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All eyes will be on Beyoncé at tonight's Grammy Awards


OK. The Grammys are tonight, and, yes, it's the biggest night in music. But it's also supposed to be a big night for my girl, Queen Bey herself.


BEYONCE: (Singing) Oh, baby, baby, you won't break my soul. You won't break my soul. You won't break my soul. You won't break my soul. I'm telling everybody.

RASCOE: You didn't see this, but I was dancing in the studio. I love that album. That was Beyonce's "BREAK MY SOUL" from her album "Renaissance." It's nominated in the big three Grammy categories. And joining us now is NPR music critic Ann Powers. Hey, Ann.

ANN POWERS, BYLINE: Happy Bey day. Happy Bey weekend, in fact.

RASCOE: (Laughter) Exactly. So, you know, I'm going to try to put on my journalistic hat and not be too biased here. But, I mean, the big wins tonight feel like they should be inevitable for Beyonce, right?

POWERS: That's the word on the street for sure. But, you know, she's received a lot of snubs in these top categories from the Grammys in the past. So I think the album that's going to win this year is one that takes people on a journey, to be a little bit cliche.


POWERS: And no album took us on a journey the way that "Renaissance" did.

RASCOE: That's what I'm saying (laughter).

POWERS: Right on.

RASCOE: Let's look at Beyonce's competition, if we can call them that. I know that this person is one of them.


KENDRICK LAMAR: (Singing) My truth too complicated to hide now. Can I open up? Is it safe or not? I'm afraid a little, you relate or not? Have faith a little. I might take my time. Ain't no saving face this time.

RASCOE: That's Kendrick Lamar's "Die Hard." Give us a sense of who else is nominated in the big categories.

POWERS: It's kind of like three tiers, as I see it. There's the elite - Adele, for example, Taylor Swift, and relatively newer additions to that category, like Harry Styles, Lizzo and Brandi Carlile. There's a couple of left-field newcomers, like guitarist Steve Lacy and Nashville's viral sensation Gayle. And then Bad Bunny, the face of global Latin pop - I'd like to see him have a good year this year.

RASCOE: And so there's always a lot of interest from fans and the industry in best new artist, so how is that category looking this year?

POWERS: I really love the best new artist category this year because it offers a snapshot of the eclecticism of this field and of what's happening in pop music right now. We have Latin artists, like Brazil's Anitta, and the kind of R&B indie soul artist Omar Apollo. We have Molly Tuttle from the bluegrass world with her great record "Crooked Tree." And then we have a really interesting couple of jazz artists - the duo Domi and JD Beck and the extraordinary young singer Samara Joy, who became a viral sensation on TikTok this past year.

And I'm hyped for the rock bands that are nominated - you know, Wet Leg with their hilarious songs - "Chaise Longue" made a huge sensation - and the Italian glam rock band and Eurovision winners, Maneskin. I really can't wait to see their acceptance speech if they win. They recently staged a group marriage, devoting themselves to each other as a band. And if that's not passion for music, honestly, I don't know what is. I think we should give them an award just for that.


MANESKIN: (Singing) I'm begging, begging you. So put your loving hand out, baby. I'm begging, begging you. So put your loving hand out, darling.

RASCOE: NPR music critic Ann Powers. Ann, thank you so much for joining us.

POWERS: Thank you.


MANESKIN: (Singing) I walked away. You warned me then. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Ann Powers is NPR Music's critic and correspondent. She writes for NPR's music news blog, The Record, and she can be heard on NPR's newsmagazines and music programs.