With the 2011 Grammys behind us, we can start looking aheadto the Grammy show a year from now. It may be seem awfully early to startthinking about the 2012 Grammys (OK, it is awfully early), but several strongcandidates have already been released, and more are on their way. And when youthink about it, we're already more than a third of the way through the Grammyeligibility year, which began on Oct. 1.
Best-selling albums byKanye West, Nicki Minaj and Taylor Swift seem like strong contenders to receive Album of the Year nominations. Two other albums thataren't even out yet, Adele's 21 and Lady Gaga's Born This Way,also have strong Grammy potential.
Adele won two Grammys for her debut album, 19. And Gaga has won five Grammys in thepast two years combined. She made the Album of the Year finals with her debutalbum The Fame and her EP The Fame Monster. If she is nominated again next year, she would be thefirst artist to make the Album of the Year finals three years running since the Beatles scored each year from 1964through 1969. She'd be the first female artist to do it since Barbra Streisand scored each year from1963 through 1966.
Early or not, let's take a look.
Album of the Year
Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.West's latest has received some of the strongest reviews of his career. It's agood bet to become his fourth Album of the Year finalist, following The College Dropout, Late Registration and Graduation. West would be the firstrapper to receive four noms in that top category. Eminem and Jay-Z haveeach had three (counting featured credits in the case of Jay-Z).
Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday. Minaj is one of the hottestnewcomers in years. Her album passed the 1 million mark in just 11 weeks. Itwould be the first debut album to make the finals since The Fame. Hits from the album include "Moment 4 Life" (featuring Drake) and "Roman's Revenge" (featuringEminem).
Taylor Swift, Speak Now. Swift's previous album, Fearless,took the Grammy for Album of the Year. This follow-up has been well-received.The only hitch: Follow-ups to Album of the Year winners generally have a hardtime making the finals. The last one to do so was Bob Dylan's Love And Theft,the follow-up to 1997's winner, Time OutOf Mind.
Lady Gaga, Born This Way. It's always perilous topredict that an album will be an Album of the Year contender before it is evenreleased, but Gaga's track record is impressive. (Let's hope the rest of thealbum is more original than the title track, which has been widely panned forcopying Madonna.) Release date: May23.
Adele, 21.Adele's debut album, 19, broughther two Grammys: Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Performance Female for"Chasing Pavements." The first single from 21,"Rolling In The Deep," is climbing the Hot 100. Release date: Feb. 22.
Record of the Year
Rihanna featuringDrake, "What's My Name?" Rihanna hasmade the finals twice, with "Umbrella" (featuring Jay-Z) and Eminem's"Love The Way You Lie," on which she is featured. "What's My Name?" topped theHot 100 for one week in November.
Best New Artist
Nicki Minaj isthe early front-runner to win this award. Her album Pink Friday has reached #1 and sold more than a million copies. Shealso made a favorable impression on SaturdayNight Live, in both music and comedy segments. She is one of the strongest"artist development" success stories in years.
Her strongest potential rival, Bruno Mars, won't be eligible, because he won tonight for Best MalePop Vocal Performance for his #1 smash "Just The Way You Are." Grammy ruleshold that once an artist has won a Grammy, they can't compete for Best NewArtist.
Minaj was nominated tonight for Best Rap Performance by aGroup or Duo for "My Chick Bad," her collabo with Ludacris, but she lost. In so doing, she preserved her eligibilityfor Best New Artist at next year's Grammys. It just goes to show: Sometimeswhen you lose, you win.