Jonathan Keefe: I’d say that all of the people who voted for the Ray Charles & Norah Jones duet a couple of years ago would automatically vote for Plant & Krauss this year, except that Adele’s single keeps “Please Read the Letter” from being the most boring nominee. Usually the vote-split favors something particularly tepid, but the reverse situation could actually keep M.I.A. in the running here. But it’s always a bad idea to bet against Krauss at the Grammys, and I think she and Plant will pull off the sweep.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, Coldplay
Tha Carter III, Lil Wayne
Year of the Gentleman, Ne-Yo
Raising Sand, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss (Will Win)
In Rainbows, Radiohead
Sal: Raising Sand embodies both the academy’s archaic but still lingering tendency to award seemingly wholesome/veteran acts as well as their recent penchant for trying to prove their hipster cred in this category.
Eric: I’d say that Radiohead, at this point in their career, fills both roles similarly.
Sal: Nah, Thom Yorke looks too much like a fetus.
Jonathan: Yes, that, and the In Rainbows pay-what-you-want release hardly seems like something NARAS’s most conservative older voters would want to reward. This one is probably the easiest call this year: Coldplay’s Bends-lite pulls enough of the rock contingent’s votes from Radiohead, and Ne-Yo pulls enough of the urban branch’s votes from Weezy to guarantee that Raising Sand wins.
SONG OF THE YEAR
“American Boy,” Estelle featuring Kanye West
“Chasing Pavements,” Adele
“I’m Yours,” Jason Mraz
“Love Song,” Sarah Bareilles
“Viva la Vida,” Coldplay (Will Win)
Eric: Collectively, this has to be the fastest set of songs that’s ever shown up in this category, and by a winning margin of at least 50 bpm on average. Obviously, the four-on-the-floor of “American Boy” revels in its brisk tempo most conspicuously, so that’s not gonna win this unofficial “Best Ballad” category.
Jonathan: The Avril Lavigne/Vanessa Carlton act never wins here either, so Bareilles is out too. It likely comes down to “Viva la Vida,” which kind of sounds important but doesn’t make a hell of a lot of literal sense, and “I’m Yours,” which is better than the John Mayer drivel that usually wins “Best Ballad” but still makes me want to punch Mraz square in the Adam’s apple for using the word “bestest” and thinking that’s just precious. Normally, that would make Mraz the winner, but Coldplay’s just too big not to win one of the major awards.
Sal: Did you just compare Avril Lavigne to Vanessa Carlton? And maybe more upsetting, did you just compare Bareilles to both of them? As much as I (publicly) hate Avril, I can at least sit through the first few notes of her songs without wanting to stab myself in the ears with freshly sharpened pencils (in rhythm with the bouncy beat, of course).
Jonathan: Put down the pencils, Sal. I just meant that, as a young, pop-friendly female singer-songwriter, they all fill a certain “type” in this category, and that type never actually wins. Rest assured that we’re all (publicly) glad that Avril has dropped off the face of the earth.
BEST NEW ARTIST
Jonas Brothers (Will Win)
Eric: Given that the Jonas Brothers have been around in some stage of puberty or another for the last three or four years, I wonder if we shouldn’t throw our vote to them in anticipation of hastening that fifth and final year. Nah, I think they have to throw something Adele’s way, right?
Sal: Duffy had one of the biggest selling albums in the world last year (my dad even likes her), so if she doesn’t win here, I can’t imagine Adele doing it. Besides, Grammy typically likes to award one of its own in this category. Assuming the two Brits cancel each other out, one of the other three could have a shot, and my vote goes to Jazmine, whose Fearless would probably have made our year-end list had I heard it in time.
Jonathan: Sullivan and Lady Antebellum are the only two I see still being halfway relevant in the U.S. five years from now. Of course, just last year this award went to someone who’s doing her damnedest to ensure that she won’t be alive five years from now, so maybe long-term projections aren’t the way to go.
Sal: I’m suddenly seeing the Jonas Brothers taking this. After all, Malia and Sasha are fans. And we’re in a recession.
Eric: Best New Artist = $$$?
Sal: No, but popularity is a factor. Hello, Evanescence? Vagina + album sales = win.
Eric: So you’re saying the Jonas Brothers fulfill that equation this year?
Jonathan: I just ask for a reaction shot from Taylor Swift when it happens. Maybe if she gets caught making an Angelina-worthy bitchface, people will finally settle down about her.
