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Taylor Swift's 'Midnights' shouldn't win album of the year at the 2024 Grammys. Here's who should win instead.

Taylor Swift's 'Midnights' shouldn't win album of the year at the 2024 Grammys. Here's who should win instead.
  • Eight artists will compete for album of the year at the 2024 Grammy Awards on Sunday.

  • We ranked each nominee to determine who should win. The obvious answer is "SOS" by SZA.

  • Boygenius and Olivia Rodrigo round out the top three. "Midnights" by Taylor Swift is ranked last.

Widely considered the ceremony's most prestigious award, album of the year has a particularly stacked ballot at the 66th annual Grammy Awards this Sunday. Chart-topping superstars like Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and SZA will face off against indie darlings, critic favorites, and industry veterans.

I have long argued that "album of the year" is a loaded phrase; more than quality, the title implies relevance. Commercial success doesn't hurt, either. The award should go to an album people have heard, discussed, savored, and admired.

With that in mind, I ranked this year's eight nominees to determine who should take home the top prize.

8. "Midnights" by Taylor Swift

taylor swift midnights album cover
"Midnights" was released on October 21, 2022.Taylor Swift/UMG

Metacritic score: 85/100

Billboard 200 peak: No. 1 for six weeks

Taylor Swift's 10th studio album (not including rerecords) is nothing short of a sensation.

"Midnights" sold over 1 million copies in its debut week, the first album to achieve the feat since Swift's own "Reputation." When it arrived atop the Billboard 200, Swift also became the first artist in history to dominate the entire top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.

After experimenting with folk and indie-rock during the pandemic, "Midnights" marked Swift's return to radio-primed pop. Coproduced by Swift and her longtime collaborator Jack Antonoff, its popularity was turbo-charged when The Eras Tour kicked off last year; "Midnights" is the final chunk in the setlist. Swift closes the show with a triumphant combination of "Mastermind" and "Karma."

Highlight: "Sweet Nothing" is the crown jewel on the original album. Unfortunately, most of Swift's best work from the "Midnights" era was left off the standard tracklist.

Downfall: I wish Swift had submitted "Midnights (3am Edition)" to the Recording Academy. Alas, instead of "Would've, Could've, Should've," voters got stuck with "Bejeweled."

Please don't misunderstand: I'm glad "Midnights" is nominated because its impact is undeniable. Since its release in late 2022, Swift's fame and reach have expanded to unprecedented levels. Her lyrics have inspired heartwrenching essays and Harvard courses. I'm rooting for "Anti-Hero" to win song of the year, a songwriter's award that Swift has never taken home, despite being the most-nominated person in the category's history.

But enough with the caveats. I cannot stand idly by and pretend that "Midnights" is a good album. In fact, it's one of her worst.

Highlights like "Maroon" and "Sweet Nothing" are outweighed by corny, half-baked phrases that sound more Rupi Kaur-inspired than Swiftian. (The infamous "sexy baby" line isn't even the worst offender.)

Swift has already won album of the year three times, tied for the most ever. True fans should want her historic fourth win to be for an album that properly displays her brilliance — not one that's coasting on the tide of her commercial appeal.

7. "World Music Radio" by Jon Batiste

jon batiste world music radio album cover
"World Music Radio" was released on August 18, 2023.Verve Records/Interscope Records

Metacritic score: 69/100

Billboard 200 peak: No. 104

"World Music Radio" is the follow-up to Jon Batiste's "We Are," which beat out albums like "Sour" and "Evermore" to win album of the year in 2022. It's billed as "a transformative musical journey meant for everyone," according to a press release.

Indeed, "World Music Radio" is a concept album with themes of inclusivity and acceptance. Batiste plays the role of a gracious radio DJ, sharing his platform with everyone from Little Mix's Leigh-Anne and Lana Del Rey to K-pop phenomenon NewJeans and Nigerian star Fireboy DML.

Highlight: The strange yet compelling combo of "Worship" and "My Heart." Honorable mention: Lil Wayne's verse on "Uneasy."

