Among all the categories I called correctly last year, Best Pop Duo/Group Performance is where I felt proudest. Key to my prediction was assessing the Recording Academy’s appetite to reward the biggest mainstream records of 2018 that generated zero acclaim – singles from the Chainsmokers, Justin Bieber, Zedd and Imagine Dragons. Given an alternative option that can be perceived as “not too mainstream”, or not as lightweight as the choices I mentioned, the voters would look the other way. Portugal. the Man won.
For reference, you can find the article from the previous year here: https://bit.ly/2GjRTbQ
This 2019, there are seven nominations. Four of them are competing in the category again. Then, we have the Backstreet Boys making a comeback, Lady Gaga riding the A Star is Born hype, and Tony Bennett and Diana Krall surprisingly landing in this company of artists.
“Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by the Backstreet Boys
“Say Something” by Justin Timberlake featuring Chris Stapleton
“Fall in Line” by Christina Aguilera featuring Demi Lovato
“Shallow” by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
“Girls Like You” by Maroon 5 featuring Cardi B
“‘S Wonderful” by Tony Bennett and Diana Krall
“Middle” by Zedd featuring Grey and Marren Morris
(7) “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by the Backstreet Boys
I can see a case for each and every one of the nominees to win this category. Am I wrong in underestimating the chances of the Backstreet Boys? Maybe I am. After all, they already pulled off a big surprise by locking a nomination. However, the hype for their return is absent. I don’t see a good narrative coming from their victory. Hence, I’m holding them in last place.
(6) “‘S Wonderful” by Tony Bennett and Diana Krall
Tony Bennett has 13 victories in Best Pop Traditional Vocal Album! Is it any wonder I’m considering but not vouching for a possible upset? Besides, all the artists in the category are legends in the making except him who’s already one. I get the sense that members of the Recording Academy will get their act together, reward a more deserving track, and give him a win in another category – Best Pop Traditional Vocal Album. Yes, 14th time!
(5) Say Something by Justin Timberlake featuring Chris Stapleton
If the year was 2009, and the roster of nominations was the same, “Say Something” would be a lock. But a decade has passed and Justin Timberlake fell out of the public’s graces. For most artists, headlining the Super Bowl does wonders. But for Justin Timberlake, the decision resurrected the injustice of “Nipplegate”. However, his name and Chris Stapleton’s are among their genre’s most respected and may end up winning.
(4) “Fall in Line” by Christina Aguilera featuring Demi Lovato
I have made the mistake of writing off Christina Aguilera before. I maybe wrong again. I strongly believe this collaboration has the vocals and intensity that the Recording Academy adores. The song’s themes are timely and relevant. However, the track didn’t gain as much traction as I expected. Don’t get me wrong. I wasn’t looking for a number one hit. But even this collision of powerhouse voices couldn’t put them on the map again.
(3) Girls Like You by Maroon 5 featuring Cardi B
If you told me Maroon 5 will have their biggest airplay hit in 2018 (and the second of all time among all artists) I would’ve laughed. Veterans scoring this feat close to two decades into their career, coupled with a feature from one of 2018’s top artists, is a storyline anyone can buy. But Maroon 5 is considered lightweight. This is evidenced by their accomplishment of being the category’s biggest loser (4 times). I still rank them 3rd.
(2) The Middle by Zedd, Marren Morris and Grey
Having general field nominations in no way guarantees a track will trump those who don’t have them. But they certainly do not hurt. Before “The Middle” secured a Record of the Year and Song of the Year nomination, I considered it a worthy filler. Now, the single stands a legitimate chance. Not to mention, Maren Morris isn’t from pop and that fact may give members of the Recording Academy reason to finally reward an EDM smash.
(1) Shallow by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
A Star is Born showcased Lady Gaga’s acting chops. And the best thing about the situation is that she was taken seriously. That is for good reason. On top of her acting career, the film also helped her music. “Shallow” is a great composition that proved Lady Gaga, or any singer for that matter, need not resort to antics to generate hits. Sometimes, music is enough. Hopefully, it should always be.
WILL WIN: “Shallow“ by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper
SHOULD WIN: “Shallow“ by Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper