The Grammys are always a curious bunch. With an odd nomination eligibility schedule (it closed yesterday) and varying tastes (awarding Taylor Swift one year and Arcade Fire the next), predicting who will get a nomination is a tough and often frustrating proposition. Plus, who knows how some of the year’s likely nominees (Lady Gaga, Paul Simon) will even be categorized? I had originally planned to take a look at most of the major categories–of which there are far fewer now, thank God–but instead we’ll look at the big four plus the only category that really matters, Best Alternative Music Album. Check back next month to see if anything’s changed.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Born This Way, Lady Gaga
So Beautiful or So What, Paul Simon
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West
Speak Now, Taylor Swift
The skinny: It’s tough to see any act kicking off these top contenders. Lady Gaga is definitely the weakest of the bunch, but it’s hard to argue with any artist who sold a million copies in one week.
Other contenders: Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Jay-Z & Kanye West
Dream candidate: The People’s Key, Bright Eyes
RECORD OF THE YEAR
“Rolling in the Deep,” Adele
“Pumped Up Kicks,” Foster the People
“Born This Way,” Lady Gaga
“Grenade,” Bruno Mars
“Firework,” Katy Perry
The skinny: You can always expect a left-field choice to sneak in. By left field, I of course mean the one good song you’re not tired of hearing yet. There are still plenty of other horrible songs the Academy could pick, along with an album track from some old-person album they love.
Other contenders: LMFAO, Pitbull, Paul Simon
Dream candidate: “Every Teardrop is a Waterfall,” Coldplay
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Someone Like You,” Adele (written by Adele, Dan Wilson)
“Born This Way,” Lady Gaga (written by Stefani Germanotta, Jeppe Laursen, Paul Blair, Fernando Garibay)
“Grenade,” Bruno Mars (written by Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Brody Brown, Claude Kelly, Andrew Wyatt)
“Firework,” Katy Perry (written by Katy Perry, Mikkel S. Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen, Sandy Wilhelm, Ester Dean)
“Waiting for Christmas Day,” Paul Simon (written by Paul Simon)
The skinny: Always tricky, since the Academy loves schmaltz. Any country song–whether you heard it or not–could end up getting a nomination.
Other contenders: Adele, Paul Epworth; Justin Vernon; Kanye West, Jeff Bhasker, Malik Jones, Warren Trotter
Dream candidate: “We Will All Be Changed,” Seryn (written by Seryn)
BEST NEW ARTIST
Foster the People
The skinny: Most of the biggest artists of the last 12 months have already been established for a while. So the only locks for this are Foster the People, Nicki Minaj and Khalifa. LMFAO has been annoying listeners for years, but “Party Rock Anthem” is their first worldwide hit. Chance, all of 14 years old, has used the Internet to propel to fame like few other artists. Then again, there’s a huge possibility someone you’ve never heard of unless you live in New York, so keep a slot open for that person.
Other contenders: Deadmau5, Miguel, Tyler the Creator
Dream candidate: tUnE-yArDs
BEST ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM
Bon Iver, Bon Iver
The King is Dead, the Decemberists
Helplessness Blues, Fleet Foxes
The King of Limbs, Radiohead
Nine Types of Light, TV on the Radio
The skinny: With so many artists in contention (including past nominees like Death Cab for Cutie, My Morning Jacket and Wilco), it’ll be difficult to predict who the final five will be. I feel pretty safe with this field, but anything can happen–take last year, when Arcade Fire won Album of the Year but lost this award to the Black Keys.
Other contenders: in addition to the aforementioned groups–Danger Mouse, Explosions in the Sky, Portugal. The Man
Dream candidate: Strange Mercy, St. Vincent