What did the folks at the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences learn earlier this year? Surprise pays off. A ceremony that was supposed to end with an official career reclamation from Eminem turned into a disappointing night for the rapper, who lost out in all of the major categories he was nominated in. The night’s biggest surprises? Alternative rock group The Arcade Fire taking Album of the Year over a series of much higher-profile nominees and jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding winning Best New Artist over the likes of Drake, Justin Bieber and Mumford & Sons. Music executive Steve Stoute (who is probably still best known for receiving a Puff Daddy-wielded champagne bottle to the dome a decade ago) notoriously penned a letter to the Academy expressing dissatisfaction with their choices. How dare they give relative unknown artists props over big-selling but artistically negligent (at least by comparison) pop stars? The nerve!!

Stoute shouldn’t have much to complain about this year, because if there is any such thing as a gimme-Adele is it. The British crooner has the year’s biggest selling album by far, has struck a rare balance between commercial acceptance and critical praise, and is already a Grammy darling, with two trophies in her back pocket (including the Best New Artist prize…kiss of death, my ass.) It is widely expected that she will sweep the major categories, and my face would fall off if she wasn’t at the very, very least nominated for Record, Song and Album of the Year. Throw in “gimme” nominations for Best Pop Album and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Solo (there’s no more male/female designations), and we’re looking at a mighty-fine night for the young Brit.

However, the rest of the field appears to be wide open. The nominations will be announced in a televised special hosted by 2-time Grammy winner LL Cool J, with performances by artists like Lady GaGa and Jason Aldean, both of whom are certain to be nominated. Here’s a look at five other artists who should expect to take home some nomination love.

Kanye West: ‘Ye is already a fourteen-time Grammy winner. Let’s put this into perspective-Kanye West has more Grammy Awards than Michael Jackson, Prince, Luther Vandross, Bob Marley, Led Zeppelin and The Beatles. Of course, times are different, and if there were the amount of awards for a disparate array of genres (when “Thriller” came out for example, there was no “Best R&B Album” category) then that there are now, situations might be different. So, given the categories he’s won in, you can’t really say they’re not deserved. At any rate, ‘Ye has two albums eligible for consideration this year-My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Watch The Throne. It’s entirely feasible that he could find himself with multiple nominations in a ton of categories. Of course, it’s also entirely feasible that those multiple nominations may result in his being cancelled out when the winners are announced. At least one of those two albums will receive an Album Of The Year nomination-Fantasy received notice as 2010’s Best Album in a sea of music publications. Otherwise, the rap categories are all but a lock. Adele might capture the most trophies, but something tells me that the Louie Vuitton don will be capturing the most nominations.

Taylor Swift: Kanye’s nemesis had a pretty stellar year. Released at the very beginning of the Grammy nominations’ eligibility period, Speak Now moved over a million copies in it’s first week. Her previous album, Fearless, nabbed the Album Of The Year trophy two years ago, so it would surprise no one if Speak Now found itself nominated in the same category. Beyond that, it’s possible that the single “Mine” could get some love in the pop and country categories.

Beyonce: The nominating committee has fallen over themselves to award Beyonce prodigiously for her three previous mediocre efforts. It would stand to reason that the love would increase upon Bee actually making a good album. While there were no singles on a level of “Single Ladies” or “Crazy In Love” to score major love, I’d say 4 is a solid candidate for Album Of The Year, and will certainly clean up in the R&B categories. She’s beloved by voters, has a husband who wields a considerable amount of influence in the industry, and she’s preggo. Slam dunk, folks.

Foo Fighters: If the year was to end today, Foo Fighters would have this year’s third biggest selling rock album, behind Mumford & Sons (who might snag a Record or Song of the Year nomination but are ineligible for Album of the Year) and Coldplay (who are ineligible for Album of the Year, but might score some love in the rock categories for “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall”.) Wasting Light was widely considered a creative high-water mark for them, and Grammy folks have shown them a fairly significant amount of love in the past. An Album of The Year nomination is not outside the realm of possibility, and they will certainly clean up in the rock categories.

OK, so there’s no slam dunk #5, but there are plenty of interesting possibilities, including a crop of new artists with no clear-cut front-runner. Will Chris Brown’s reclamation project translate into Grammy love? A nomination for Best R&B album is assured, but he could find himself ass-out in any other major categories. Rihanna might find herself in the same boat. Lil Wayne’s Carter III, while selling millions, got a fairly muted response from critics. The geezer vote may end up split between Tony Bennett’s Duets II (which as a bonus features the last recordings of Amy Winehouse, probably good for a Best Pop Collaboration Grammy) and Paul Simon, whose So Beautiful Or So What was considered his best album in two decades.

Here’s how I think some of the categories will go. We’ll see how good my prognostication skills are:

Record of The Year: “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele, “Body & Soul” by Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse, “Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5 & Christina Aguilera, “Born This Way” by Lady GaGa, “The Cave” by Mumford & Sons

Album of the Year: “21” by Adele, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” by Kanye West, “Wasting Light” by Foo Fighters, “So Beautiful or So What” by Paul Simon, “Speak Now” by Taylor Swift

Best New Artist: Bon Iver, Dawes, Marsha Ambrosius, Nicki Minaj, Foster The People

Best Pop Album: “21”, “So Beautiful or So What”, “Duets II”, “Born This Way” by Lady GaGa, “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” by Bruno Mars

Best R&B Album: “F.A.M.E.” by Chris Brown, “4” by Beyonce, “Late Nights & Early Mornings” by Marsha Ambrosius, “The Light Of The Sun” by Jill Scott, “Pieces Of Me” by Ledisi

Best Rap Album: “Pink Friday” by Nicki Minaj, “Hell-The Sequel” by Bad Meets Evil, “Lasers” by Lupe Fiasco, “Tha Carter IV” by Lil Wayne, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” by Kanye West, “Watch The Throne” by Kanye West & Jay-Z

Best Rock Album: “Wasting Light” by Foo Fighters, “The Whole Love” by Wilco, “Collapse Into Now” by R.E.M., “I’m With You” by Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Born Free” by Kid Rock (did no classic rock artists release albums this year?)

Best Country Album: “Own The Night” by Lady Antebellum, “Speak Now” by Taylor Swift, “This Is Country Music” by Brad Paisley, “My Kinda Party” by Jason Aldean, “Chief” by Eric Church

Best Alternative Album: “Torches” by Foster The People, “Bon Iver” by Bon Iver, “The King Is Dead” by The Decemberists, “Helplessness Blues” by Fleet Foxes, “The Whole Love” by Wilco

 

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