RECORD OF THE YEAR
“Crazy In Love,” Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z
“Where Is the Love,” The Black Eyed Peas & Justin Timberlake
“Lose Yourself,” Eminem
“Hey Ya!,” OutKast
Will Win: There’s a tremendous amount of love for Coldplay right now (even Timbaland and Timberlake, whose collaboration with The Black Eyed Peas is the dark horse in this category, have publicly praised the U.K. rockers), but with no other major nominations this year, it’s unlikely the band will snag the biggest award of the night. OutKast’s “Hey Ya!” is currently the number one single in the country, but it’s essentially a solo record and Grammy voters might want to award OutKast as a duo (see below). That leaves Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love,” the biggest single in the category, and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself,” which—even if voters are ready to award the controversial rapper in one of the Big Four—might be a little too old to win both Record and Song of the Year.
Should Win (Eric): Though Beyoncé has shown remarkable legs (her song has too), “Hey Ya!” is another in OutKast’s amazing string of delirious, Paisley Park tributes. What “Let’s Go Crazy” was to Prince, “Hey Ya!” is to André 3000. (Thank God Big Boi kept pace with his own personal “When Doves Cry”: “The Way You Move.”)
Should Win (Sal): It’s no surprise that Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” was shut out of Song of the Year. It’s not so much the songwriting as it is the horn-y Chi-Lites sample and the chemistry between Beyoncé and her not-so-secret beau that made this the song of the summer and, in my opinion, the record of the year.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Under Construction, Missy Elliott
Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, OutKast
Justified, Justin Timberlake
Elephant, The White Stripes
Will Win: It’s basically a rule that any album nominated for Album of the Year will most certainly win in its respective genre-specific category. So don’t feel bad for Justin Timberlake, Evanescence, and The White Stripes (who will win for Pop Album, Rock Album and Alternative Album, respectively). Duking it out for Album of the Year honors are Missy Elliott’s Under Construction and OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. Missy’s album is older and she might be hurt by flooding the market (This Is Not A Test! was released just this past November), so it’s OutKast’s trophy to lose. If the Southern-fried hip-hop innovators cause a vote-split, though, The White Stripes could cause the upset of the year (and give the Grammys some long overdue indie cred).
Should Win (Eric): Sure it’s got its rough patches (to my ears, no album out of this line-up runs on a full tank for its entire duration), but OutKast’s album is still the most impressive. Pretend the ATLiens just went straight up and gave us the Deluxe Edition, rife with phenomenal B-Sides, outtakes and rarities. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Should Win (Sal): OutKast may get their due this year, but Missy topped herself (certainly an award-worthy feat) with Under Construction, an album that is more consistent (and a helluva lot more fun) than Big Boi and Dre’s ambitious two-fer.
SONG OF THE YEAR
“Beautiful,” Linda Perry, songwriter (Christina Aguilera)
“Dance With My Father,” Richard Marx & Luther Vandross, songwriters (Luther Vandross)
“I’m with You,” Avril Lavigne & The Matrix, songwriters (Avril Lavigne)
“Keep Me in Your Heart,” Jorge Calderón & Warren Zevon, songwriters (Warren Zevon)
“Lose Yourself,” J. Bass, M. Mathers & L. Resto, songwriters (Eminem)
Will Win: While “I’m with You” is far more palatable than Avril Lavigne’s first two singles, academy voters have once again confused The Matrix’s catchy hooks for good songwriting, and they’re unlikely to give Grammy gold to the self-proclaimed “Sid Vicious” of her generation. Christina Aguilera’s durable “Beautiful” certainly earned its spot but it’s a much better record than song, and no one really wants to see Linda Perry up there on the podium on Grammy night, do they? The sympathy vote will probably be spilt between the late Warren Zevon and the ailing Luther Vandross, who could cause a major upset here. Song of the Year is Eminem’s trophy to, uh, lose. “Lose Yourself” won him the Oscar and with its surprisingly positive, life-affirming message, it could be the first rap song to win in this category.
Should Win (Eric): Part of me wants so badly for Richard Marx to ascend to the podium and say, “I guess it’s not ’too late to say goodbye’!” But nostalgia trips aside, there’s only one choice to be made here: Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”
Should Win (Sal): History (albeit, white-washed history) in-the-making: Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”
BEST NEW ARTIST
Fountains of Wayne
Will Win: Voters traditionally award females in this category, but while Heather Headley may have the pipes, she doesn’t have the songwriting skills, the buzz or the sales. Fountains of Wayne and Sean Paul shouldn’t even be here (personal opinions aside, neither act is “new”), so it’s a neck-and-neck race between Evanescence and 50 Cent, with a possible upset by Headley. We give Evanescence the edge. Though a band hasn’t won in this category since 1996 (Hootie and the Blowfish), lead singer Amy Lee may be the closest we get to a new, estrogen-fueled Grammy darling.
