In spite of the fact that 2010 was a reasonably decent year for music, this year’s Grammy race feels even more underwhelming than usual. (You know you’re in trouble when Katy Perry and Lady Gags are both duking it out for Album of the Year.) Handicapping the top races seems pretty cut-and-dry, and my fearless predictions are as follows:




  • Arcade Fire The Suburbs
  • Eminem Recovery
  • Lady Antebellum Need You Now
  • Lady GaGa The Fame Monster
  • Katy Perry Teenage Dream


Music generally breaks three ways for me: there’s the stuff (Tori Amos, Patty Griffin, George Michael, Roxette) that I love all the way down to my bunions; there’s the stuff (Pearl Jam, Sting, Alicia Keys, Green Day) that I admire the craft and construction of, even if, strictly on a song-by-song basis, I can leave as much of it as I take; and then there’s the stuff (Jason Mraz, No Doubt, Black Eyed Peas) that, with rare exception, goes right through me like a friggin’ sieve. Into this last category, for me, falls Arcade Fire: I buy their records every single time they’re released, and I give them my utmost attention once I pop them into the machine, and their music still flies right over my head like an airplane in the night sky like shooting stars. Suburbs turned up on the top ten list of more than one person whose opinion on such things I respect intensely, so my rejection of it probably says more about me than it does about whatever merits the record may or may not possess, but I don’t mind saying it straight: I just don’t get this band. As for Miss Katy, I find her to be a bright young woman who is expert at what she does. But what she does is make disposable (if pristinely perfect) pop radio fluff, and I am as baffled as I am profoundly offended by her inclusion in this category over the expected likes of Tom Petty, Sade, and Usher. (No one will ever reveal whose spot she usurped in this lineup, but even Perry herself — she who knows, to the exact longitude, where she fits in the rough and tumble world that is her industry — seemed flabbergasted when she heard her name called at that Grammy Nominations concert last December.) There are those who think the Academy may want to honor GaGa here, since it will be their only chance to do so in the major categories, but, at eight tracks and only thirty-four minutes in length, The Fame Monster is essentially a glorified EP and, its eternally inescapable radio hits be damned, hardly feels like Album of the Year material. (Besides all that, the fact that none of those aforementioned radio hits — all of which were more worthy than last year’s multi-honored “Poker Face” — made it into the Record and/or Song derby seems fairly telling.)

With ten nominations overall, Eminem is this year’s most recognized artist, and the general consensus seems to be that this, at long last, will be his year. But let’s look to history: this is Em’s third career nod in this category, and in each of the first two instances — for 2001’s The Marshall Mathers LP and for 2003’s The Eminem Show — he lost out to the safe, boring choice. (In ’03, he got steamrolled by the then-invincible Norah Jones, and in ’01 — in one of the most unpopular Grammy finishes in history — he got lapped by an achingly nondescript Steely Dan comeback record that no one you know will admit to even owning.) This year, as I see it, Eminem’s hottest competition is Lady A’s mega-selling sophomore smash Need You Now, a heartfelt record with obvious flaws but loaded with palpable emotion, and while you may say third time’s the charm for the world’s premier rapper, I’ve got a sneaky little sneaky that the Academy — the median age of which is measurable fathoms away from Em’s target demographic — is once again going to cast its lot with the easy choice.


SHOULD WIN: Need You Now


WILL WIN: it’s Need You Now by a nose.



  • Jay-Z & Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind”
  • Cee-Lo Green “Fuck You (Forget You)”
  • Eminem featuring Rihanna “Love the Way You Lie”
  • Lady Antebellum “Need You Now”
  • B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars “Nothin’ On You”


The night the nominations were announced, I wrote that this category would go to Lady Antebellum in a walk, and I haven’t changed my mind one iota in two months’ time. It won’t even matter that, against this underwhelming competition, they actually deserve the trophy; a quartet of urban radio smashes will almost certainly cancel each other out and leave the country kids’ path to victory hacked brilliantly clear.


SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Who else besides Lady A Need even bother showing up?



  • Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs “Beg Steal or Borrow”
  • Cee-Lo Green “Fuck You (Forget You)”
  • Miranda Lambert “The House That Built Me”
  • Eminem featuring Rihanna “Love the Way You Lie”
  • Lady Antebellum “Need You Now”


With a significantly wider cross-section of material represented here, this one’s a bit more of a toss-up, and because I can make a pretty strong argument for (and against) four of these tunes, I honestly have no idea who’s gonna win this one. It’s great to see the magnificent Ray LaMontagne finally getting a touch of Grammy love, but even Ray will admit he has written far better songs than “Beg.” Cee-Lo’s hilarious hit — which got a well-timed Glee-related boost via Gwyneth Paltrow’s brilliantly ballsy cover — is exceedingly clever when you dissect its individual parts, but the sum of same screams “cute novelty,” no matter how you slice it. (Having said that, if there’s a spoiler lurking and waiting to pounce, I think this is it.) Eminem and Rihanna make a combustibly compelling combo, but let’s face it: the lion’s share of “Lie’s” power derives from what we in the audience know of Rihanna’s recent domestic crises. The performance will still be discussed a century from now, but the song itself isn’t exactly on the level of a “Stan” or even a “Lose Yourself.” On the face of it, it may seem as though the two country tunes are gonna cancel each other out here (and if that does indeed come to pass, I reiterate that you should really watch out for Cee-Lo), but my sense is that, even though “House” seems likely to sweep the country categories, Lambert is still a mystery to the Academy membership at large. Besides, Record and Song of the Year tend to go hand in hand, which means it’s likely to be a big night for the Nashville crossover kids.


SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Looks like Lady A’s gonna Need a forklift to haul all their golden Gramophones back to Tennessee.



  • Justin Bieber
  • Drake
  • Florence + the Machine
  • Mumford and Sons
  • Esperanza Spalding


Once again, a Best New Artist field that is sorely lacking in excitement and electricity: despite the fact that he’s nominated for seven other awards in various fields, the Grammys’ nonsensically arcane rules barred Bruno Mars from taking his rightful place in this lineup. (Which is too bad because, clearly, he would’ve won this one going away.) Meanwhile, the Academy had to go so far out of their way to avoid giving that fifth slot to the abominable Ke$ha that they dug up the completely unknown Spalding, who will no doubt slip right back under the rock from whence she emerged the minute the ceremony concludes. Florence and Mumford will split the angsty alt-rock vote sure as shootin’, leaving Drake and the Biebs to battle it out.






C’MON, BRANDON, TAKE A STAB: Much as it pains me to think that he’ll win the same trophy that the likes of Bette Midler, Sheryl Crow, Paula Cole, and Cyndi Lauper have also won, I’ll go with Bieber. (God help us all!)


1 response to “the 2011 grammy awards:
a journey inside brandon’s buzz‘s crystal ball”

  1. the buzz from Blake Boldt:

    It’s a deserving nominee in both categories, but I’d prefer to see “Need You Now” win Record rather than Song. Its greatness is in the performances and the production, but the lyric leaves something to be desired. I think “Empire” should win, but “Bad Romance” really deserved a spot. I’d like to see Lady A win a couple trophies tonight, but I think a sweep would give me the same weird feeling as Taylor and Beyonce’s big hauls last year.