8 Albums to Listen to Before the Grammy Awards

Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar and Bruno Mars are rocking into 2018 by leading the Grammy nominations. They are each up for the most coveted award: album of the year. The accolades are well-deserved, but there are a few more albums worth paying attention to. Pop your earbuds in and listen to all of these from start to finish before the 60th Grammy Awards air on Jan. 28.

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Jay-Z: 4:44

Jay-Z’s impactful thirteenth studio album 4:44 received eight nominations in total, including record of the year for “The Story Of O.J.” and song of the year for “4:44.” “I didn’t want to just make an album to put out some music. I wanted it to be important,” the rapper said during a Rap Radar podcast filmed for Tidal in September. He said 4:44 features the most personal compilation of songs he’s ever worked on. That’s clear as the rapper opened up about difficult times in his marriage with Beyonce for the first time.

Kendrick Lamar: DAMN.

Kendrick Lamar is right on Jay’s heels with seven nominations including record of the year for “Humble.” He’s also being acknowledged in several rap categories like best rap album, best rap song for “Humble” and best rap/sung performance for “Loyalty” featuring Rihanna. On his fourth studio album, Lamar took his strong messages a step further by designing an album with tracks that could be played in reverse order and have the same narrative. He told MTV, “It plays as a full story and even a better rhythm…It’s something that we definitely premeditate while we’re in the studio.”

Bruno Mars: 24K Magic

For his first album in four years, Bruno Mars went for quality over quantity—and it paid off. With a mere nine tracks, 24K Magic earned Mars six Grammy nominations. The hit “That’s What I Like” is nominated for song of the year while the title track is up for record of the year. “It’s very important that the world hears this album in its entirety. I feel like on this album, I really focused on giving you one continuous wave,” he told Carson Daily on 97.1 AMP Radio in October.

Childish Gambino: Awaken, My Love!

Donald Glover is a force to be reckoned with. Performing under the name Childish Gambino, the musician and actor earned five nominations, including album of the year, record of the year for “Redbone” and best contemporary album. Unlike Childish Gambino’s previous albums, this one is more inspired by funk. “I like things that you’re not expecting. You know, the feeling of expecting water and getting lemonade, your brain kind of flips,” he told Australia’s triple j radio.

Khalid: American Teen

It didn’t take newcomer Khalid long before receiving critical acclaim. The singer’s debut album, American Dream, earned him nominations for best new artist, best urban contemporary album and best R&B song for his debut single “Location.” Khalid is also known for his appearance on “1-800-273-8255,” a Logic song also featuring Alessia Cara which promotes suicide prevention. The track, which is titled after the number of the National Suicide Prevention Hotline, is up for song of the year and best music video.

SZA: Ctrl

Propelled by her debut album CTRL, R&B newcomer SZA earned five nominations, including the prestigious best new artist. Her song “Supermodel” is also up for best R&B song. Though it’s missing from the album of the year category, CTRL has been praised with critics calling it “opulent” and “raw.”

Lorde: Melodrama

Lorde’s sophomore album may only be up for one award this year, but it’s the one artists hope for most: album of the year. Critics have praised the No. 1 album calling it “cathartic.” Melodrama came in the midst of Lorde dealing with fame and breaking up with her longtime boyfriend. She told Rolling Stone it was a long process that eventually worked itself out. “It’s like this spooky universe picks the day and gives it to you, and you can’t imagine it being anything else,” she said.

Kesha: Rainbow

A legal battle against producer Dr. Luke and speaking out against sexual assault, Kesha has been through a lot in the past few years. The turmoil led to her raw and empowering third studio album, Rainbow. It earned her nominations for best pop vocal album and best pop vocal performance for the haunting ballad “Praying.”

esme mazzeo

esme mazzeo

Esme Mazzeo is a freelance writer and TV junkie who enjoys writing arts, culture and lifestyle pieces. Follow her on Twitter @EsmeMazzeo