The 45th annual American Music Awards will celebrate the best artists, songs, and albums to grace radio waves over the past year. Ahead of tonight’s show, we’re breaking down each award category and predicting the potential winner.
ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Predicted winner: Ed Sheeran
No one had a better year in music than Ed Sheeran, who scored a no. 1 album, multi-Platinum selling singles, dominated radio waves and sold out venues around the world. The success behind Sheeran’s latest album ÷ will likely make him the man to beat at this year’s awards circuit, just as he is here. Drake, The Chainsmokers, Kendrick Lamar, and Bruno Mars are also up for the top prize.
NEW ARTIST OF THE YEAR
Predicted winner: Niall Horan
In his post-One Direction musical ventures, Horan has made waves across charts between feel-good singles “This Town” and “Slow Hands,” not to mention an impressive solo debut album. This, along with his devout and dedicated fan base, will surely earn him the New Artist of the Year award. Other nominees are James Arthur, Julia Michaels, Post Malone, and Rae Sremmurd.
COLLABORATION OF THE YEAR
Predicted winner: “Despacito” – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber
This one’s a no brainer. “Despacito” was inescapable for months, remaining atop the Billboard Hot 100 for an impressive 18 weeks. It’s likely still stuck in the public’s heads, earning plenty of votes to victory. Other nominated songs are “Don’t Wanna Know” (Maroon 5 feat. Kendrick Lamar), “Starboy” (The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk), “Closer” (The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey) and “I’m the One” (DJ Khaled feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne).
TOUR OF THE YEAR
Predicted winner: Coldplay
Despite shattering records on their impressive world tours, nominees Garth Brooks and U2 are likely to be snubbed by Coldplay, whose A Head Full of Dreams tour brought them to some of the world’s most famed venues and drew in over $400 million, making the two-year trek one of music’s highest-grossing tours ever.
FAVORITE MALE ARTIST – POP/ROCK
Predicted winner: Ed Sheeran
It’s true that Ed Sheeran had a phenomenal comeback year, which is in large part why we’re predicting a win for him here. But compared to fellow nominees Drake and Bruno Mars, the Brit stands alone as the only artist to truly emulate the pop/rock genre the category is said to recognize.
FAVORITE FEMALE ARTIST – POP/ROCK
Predicted winner: Lady Gaga
Rihanna and Alessia Cara are also deserving of Favorite Female Artist, but Lady Gaga has continued to evolve as an artist, revealing her most personal and vulnerable side to date with 2016’s Joanne. That acclaim, along with recent praise for her Netflix documentary Gaga: Five Foot Two, make her a shoo-in.
FAVORITE DUO OR GROUP – POP/ROCK
Predicted winner: The Chainsmokers
Coldplay has been a routine winner at various music awards for over a decade, and there’s little reason for them to be denied the Favorite Duo/Group category. However, their experience could be matched by the explosive sound of The Chainsmokers, who’ve taken EDM and transformed it into a mainstream chart-topping genre. It’s a close one to call, but we’re going with the DJ duo on this one. Imagine Dragons is also nominated.
FAVORITE SONG – POP/ROCK
Predicted winner: “Shape of You” – Ed Sheeran OR “Despacito” – Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee feat. Justin Bieber
The race between “Shape of You” and “Despacito” is simply too close to call. The former set records as the most streamed song on Spotify and with the most consecutive weeks in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. The latter tied a record for longest reign at the top of the Hot 100 and its music video scored over 4 billion views on Youtube, making it the site’s most viewed (and liked) video. Either song should expect to win, whereas The Chainsmokers’ “Closer” is a dark horse nominee.
FAVORITE MALE ARTIST – COUNTRY
Predicted winner: Sam Hunt
Thomas Rhett became the first country artist to top the Billboard Hot 200 chart this year with his third album Life Changes, bolstered by upbeat singles “Craving You” and “Unforgettable.” However, Sam Hunt ruled radio with his cheeky crossover hit “Body Like a Back Road,” increasing his already-devout fan base and made him a major force to be reckoned with in country music. He’s our bet for the AMA over Rhett and Keith Urban.
FAVORITE FEMALE ARTIST – COUNTRY
Predicted winner: Carrie Underwood
Maren Morris had a whirlwind introductory year into country music, earning herself a Grammy Award and acclaimed collaborations with Thomas Rhett (“Craving You”) and Vince Gill (“Dear Hate”). She has the potential to become a top country female vocalist, but Carrie Underwood has earned this AMA the past three years straight, with a massive fan base to vote her through to a fourth consecutive win. Miranda Lambert is also nominated.
FAVORITE SONG – COUNTRY
Predicted winner: “Body Like a Back Road” – Sam Hunt
As previously mentioned, Sam Hunt’s “Body Like a Back Road” ruled both country and pop radio charts this summer. It is the clear winner of this category, which also recognizes Jon Pardi’s “Dirt on My Boots” and Keith Urban’s “Blue Ain’t Your Color” as nominees.
FAVORITE ARTIST – RAP/HIP-HOP
Predicted winner: Drake
Another tight race, the Rap/Hip-Hop artist category pits Migos against heavyweights Drake and Kendrick Lamar. We’re giving Drake the edge here but Lamar would be anything but a dark horse.
FAVORITE SONG – RAP/HIP-HOP
Predicted winner: “I’m the One” – DJ Khaled feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper & Lil Wayne
Given the sheer star power in “I’m the One” combined with its chart performance and “Song of the Summer” recognition, it seems like the anthem to beat. However, Kendrick Lamar gained plenty of praise for his nominated hit “Humble.,” as did the Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane collaboration “Black Beatles.”
FAVORITE MALE ARTIST – SOUL/R&B
Predicted winner: Bruno Mars
Mars is the most nominated artist of the night, and it comes as no surprise that he’s the favorite in this category, as he made honed in on his musical style on latest album 24k Magic, which featured rich, soulful tracks blended with inspiration from 90s R&B. Childish Gambino and The Weeknd are hoping to stop him, but it’s safe to say this award belongs to Mars.
FAVORITE FEMALE ARTIST – SOUL/R&B
Predicted winner: Beyoncé
Year after year this category seems to be a toss up between Beyoncé and Rihanna, both of whom are nominated once again alongside Kehlani. RiRi has history on her side, winning this award three out of the last four years. However, Bey could take the crown this year after her fans watched her miss out on several major Grammy wins in February.
FAVORITE SONG – SOUL/R&B
Predicted winner: “That’s What I Like” – Bruno Mars
“That’s What I Like” has been a constant fixture among the top of music charts for months now, and remains one of those songs you just have to sing along to when it comes on. Other nominated songs are The Weeknd’s “Starboy” and Khalid’s “Location.”
FAVORITE ARTIST – ALTERNATIVE ROCK
Predicted winner: Too close to call
This category is one of the toughest to call, as Twenty One Pilots took this home last year, Imagine Dragons had a radio resurgence with their latest album Evolve, and Linkin Park could win as a way of honoring late frontman Chester Bennington.
The American Music Awards air tonight at 8 p.m. EST on ABC, and feature performances by Kelly Clarkson, P!nk, Shawn Mendes, Lady Gaga and many more. Tracee Ellis Ross hosts.