Who are the most likely - and most deserving - prospective nominees?
by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
While I seldom if ever agree with all the Grammy Award nominations made at year's end, I'm always hopeful they'll recognize someone outside the mainstream who might otherwise go unnoticed, such as Bon Iver or Esperanza Spalding. The 'Countdown to Music's Biggest Night,' a live concert to announce the 2013 nominees in several big categories, will air on CBS Wednesday, December 5 (we on the West Coast will see a tape-delayed version starting at 10 p.m.). With Taylor Swift and LL Cool J co-hosting from Nashville, this will be the first time the event has taken place outside of Los Angeles. Maroon 5 and Luke Bryan are slated to perform, and a few other acts will be announced closer to the telecast. Here's a look at Grammy's top four prizes going into the nominations announcement.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Swift is a co-host, which almost assures her of an AOTY nod. After all, she owns one of 2012's top-sellers with Red and she's the most likely artist to represent the country field, unless Miranda Lambert's Four the Record or Bryan's Tailgates and Tanlines pulls a shocker. Swift previously won this category for 2008's Fearless. There's always a rock contender in AOTY and this year it may possibly be The Black Keys for El Camino. That was my top album pick for 2011, and it's definitely worthy if voters can remember it. Perhaps fresher in Grammy voters' memories is Mumford & Sons' Babel, an album equally loved by critics and fans. Then there's Florence + the Machine's Ceremonials, another strong favorite that straddles mainstream and alternative rock.
Frank Ocean, who bravely revealed his Bisexuality earlier this year, appears to be a shoo-in for AOTY with Channel Orange, the most buzzed-about R&B record these past 12 months. And if a hip-hop artist makes the cut, look for Drake to be that guy. Take Care, the Canadian rapper's hit album from 2011, is still making the rounds a year later. Rihanna's Unapologetic won't be eligible until the 2014 Grammys, but the international star's Talk That Talk has been greenlighted for this year's awards, though Pink is a better possibility from the pop field for The Truth About Love. There's a slim chance Justin Bieber could sneak in with Believe on name status alone, but don't count on it. Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto or fun.'s Some Nights have better surprise potential, and even Gotye's Making Mirrors has a shot. A personal fave, and a deserving choice, would be John Mayer's Born and Raised, the singer-songwriter's best album to date.
But we're not done yet. AOTY sometimes includes an out-of-nowhere entry, and all signs point to a veteran performer. Bonnie Raitt, a past winner for Nick of Time, has a chance with Slipstream. Bob Dylan's Tempest has a lot of support going into the nominations, as does Bruce Springsteen's Wrecking Ball - remember, he opened this year's live telecast and was very visible during the political season, not to mention a headliner for the Hurricane Sandy benefit concert. The other old timer in the running is Neil Young, whose Americana has been generally well-reviewed. Lastly, a pair of longshots that can't be overlooked are Jack White's Blunderbuss, simply because the man is a genius, and Esperanza Spalding's Radio Music Society, whose musical style is a weaving of several genres. Grammy voters might want to prove that her Best New Artist win a couple years back was no fluke.
Final Five best guess: Red, Babel, Channel Orange, The Truth About Love, El Camino
Spoilers: Ceremonials, Blunderbuss, Tempest
Personal pick: Born and Raised
RECORD OF THE YEAR
There are three camps of ROTY contenders: no-brainers, worthy possibilities, and commercial giants. The no-brainers appear to be Gotye's 'Somebody That I Used to Know' (featuring Kimbra) and Pink's 'Blow Me (One Last Kiss)' - I'd be stunned if both don't make the cut. Among the worthy possibilities, I see Mumford & Sons' 'I Will Wait' and Florence + the Machine's 'Shake It Out' with great potential. Though I'm a bigger fan of Florence's other single, 'Spectrum,' she submitted 'Shake Me Out' for consideration. I really like Little Big Town's 'Pontoon,' which captured the equivalent prize at the CMAs a few weeks ago, but it may be overshadowed by bigger country singles such as Carrie Underwood's 'Blown Away' and Swift's 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.' I'm personally rooting for Lana Del Rey's 'Video Games,' but I think she probably should have submitted 'Born to Die' instead. Ocean's 'Thinkin' 'Bout You' is also deserving ('Novacane' was released during the previous eligibility period), as is Drake's 'Take Care' (featuring Rihanna).
