(Editor's Note: The winners for the 56th GRAMMY Awards are not known until they are announced during the Pre-Telecast and GRAMMY telecast on Sunday, Jan. 26. The following blog offers predictions that do not reflect the opinions of The Recording Academy, GRAMMY.com or Recording Academy voting members. The Academy's voting members, all involved in the creative and technical processes of recording, participate in the nominating process that determines the finalists in each GRAMMY category; and the final voting process that determines the GRAMMY winners. For more information on the GRAMMY Awards process, visit GRAMMY.org.)
The pundits are pontificating, the more than 12,000 Recording Academy voters have cast their ballots, and the 56th GRAMMY Awards, airing on CBS Jan. 26 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, is just around the corner, so what better time to survey this year's GRAMMY field and offer a few observations?
As I pointed out in my first blog, in which I peered into the crystal ball for the nominations, the following are my personal educated guesses in the General Field and select GRAMMY categories from my perspective as a longtime professional observer.
Record Of The Year
Certainly no one can quibble with this year's nominees. There's consensus that Daft Punk & Pharrell Williams' "Get Lucky," Imagine Dragons' "Radioactive," Lorde's "Royals," Robin Thicke Featuring T.I. and Pharrell Williams' "Blurred Lines" and Bruno Mars' "Locked Out Of Heaven" were the most ubiquitous songs of the past year, both in terms of airplay and critical acclaim. That said, Mars, with four current nominations and a total of 14 prior GRAMMY nominations and one win (Best Pop Male Vocal Performance for "Just The Way You Are" in 2010), seems ripe for recognition — complete with the heat surrounding his upcoming Super Bowl halftime performance — though any of the other four wouldn't be a surprise.
Album Of The Year
This category includes a nominee from pop (Sara Bareilles), dance (Daft Punk), country (Taylor Swift), and two hip-hop artists (Kendrick Lamar and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis). Album Of The Year has a diverse history (recent winners include Mumford & Sons, Adele, Arcade Fire, Swift, and Robert Plant & Alison Krauss), and the presence of two rap acts might split that vote. Could that open the door for Bareilles, or another coronation for Swift, whose Fearless garnered the nod in 2009? That's what I'm thinking.
Song Of The Year
The competition is strong in this category, which recognizes songwriters, with Record Of The Year nominees "Locked Out Of Heaven" and "Royals" represented, Pink Featuring Nate Ruess' "Just Give Me A Reason" and Katy Perry's tour de force "Roar." But here's guessing that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' "Same Love" captures the political zeitgeist this year, just as the Dixie Chicks ("Not Ready To Make Nice") and Bruce Springsteen ("Streets Of Philadelphia") have in years past.
Best New Artist
Once again, a mixed genre bag, with UK dub-step artist James Blake, Compton, Calif., hip-hop hopeful Kendrick Lamar, country newcomer Kacey Musgraves and Brit folkie Ed Sheeran forming a strong batch of contenders. However, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' DIY success story and overturning of hip-hop orthodoxy in areas of bling and sexuality could just make the difference here.
Best Pop Solo Performance
Could this be where Justin Timberlake gets his due for the smash "Mirrors"? Or will Bareilles' "Brave" get the nod? Also in the mix are Perry's "Roar," Mars' "When I Was Your Man" and Lorde's "Royals." With not-so-perfect 20/20 foresight, I'm going with JT here.
Best Pop Vocal Album
A tough one to call, with pop starlet Lana Del Rey (Paradise) and the presence of General Field nominees Lorde (Pure Heroine), Mars (Unorthodox Jukebox) and Thicke (Blurred Lines) all accounted for, but I think this is where Timberlake (The 20/20 Experience — The Complete Experience) will reign.
Best Rock Performance
Deserving veterans David Bowie ("The Stars [Are Out Tonight]"), Led Zeppelin ("Kashmir"), Jack White ("I'm Shakin"), and Queens Of The Stone Age ("My God Is The Sun") are all represented here, along with last year's Best New Artist nominees Alabama Shakes ("Always Alright"), but I don't think newcomers Imagine Dragons' Record Of The Year nominee "Radioactive" will be denied.
Best Rock Song
Paul McCartney and Nirvana ("Cut Me Some Slack"), the Rolling Stones ("Doom And Gloom") and Black Sabbath ("God Is Dead?") are nominated, along with Muse ("Panic Station") and Gary Clark Jr. ("Ain't Messin 'Round), but I believe the presence of Dave Grohl with a living legend like Macca makes "… Slack" a "cut" above the rest.
Best Rap Album
Lamar (Good Kid, M.A.A.D City) and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (The Heist) face off against the reigning hip-hop triumvirate of Jay Z (Magna Carta … Holy Grail), Kanye West (Yeezus) and Drake (Nothing Was The Same). My call? Lamar edges out his Seattle rivals to snare the prize.
Best Country Album
If Swift (Red) doesn't claim Album Of The Year, this will be a worthy consolation over a strong field, including Musgraves (Same Trailer Different Park), Jason Aldean (Night Train), Tim McGraw (Two Lanes Of Freedom) and Blake Shelton (Based On A True Story).
You've read my predictions. Who do you think GRAMMY voters will choose?