Stop The Presses!

Getting A Jump On The Grammy Nominations

Stop The Presses!

We all know that Adele will dominate the nominations for the 54th annual Grammy Awards, which will be announced on Nov. 30. The English singer, who was voted Best New Artist three years ago, is a cinch to be in the running for Album, Record and Song of the Year.

But who is Adele likely to square off against in those marquee categories? That's much harder to say, but I've taken some educated guesses.

There's a complicated, two-step process for selecting the nominees in the top four categories. First, the broad membership of the Recording Academy has a chance to vote. Then, a committee selects the final nominees from lists of the top vote-getters.

Another reason it's so hard to predict the nominees is that there are so many entries. This year, 854 recordings are competing for Record of the Year. Nearly as many songs, 839, are vying for Song of the Year. The Album of the Year category attracted 760 entries. A total of 447 artists are vying for Best New Artist.

Given that there are only five nominees in each of these categories, you can see that when people say "it's an honor just to be nominated," that's not just a polite cliché. (Though they still really want to win.)

Let's take a closer look at each of the four "General Field" categories.

Album of the Year

Adele's 21 is all but certain to be nominated. Paul Simon's So Beautiful Or So What and Nicki Minaj's Pink Friday also have a very good chance. It would be Simon's eighth nomination in this category, which would put him in a tie for second place (with Frank Sinatra and George Harrison) for the most Album of the Year noms in Grammy history. Only Paul McCartney, with nine, has amassed more. Pink Friday would be the first album by a female rap artist to make the finals since Missy Elliott's Under Construction in 2002.

Lady Gaga has a good chance of becoming the first artist in more than 40 years to make the Album of the Year finals in three consecutive years. Gaga was nominated the last two years with her debut album, The Fame, and her subsequent EP, The Fame Monster. Born This Way could easily put her in the finals for the third year in a row, something no artist has done since the Beatles were nominated five years in a row from 1965 through 1969. (Gaga would be the first female artist to score a "three-peat" since Barbra Streisand was nominated four years in a row from 1963 through 1966.) But there's a complicating factor: A widely publicized deep-discount promotion on Born This Way tarnished the album's image.

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A country album has made the finals in four of the last five years. (Make that five years in a row if you count Raising Sand by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss, which the Grammys classified as "Contemporary Folk/Americana.") This year's strongest country candidate is Jason Aldean's My Kinda Party, which is the year's best-selling country album. (Aldean and Gaga were the first performers announced for the Nov. 30 TV special on which the nominations will be revealed. That doesn't mean they're automatic nominees, but it suggests the Grammy winds are blowing their way.)

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Taylor Swift, who won this award with her previous album, Fearless, may return to the finals with Speak Now. The only hitch: Follow-ups to Album of the Year winners generally have a hard time making the finals. The last one to do so was Bob Dylan's Love And Theft, the follow-up to the 1997 winner, Time Out Of Mind. Swift will probably just miss, especially if the panel follows the lead of the Country Music Assn., which selected Aldean over Swift for their Album of the Year award.

Duets albums don't generally make the finals in this category. Grammy panelists seem to dock them for the familiarity of the concept and, often, the material. But Tony Bennett's Duets II received a lot of attention for becoming the singer's first #1 album. And Bennett underscored his multi-generational appeal by working with such young stars as Amy Winehouse and Lady Gaga. So he has a chance at a nomination if one of the front-runners falters. The 85-year old pop legend would become the oldest nominee ever for Album of the Year. He would also become the artist with the longest span of Album of the Year nominations. Bennett first made the finals in 1962 with I Left My Heart In San Francisco.

Lil Wayne was nominated in this category three years ago with Tha Carter III. He could make it back with Tha Carter IV, though his incarceration (on a weapons charge) between those two albums probably won't gain him any support.

Kanye West, who was nominated in this category with his first three albums, has two albums in the running: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch The Throne, his collaboration with Jay-Z. West's albums will probably cancel each other out in the voting. (Jay-Z has, remarkably, never been nominated in this category in his own right, though he did receive a nomination as a featured artist on Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III.)

The strongest rock contenders  include Foo Fighters' Wasting Light and Red Hot Chili Peppers' I'm With You. Both acts made the finals with their last studio albums. Panelists may also be attracted to Foster The People's Torches, which is competing for Best Alternative Music Album.

Other top contenders include Rihanna's Loud, Jill Scott's The Light Of The Sun, The Civil Wars' Barton Hallow, Glen Campbell's Ghost On The Canvas and Chris Brown's F.A.M.E.. (Even if they're passed over here, many of these albums will be nominated as best albums of their genres. I forecast the various "genre album" categories in a separate post. If you missed it, here's a link.)

Record of the Year

Adele was nominated in this category three years ago with "Chasing Pavement." She's sure to be back in the finals this year with "Rolling In The Deep." (Her other smash, "Someone Like You," wasn't entered in this category, so there's no chance of her splitting her votes.) Three other slots will probably be filled by Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass," Katy Perry's "Firework" and "Moves Like Jagger" by Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera.

Three tracks are leading contenders for the fifth and final slot. Lady Gaga was nominated in this category two years ago with "Poker Face." You might think that her strongest contender this year would be her gay-friendly smash "Born This Way," but it wasn't entered. She has two other hits in the running: "You And I" and "Judas." Of the two, I think the ballad "You And I" has a better chance of gaining a nomination, because it shows her range. Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks" is delectable ear-candy, though the panelists may decide it's a little slight for a Record of the Year nomination. Christina Perri's "Jar Of Hearts" is a strong ballad that even rated a Glee cover.

