The final big music award show of 2016. And I am quite relieved because these smaller award shows are nothing compared to the work I’m gonna have to put in for the huge Grammys Forecast that I have to prepare for. Yeah, that’s gonna be a lot of fun. On the music award show pecking order, the think the American Music Awards are right there below the Grammys in perceived prestige. They measure success more than actual quality, which is why they aren’t seen as much of a joke compared to the Grammys who are supposed to measure actual artistic merit. This explains why every nominee here is someone you’ve heard on the radio a million times this year. Time to award their overplay with a tiny pyramid statue that’s easy to shatter if you put it on a table ledge. It’s the Forecast for the American Music Awards.
Favorite Male Pop/Rock Artist
Justin Bieber vs. Drake vs. The Weeknd
If we were giving this award based on who’s the hardest to avoid, this is a total one-on-one contest between Justin Bieber and Drake. Bieber doesn’t just stick to his own songs anymore, which I should probably remind you are monstrously successful on the charts and at radio. But he also hops on other people’s records too, especially if they’re EDM producers. He’s pretty much the main reason Major Lazer and DJ Snake’s latest songs were so huge. Drake is hard to avoid in the sense that he’s always releasing something and everything he releases spreads like wildfire. He released albums or mixtapes every few months, some stand-alone singles in between, and appears on records by everyone from DJ Khaled, Future, and YG in the meantime. The Weeknd isn’t as spread out as Drake and Bieber; he collaborates often too; he did with Future this year for example, but his tracks, while huge, don’t wear you down and haunt you like the other two, even though he’s the one with the haunting atmosphere in his music.
Who I Want to Win: The Weeknd; he’s out here making more interesting music than the other two.
Who Will Win: Justin Bieber; people ask how does he still have fans after he’s done, but the fact is that he still has them and you better believe they voted.
Favorite Female Pop/Rock Artist
Adele vs. Selena Gomez vs. Rihanna
She actually did it. Selena Gomez is actually a big name pop star. I didn’t expect this to happen in her Alex Russo days. She has her fair share of detractors given that her vocal ability is admittedly severely limited. And I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t one of them; her recent music, while personal and raw, has kind of left me bored and uncaring. However, the hits speak for themselves and her fans are apparently feeling the personal material she’s bene releasing lately. Also personal is the material Adele routinely releases; “Hello” bought her back into the spotlight and subsequent singles like “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” keep her in our ears at all times. Rihanna’s been around for a decade now and while her latest album ANTI is not my favorite thing from her, it’s good that she’s still one of the biggest names in pop in 2016.
Who I Want to Win: Rihanna; Rihanna earns my vote nine times out of ten just for being Rihanna. This is one of those times.
Who Will Win: Selena Gomez; Selenators are quite a huge and dedicated bunch and it’d be no surprise to see them get her an AMA for the first time.
Favorite Pop/Rock Duo/Group
The Chainsmokers vs. DNCE vs. Twenty One Pilots
The Chainsmokers in this category doesn’t make any sense. How did they go from making the poor excuse for comedy that was “#Selfie” to making actual serious songs and getting a ton of airplay for it? They were supposed to be flashes in the pan from 2014, like Nico & Vinz or Magic or MKTO or Rixton or Clean Bandit. But nope, they’re still around in the mainstream and are one 2016’s biggest acts whether I like it or not. I also don’t want to admit that I like the song “Cake By The Ocean” because teenaged me is constantly reminding me of the scorn I used to throw at the Jonas Brothers in the peak of the Camp Rock Era. But I guess I should give him props; Nick Jonas is still better, but Joe came back swinging with this band. Twenty One Pilots, on the other hand, I’ve never been against and I’m glad for the success they’ve had. Admittedly, it’s kind of depressing that they’re the mainstream default for rock music nowadays since they barely count as that, but as is, they’re easily the best ones here. Therefore…
Who I Want to Win: Twenty One Pilots; they’re the only group here I regularly listen to.
Who Will Win: Twenty One Pilots, but this is moreso due to wishful thinking. People wouldn’t honestly vote for Chainsmokers and DNCE over them, right?