Should Win (Eric): 2003 was the year of Justin Timberlake. (Hey, if the Grammys can nominate such established acts as Fountains of Wayne and Sean Paul, and seemingly don’t care about keeping their new artists, y’know…new, why should I?)
Should Win (Sal): None of the above.
BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM
Stripped, Christina Aguilera
Brainwashed, George Harrison
Bare, Annie Lennox
Motown, Michael McDonald
Justified, Justin Timberlake
Will Win: Xtina won Best New Artist two years ago because Grammy voters recognized her potential. Her sophomore effort, Stripped, doesn’t live up to that promise and will have a hard time beating her fellow former-Mouseketeer and tourmate Justin Timberlake, who’s got an Album of the Year nod under his sparkling, Jacko-style belt. The rest of the nominees don’t stand a chance against Justin’s Justified: George Harrison is nobody’s favorite Beatle, even dead; the Annie Lennox revival, though good, arrived with too little fanfare; and Michael McDonald—well, it’s just an honor to be nominated at all.
Should Win (Eric): Neither overly sentimental, suffused with cheap junior-high affirmations of self-worth, or a solo comeback from Hell (unless you wanna be a jerk about it), Justin Timberlake was the sickeningly across-the-board popular success you just couldn’t hate even after trying for months and months not to wipe a tear away during “Rock Your Body” or touch yourself to “Cry Me A River.”
Should Win (Sal): It’s becoming more and more clear that Justin Timberlake is just beginning to show us what he’s capable of as a singer, performer and songwriter. Consider Justified his Off The Wall.
BEST DANCE RECORDING
“Love One Another,” Cher
“Easy,” Groove Armada
“Die Another Day,” Madonna
“Come Into My World,” Kylie Minogue
Will Win: Cher’s sole Grammy win came courtesy of her biggest hit, “Believe,” in 2000, so “Love One Another,” a cover song that flew under the radar, is unlikely to score her another win in this category. Not to mention, there are two other dance divas to be reckoned with: the recently resurrected Kylie Minogue, and Madonna, whose Bond theme “Die Another Day,” though it’s the biggest hit here, is as equally loathed as it is loved and didn’t even manage to score a nomination for Best Song Written for a Motion Picture. Last year, Dirty Vegas won for their Mitsubishi song “Days Go By,” but Télépopmusik, whose “Breathe” is this year’s car commercial theme of choice, lacks the crossover appeal that made Dirty Vegas a household name (for a minute). “Breathe” would be the edgiest pick, but Kylie could take this one home simply because she was overlooked last year for her infectious comeback single, “Can’t Get You Out of My Head.”
Should Win (Eric): Another year, another dance category that’s acting like dance music exists solely for the benefit of Madison Avenue (Télépopmusik for Mitsubishi, Kylie Minogue for Bally’s, and Groove Armada for Mitsubishi, Mercedes and Ringtones). What do Masters at Work have to do to get nominated in this category? (They’re in the remix ghetto, but not for their gorgeous take on Nina Simone’s “See-Line Woman.”) Despite being only about the 72nd best dance track of the Grammy year (make that 83rd, if Basement Jaxx were eligible), Kylie’s “Come Into My World” is the pick of this sellout lot.
Should Win (Sal): Madonna injected the Bond franchise with some much needed umpf, and “Die Another Day,” though derivative of her previous work with “Music” producer Mirwais, is still more rewarding and forward-thinking than any other Bond theme in recent memory.
BEST ROCK SONG
“Bring Me to Life,” David Hodges, Amy Lee & Ben Moody, songwriters (Evanescence Featuring Paul McCoy)
“Calling All Angels,” Charlie Colin, Pat Monahan, Jimmy Stafford & Scott Underwood, songwriters (Train)
“Disorder in the House,” Jorge Calderón & Warren Zevon, songwriters (Warren Zevon & Bruce Springsteen)
“Seven Nation Army,” Jack White, songwriter (The White Stripes)
“Someday,” Chad Kroeger, Mike Kroeger, Ryan Peake & Ryan Vikedal, songwriters (Nickelback)
Will Win: It’s going to be difficult (but not impossible) for the academy to pass up an opportunity to award a dead guy and the Boss with one trophy, even if Bruce Springsteen didn’t actually co-write “Disorder in the House.” Train has no chance here, and Evanescence will be awarded elsewhere, so look for this to be one of multiple wins for The White Stripes on Grammy night.
Should Win (Eric): “Disorder in the House” is unfortunately not the best song on Zevon’s album. I’m no White Stripes disciple, but “Seven Nation Army” is a new standard. If Frank Sinatra were still alive, he’d be covering it in 30 years.
Should Win (Sal): The White Stripes’s progressive “Seven Nation Army.”