By Brian Ives
Come February 12’s GRAMMY Awards show, all eyes are going to be on the matchup of the two of the biggest (arguably the two biggest) artists of the millennium, Beyoncé and Adele, who are up against each other in four categories, including Album, Song and Record of the Year.
But there are some rather odd and/or unexpected matchups other categories; here are seven we’ll be watching for at the GRAMMYs, which air on CBS on February 12 at 8 pm ET (or the GRAMMYs pre-telecast show, which streams online a few hours earlier).
Beyonce Vs. David Bowie… for Best Rock Performance: Many thought the late, great Thin White Duke would be up against Beyoncé and Adele in the Album of the Year category, but Bowie wasn’t nominated in that category. However, the title track of his excellent final album, Blackstar is up for Best Rock Performance up against Beyoncé. Her inclusion is sure to rile some rock purists, but before hitting the “tweet” button to complain, they should listen to “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” Beyoncé’s collaboration with Jack White from her Lemonade album. It’s almost as if she filled in for Allison Mosshart in White’s band the Dead Weather. It’s rock and roll and unhinged as hell. We’re not saying we’d vote against Bowie (although “Blackstar” is more of an electronic/jazz hybrid than rock, as such). We’re just saying that “Don’t Hurt Yourself” is a rocking song.
Pentatonix vs. Pink vs. Elle King… for Best Country Duo/Group Performance: It wouldn’t be that big of a surprise to see Pink and Elle King in the same category, but it’s unexpected that they’d be going up against a cappella vocal group Pentatonix. And it’s even weirder that this showdown would take place in a country category. But both King and Pink enjoyed country hits this year: King collaborated with Dierks Bentley on “Different For Girls,” and Pink sang with Kenny Chesney on “Setting the World on Fire.” Pentatonix, meanwhile, featured Dolly Parton their cover of her classic “Jolene.”
Stranger Things Vs. Stranger Things: Like that time that Jonathan and Lucas got into a fight, Stranger Things Volume 1 and Stranger Things Volume 2 (both scored by Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein) should be on the same team! Instead, they were both submitted in the Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media category, and are likely to cannibalize votes from each other, as they go up against industry titans like John Williams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens) and Ennio Morricone (Quentin Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight). Where’s Eleven when you need her to break up the fight?
Suicide Squad Vs. Suicide Squad: Similarly, the Suicide Squad soundtrack is up against itself in Best Song Written for Visual Media; Twenty One Pilots’ “Heathens” is going head to head with the Skrillex/Rick Ross collaboration “Purple Lamborghini.” Here, though, we’ll give a clear edge to “Heathens,” which was nominated in a number of other categories, and seemed to have a longer shelf life than the movie itself.
Bob Dylan Vs. Willie Nelson: Two living icons are going head to head in a somewhat unexpected category: Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. Dylan’s album, Fallen Angels, sees him mining the dustier corners of the Frank Sinatra songbook, while Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin returns to the classic pop that Willie explored previously in 1978’s Stardust and 2009’s American Classic. But it’s kind of a hoot that Dylan and Nelson, while distinct vocalists, find themselves up against Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban and Barbra Streisand.
N.W.A. vs. Miles Davis: What do N.W.A. and Miles Davis have in common? They’re both in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They probably share space in Questlove and Q-Tip’s record collections. And they were both the topic of recent biopics. And that’s why the Miles Ahead soundtrack is going head to head with Straight Outta Compton for Best Compilation Soundtrack For Visual Media.
Enya vs. Vangelis: Spas across America are sure to be divided for the next few months as the two biggest stars of relaxing music will be in a knock-down, drag-out, winner-take-all battle for—you guessed it—Best New Age Album. It’ll be the most relaxing contest ever!