What If Fans Voted For The Grammys? Here’s Who Might Win

We’re only two days away from the 59th Annual Grammy Awards — not only “Music’s Biggest Night,” but also its most distinguished. Often called the Oscars of music, Grammy winners are determined by the voting members of the Recording Academy — all of whom are “involved in the creative and technical processes of recording,” according to the Grammys’ website.

But what if the Grammys were a little more inclusive? What if, instead of a secret group of industry insiders, the winners of the golden Gramophones were in part selected by data — based on the albums, artists and songs that fans can’t get enough of?

Well, first of all, Kings of Leon probably wouldn’t have won Record of the Year in 2010. Beck probably wouldn’t have upset Beyonce for Album of the Year in 2015. And it’s pretty much a guarantee Esperanza Spalding wouldn’t have beaten out Drake and Justin Bieber for Best New Artist in 2011.

Esperanza Spalding won the Grammy for Best New Artist in 2011, beating out Justin Bieber and Drake in what is widely considered to be one of the biggest upsets in the awards show’s history.

In other words, the Grammys might look a lot more like the VMAs, which has open voting for most of its categories, or the American Music Awards, which is entirely fan-voted.

Their exclusivity, of course, is part of what makes the Grammys the Grammys. But let’s imagine for a second that listener behavior had something to do with it. Who would go home a winner on Sunday night? Let’s take a look.

In order to do so, we’ve looked at how this year’s nominees have performed on Pandora over the past year. A good barometer of success is thumb-to-spin ratio — or, the number of times a Pandora listener gives a song a Thumbs Up compared to the number of spins for that song. This gives us a good idea of how well an artists’ music is performing, while also not giving too much advantage to the top performers in terms of raw listenership — and not letting potential upsets slip through the cracks.

Album of the Year

The most coveted award of the night, the Best Picture of the Grammys. Five albums vie for Album of the Year: Adele’s 25, Justin Bieber’s Purpose, Beyoncé’s Lemonade, Drake’s Views, and Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. And it’s looking like fans are going to bat — ahem, hot sauce — for Beyoncé.

The singer’s sixth studio album is already a favorite among critics, with a higher MetaCritic score than any of its competitors. And based on its thumb-to-spin ratio, Lemonade is a clear favorite among listeners, too. The album’s boasts a Thumb to Spin ratio of 8.1%, which is far ahead of Drake’s Views (6.3%) and Justin Bieber’s Purpose (5.5%).

Song of the Year and Record of the Year

The Beyhive is bigger and stronger than ever. In addition to Album of the Year, listeners are casting their ballets for Beyoncé in two of the other biggest awards of the night, for Song of the Year and Record of the Year for “Formation.” That song — lead single off Lemonade — was the most-Googled song of 2016, and its 8.4% Spin-to-Thumb ratio over the past year puts it in first place in ahead of Rihanna’s “Work” (7.3%), Lukas Graham’s “Seven Years” (6.4%), Twenty One Pilots’ “Stressed Out” (5.3%) and Adele’s “Hello” (4.8%).

Best New Artist

While oddsmakers seem to be set on Chance the Rapper, Pandora data points to rising West Coast rapper Anderson .Paak. While Chance has far larger numbers in terms of raw spin count and Thumbs Up, it’s .Paak who has a higher ratio of Thumbs to Spins, with 7.6% compared to Chance’s 6.6%. Ubiquitous DJ duo The Chainsmokers follow, with rising country stars Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini behind them at #4 and #5, respectively. An Anderson .Paak win over Chance the Rapper would likely be considered an upset, but then again, the Best New Artist category isn’t exactly new to upsets— just ask Nicki Minaj.

Genre Awards

If it was up to listeners, Ariana Grande would be getting her first ever Grammy on Sunday night for Best Pop Vocal Album for her third studio album, Dangerous Woman. And despite the buzz surrounding Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book and Kanye West’s Life of Pablo, it would be De La Soul’s and the Anonymous Nobody… that would take Best Rap Album, thanks to a stellar Thumb-to-Spin ratio of over 11%.

The race for Best Country Album is a close one, but it’s Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide to Earth that listeners love the most. Best Alternative Album, meanwhile, is too close to call: Listeners seem to love Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool, the late David Bowie’s Blackstar, Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, PJ Harvey The Hope Six Demolition Project and Iggy Pop’s Post Pop Depression equally.

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