On Sunday, Feb. 13, the 53rd Annual Grammy Awards pits last year’s mega acts against each other in a clash of the ubiquitous music titans.
The nominees come as no surprise to anyone with radio, television, Internet reception or access to the mall. Eminem, Jay-Z, Cee Lo Green, John Legend and a couple of Ladies (Antebellum and Gaga) gave Grammy plenty of big hits to choose from, but just because the noms are obvious doesn’t mean the same can be said of the upcoming winners.
Maybe Eminem seems poised to prove that after “Recovery” comes reward. His 11 previous Grammy wins bode well for him, but all bets are off when Eminem’s biggest track goes head-to-head with Jay-Z’s NYC anthem or Cee Lo Green’s ultimate earworm. With strong contenders across the categories, a sweep won’t be easy for any one artist.
Who will win? Who should win? Ree Hines and Helen A.S. Popkin share their thoughts.
Album of the year
“The Suburbs,” Arcade Fire
“Need You Now,” Lady Antebellum
“The Fame Monster,” Lady Gaga
“Teenage Dream,” Katy Perry
Helen: Ugh. Katy Perry
Ree: Don’t worry — it’s not like she’s going to win or anything. “Teenage Dream” has a catchy, bubblegum-pop title track (which was performed better and bubblier by the cast of “Glee”), but it’s not a real threat.
Lady Gaga, on the other hand, could cash in her best album I.O.U. from last year and claim her belated award.
Helen: Johnny Weir should win for “The Fame Monster.” If not for his awesome “Poker Face” and “Bad Romance” routines, he could cash in his Olympic gold medal I.O.U. from last year. Dollars to doughnuts Lady Gaga’s cool with that.
Ree: Mmm. Doughnuts. None of that matters anyway. Aside from the fact that Johnny isn’t nominated or even a musician, this is a lock for Eminem.
Helen: Agreed. “Recovery” wins because you know how much we Americans love our “Intervention.”
Record of the year
“Nothin' On You,” B.o.B featuring Bruno Mars
“Love the Way You Lie,” Eminem featuring Rihanna
“F--- You,” Cee Lo Green
“Empire State of Mind,” Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
“Need You Now,” Lady Antebellum
Helen: OK, I know this is record of the year, but can we talk about the “Love the Way You Lie” video for a sec? The one where Megan Fox beats up that hobbit from “Lost”?
Ree: Why, domestic violence never looked so sexy! Sigh and gross.
Helen: Sigh and gross, indeed. Anyhoo, Cee Lo Green gets record of the year for that one song. How could he not?
Ree: “F--- You,” Helen. I mean, yeah, Cee Lo. That’s my pick, too. Not that the Lady Killer will actually win here. Nah, the top honor in this category goes to Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind.”
Helen: Didn’t that come out, like, five years ago?
Ree: Feels like it. It actually dropped in October 2009, but by Grammy’s wonky eligibility standards, that’s still fresh.
Helen: Fine. Can I just pick “Poker Face,” then? That was my pick last year, and by Grammy standards it should still qualify. In fact, I pick Cartman’s version of “Poker Face” from “South Park.”
Song of the year
“Beg Steal or Borrow”
“The House That Built Me”
“Love the Way You Lie”
“Need You Now”
Helen: “F--- You,” Ree. Hey, wait a gosh darned minute! Didn’t we just do this one? (Check me out, pretending not to know the difference between record of the year and song of the year just so you can deliver the annual explanation.)
Ree: Well, the previous category, record of the year, is for the actual recorded song. That means the performers, producers, engineers, mixers and the manager’s ex-girlfriend (who allegedly played triangle on a track) gets the coveted gold-dipped gramophones. Song of the year goes to the brainy types who actually wrote the song.
Helen: You think it took a brainy type to yet again misinterpret Thomas Wolfe? (Yeah, I’m looking at you, “The Country Music Cliché That Built Me.”)
Ree: Touche. As for my pick, “Love the Way You Lie” is the obvious winner, and as such, I’m totally going with that. Or, you know, “F--- You,” (Helen). But since I also want to ensure my post-show bragging rights, I’m adding “Beg Steal or Borrow” as a potential dark-horse winner. Bases covered.
Helen: Well, in that case, I pick “F--- You,” “Beg Steal Or Borrow,” “The House That Built Me,” “Love the Way You Lie,” AND “Need You Now.”
Not really. Three country songs in a category certainly ups the odds that the better one will take it — but you ignore Lady Antebellum’s saturation throughout the nominations at your own risk.
Still if “Empire State of Mind” takes record of the year — or even if it’s passed over for “F--- You,” there’s no way everyone’s favorite song isn’t winning this category. So, Ree, I really mean it when I say that the winner here is “F--- You.”
Best new artist
Florence and the Machine
Mumford & Sons
Helen: What, no Ke$ha?
Ree: Quit trying to make Ke$ha happen.
Helen: Fine, then I’m a Belieber!
Ree: You’re just saying that so the real Beliebers won’t send you death tweets for picking someone else.
Helen: And your point is?
