like It” – Cardi B ruled last year’s pop-rap game with having breakout singles — and even contributed to songs by acts like Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars. However, her own collaboration with Bad Bunny and J Balvin show a diversification of influences that started with “Despacito” in 2017 and has not let up. Cardi’s flow is extremely consistent and Bad Bunny’s production helps enforce the Latin influence of the Tony Pabon sample.
Brandi Carlile: “The Joke” – While country music has melted into pop music in recent years, this record is a pure slice of Americana. Her vocals absolutely shine, and the light string arrangement gives the performance an added dramatic element. This is the sound of taking simple melodies and building them into something magical with the right production touches.
Childish Gambino: “This is America” – Donald Glover continues to rise with this breakout single from early last year. While the production style does sound a little bit too much like “Bad and Boujee,” the tonal shifts are done so seamlessly that it reinforces the song’s potent message.
Drake: “God’s Plan” – While Drake’s last record did suffer from a bit of fluff, this song showed proved he still has the potential to rule over all of radio. The production style from Noel Campbell as well as Noel Cadastre show that when it comes to Drake’s winning style, if it ain’t broke, why fix it?
Zedd, Maren Morrs & Grey: “The Middle” – This was one of the first breakout singles of 2018 and came to be one of radio’s staples last year. While Zedd’s electronic programming is rock solid, the poppy vocal seems to be a little on the safe side for the famed EDM producer.
Kendrick Lamar and SZA: “All of the Stars” – This record showcased some of the best that Kendrick has to offer. Engineer Mike Bozzi should be commended for his ability to make SZA’s vocal hook embed in your mind and stay there. While Black Panther’s soundtrack could have easily gotten away with having unnecessary fluff, this record’s production came with the intent to become your favorite song as soon as it hits your eardrums.
Post Malone Ft. 21 Savage: “Rockstar” – While not the best track from Beerbongs and Bentleys, it is by far the one with the most critical appeal. With Post making shout outs to other celebrity musicians, one can see how appreciative the Grammys would be in celebrating the rock stars of days gone by with a modern twist. While it would be strange to see Post Malone walk away with the Grammy, the record is still worthwhile.
Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper: “Shallow” – With its parent movie A Star Is Born getting massive Oscar buzz, it makes sense that the soundtrack’s centerpiece features some of the best production of last year. Lady Gaga and Benjamin Rice’s production layers on this song give it the perfect punch, which blends Cooper’s rustic vocals with Gaga’s powerhouse vocals.
Who Will Win:
Kendrick Lamar. I would not be surprised if Kendrick Lamar and SZA walked away with the Grammy because of the innovative production techniques that are found all over the Black Panther soundtrack, as well as how big of a cultural phenomenon the film was.
Who Should Win:
Childish Gambino. While the production certainly doesn’t sound like a Grammy forerunner, I feel that Donald Glover’s choices on this record are too good to ignore. While “All the Stars” is a nice aside for Kendrick’s phenomenal career, this record is only making us Childish Gambino fans even more curious as to what he will be up to in 2019.
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