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All Coldplay? Fearless Grammy picks 2009

Can Lil Wayne or Robert Plant top Coldplay at the Grammys? This could be the British band's year — or they could go home empty-handed.
/ Source: contributors

While many of the nominees reinforce what we’ve come to expect, the 51st Grammy Awards roundup managed a few surprises with both the artists selected and the ones seemingly snubbed. Grammy’s former darling Alicia Keys is notably absent in key categories, and there’s a bare minimum of former “American Idol” contestants clogging up the works.

Last year’s Amy Winehouse sweep cleared the way for Duffy and Adele, each with her own unique set of retro pipes that rock the lush ’60s sound. Meanwhile, Lil Wayne grabbed nominations in top categories without dumbing down his politics. Former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant may win a Grammy yet, with his inspired partnership with a woman who knows a thing or two about genre crossing, Alison Krauss.

And then there’s Coldplay.

Who will win? Who should win? Ree Hines and Helen A.S. Popkin share their thoughts.

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 “In Rainbows,” Radiohead

Helen: If there were any justice in the world, the coveted album of the year award would go to oft-overlooked Lil Wayne for “Tha Carter III.” But I’m looking for a different kind of justice this year, thus I’m picking U2’s bastard lovechild Coldplay.

Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow (frontman Chris Martin) is threatening to call it a Coldplay day sometime-not-soon-enough, so if finishing at the top of their game helps make that a reality, I say bring on the trophies. Give them the Grammys. Give them a few VMAs, too. Give them the change from the bottom of my pocketbook. Baby Bono and friends can have all the lovely parting gifts they want if they’ll just go away.

Ree: I share your vision of a Coldplay-free future, but I’m upping the ante and rooting for a Coldplay-free awards night, too. I mean, yeah, Brian Eno gets props for fine-tuning them into the best Coldplay they can be on “Viva La Vida,” but they’re still the same pack of derivative rockers that never seem to rock.

As for the rest of the runners, Lil Wayne would make for a worthy winner with his most creatively cohesive release to date. This isn’t the year for Radiohead.

Helen: Yeah, Grammy’s not giving it up to the guys who gave their music away. No way. No how.

Ree: True. So that leaves Ne-Yo, who’s standing in Alicia Keys’ rightful spot, and the unlikely paring of Robert Plant and Alison Krauss. While I know you, my esteemed colleague, consider that one little more than an NPR pick, I think it’s the ultimate dark horse. Not only is it one of my favorites of the year, Krauss is a Grammy magnet with 21 gold gramophones collecting dust in her digs. And let’s face it; the honor’s long overdue for Grammy-less Plant.

Record of the year “Chasing Pavements,” Adele “Viva La Vida,” Coldplay “Bleeding Love,” Leona Lewis “Paper Planes,” M.I.A “Please Read The Letter,” Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

Helen: The only thing close to fresh in this category is M.I.A. Why I still remember when I first heard this track — and it wasn’t on the “Pineapple Express” soundtrack. I pulled up next an SUV blasting “Paper Planes,” which is usually mad-obnoxious. Instead, I was all, “What is that is that enchanting mélange of cash registers and gun fire?” M.I.A should win, but won’t. You know who will?

Ree: Let me guess. Coldplay?

Helen: Yeah, but at the risk of ruining my cool kid status, I’m ashamed to admit the affection I have for “Viva La Vida.” This is one song that benefits from Martin’s melancholy crooning —despite Eno’s heavy-handed production — it’s a treat.

Ree: It’s like I don’t even know you anymore.

Anyway, for me, the real contenders are Leona Lewis, who deserves some credit somewhere, Plant and Krauss, and M.I.A. Once again, I’m calling it for Plant and Krauss. “Please Read the Letter” is the best track off my best album pick, so it’s a natural. If not, I’d hand this one to M.I.A.

Helen: For the record, I’d be both shocked and awed if M.I.A wins this.

Song of the year “American Boy,” Estelle, featuring Kanye West “Chasing Pavements,” Adele “I’m Yours,” Jason Mraz “Love Song,” Sara Bareilles “Viva La Vida,” Coldplay

Helen: Song of the year? Didn’t we just do this one?

Ree: No that was record of the year, which is the nod for artists and producer types. Song of the year is all about the songwriters, or so they say.

Helen: Oh, yeah. OK, well Estelle’s packing Kayne West, and that’s always a good Grammy omen (unless you’re up for album of the year, of course). Sara Bareilles’ souless “Love Song” isn’t worth an iPod commercial… and don’t get me started on Jason Mraz. “I’m Yours,” with its sweety-pie emasculated dance hall beat makes me want to do violence.

So after much thought and consideration, I’m calling this one for Coldplay.

Ree: Sigh. Paging Ms. Keys! You’re needed in the song of the year category. I mean, really, where’s “Like You’ll Never See Me Again”? Makes no sense. Given what we’ve got? I’ll reluctantly say singer-songwriter Bareilles should get a little love for “Love Song.”

Best new artist Adele Duffy Jonas Brothers Lady Antebellum Jazmine Sullivan

Helen: And the winner is … Coldplay! And why the heck not? That band is about as “new” as the actual nominees for best new artist!? Every year I’m baffled by this category — just what definition of “new” are we operating under?

Ree: Well, these selections are made under Grammy’s oh-so-subjective criteria, which goes something like this: “(This award goes to a) new artist who releases, during the Eligibility Year, the first recording which establishes the public identity of that artist.”

So, according to the old Grammy guard, the Jonas Brothers really came into their own over the last year. Katy Perry? Not so much.