Favorite Pop/Rock Song
“Hello” vs. “Love Yourself” vs. “One Dance”
“Hello”, the song that pushed Adele back onto the charts after long hiatus from the music industry. An anthem for people who are not even close to being over their former lovers, just waiting outside their doorstep to apologize for something that for me love elephant forgot about. It was a #1 smash and so was “Love Yourself”, a song whether Justin Bieber calls out his lover for her transgressions and hits her with a polite alternative to an f-bomb. That is probably the only time anything Bieber-related will be described as “polite”. Then, there’s “One Dance” where Drake is in the club, possibly intoxicated, wanting to get a dance from a girl. And it’s likely in a dancehall because as demonstrated, the influence from Rihanna’s island origins have clearly gone to his head since they were an item.
Who I Want to Win: “Hello”; Adele‘s over-the-top, almost theatric ballad is too beautiful, even if the lyrics do reek of needless desperation.
Who Will Win: “Love Yourself”; one of the most WGWAG songs on the radio this year and one I think the Beliebers would proudly vote for.
Favorite Male Country Artist
Luke Bryan vs. Thomas Rhett vs. Blake Shelton
Kinda wish Chris Stapleton, Eric Church, or Keith Urban was here. They’d nab my vote at the snap of a finger. But since they’re not, let’s see what we have instead. Thomas Rhett is kind of the new kid on the block here, with “Die A Happy Man” earning him a spot on every future wedding playlist alongside “I’ll Make Love To You” and “Thinking Out Loud”. Honestly, I don’t think he’s bad; in fact, “T-Shirt” is kind of a guilty pleasure song for me. But he’s more in the pop-country realm though. Then again, so many country artists are these days, so that’s no surprise. In fact, that’s Luke Bryan’s M.O. Along with Florida Georgia Line, he’s the face of bro-country; and while his profile has gone down a bit in the last year, I doubt his popularity has. Blake Shelton’s profile is WAY up due to the whole Miranda Lambert/Gwen Stefani thing, but it didn’t stop him from dropping a brand new album and continuing his stint on NBC’s The Voice. The latter won’t even come into consideration here, I don’t think.
Who I Want to Win: Thomas Rhett; he may be country-pop, but he’s at least fun country-pop.
Who Will Win: Luke Bryan; believe it or not, he’s won this award every year for four years now. That’s how popular he is, and that’s gonna net him a fifth trophy.
Favorite Female Country Artist
Kelsea Ballerini vs. Cam vs. Carrie Underwood
I’m kind of surprised to see Cam make it into this category. I figured Miranda Lambert would be excluded since she was largely absent throughout most of the year, releasing “Vice” really late in the year, but I expected Maren Morris to end up replacing her. Sure enough, the nod went to Cam, who I haven’t heard as much from since “Burning House” fell down the charts. Granted, it was a big hit, but I was unsure it would land her here. Kelsea Ballerini and Carrie Underwood were to be expected though; they’re the two females with the most consistency when it comes to radio play and general conversation over the past year. Storyteller has simply been another successful era for Underwood while The First Time has allowed Ballerini to have two decent years in a row as a new artist.
Who I Want to Win: Carrie Underwood; last year, I threw Kelsea a freebie and said I’d love to see her win this award. Not this time; Carrie all the way.
Who Will Win: Carrie Underwood; the ONLY two people who have won this award since 2007 are Carrie Underwood and Taylor Swift. Carrie is still super popular, so that won’t change this year.
Favorite Country Duo/Group
Florida Georgia Line vs. Old Dominion vs. Zac Brown Band
Zac Brown Band seem to joined Rascal Flatts in the “just there” booth of the country music café. It’s not that anything they release is bad; it’s just not enough to make them seem like that huge a deal compared to their peers. It really says something that the song I’ve heard the most from them over the last two years was a Chris Cornell collaboration that peaked at #1 on the Billboard Mainstream ROCK chart and not one of their recent country hits. Old Dominion and Florida Georgia Line are kind of crushing them as far as exposure goes; Old Dominion songs are on the country station I listen to all the time. I thought they’d peak with “Break Up With Him”, but they keep on coming with hits. Florida Georgia Line has done the same since they broke out in 2013, and their latest album Dig Your Roots earns them even more hits and extends the fame of the sole duo in this field.
Who I Want to Win: Old Dominion; I’ve finally come around to admitting that I don’t think this group is bad at all. They’re the new kids on the block, but they sound great.
Who Will Win: Florida Georgia Line; this category has a history of awarding the same act for years on end. This would be FGL’s third straight victory and it’s totally expected.
