2016 Grammy nominations predictions: Who are the (very) early favorites?

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The Grammy Awards are only four-and-a-half months away! Okay, so it's a little early to get too excited about the 2016 Grammys, which will take place on Feb. 15 next year. Still, Wednesday (Sept. 30) is a big day for Grammy watchers, as Sept. 30, 2015 is the final day of this year's eligibility period. Unless a major record falls out of the sky over the next few hours, we've already heard all of the music that could be called out when the nominations are announced in December.

So which songs, albums and artists can we expect to populate the four major Grammy categories this year? Aside from a few no-brainers, this year's field of potential nominees is difficult to predict, but on this final day of eligibility, we tried our best. Check out our (very) early guesses for the contenders and best bets of the 2016 Grammy nominations:

ALBUM OF THE YEAR

The Best Bets

Taylor Swift, 1989

1989 so clearly defined the past 12 months of popular music that it would be downright shocking if Taylor Swift's fifth studio album somehow wasn't included here.

Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly

With the Compton rapper's sophomore LP receiving universal acclaim upon its March release, expect a 2014 rehash of Taylor vs. Kendrick in 2016 (and there's no Daft Punk album to score the surprise win this time!).

D'Angelo & The Vanguard, Black Messiah

The long-awaited return of the R&B recluse included sky-high reviews, solid sales and a well-received tour. Music fans of all ages can get on board with a D'Angelo nod here.

Meghan Trainor, Title

"All About That Bass" made Meghan Trainor a star, but her debut album Title produced two more Top 20 hits and expanded upon the singer-songwriter's dynamic personality.

Florence + The Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful

Looking for this year's token rock nom? Look no further than the former best new artist contender, whose sparkling third album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart earlier this year.

The Other Contenders

Nicki Minaj, The Pinkprint
Sam Hunt, Montevallo
James Taylor, Before This World
Alabama Shakes, Sound & Color

RECORD OF THE YEAR

The Best Bets

Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, "Uptown Funk"

Underestimate one of the biggest No. 1 songs ever, new wedding reception staple and unofficial Song of 2015 That Everyone Loves at your own risk.

Ed Sheeran, "Thinking Out Loud"

The Grammy darling performed the smash hit and likely nominee at last year's ceremony, when his sophomore full-length x was up for album of the year.

The Weeknd, "Can't Feel My Face"

The alternative crooner-turned-mainstream superstar topped the Hot 100 for the first time with his MJ-toasting dance hit. Max Martin's slick production is hard to bet against here.

Taylor Swift, "Blank Space"

Speaking of Max Martin, look for the pristine electro-pop of ???Blank Space,??? combined with Taylor Swift???s wonderfully playful vocal take, to make the cut here.

Kanye West, Rihanna & Paul McCartney, "FourFiveSeconds"

As the world awaits the full-length returns of Kanye West and Rihanna, their offbeat, undeniable collaboration will be wildin' at the 2016 Grammys, and bring Paul McCartney his first record of the year nomination since "Ebony and Ivory" in 1983.

The Other Contenders

Jason Derulo, "Want To Want Me"
Maroon 5, "Sugar"
Ellie Goulding, "Love Me Like You Do"
Meghan Trainor, "Lips Are Movin'"

SONG OF THE YEAR

The Best Bets

Sam Hunt, "Take Your Time"

The country breakout has been slowly gaining momentum for months, and if Montevallo doesn't earn an album of the year nomination, "Take Your Time" will surely be honored in the songwriting category.

Taylor Swift, "Blank Space"

The strength of "Blank Space" is in its devilishly self-aware lyrics, and a song of the year nod will continue the T-Swift takeover.

Kendrick Lamar, "Alright"

The hopeful centerpiece of To Pimp a Butterfly, "Alright" has become the signature hit from Kendrick Lamar's second album and will try to become an all-too-rare hip-hop winner in this category.

Ed Sheeran, "Thinking Out Loud"

Grammy voters have been loving "Thinking Out Loud" for months, and will be loving it long after they're seventy (if some of them aren't there already).

Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth, "See You Again"

The Furious 7 single is stuffed with lyrics that tug at the heartstrings, and was too big of a smash to overlook here.

The Other Contenders

Kanye West, Rihanna & Paul McCartney, "FourFiveSeconds"
The Weeknd, "Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)"
George Ezra, "Budapest"
Tori Kelly, "Nobody Love"

BEST NEW ARTIST

The Best Bets

Meghan Trainor

Trainor wasn't eligible for last year's best new artist prize, but with debut album Title becoming a hit upon its January release, she'll make up for it in 2016.

Sam Hunt

This category contains a country music candidate nearly every year, and one of the genre's most original new voices is a shoo-in to take over from last year's nominee, Brandy Clark.

Fetty Wap

The favorite son of Paterson, New Jersey smashed chart records, provided a slow-growing song of the summer and just earned positive reviews for his self-titled debut album.

Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes is only 17 years old, he's got a No. 1 debut album, a Taylor Swift stadium tour and a few Top 40 hits under his belt, so he's one to watch.

Alessia Cara

"Here" is still growing at radio, but the timing could be right for this 19-year-old Ontario native, as her debut single (and first EP, Four Pink Walls) are as striking as anything released in pop this year.

The Other Contenders

James Bay
Tori Kelly
Walk The Moon
Fifth Harmony

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