And buoyed by mega digital sales and huge radio airplay, you can't ignore the following: 'Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)' by Kelly Clarkson, 'We Are Young' by fun. (featuring Janelle Monae), 'Call Me Maybe' by Carly Rae Jepsen, 'Boyfriend' by Justin Bieber, 'What Makes You Beautiful' by One Direction, 'Titanium' by Sia (featuring David Guetta), 'The Edge of Glory' by Lady Gaga, 'Starships' by Nicki Minaj, 'Wide Awake' by Katy Perry, and the truly awful 'Gangnam Style' by Psy. A few pop divas have a slight chance, including Madonna with 'Girl Gone Wild,' Rihanna with 'Talk That Talk,' and 2012 Grammy queen Adele, with 'Set Fire to the Rain.'
Final Five best guess: 'Somebody That I Used to Know,' 'Blow Me (One Last Kiss),' 'I Will Wait,' 'We Are Young,' 'Take Care'
Spoilers: 'Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You),' 'What Makes You Beautiful,' 'Set Fire to the Rain'
Personal pick: 'Pontoon'
SONG OF THE YEAR
While ROTY is awarded to the artist, producer, and technical parties involved, Song of the Year is given to the songwriter. Therefore, clear the way for at least one or two tearful ballads. Among them, power country lovebirds Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton could follow the success of their CMA win for 'Over You' with a Grammy nomination. She sings it, but it was a cohesive songwriting project. The other ballad with substantial merit is 'Set Fire to the Rain,' which peaked in January. 'Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)' is an inspirational number that has a better shot here than for ROTY - ditto for 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' and Jason Mraz's 'I Won't Give Up.' 'Somebody That I Used to Know' and 'We Are Young' are nearly assured one of the five slots, as is 'Blow Me (One Last Kiss)' and 'I Will Wait.' 'The Edge of Glory' might surprise, and so could Mayer's 'Shadow Days' or The Wanted's 'Glad You Came.' And I'm gonna throw a real longshot in the mix: 'The Living Proof' by Mary J. Blige, a great tune from The Help that was shamefully ignored by Oscar voters.
Final Five best guess: 'Somebody That I Used to Know,' 'Blow Me (One Last Kiss),' 'Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You),' 'Over You,' 'We Are Young'
Spoilers: 'I Will Wait,' 'Set the Fire to Rain,' 'Shadow Days'
Personal pick: 'The Living Proof'
BEST NEW ARTIST
Unfortunately, there's only space for five nominees and it's a very, very long list of Best New Artist prospects. The shoo-ins are Gotye, Frank Ocean, and fun. A couple of bubblegum acts enjoyed chart-topping success in 2012, One Direction and Carly Rae Jepsen, but I only see one of them leaping onto the final ballot. Grammy voters love female performers for the BNA prize, and this spells good news for Lana Del Rey, Ellie Goulding, and Emeli Sande - take note, Sande got unparalleled exposure from the London Olympics. Hunter Hayes accepted the CMA Award for this category equivalent, and either he or Lee Brice or Brantley Gilbert could sneak in. Considerable threats are The Lumineers, Of Mice & Men, Ed Sheeran, Young the Giant, and Sia. And there's usually an artist who comes right out of left field, a la Skrillex or Paramore. This opens the door for Gary Clark Jr., Alex Clare, LP, or even Seattle's own Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.
Final Five best guess: Gotye, Frank Ocean, fun., Lana Del Rey, Ed Sheeran
Spoilers: Emeli Sande, The Lumineers, Gary Clark Jr.
Personal pick: Young the Giant
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