BEST FEMALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE
“Chasing Pavements,” Adele
“Love Song,” Sarah Bareilles
“Bleeding Love,” Leona Lewis (Will Win)
“I Kissed a Girl,” Katy Perry
“So What,” Pink
Sal: Duffy’s got a solid shot at all three of the categories she’s nominated in (the third being Best Pop Vocal Album, which lacks a no-brainer Album of the Year nominee), but I think this might be her surest bet. And before you point out that “Bleeding Love” is nominated for Record of the Year, Leona Lewis is decidedly missing from the Best New Artist tally.
Eric: Duffy’s up-in-the-throat singing will definitely get a few extra votes from those who take the phrase “vocal performance” very literally. I was going to point out that Adele is also nominated in Record of the Year and Best New Artist, but I sort of think both will fall in this category to Sarah Bareilles. I mean, she didn’t even write you a love song, so what’s there left to award but her vocal performance?
Sal: Yeah, but this category really has very little to do with vocals. Or maybe I just can’t stand song titles that contradict their lyrics…or maybe I just hate that one.
Jonathan: Bareilles isn’t winning this if the likes of Natalie Imbruglia, Michelle Branch, and Vanessa Carlton before her couldn’t; 10 years’ worth of recurrent airplay at AC radio is her reward.
Sal: What? I can’t hear you. My ears are filling with blood.
Jonathan: More so than trying to interpret the whims of the Blue Ribbon Panel that cherry-pick the General Field nominations, it’s probably more meaningful to look at the Pop Album nominations to see who has a broader base of voter support (see the Clarkson vs. Stefani throwdown from 2006). To that end, this is most likely a contest between Duffy and Leona Lewis. “Mercy” was the only song from Rockferry that I liked much at all and it would get my vote, but Harvey Wein…um, Clive Davis has too much clout for Lewis not to win something, and this is her best bet. But before we go omitting certain other nominees from the discussion on principle, let’s not forget that “Who Let the Dogs Out” and “My Humps” both won Grammys. So there’s precedent for the nightmare scenarios actually coming to pass.
BEST DANCE RECORDING
“Harder Better Faster Stronger,” Daft Punk (Will Win)
“Ready for the Floor,” Hot Chip
“Just Dance,” Lady Gaga & Colby O’Donis
“Give It 2 Me,” Madonna
“Black & Gold,” Sam Sparro
Sal: There’s probably no stopping Lady Gaga, what with her song having hit the top of the pop charts and all. Plus, her song has the word “dance” right in the title!
Eric: So you think voters will go Gaga just because the song’s title tells them to dance? What about Madonna’s “Give It 2 Me”? Do you think that title will make voters fuck her en masse…again?
Sal: If that was a joke, I don’t get it.
Eric: She’s a whore. That’s the joke.
Sal: Oh, a dated Madonna-whore joke. Good one, Eric. I think the title will make voters think she wants a hotdog—I mean, a Grammy—real bad, in which case she won’t get one. At least not this year.
Eric: Now there’s a dated reference [Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde].
Sal: Anyway, you’re right. If “D.A.N.C.E.” couldn’t beat Rihanna last year, maybe “Disturbia” could take this one.
Jonathan: I thought we decided to cover this category so we could talk about how balls-out stupid the Daft Punk live performance nomination is. Which, since the only thing the Grammys love more than Alison Krauss is to reward live versions of songs that arguably should have won in previous years, means that Daft Punk could very well beat Gaga.
Sal: And we have Kanye West to thank for it. And no, I’m not being sarcastic.
Eric: I don’t give Grammy voters credit for anything, much less realizing that “Harder Better Faster Stronger” isn’t a new song, much less that it came out eight years ago (plus or minus a couple of decades, if you’re Edwin Birdsong).
BEST ROCK SONG
“Girls in Their Summer Clothes,” Bruce Springsteen (Will Win)
“House of Cards,” Radiohead
“I Will Possess Your Heart,” Death Cab for Cutie
“Sex on Fire,” Kings of Leon
“Violet Hill,” Coldplay
Sal: It’s only right that the Grammy gods will try to rectify the Boss’s Oscar snub by granting him his 19th Grammy (and fourth in this category). Anyway, he’s got a better shot here than he does going up against Paul McCartney and Neil Young over in Best Solo Rock Vocal Performance.
Jonathan: It speaks to how across-the-board shitty the Rock field is this year that this is its best and most competitive category. Of course, the idea that Kings of Leon’s arena-rock version of DJ Lady Tribe’s VD rap from Bret Michaels’ Herpes Bus qualifies as the best of anything— hell, it proves that the Kings can’t even write competently about the one thing that they know, which is their own sluttiness—should have been enough reason to cancel the whole damn show. Springsteen wins by default because he always does, but I’d vote for Coldplay’s kind of awesome Steely Dan song.
