66th Annual Grammy Awards: Album of the Year


Alexandra Pullen unpacks the nominees for Album of the Year at the 66th Annual Grammy Awards.

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Image by Mark J. Sebastian

By Alexandra Pullen

Awards season is upon us, and although a lot of the news has been regarding film and tv, the Grammys are just around the corner. This year sees an extremely strong category in the nominations for Album of the Year, with seven out of eight of the albums up for the award being by female artists. 2023 was a great year for music and the ceremony will certainly recognise this. So, before the winner is announced I thought I would unpack each album and see which songs stand out to me from each contender.

World Music Radio - Jon Batiste:

An extremely cool and experimental concept album by Jon Batiste, World Music Radio surrounds the character of Billy Bob Bo who is the DJ at World Music Radio Station. The album is sprinkled with narrative style announcements by the presenter, which adds a nice touch to the overall flow and production. It combines several genres such as funk, R&B and hip-hop to create an amalgamation of sounds which Jon stated was a “feeling of liberation” and “a renewed sense of exploration” in music. This is certainly achieved on the record, as it feels like you are taken on a journey through time, with many collaborations that contributed  to the feelings of positivity and self-discovery expressed in the album. In fact, many of my favourites were the tracks where Batiste’s voice perfectly blended with another singer.

Stand Out Tracks - ‘Be Who You Are (feat. JID, NewJeans, Camilo)’, ‘My Heart (feat. Rita Payés)’, ‘Butterfly’ and ‘Running Away (feat. Leigh-Anne)’.

The Record - boygenius:

Supergroup boygenius, consisting of Phoebe Bridgers, Lucy Dacus and Julien Baker, had a huge year in 2023 with the release of their debut studio album The Record. The harmonies in the first track ‘Without You Without Them’ opens the album perfectly with a calm start before jumping into the energetic, rock-infused ‘$20’, which is definitely a favourite of mine. The track contains a catchy guitar riff throughout, and then ends with the trio’s voices layering and Bridgers screaming “I know you have $20.” While all three voices have their own distinct style, they blend together to create a beautiful sound. A lot of songs on The Record are slower and melancholic ones with amazing lyrics surrounding themes of identity and connection. This is definitely one of my top albums of 2023 and I would love for boygenius to win the Grammy for Album of the Year with it.

Stand Out Tracks - ‘$20’, ‘Not Strong Enough’, ‘Satanist’ and ‘Letter To An Old Poet’.

Endless Summer Vacation - Miley Cyrus:

To be completely honest, Endless Summer Vacation was the last album I listened to on this list and I put it off for a long time. I hadn’t heard much about it apart from ‘Flowers’ being constantly played on radios and clubs, and to give credit to Cyrus, it is a strong pop song with a great music video. Overall though, this album would unfortunately come near the bottom of a list if I was ranking all of the nominations. That being said, songs such as ‘Rose Coloured Lenses and ‘You’ are very well written ballads and display the amazing voice that we all know from Miley Cyrus. The second half of the album signals a shift to a more electronic sound, but the closing song ‘Wonder Woman’ is slower and extremely emotional, discussing the empowerment of women who have experienced pain. Endless Summer Vacation is a mixed bunch, but with the highs come some very strong songs.

Stand Out Tracks - ‘Rose Coloured Lenses’, ‘You’, ‘River’ and ‘Wonder Woman’.

The Age of Pleasure: Janelle Monáe:

The Age of Pleasure was, in my opinion, possibly one of the strongest albums in this list of nominations. It was released back in June 2023 but I only listened to it recently, and absolutely loved it. It offers a refreshing sound to the music scene today while also embracing some ‘70s influence. Monáe is unapologetically loud on The Age of Pleasure, radiating confidence and self-love. Collaborations with the likes of Doechii, Nia Long and Amaarae only highlight this as the songs ‘Phenomenal’ and ‘The Rush’ are catchy earworms which make you want to dance. The only critique I have is that the album was too short; while it contains the average 14 tracks, these songs only add up to 32 minutes and I would have loved to hear more. I did struggle to choose my stand out tracks on this album because they combine so well and carry on from one another seamlessly but here they are.

Stand Out Tracks - ‘Champagne Shit’, ‘Phenomenal (feat. Doechii)’, ‘Haute’ and ‘Paid in Pleasure’.

Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd? - Lana Del Rey:

I have never fully delved into Lana Del Rey’s music but have always wanted to, and Did you know that there’s a tunnel under Ocean Blvd? has only intensified this need to listen to more. The album takes you on a journey through lyricism, and this paired with the amazing production of Jack Antonoff makes it a favourite of mine. It is a quiet creation which can easily be listened to from start to finish because of the richness of lyrics and sounds. Lana Del Rey has been in the industry for over a decade and ,yet many fans have said that this is one of her strongest albums ever as it reflects her growth as a person, and the progression of her music over time. Sonically, it cannot be pinned down,  yet the artist still maintains her signature sound by experimenting with samples of her own previous work in songs such as ‘Taco Truck x VB’. I loved this album and think that it should be is a strong contender for Album of the Year.

Stand Out Tracks - ‘A&W’, ‘Paris, Texas’, ‘Let the Light In feat. Father John Misty)’ and ‘Margaret feat. Bleachers’.

GUTS - Olivia Rodrigo:

The sophomore album by Olivia Rodrigo, GUTS, has certainly established her as an artist in her own right. It is an experimental pop-punk album which has a perfect balance of loud, ranty songs (‘bad idea right?’ and ‘get him back!’)  alongside slower ballad style tracks such as ‘vampire’ and ‘lacy’. She does seem to stay with what she knows is safe on some tracks, which has gained some criticism; I think that while this may be true, it helps the album and Rodrigo to find her feet after being compared to many different artists, not to mention  having some legal trouble with songs from SOUR. GUTS as a whole contains no skips and flows very well throughout, and for this reason I believe that it is a better album than the artist’s debut. I wouldn’t be annoyed if the album won the award as I did enjoy it but think that there are probably ones more deserving of it.

Stand Out Tracks - ‘all-american bitch’, ‘ballad of a homeschooled girl’ and ‘the grudge’.

Midnights - Taylor Swift:

Taylor Swift’s tenth studio album, Midnights, released in October 2022, had fans divided to begin with. Upon first listen, I myself was uncertain as to whether I liked it, as the opening synths of ‘Lavender Haze’ was not what I was expecting from the album. However, after listening through a few times I found that Midnights displayed some of the artist’s most raw lyrics, covering topics such as depression and the societal standards of women. The album has inspired an entire new ‘era’ of Swift’s career, from the introduction of trading friendship bracelets at The Eras Tour, to the ‘Bejeweled’ dance trend. As a whole, it is a great concept album about “what keeps you up at night” and seems to be an ode to Swift’s musical journey so far. It wouldn’t be a surprise to anyone if Midnights won Album of the Year after Taylor Swift truly dominated the music industry in 2023, being named Spotify’s Global most-streamed artist of the year.

Stand Out Tracks - ‘Maroon’, ‘You’re On Your Own, Kid’, ‘Bejeweled’ and ‘Mastermind’.


SZA took the world by storm in 2023, with singles such as ‘Nobody Gets Me’ and ‘Kill Bill’ trending all over social media. SOS was a highly anticipated release, with many delays and songs being released as early as 2020: people were ready when it finally came out at the end of 2022. The album pushes the boundaries of R&B, hip hop and pop music by merging the three with other genres. In conversation with Complex, SZA stated “I have no idea what it sounds like to anybody else…It’s so bizarre. It’s weird that I can’t put my finger on it. It’s a bit of everything.” which really encapsulated the fact that everyone gains something different when listening to the album. ‘Nobody Gets Me’ offers a slow ballad-like sound which really boasts how amazing SZA’s voice is whereas ‘F2F’ sounds like something straight out of the ‘80s. With a range like this, I think that SOS should definitely be a strong consideration for the Grammy Award, but all is up for grabs in this category.

Stand Out Tracks - ‘Blind’, ‘Gone Girl’, ‘Ghost in the Machine (feat. Phoebe Bridgers)’ and ‘Nobody Gets Me’.

Ultimately, Album of the Year is an incredibly strong category this year and could honestly go any way. In my opinion, I think it will go to Midnights or SOS but I would love it if The Record or The Age of Pleasure took home the award. I guess we will find out on 4 February! Look out for our Grammys winners recap article, coming soon in print!