Downfall: For Batiste to win album of the year with two consecutive releases, voters would need to see a personal evolution or creative risk. "World Music Radio" is neither.

The album walks a fine line between hokey and uplifting. To his credit, Batiste can sell clichés better than most people ("Be who you are because everyone else is taken," that kind of thing). Still, most of the time, "World Music Radio" is so focused on mass appeal that it feels overly polished and generic.

Paired with lukewarm critical reception and middling chart success, a second surprise win for Batiste is unlikely. It's hard to root against him when his intentions seem so pure, but "World Music Radio" would be a nonsensical pick for album of the year.

6. "Endless Summer Vacation" by Miley Cyrus

miley cyrus endless summer vacation album cover
"Endless Summer Vacation" was released on March 10, 2023.Columbia Records

Metacritic score: 79/100

Billboard 200 peak: No. 3

"Endless Summer Vacation" is Miley Cyrus' eighth studio album and by far her most versatile. She dabbles in country twang ("Thousand Miles"), futuristic psych-pop ("Handstand"), tropical escapism ("Island"), and more. Fan-favorite songs like "Jaded" and "Used to Be Young," which was added to the tracklist after a delayed release, show off Cyrus' impressive vocal range.

Although it failed to reach No. 1 on the Billboard 200, the lead single "Flowers" became a smash hit and dominated the Hot 100 for eight weeks.

Highlight: "Violet Chemistry," followed closely by "River."

Downfall: "Endless Summer Vacation" is a true mixed bag. It's not a bad album by any means, but it's inconsistent and underwhelming at times.

Cyrus is long overdue for a Grammy Award — she should've gotten more recognition for "Bangerz" and "Plastic Hearts" — but I'd much rather see her win record of the year for "Flowers."

5. "Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd" by Lana Del Rey

lana del rey did you know that there's a tunnel under ocean blvd album cover
"Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd" was released on March 24, 2023.Interscope Records

Metacritic score: 80/100

Billboard 200 peak: No. 3

"Did You Know That There's A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd" is Lana Del Rey's ninth studio album — and her most celebrated since 2019's masterpiece "Norman Fucking Rockwell," the last time she was nominated for this award.

In many ways, "Ocean Blvd" is peak Del Rey: understated, wistful, eloquent, self-indulgent ("I'm a princess, I'm divisive, ask me why, why, why I'm like this"). Critics have hailed the album as "a rich feast" (Variety) and "an elevated take on what she accomplished on 'Born to Die'" (Rolling Stone).

Highlight: Though I personally became disenchanted with Del Rey during the "question for the culture" fiasco, even I can admire "A&W" as high art.

Downfall: Many feel it's time for Del Rey to win a Grammy (she's zero for six ahead of this year's ceremony). But should an artist be rewarded for retreating ever deeper into herself, mocking those who raise concerns, lashing out at journalists, and doubling down on the white-washed Americana aesthetic she's favored for over a decade? I'm not convinced.

"Ocean Blvd" is a pleasant enough listening experience, but I struggle to find hints of growth scattered across its many, many minutes. (The album is far too long, but that's another conversation.) For an artist with Del Rey's talent and longevity, I would expect her to challenge herself, to push the envelope somehow — especially if she's gunning for music's top prize.

4. "The Age of Pleasure" by Janelle Monáe

janelle monae the age of pleasure alt album cover
"The Age of Pleasure" was released on June 9, 2023.Wondaland Arts Society/Atlantic

Metacritic score: 78/100

Billboard 200 peak: No. 17

In contrast to Janelle Monáe's previous three albums, "The Age of Pleasure" is exactly what it says it is. Monáe trades her cyborg characters and dystopian metaphors for human touch and hedonism; the 32-minute-long album is a single-minded pursuit of self-love, gratification, and, yes, pleasure.

Monáe, who is nonbinary and pansexual, said she wanted to make an authentic snapshot of her life without feeling the need to defend or justify it.

"This album is not about a fight," they told Rolling Stone. "It's about living in an oasis created by us for us. Even with everything going on in the world, this is our moment to breathe together, unapologetically taking this beat to enjoy — to hurry up and live."