Mumford & Sons didn't win a Grammy last year, though their performance on the telecast (with Bob Dylan and the Avett Brothers) made such an impression that it triggered a stronger sales surge than any of the winners. Grammy panelists have a second chance to honor the band by saluting "The Cave." Paul Simon's "So Beautiful Or So What" is also in the mix. This would be Simon's fifth nomination in this category; his first since he won for 1987 with "Graceland."

Other possibilities include Coldplay's "Paradise," Wiz Khalifa's "Black And Yellow," Sara Evans' "A Little Bit Stronger," Bruno Mars' "Grenade," Lil Wayne's "How To Love," Pink's "Raise Your Glass," The Civil Wars' "Barton Hollow," and no fewer than eight collaborations: "I Need A Doctor" by Dr. Dre featuring Eminem & Skyler Gray; "We Found Love" by Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris; "Stereo Hearts" by Gym Class Heroes featuring Adam Levine; "Give Me Everything" by Pitbull featuring Ne-Yo, Afrojack & Nayer; "5 O'Clock" by T-Pain featuring Wiz Khalifa and Lily Allen; "Coming Home" by Diddy-Dirty Money featuring Skyler Grey;  "Lighters" by Bad Meets Evil featuring Bruno Mars; and "Don't You Wanna Stay" by Jason Aldean featuring Kelly Clarkson.

Note: The Band Perry's heartfelt country crossover smash "If I Die Young" would have had a good chance at a nomination, but it was released before the start of the eligibility period (Oct. 1, 2010 through Sept. 30, 2011). I hate it when that happens!

Song of the Year

Three of the likely Record of the Year nominees also have a good chance of showing up in this category. (The difference between these awards is that Record of the Year is for a specific recording of a song. Song of the Year is for the song itself. It is awarded to the songwriter.)

The likely repeaters will be "Rolling In The Deep" (which Adele co-wrote with Paul Epworth); "Firework" (which Katy Perry co-wrote with Ester Dean, Mikkel Ericksen, Tor Erik Hermansen and Sandy Wilhelm); and Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" (written by Ester Dean).

Seven songs are leading contenders for the two remaining spots. Lady Gaga, who was nominated in this category two years ago with "Poker Face," could easily repeat with "You And I." Paul Simon, who has received three nominations in this category, could be back in the running with "So Beautiful Or So What."

"Moves Like Jagger" could also make it, unless Grammy panelists decide that its success owes more to the hot collabo performance than to the song itself. Adam Levine co-wrote the song with Benjamin Levin, Ammar Malik and Shellback.

Pink has a strong candidate with "F**kin' Perfect," which she co-wrote with Max Martin and Shellback. (Curiously, it was entered for Song of the Year, but not for Record of the Year. Pink's other smash, "Raise Your Glass," was entered for Record of the Year but not for Song of the Year. This may be smart strategizing. Pink's camp doesn't want her to split her votes between these two strong entries. They hope that Grammy voters will see the sassy "Raise Your Glass" as more of a record, and the ballad "F**kin' Perfect" as more of a song.)

Other leading contenders are "Jar Of Hearts" (which Christina Perri co-wrote with Drew Lawrence and Barrett Yeretsian); Mumford & Sons' "The Cave" (which was written by the four band members); and Foster The People's "Pumped Up Kicks" (written by group leader Mark Foster).

Other possibilities include Coldplay's "Paradise" (written by the band); Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris' "We Found Love" (written by Harris); Glen Campbell's "Ghost On The Canvas" (written by Paul Westerberg); Sara Evans' "A Little Bit Stronger" (written by Luke Laird, Hillary Lindsey and Hillary Scott); Wiz Khalifa's "Black And Yellow" (which he co-wrote with Mikkel Eriksen and Tor Erik Hermansen); Diddy Dirty Money featuring Skylar Grey's "Coming Home" (which Grey co-wrote with Shawn Carter, Jermaine Cole and Alexander Grant);  Dr. Dre featuring Eminem & Skyler Gray's "I Need A Doctor" (which they co-wrote with Alex Grant); and Blake Shelton's "God Gave Me You" (written by Dave Barnes).

Best New Artist

Nicki Minaj has an excellent chance of becoming the first rap artist to win in this category since Arrested Development took the prize for 1992. Look for her competitors to include Foster The People, The Band Perry and Christina Perri.

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I have a hunch that Grammy panelists may throw a surprise into the mix by awarding the fifth slot to gospel singer Le'Andria Johnson. Last year, they nominated jazz artist Esperanza Spalding, who went on to surprise just about everybody (including me) by winning the award. If the panel isn't in the mood for surprises, the fifth slot will probably go to either Americana duo the Civil Wars or rapper Wiz Khalifa.

Eleven-year old Jackie Evancho has been a commercial powerhouse, but I suspect that panelists may decide that she is a precocious talent, but one who needs time to develop into a true artist.

Other possibilities include J. Cole, Hot Chelle Rae, Miguel, Bon Iver, the Cataracs, Thompson SquareBig Sean, Andy Grammar,  Charice, Hugh Laurie, Jessie J, Jerrod Niemann, Cage The Elephant, Far*East Movement and Tyler, The Creator.

Final Thought: The enormous number of entries is a healthy sign. It says that even though album sales have dropped over the past decade, artists still dream of recording stardom. And it tell us that they still covet a Grammy. Tune in to the nominations special on Nov. 30 and we'll all see how well I did (or how far off I was!).

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