Eric: I can’t wait for Coldplay to release their Gaucho.
BEST URBAN/ALTERNATIVE PERFORMANCE
“Say Goodbye to Love,” Kenna
“Wanna Be,” Maiysha
“Be OK,” Chrisette Michele featuring will.i.am (Will Win)
“Many Moons,” Janelle Monáe
“Lovin You (Music),” Wayna Featuring Kokayi
Eric: This category’s creeping closer and closer to “Alternative” these days. Kenna and Janelle Monáe are pretty far removed from India.Arie and Jill Scott. I like it (especially the Fisher Price funk of “Say Goodbye to Love”), but I imagine voters will probably hew close to the infant category’s legacy of awarding soft, cerebral, world music-infused R&B. Mouth-clicking cover of Minnie Ripperton for the win.
Sal: Oh, geez. You mean I actually have to listen to music before commenting on a category? BRB…I like the Kenna song but the material on his second album pales in comparison to his debut. Plus, he was kind of an asshole when we interviewed him. I think Chrisette’s got this in the bag.
Jonathan: After reading that interview, I was really glad that I passed on doing it, no matter how much I liked New Sacred Cow. I heard the Janelle Monáe single about a week too late to vote for it on our year-end list, but I absolutely love it, even if its lack of will-dot-i-dot-am mainstream appeal will keep it from winning here.
BEST RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION
“American Boy,” Estelle featuring Kanye West (Will Win)
“Low,” Flo Rida featuring T-Pain
“Green Light,” John Legend & André 3000
“Got Money,” Lil Wayne featuring T-Pain
“Superstar,” Lupe Fiasco featuring Matthew Santos
Sal: “American Boy” seems like a sure thing here, but frighteningly, T-Pain statistically has a 40% chance of winning.
Eric: And he’ll probably have a 60% chance of winning next year. If voters keep that threat in the back of their minds while contemplating their ballot, “American Boy” is probably a slam dunk. That said, “Green Light” represents the Grammy credential double-shot.
Jonathan: The way I predict this category is simple: Which song do members of my extended family have on their iPods? This year, that would be “Low,” and their Flo Rida obsession has made for some truly horrific moments at family gatherings. Since I’d just as soon forget some of those moments, I’ll agree that “American Boy” actually wins.
BEST COUNTRY ALBUM
That Lonesome Song, Jamey Johnson (Will Win)
Sleepless Nights, Patty Loveless
Troubadour, George Strait
Around the Bend, Randy Travis
Heaven, Heartache and the Power of Love, Trisha Yearwood
Eric: Once I was in a K-Mart and trying to decide whether I wanted to buy a book of Word Find or Sudoku puzzles. I heard a woman yell to the cashier, “I done lost all my gah-damned money!”
Sal: And I perused the music section of my parents’ local Wal-Mart while I was home for the holidays and realized why Tower Records went out of business.
Jonathan: That’s the angle the two of you are taking on this? Really?
Sal: You didn’t really expect Eric to sit through five country albums, did you? And by “Eric” I mean “me.”
Jonathan: Fair enough. Since I have heard all five of these albums, I’ll say that this is, top-to-bottom, the strongest of all 793 Grammy categories this year. In fact, with the exceptions of an inexplicable nomination for Martina McBride (at the expense of Miranda Lambert, no less) and the annual indefensible nomination for Rascal Flatts, the entire Country field is damn near perfect. Yearwood, Loveless, and Johnson would all make for excellent, richly deserving winners—I’d vote for Yearwood’s set, which marks her eighth nomination in this category since it was reintroduced in 1995 and is arguably her career-best work—and even the sets by Travis and Strait are better than some albums that have won in this category of late. I think Yearwood has a real shot at this, but Johnson, who has nearly all of the critical buzz this year, and Strait, who has never won a Grammy and is regarded as overdue for some make-up wins, are more likely to take it. Strait has sentiment and a significant commercial edge working in his favor, but I’m going with Johnson, whose gritty album wasn’t nearly as lacking in effort as Strait’s.
Eric: I’ll say this, you annually make me wish I was remotely interested in country, but in this year of Adele/Jonas/T-Pain/reheated Daft Punk, I think we can truly take him at his word that this is the best Grammy has to offer.
This blog entry was originally published on Slant Magazine on the date above.