Highlight: "The Rush" makes a strong case for Monáe, Nia Long, and Amaarae to form a new supergroup.

Downfall: Monáe has never won a Grammy, which is ridiculous. I still think she should've won album of the year for "Dirty Computer" in 2019.

But their losing streak is unlikely to change this year; best progressive R&B album will go to SZA's "SOS," and ideally, album of the year will too.

Monáe is a deserving nominee, to be sure, and "The Age of Pleasure" is a well-deserved victory lap. But as other critics have noted, it lacks the nuance and innovation of her best work.

3. "Guts" by Olivia Rodrigo

olivia rodrigo guts album cover
"Guts" was released on September 8, 2023.Geffen Records

Metacritic score: 91/100

Billboard 200 peak: No. 1

Olivia Rodrigo released "Guts" just two years after she stormed the music industry with "Sour," her blockbuster debut album that yielded two No. 1 hits ("Drivers License," "Good 4 U") and three Grammy Awards.

Despite the curse of the sophomore slump, "Guts" earned near-unanimous acclaim and ranked highly in many year-end lists, including Billboard (No. 1), NME (No. 2), and here at Business Insider (No. 3).

Highlight: "Get Him Back!" is a crowd pleaser, though I'm partial to the self-aware banger "Love Is Embarrassing."

Downfall: "Guts" is so lovable, so sharp, so powerful in its furious vulnerability. It's just not as lovable, sharp, or powerful as some of its fellow nominees.

Luckily, Rodrigo is 20 years old. She has the rest of her career to win Grammys, and trust me, she will — hopefully including this year. It would be so iconic if Rodrigo beat the Rolling Stones for best rock song.

2. "The Record" by boygenius

boygenius the record album cover
"The Record" was released on March 31, 2023.Columbia

Metacritic score: 90/100

Billboard 200 peak: No. 4

Back in 2018, Julien Baker, Phoebe Bridgers, and Lucy Dacus teamed up for a six-song EP that seemed to enchant every indie-rock fan with internet access.

Over four years later, the three friends (known by fans as "the boys") staged a surprise comeback. "The Record," their official debut album, was met with a familiar fervor. Boygenius could be described as the key breakout artist of 2023, with too many rave reviews and magazine covers to count.

Highlight: I can't pick a favorite track, so allow me to offer a top five, in no particular order: "True Blue," "Cool About It," "Not Strong Enough," "Satanist," "Letter to an Old Poet."

Downfall: For my money, "The Record" was the best album released in 2023. If the Grammys had a stricter eligibility period, the boys would have my vote.

1. "SOS" by SZA

SZA SOS album cover
"SOS" was released on December 9, 2022.Daniel Sannwald/RCA

Metacritic score: 90/100

Billboard 200 peak: No. 1 for 10 weeks

"SOS" was a late addition to the 2022 album slate — so late, in fact, that SZA missed the boat for most year-end roundups.

But don't fret, because "SOS" is so good that music writers were determined to atone for this oversight. In December, "SOS" topped the best album rankings by Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, and The Los Angeles Times, even though it didn't come out in 2023.

SZA's sophomore album managed to transcend the hype she built off "Ctrl," her beloved debut. With 23 songs stretching for over an hour, it's perhaps the densest listen on this list — but unlike so many bloated tracklists these days, its broad scope is an asset.

As I wrote when the album was released, "SOS" is complex and sprawling by design, not for the sake of length itself: "SZA self-consciously creates a spectacle of her own darkness. Instead of shying away from her insecurities and impulses, she magnifies each one, wielding humor and hyperbole as weapons against shame. The album's fearless genre-hopping mirrors the moody, multidimensional woman at the helm."

Highlight: "SOS" is the rare combination of critically revered, commercially huge, and culturally significant — in short, an ideal album of the year recipient.

Specific highlights include the No. 1 hit "Kill Bill," the Phoebe Bridgers duet "Ghost In the Machine," and the emo-pop rager "F2F."

Downfall: Given last year's outrageous "Renaissance" loss, I wouldn't be surprised if the voters flubbed it again.

Read the original article on Business Insider