We draw SKPop's GRAMMY roundup of 2022 to a close by looking at the Album Of The Year category.
An album is the definitive piece of music an artist puts out. While singles dominate the charts and airplay, an album has artistic credibility and scope for a cohesive narrative. Artists who have received multiple and consecutive nominations for this Grammy category can boast of having a flourished career.
Thus, Album Of The Year is the most coveted Grammy category of the night.
This year, the Academy has increased the number of nominees in overall Grammy categories to 10, leading to a stacked and diverse list.
Nominees for this year's GRAMMY Awards for Album Of The Year
1) We Are – Jon Batiste
11-time Grammy nominee Jon Batiste has forever walked a graceful tightrope, putting out virtuoso jazz records while hobnobbing with celebrities on The Late Show. He has been a compelling voice of optimism while being a socially conscious artist.
On WE ARE, Jon reaches the zenith of this creative balancing act, crafting an album as steeped in jazz, gospel, soul and funk as it has been drenched in the R&B and hip-hop of recent times.
Standout track(s): WE ARE and FREEDOM
2) Love for Sale - Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga
After the universal adoration for Cheek To Cheek (2014), the unlikely and iconic duo of jazz legend Tony Bennett and one of pop's most experimental pioneers, Lady Gaga, returned with Love For Sale (2021) performing renditions of even more standard classics.
Lady Gaga has consistently stood out with pulsating, bombastic music and visuals accompanying her edgy avatar. But when she pairs up with jazz legend Tony Bennett, Gaga sheds all show, and the music flows with ease. The joyous duo's album is magical due to the sincerity, simplicity, and grace of it all. It is also a fitting swan song to Tony's revolutionary career.
Standout track: Do I Love You
3) Justice (Triple Chucks Deluxe) – Justin Bieber
Justin Bieber stacked his latest record, Justice (2021), with almost two dozen tracks and just as many guests. While Bieber was miffed about his album being considered 'pop' instead of R&B, most of the lineup is as pop as pop gets. Feature players like DaDominiceaser, Dominc Fike and Giveon bring their A-game with some sensual bluesy energy.
Even though it is wildly star-studded and monstrously long, Justice only has a few shining moments of either lyrical honesty or musical innovation. It is a well-crafted attempt at a distracted concept.
Standout track: Peaches
4) Planet Her (Deluxe) – Doja Cat
On the other end of the star-studded album spectrum is Doja Cat's third studio album. This amalgamation of pop, R&B and hip hop employs lucrative feature players like Ariana Grande, The Weeknd and SZA to maximum impact.
But Doja takes centre-stage in the album, with songs like Woman, Get Into It (Yuh) and Naked featuring her on vocal and rapping duties. It is a bold, expansive record. It is Doja's planet, and we're just living in it. Planet Her is an ever-changing kaleidoscope of pop versatility.
Standout track: Kiss Me More
5) Happier Than Ever - Billie Eilish
After sweeping through the Grammys two years ago with her upbeat, trap-heavy, horror-inspired When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019), Billie Eilish set out to record her subsequent work while the world was in mid-pandemic and overwhelmed with pressure. What would follow was a physical and mental transformation.
Happier Than Ever contains torch songs about fame and the mental health trappings accompanying it. It is an insightful, restrained counterpoint to her previous album, but just as enjoyable.
Standout Track: Male Fantasy
6) Back of My Mind - H.E.R.
H.E.R (an acronym for Having Everything Revealed) lives up to the name she has chosen for herself. Her music and lyrics sound like the vocalist wears her beating heart on her sleeve.
On Back Of My Mind, she immerses her production into more expansive sounds, getting iconic producers like Hit-Boy, Kaytranada and Thundercat in her corner. But lyrically, the bare, confessional tone that makes her so enrapturing is right there.
Standout track: We Made It
7) Montero – Lil Nas X
MONTERO (the song) was a resounding announcement from Lil Nas that he wasn't just a one-hit-wonder; he was here to stay. The overt homosexual themes in the song's lyrics and a masterful compilation of biblical imagery with a rebellious, edgy twist in the campy music video riled conservatives to no end. Nas X reacted to the backlash with a similarly bonkers homoerotic prison video for Industry Baby.
The similarly-titled album followed is much less cheeky but still naturally genre-spanning and truly deep in places. It speaks of queerness, love and success in a truly unique way and bucks convention while dolling out bangers.
Standout track: Industry Baby
8) Sour – Olivia Rodrigo
Olivia Rodrigo catapulted into superstardom ever since her bedroom pop breakup ballad Driver's License caught the frenzy of a generation. Her subsequent album had all the hype it needed to deliver. It certainly did. It certainly made her a favourite to win the best pop vocal album, as well.
On SOUR, Olivia wears all her pop influences on her sleeve. Good 4 u channels the punk energy of Avril and Hayley, while deja vu and Jealousy Jealousy are homages to Taylor Swift's intimate songwriting. This was Gen Z's definitive album of the year and could be the centrepiece of her Grammy sweep.
Standout track: Good 4 U
9) Evermore – Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift's "little sister" follow-up to the Grammy-winning folklore (2020) was as intricately written as its predecessor, as it was during the recording of the laid-back 2020 record that Swift felt a lingering creative spark and wanted to make the magic last a bit longer. For the first time in ages, Taylor looked to keep going with a sound instead of overhauling it in the next record.
She collaborated with Aaron Dessner of The National to harken that elegant, contemplative magic again and went on to write even more meandering, rambling, expansive tales of fictional, interconnected characters. She is finally at a deep breathing stage as an artist, and if the recent re-release of Red is anything to go by, she has a lot more to offer.
Standout track: Willow
10) Donda – Kanye West
While divisive as a popular personality, Kanye's rap talent is undeniable. He also has the privilege of being one of the most creatively untethered artists out there. He took a month and a half to release Donda, changing the album over and over.
The resulting album, both minimalist and maximalist, vulnerable and bombastic, is a mixture of highlights and lethargy. It is perfectly indicative of West's divisive personality.
Standout track(s): Off the Grid and Hurricane
Who do you think will take the Album Of The Year GRAMMY home?