The 55th Annual Grammy Awards have arrived, thankfully with much less agita surrounding them this year than last, when my dear Miss Whitney passed away the night before the ceremony, a tragedy that cast an impenetrable pall over the entire event. This year, the focus is thankfully back on the music, and how: for the first time in I-don’t-know-how-the-hell-long, each of the four primary races seems to be a total toss-up heading into the home stretch, which suggests we could be in for some big surprises on Sunday night. (It would also appear to portend that a great many prognosticators will come away from these awards looking and feeling like big ol’ fools; as the great Dan Rather once said on Tom Snyder’s brilliant old CBS chat show, “He who lives by the crystal ball learns to eat a lot of broken glass.”) Still, I have a decent batting average with these predictions — which are made all the more tough by the fact that Recording Academy’s tastes can sometimes be notoriously difficult to pin down — over the history of this blog, and I’m feeling incredibly brave as I type this. Ergo, allow me to break down the major Grammy contests:


A general feeling of consensus seems to have gelled around Babel, because (a) it’s the safest choice in the category (and the smart money always goes to the Academy playing it safe whenever humanly possible), as the band’s bracing leap into the mainstream has made it socially acceptable to hop aboard the Mumford Express; (b) it was the biggest commercial hit on this list, which never hurts; and (c) the Academy surely regrets not bestowing more love upon the album’s immediate predecessor Sigh No More when it had the chance and will likely wish to view this award as a make-good effort. (And let’s face facts: even those who passionately profess their love for Babel — a mostly blah collection of twelve songs (fifteen, if you’re listening to the endless deluxe edition) that pretty much sound exactly alike — can’t say with a straight face that they love it more than Sigh.)

My sense is that Mumford wins this one more or less by default: I see Black and White splitting the rock vote, and fun. and Ocean splitting the buzzworthy vote. Them boys ought to just thank their lucky stars while walking to the podium that Bruce Springsteen’s majestic Wrecking Ball failed to make the final cut here; that is an omission glaring enough to warrant a Congressional probe.





  • The Black Keys “Lonely Boy”
  • Kelly Clarkson “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
  • fun. (featuring Janelle Monae) “We Are Young”
  • Gotye featuring Kimbra “Somebody That I Used to Know”
  • Frank Ocean “Thinkin Bout You”
  • Taylor Swift “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”


Wow, is this one a head-scratcher. Over the past couple of years, the Buzz has taken to calling this race on the night the nominations have been announced, because this category is generally a pretty easy call, but I didn’t have the balls to pick one of these tunes straight away last December (and quite frankly, I’m not sure I’m have a more definitive answer even now). You can make a pretty compelling case for no fewer than four of these records walking away with the golden trophy.

Even though (a) I rather preferred “Some Nights” — their sinfully brilliant second single — to “Young”; and (b) I rather preferred the Glee fops’ take on “Young” to the smash original, my heart still says that fun. deserves this for the stunning creative splash they managed to make this year, and for engineering not one but two true reaction records with a pair of box-busting tunes that have no real right to work as well as they do. But my head says to employ a bit of inviolable Grammy logic to this conundrum, and in so doing, it all seems achingly simple: Black Keys will have to just be happy with the fact that they stole “Call Me Maybe’s” slot; fun. and Gotye — the adventurous envelope pushers who both scored ginormous hits — seem likely to cannibalize each other; the voters would hardly even dream of selecting a strange hip-hop hybrid that made no real dent at mainstream radio, leaving poor Ocean adrift.

That leaves Clarkson and Swift, and while you might say that the two pop princesses will cancel each other out just as easily as any other two similar choices might, look closer. My gut tells me that Swift is facing a lot of undermeasured resistance: she’s going through men like Kleenex (as they used to say on my forever favorite Designing Women), and the Nashville establishment’s distaste for and distrust of her seems to grow with each passing day — pop radio has been all over Red‘s offerings, but country radio has been chilly, and Billboard’s recent radical shift in chart methodology (which pushed “Together” to the top of the country singles chart, even though the format’s radio stations had largely rejected the track) has only seemed to compound that issue. (Besides all that, the fact that “Together” didn’t manage to crack any of the vocal categories for which it was eligible is quite telling.)

Clarkson, meanwhile, made an album that was widely admired, she makes big-tent pop music that brings urrybody to the table for at least a bite, and she has pretty deftly made a passel of friends within the pop and the country voting factions. And in a year in which no fewer than half of the Record of the Year nominees are each guaranteed a large number of votes, it ought not take much more than that to nudge one tune just over the top of the others.


SHOULD WIN: fun. fun. fun. . . .


WILL WIN: . . . ’til Ms. Clarkson takes the T-bird away.


  • Kelly Clarkson “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
  • fun. (featuring Janelle Monae) “We Are Young”
  • Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe”
  • Miguel “Adorn”
  • Ed Sheeran “The A Team”


As on point as the previous category was, that’s how disastrous this one ends up being. Let me get this straight: the Academy didn’t like Sheeran and/or Miguel enough to vote them into the Best New Artist lineup, yet their midlist hits were deemed worthy enough to deserve Song of the Year slots? Um, no. You might be on to something if you suspect that the Academy might want to toss “Maybe” a bone, since this will be their only shot to do so in the general field awards, and since, even in a year teeming with pop behemoths, this is the tune that towered above them all on the cultural penetration scale. (Which makes its absence in the Record of the Year derby — where it might have thrown a serious monkey wrench into the machinery — all the more mystifying.) But this is an award for song craft, and — laying aside the crisp production, the catchy beat, and the bubbly effervescence of Jepsen’s performance herein — “Call Me’s” basic conceit is just flat-ass dumb. (Hey Carly, catch it: on this whole planet, people meet — in clubs, in coffeeshops, in airports, at the damned Burger King — and exchange phone numbers within five or so minutes every fucking day of the week. It’s really not so crazy at all!)

Record and Song tend to go hand in hand, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see Clarkson nab this award if she is indeed victorious in the aforementioned category as well. But something tells me this might be fun.’s shot to break out: with Gotye not here to siphon off votes — his “Somebody” was deemed ineligible for Song of the Year because it contains a sample of Luiz Bonfá’s track “Seville” — they have a golden opportunity to plant their freak flags at pop music’s pinnacle with nary an interloper to intercept them. Frankly, I’d just flip a coin.




WILL WIN: it’s a real toss-up, but I’d stick with Clarkson on a dare.


  • Alabama Shakes
  • fun.
  • Hunter Hayes
  • The Lumineers
  • Frank Ocean


This category is not the total trainwreck it has been over the past couple of ceremonies. (Anyone heard from Esperanza Spalding lately?) Alabama Shakes and The Lumineers both acquitted themselves quite handsomely with respectable debut records, but I for one would like to hear follow-up efforts from each of them before I’m ready to crown them. And Hayes has potential, no doubt, but he’s certainly not in league with any of the rest of this lineup as yet. There is a great deal of buzz around Frank Ocean, but that buzz really hasn’t translated to record sales and radio airplay — at least not on a giant scale — and he feels like nothing more than a Joan Osborne-esque flash-in-the-pan to me. (Nothing against Osborne, whom I most passionately adore, but even her most ardent admirers will admit that her subsequent output never again reached the same level of artistry as her debut effort.)

fun., meantime, managed to muscle their way into the Record, Song, and Album finals, and that’s generally a pretty good sign that they are bound for glory here — think Christopher Cross, think Paula Cole, think Amy Winehouse — even if it ends up merely being a consolation prize.


SHOULD AND WILL WIN: Yo ho ho and. . . a barrel of fun.

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