Favorite Country Song
“H.O.L.Y.” vs. “Humble and Kind” vs. “Die A Happy Man”
Florida Georgia Line are kind of meatheads if you listen to most of their song lyrics. In fact, most bro-country singers appear to have heads made of nothing but steak and bacon, only allowing them to see women as such. But Brian and Tyler switch things up for “H.O.L.Y.”, a straight-up love song that could probably see some wedding play sometime in the future. That is assuming “Die A Happy Man” doesn’t steal it’s thunder; and that song has an R&B/hip-hop cover courtesy of Nelly, so we could potentially hear it at wedding ceremonies taking place in the hood too. Thomas Rhett‘s romantic ditty must’ve warned some hearts with its plea that nothing else in the world matters or even needs to exist as long as you’re holding hands with the girl you’re with. That’s a positive way to look at love, and Tim McGraw keeps that positivity going by telling us to stay “Humble and Kind”. Easier said than done apparently, especially in this anger-inducing day and age where even the President-elect lacks compassion.
Who I Want to Win: “H.O.L.Y.”; it’s really not a bad love song, so for once, I actually endorse a FGL victory.
Who Will Win: “Die A Happy Man”; also not a really bad love song, and one that really seemed to connect with people.
Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Artist
Drake vs. Fetty Wap vs. Future
Fun fact: this category was actually split in two, one for male rappers and one for female rappers, back in 2003 and 2005, with Missy Elliott winning both times. Nowadays, with Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea being the only female rappers to achieve mainstream success recently and the rap community at large actively trying to kick Azalea out of the genre, we’ll likely never see this happen again. Maybe if Young M.A. can stick around, it could, but don’t hold your breath. But this year sees the most dominant rapper in mainstream today, Drake, going up against his occasional partner in crime, Future, and possible future flash-in-the-pan Fetty Wap. I feel safe in saying that his post-“Trap Queen” tracks and his guest appearances on songs for Fifth Harmony and Lil Dicky won’t send Fetty to the winners circle here. It’s between the two jumpmen.
Who I Want to Win: Drake; truthfully, I find a lot of his recent songs really boring, but at least he’s not as incoherent as Future and Fetty Wap usually are.
Who Will Win: Drake; Drake wins. All the time. He’s the most relevant and talked-about rapper around. No way he’s not winning.
Favorite Rap/Hip-Hop Song
“Panda” vs. “Hotline Bling” vs. “679”
What is “Hotline Bling” doing here? Maybe at the VMA’s, this doesn’t seem out of place because on there, “Best Hip-Hop Video” is basically “Best Rap or R&B Video”, but with an R&B Song category existing, this should probably be in it. “Hotline Bling” is an R&B song. The other two are definitely not. “Panda” is a rap song; a rap song that went straight to #1 and out Desiigner on the map, opening the floodgates for numerous jokes about what kind of medication he should be taking to control those weird faces he makes. I have to admit, even I can get hyped to “Panda” a little, but the Future-esque mumbling is a strike against it because seriously, why does everyone want to sound like that now? And that includes Fetty Wap, who’s voice might be worse despite the fact that “679” is one of my favorite recent rap songs. It’s fun to dance to and probably should’ve been a bigger hit than “Trap Queen”, honestly.
Who I Want to Win: “679”; like it or not, the song does bang, mainly due to the beat and how fun it is to mock Fetty Wap‘s weird singing on the hook.
Who Will Win: “Hotline Bling”; the R&B song is going to win the rap song award.
Favorite Soul/R&B Male Artist
Chris Brown vs. Bryson Tiller vs. The Weeknd
My disdain for Bryson Tiller may have gone down since doing the Forecasts on the VMAs and BET Awards. He’s not the worst artist around, and truth be told, my dislike for his music is moreso due to personal exhaustion of the overuse of trap beats in modern popular music than anything he brings to the table. He just happened to make it the theme of his entire album for some reason. Chris Brown, meanwhile, named his album after his daughter. Admirable, but not enough to make me want to see him nab an AMA, or any trophy for that matter, with the boring music he’s putting out now. Then there’s The Weeknd, hands down the artist with the most exposure here at the moment, with a song in Billboard’s Top 5 right now, an album on the way, various hits in the last two years, and being the voice behind the theme song to WWE’s Survivor Series, which is happening the same night as this show. Just a reminder.
Who I Want to Win: The Weeknd; I’ll listen to “Starboy” alone on repeat over anything the other two have recently released.
Who Will Win: The Weeknd; re-read the statistics again and tell me he doesn’t have the biggest shot at winning this award.
