Who Will Win: Bruno Mars, 24K Magic
This year's slate for Album of the Year is tougher—and, if we're being honest, better—than the usual race. If Kendrick, Jay, Lorde, or Childish Gambino won, there'd be reason to celebrate. But it's Bruno Mars, the pint-sized impresario who's wrung well over a year out of his fantastic 24K Magic that's emerging as our front-runner. He's popular, which is usually the best benchmark for success in this category, and the Recording Academy always loves a classicist, which the throwback-y Mars plays to a T.
Who Should Win: Kendrick Lamar, DAMN.
This was, simply put, the best album of the year. Kendrick packed a lifetime's worth of thoughts into a single, impossibly compact album. It's a deceptively calm statement album, one that never lets up on its own artistic vision. It's the work of a rapper at the peak of his powers, and in a year of great rap albums, it showed who's leading the pack right now. Oh, and it sold super well.
Dark Horse: Childish Gambino, Awaken, My Love!
Let's be real for one second: there's no way an album with a song as bad as "California" on it should be in contention for Album of the Year. But, seeing as it is, it's hard not to imagine how exciting it would be to see Donald Glover on that stage, accepting the biggest award in music. We're all rooting for the man to (seemingly inevitably) EGOT, after all. It's hard not to root for the polymath sketching out the most interesting career in the arts to win it all, but there's the feeling that this isn't the right album for him to take home the hardware for. He would make the best acceptance speech, though.