Ree: Yes, well, I’m a Belieber, too, then. Whatever. This one will go to either Drake or Justin Bieber, but frankly — and this seems the norm for the best new artist category — they’re not so new. Heck, Biebs' career seems a little long in the tooth here. (I just got a death tweet, didn’t I?) How about I just stick to complaining about how Janelle Monae should be here?
Helen: Works for me. It’s just weird to see a jazz bassist (Esperanza Spalding) in a category that is for the most part, musically meaningless. Can’t we just agree this should go to mythic pipes behind Welsh Goddess outfit, Florence and the Machine? I mean, keeping in mind that “Dog Days” will no doubt haunt us in movie trailers for decades to come.
“The Love & War Masterpeace,” Raheem DeVaughn
“Back to Me,” Fantasia
“Another Round,” Jaheim
“Wake Up!” John Legend and The Roots
“Still Standing,” Monica
Helen: So 2006 best new artist John Legend has five Grammy noms this year, but “American Idol” comeback kid Fantasia pretty much owns R&B categories with three noms. If you’re going with odds over quality, these are your only real contenders. Sure, you’d think Legend’s got the extra juice with his awesome Roots collaboration. But what’d I say about Americans and our recovery stories? This is Fantasia’s first time back at the Grammys since her 2008 noms. Usually, when “American Idol” winners disappear, they never come back. But Fantasia is back, baby! With a hit album! Plus she has that awesome reality show!
Ree: Haven’t actually watched “Fantasia for Real,” have you?
Helen: Ree, I haven’t actually watched “American Idol,” but I know those contestants crap up the nominations every year.
Ree: It’s like I don’t even know you.
This one should be a clear and easy win for John Legend and The Roots. No one else comes close this year. If Fantasia takes it, I’m done with best R&B album.
“The Adventures of Bobby Ray,” B.o.B
“Thank Me Later,” Drake
“The Blueprint 3,” Jay-Z
“How I Got Over,” The Roots
Helen: Where’s Kanye? How can Kanye get his annual consolation best rap album award after getting screwed over in the top categories if he isn’t even nominated?
Ree: Nicely spotted, but Kanye’s latest release, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy,” came out 53 days too late for consideration. Save that rant for next year, though. I’m sure it will come in handy. As for this year, who knows? I’m leaning toward Eminem for the win, but I’m rooting for the Roots. Honestly, there’s no bad choice here.
Helen: I beg to differ. As Eminem is a shoo-in for “Recovery” in the best album category that failed to include Jay-Z, “The Blueprint 3” gets the Kanye West consolation prize this year. B.o.B and Drake were too shiny and new to win over vets, though the Roots certainly stand a chance.
“Emotion & Commotion,” Jeff Beck
“The Resistance,” Muse
“Backspacer,” Pearl Jam
“Mojo,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
“Le Noise,” Neil Young
Helen: Dang, they should change this category to “Crusty Old White Bastards.” Seriously, y’all. Muse aside, and no offense to the venerable gents entered here, this is always a veteran’s grab bag of old men and when applicable, Green Day.
Ree: And they’re halfway there.
Helen: Word. And I’d like to take a moment of silence here to acknowledge the official dissolution of The White Stripes, announced on the band’s website on Feb. 3. Meg, Jack, I talked some smack about you in the early days, but you were exciting and new and everything this category never is.
Ree: Amen. On to Muse and the crusties ... Muse’s best rock song win (yeah, I’m calling that one now) will have to satisfy the trio this year, because best rock album goes to Neil Young for “Le Noise.” Tom Petty offers a little competition with “Mojo,” but the Recording Academy still owes the godfather of grunge some trophy case fodder. Last year marked Young’s first Grammy win after about a half-century of rock and that was for best art direction on a boxed or special edition package.
Adding insult to Grammy injury, that spiffy award was delivered during the pre-telecast ceremony. If Young doesn’t get some love for his folk-metal mash-up this year, there’s something very wrong in rock.
Helen: Yet more proof that in the end, Grammy is pretty much meaningless. If and when Neil Young wins, he should throw the statue right back at ‘em.
“Up on the Ridge,” Dierks Bentley
“You Get What You Give,” Zac Brown Band
“The Guitar Song,” Jamey Johnson
“Need You Now,” Lady Antebellum
“Revolution,” Miranda Lambert
Helen: Is it me or is the country album category all about the young ‘uns this year? Usually you’ve got a couple of oldies. Zac Brown Band took the cursed best new artist Grammy last year, which normally means we never see them again. But here they are, up against 2009’s best new artist nominee, Lady Antebellum, which is the contender to beat. Dierks Bentley is too bluegrass, and Jamey Johnson can’t compete with Lady Antebellum’s steam-rolling crossover appeal. Miranda Lambert fits the Country Sweetheart role, in both sound and looks. She’d be the upset.
Ree: Don’t expect an upset. It’s Lady Antebellum’s award. They’re nominated in six different categories, including the big three (album/record/song), but despite their crossover success, it’s the country nods that’ll pay off for the Nashville trio.
Helen: True but booooooooring.
Ree: OK, fine. How’s this for a prediction? Lady Antebellum wins, but in a righteous fit of Kanye-esque rage, Dierks Bentley rushes the stage and points out that Rosanne Cash had one of the best country albums of the year. Of the year!