Favorite Soul/R&B Female Artist
Beyoncé vs. Janet Jackson vs. Rihanna
Beyoncé and Rihanna are always grouped by the Internet into being the Holy Trinity of Urban Music Divas, alongside rapper Nicki Minaj. But if we were to limit that tri-force to solely R&B singers, it’d probably be fair to throw Janet Jackson into Nicki’s slot. Without Janet, would the other two even exist? She’s an icon, and even though her latest material hasn’t set the world on fire (though I did like “No Sleeep”), her flame has a history of burning bright. But it’s 2016, so it’s Queen Bey and Ri-Ri’s world, and both of them are currently drenching their sound in everything modern without forgetting where they came from. They’re both unapologetic in the music they’re releasing and they’ve only gotten more successful because of it.
Who I Want to Win: Rihanna; Beyoncé’s album may have been hot fire, but as a Rihanna stan myself, it’s hard to not want her to win here.
Who Will Win: Beyoncé; Lemonade will probably be enough to earn her this one. Who on Earth didn’t like this album?
Favorite Soul/R&B Song
“One Dance” vs. “Work” vs. “Don’t”
Might be hard to believe, but I think I’ve softened on “Don’t” just a bit. It’s really not terrible; it’s really just the trap elements that take me out of it. That said, it is still my least favorite song here; Drake will probably brag about being an artist on the two bigger ones here. Both “Work” and “One Dance” topped the Billboard Hot 100 for weeks on end, as well as topping my own weekly Top 20 Music Countdown. “One Dance” was inescapable all summer while “Work” dominated months earlier. When you take any of these factors into consideration, as well as the fact that I have no idea if Bryson Tiller has a fanbase dedicated enough to vote for him over Drake and Rihanna, and counting him out is alot easier to do. No matter what happens, Drake is winning this award. But for which song?
Who I Want to Win: “Work”; it may be repetitive, but it has had more replay value with me thatn the other two songs do.
Who Will Win: “Work”; the combined powers of Drake & Rihanna are too powerful to lose here, especially to Tiller.
Favorite Alternative Rock Artist
Coldplay vs. Twenty One Pilots vs. X Ambassadors
So this is the best alternative rock has to offer, huh? This category had Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nickelback, and Pearl Jam a decade ago. No matter how you feel about those three bands (and I mean that especially for the usually-hated Nickelback), their brand of alternative rock was at least much heavier and closer to general rock than what we have here. (RHCP won, for the record.) Coldplay has been a pop band for a while and will likely stay that way for good. X Ambassadors have a reputation for being a band whose value mostly lies in getting airplay via television commercials. And Twenty One Pilots are the biggest chart successes in this bunch, with three Top 10 hits in the past year.
Who I Want to Win: Twenty One Pilots; honestly, if Green Day was here, Billie Joe and the boys would have my vote. But of the bands provided, TOP is the one I’m most into.
Who Will Win: Twenty One Pilots; three Top 10 hits tells the entire story.
Favorite Adult Contemporary Artist
Adele vs. Rachel Platten vs. Meghan Trainor
Honestly, the only artist in the category I really take all that seriously is Adele. The fact that she’s successful in the adult contemporary format does not surprise me. She does remind me of adult contemporary stars of yesterday, like Céline Dion or Elton John or Melissa Etheridge for example, in that she has a big voice and often performs songs meant to have a ton of depth and are usually very tuneful. Not to say her opposition can’t do that; though neither of them are even in the British Grammy-winner’s league vocally. Rachel Platten, who looks like if Kimberly Perry and Barbie Blank got their DNA’s combined, scored her biggest hit with a textbook empowerment anthem, which also accurately describes the follow up. “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” wouldn’t sound out of place on the format, but I question Meghan Trainor’s categorization here with tracks like “No”, “Me Too”, and “Dear Future Husband” under her belt.
Who I Want to Win: Adele; I’ve pretty much explained the reasoning behind it above.
Who Will Win: Adele; Platten and Trainor beating Adele? No chance in hell.
Purple Rain vs. Star Wars: The Force Awakens vs. Suicide Squad: The Album
In 2009, the passing of The King of Pop Michael Jackson, who hadn’t released any new music since 2001’s Invincible, saw a huge increase in his album and singles sales. Since this is the stuff that the American Music Awards look at when deciding their nominations, Michael ended up nominated for numerous AMA’s in 2009, including Artist of the Year. The same thing happened for the passing of his musical rival Prince in 2016, though The Purple One only has this one nomination for the iconic soundtrack to his hit 1984 film. But as legendary as that album is, does it stand a chance against two current soundtracks, one that’s the score to one of the biggest Hollywood reboots in recent memory and one of which contains bangers like “Heathens”, “Sucker for Pain”, and “Purple Lamborghini”?