Helen: There is just no way anybody’s letting the Jonas brats win — not after Brother Nick Jonas broke the heart of America’s Sweetheart, “Hannah Montana.” Even if the Hanson-wannabes were fresh new-talent-wise (heh), they’re surely jinxed.

Ree: Nah. That was before Miley Cyrus’ racy cell phone shots, her Vanity Fair cover and her feud with Nick’s new Miley, I mean girlfriend, Selena Gomas. Nick Jonas came out looking like a shiny penny.

So, as much as it pains me to say it, Disney’s manufactured young men will walk away with Grammy gold. Sure, I’d rather see it go to Duffy, but she and Adele split the Amy Winehouse legacy vote, leaving the coast clear for Team Jonas.

R&B album “Love & Life,” Eric Benét “Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA,” Boyz II Men “Lay It Down,” Al Green “Jennifer Hudson,” Jennifer Hudson “The Way I See It,” Raphael Saadiq

Helen: It’s taken five categories before we hit our first “American Idol” alumna? That’s like a record or something. Not that I’m complaining, especially since it’s Jennifer Hudson, who actually has talent. Plus, how do I say this delicately? She could really use a Grammy right about now.

Ree: No argument there. OK, maybe a little one. Hudson’s going to get this one, but with all due respect, it’s going to seem like the “We’re sorry life’s so horribly unfair” award. That’s only because she’s up against Mr. Al “I-should-get-a-Grammy-for-hailing-a-cab” Green at his almost-best. “Lay It Down” ranks as absolute ear candy from the living legend.

No one else even comes. Not Eric Benét. Not Raphael Saadiq. Not even the once again oddly absent Keys. And the less said about Boyz II Men (minus Michael “Bass” McCary) the better. “Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA,” should get the most unnecessary album of the year award. It’s a B2M fan album. Who else wants to a melismatic redo of near-perfect Motown standards?

Helen: Dude, let it go. They’re just paving the way for their Vegas gig. Besides, I recall you defending Duran Duran’s classic-cover effort, “Thank You.”

Ree: A. That’s neither here nor there. B. It was ironic! A pack of not-so-working class Brits singing “911 is a Joke” is hilarious, no?

Helen: No.

Rap album “American Gangster,” Jay-Z “Tha Carter III,” Lil Wayne “The Cool,” Lupe Fiasco “Nas,” Nas “Paper Trail,” T.I.

Helen: You know, for dude that retired a long time ago, that Jay-Z sure keeps busy. At least he mixed it up with “American Gangster.” He’s still all about brand names, but he’s not just trying to round up all the ladies anymore. He just wants that one special lady. It’s the “he liked it, so he put a ring on it” effect.

Of course T.I. managed to jam guest spots featuring two of his fellow contenders (Jay-Z and Lil Wayne) plus Kanye West on “Swagger Like Us” from “Paper Trail” — but that’s kind of like stuffing the ballot box. Lil Wayne is still in the honorary West spot. He’ll take best rap abum as a consolation for not snagging album of the year.

Ree: Yes and no. Lil Wayne takes it, but it’s no consolation prize. He has a fair shot across the board. The next best outcome is a Nas win, but Grammy may be reluctant to reward the Queensbridge rapper’s controversy-courting ways.

Actually, for the first year since Grammy became hip enough to listen to rap, there’s no real out-of-nowhere potential winner here.

Rock album “Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends,” Coldplay “Rock N Roll Jesus,” Kid Rock “Only By The Night,” Kings Of Leon “Death Magnetic,” Metallica “Consolers Of The Lonely,” The Raconteurs

Helen: Ah, look. Jack White’s spent another year disappointing White Stripes fans by playing the sideman. That guy’s never met a musical genre he didn’t like. Even so, his work with the Raconteurs ranks as my personal favorite in the rock category.

Having said that, I’m still going with Coldplay.

Ree: Of course you are. I’m dismissing the boring Kings of Leon release and Kid Rock’s unfortunate “Rock N Roll Jesus” right off the top. Neither album really has what it takes for the winner’s circle. At least I hope not.

We’re in agreement on the Raconteurs, but I think this year it has to go to Metallica for their return to form in “Death Magnetic.” They’re a lock for best metal performance, too.

Country album “That Lonesome Song,” Jamey Johnson “Sleepless Nights,” Patty Loveless “Troubadour,” George Strait “Around The Bend,” Randy Travis “Heaven, Heartache And The Power Of Love,” Trisha Yearwood

Helen: Where’s the requisite “American Idol” in this lot? Seems strange Grammy’s left award-winning country darling Carrie Underwood in the cold this year. “Carnival Ride” wasn’t that bad.

Ree: She must have angered the Grammy gods, as she’s stuck in best female country vocal performance this time around.

Helen: Just as well. Underwood didn’t stand much of a chance against the women in the spot. Patty Loveless could snag the award for “Sleepless Nights,” but she’s at a disadvantage with a tribute album. Assuming the voting body prefers something original, this is the year for Trisha Yearwood.

Ree: That’s assuming a woman’s winning, and I don’t think that’s going to happen. Randy Travis has the fan support. Jamey Johnson’s more deserving. But this is George Straight’s baby. It’s not that “Troubadour” is his best work — not even close. It’s just that the man’s a legend without so much as one Grammy on the shelf.

Helen: Yeah, well, this ain’t the lifetime achievement award.

Ree Hines and Helen A.S. Popkin agree on one Coldplay call. Chris Martin and the gang will attend the show in their finest Adam Ant hand-me-downs.