Who I Want to Win: Suicide Squad; those aforementioned singles, coupled with the classic tracks they threw on, add up to one fantastic compilation of music for one totally so-so film.
Who Will Win: Purple Rain; am I implying this will be a posthumous tribute award of some kind? Pretty much, yeah. But it’s not like Prince wouldn’t deserve it; again, the album is a masterpiece.
Collaboration of the Year
“Don’t Let Me Down” vs. “One Dance” vs. “Work from Home” vs. “Work vs. “Like I’m Gonna Lose You”
Five collaborations that were all Top 10 hits this past year. Both the Drake tracks are obviously the most successful; “Work” peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying there for __ weeks, while “One Dance” bested that by staying at #1 for __ weeks, becoming one of the hardest to escape radio songs of the year. It’s up there with “Don’t Let Me Down”, a song that legitimized The Chainsmokers as pop titans and gave Daya her highest charting hit. “Work From Home” ended up being the most successful thing either Fifth Harmony or Ty Dolla $ign has ever recorded; the catchy track earned the girl group their second billion-viewed video and a nifty spot in the Top 5 of Billboard. And “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” features Meghan Trainor pairing with R&B singer John Legend for one of her more tolerable singles; I didn’t care for it much, but it’s a step up from “Marvin Gaye” at least.
Who I Want to Win: “Work from Home”; I realize that this song isn’t God’s gift to music and I understand the hook is super repetitive, but I could jam to this song all day, much more than I can every other song in this category, including “Work”, believe it or not.
Who Will Win: “Work from Home”, which I’m going with mainly because I made the mistake of underestimating the Harmonizers at the VMA’s, thinking it’d lose Best Collaboration because they were going up against Beyoncé and Rihanna. Then this happened. Not making that mistake again this time.
New Artist of the Year
Alessia Cara vs. The Chainsmokers vs. DNCE vs. Shawn Mendes vs. Zayn
First of all, the fact that The Chainsmokers are in this category is pretty much the industry’s way of admitting that “#Selfie” doesn’t even count as a hit or a song. We’re just forgetting it existed and letting them start fresh with their recent output, which has been very successful. Two other artists in this group with past successes are Zayn and DNCE. The former of course was a member of One Direction (who have won a ton of AMA’s themselves) and DNCE contains Joe Jonas, whose previous band won this award in 2008. They’ve both surrendered the teen heartthrob crown to Shawn Mendes, who has captured the hearts of tween girls and even a couple of slots in the Top 10 of Billboard. Like Mendes, the sole female in this category is also Canadian; Alessia Cara has a Top 10 hit, another Top 40 hit, and a spot on the soundtrack to Disney’s Moana to her name, and her killer vocals could keep her big for years to come.
Who I Want to Win: Alessia Cara; the sole female in the category and the nominee with hands-down the best singing voice of the bunch. Don’t even fight me on this.
Who Will Win: Shawn Mendes or Zayn; they’re the heartthrob nominees; their chances to win increase tenfold with that statistic alone.
Artist of the Year
Justin Bieber vs. Selena Gomez vs. Ariana Grande vs. Rihanna vs. Carrie Underwood
I’m just as tired of hearing Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber mentioned in the same breath as you are, but this time around, we kind of have to. This time, it has nothing to do with romance being in the air and instead is all about the shiny glass pyramid dangling in front of their faces. It was hard to turn on the radio this year without hearing either of their songs, especially Bieber who will probably be on every EDM song by this time next year. Ariana Grande and Rihanna have also been huge on pop radio in 2016; Rihanna drops her first album in three years and it was like she never left while Ariana’s vocals literally haven’t and she’s now at superstar level. Carrie hasn’t had a crossover pop hit in a while, but in her own genre, she’s doing so well that she recently broke Miranda Lambert’s Female Vocalist of the Year streak at the CMA’s. That’s something to brag about, in addition to the strong radio airplay she gets.
Who I Want to Win: Ariana Grande; I really enjoyed Dangerous Woman for the most part, including it’s radio singles like “Into You” and “Side to Side”. Grande totally has my vote.
Who Will Win: Rihanna; this is kind of a bold move since the only people who has won this award since 2009 are Taylor Swift, One Direction, and Justin Bieber. But I just have a feeling Bieber won’t take it this time and that Barbadian beauty will find her way to victory.