In the sneak preview article that was posted a couple of days ago, I mentioned that a blue ribbon panel comprised of randomly selected NARAS members decides what is nominated in the “Big 4” categories of the GRAMMYs (also called the General Field). After the entire membership has voted, the twenty songs, albums, and newcomers with the most votes are listened to and discussed within the panel before the final nominees are chosen.
This process began in the mid-nineties so that albums, songs and/or artists not as mainstream as others would have a a better shot in the major categories. Also, there is more of a variety of genres represented so that a R&B or country song can compete against a pop song and so forth. This year looks to be no different.
Record of the Year
Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”
Green Day, “21 Guns”
Kings of Leon, “Use Somebody”
Lady Gaga, “Poker Face”
Taylor Swift, “You Belong with Me”
There is no doubt in my mind that the first spot in this category will go to the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling,” which spent fourteen straight weeks atop Billboard’s Hot 100 Singles chart and was the undisputed song of the summer. Even though the equally ubiquitous “Boom Boom Pow” was submitted here as well, the latter is probably fresher in the minds of the voters and had more cultural impact.
Other slam dunk contenders are “Poker Face” and “You Belong with Me”. For Gaga, “PF” cemented her place in pop culture and proved that she wasn’t just a one-hit wonder. “You Belong with Me” became Swift’s second #1 single on Top 40 pop radio within a given year, which is unprecedented for a country artist.
The last two spots will go to two of the biggest rock songs of the year: “21 Guns” and “Use Somebody”. Green Day continue to grow artistically and won this category four years ago with “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”. With an expected GRAMMY win from last year (beating the likes of Coldplay and Radiohead), Kings of Leon should have no problem showing up here with this breakthrough single.
Album of the Year
Beyoncé, I Am… Sasha Fierce
Green Day, 21st Century Breakdown
Lady Gaga, The Fame
Taylor Swift, Fearless
In the past decade, Beyoncé has received four nominations in the general field. Ironically, none of those mentions were for Album of the Year and I have a gut instinct that voters will finally give it to her for I Am… Sasha Fierce. Also, it would be a great way for them to acknowledge the huge year that she’s had since “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)” was foolishly not submitted to Record of the Year.
Like Record, I foresee efforts by Green Day, Lady Gaga and Taylor Swift being honored here as well. 21 Century Breakdown followed in the footsteps of its predecessor (American Idiot) by receiving glowing reviews and keeping the band relevant and vital to music as a whole.
Albums that consist of predominately dance material aren’t recognized in this category that often. However, The Fame did for Gaga what Back to Black did for Amy Winehouse two years ago: illustrated the incredible promise of an emerging talent.
Nearly a year after its release, Fearless can be found in the top ten of Billboard’s 200 Albums chart (which is based on sales). She’s in. That leaves room for Maxwell’s BLACKsummers’night to take the last slot. It is one of the most critically-acclaimed albums of the eligibility period and Maxwell has been due for this sort of recognition for a while now.
Song of the Year
“Hometown Glory,” Adele Adkins (Adele)
“Pretty Wings,” Hod David & Musze (Maxwell)
“21 Guns,” Green Day (Green Day)
“Use Somebody,” Caleb Followill, Jared Followill, Matthew Followill & Nathan Followill (Kings of Leon)
“You Belong with Me,” Liz Rose & Taylor Swift (Taylor Swift)
Whereas Record of the Year honors the overall components of a song (vocals, production, etc.), Song of the Year seeks to reward the lyrics of a song. Thinking about it now, I have a hard time deciding on a prototype that voters usually go for in this category. In the past, records with lyrics that conveyed joy, sorrow and anger have all appeared here. Also, genre is not an issue as pop, R&B, rap and country have all been represented.
What I will say is most of the past Song nominees had some sort of deep meaning. This bodes well for “Hometown Glory” and “21 Guns”. Last year’s Best New Artist champ Adele seems likely to get nodded here for the second time in two years with this portrait of her homeland of England. The video was played heavily on VH1 which helped to keep it on the general public’s radar even without radio airplay or high chart positions.
Another theme that is usually common among Song nominees is love and aspects that surround it. If this is true for this year, “Pretty Wings,” “Use Somebody” and “You Belong with Me” should round out the category nicely. If there is anything that could replace one of these songs, “Single Ladies” comes the closest. It may be recognized more so for its production but the lyrics are memorable and catchy enough to warrant a mention nonetheless.
Best New Artist
Zac Brown Band
The Ting Tings
If Lady Gaga was eligible for this category, she would be in. No questions asked. But, as it stands, NARAS has a rule in effect that any artist receiving nominations outside of Best New Artist won’t be eligible for the award in following years (even if it was truly their breakout moment). Although Gaga garnered a worthy nod in Best Dance Recording for her first single “Just Dance” last year, 2009 was her definitive coming out to the general public with five top ten Billboard hits, a VMA win for Best New Artist and comparisons to the legendary Grace Jones.
With Lady Gaga not being in contention, it opens the race up for other artists like the Zac Brown Band and Keri Hilson to become the frontrunners. Both newcomers have made a profound impact in their respective genres and likely have the industry support to make the final five.
To be honest, no one else on the entry list is a lock. Melinda Doolittle sang back-up for several respected artists in the past before making the final four on season six of ‘American Idol’. Her debut album, Coming Back to You, has received exceptional reviews and features the type of material that voters usually eat up. MGMT and the Ting Tings achieved moderate successes with their cult hits “Kids” and “That’s Not My Name” so it seems likely that they’ll be included here. Anjulie, Major Lazer and Owl City could also show up here as well.
To find out who the actual nominees for the 52nd Annual Grammy Awards will be, make sure to tune in to the Nominations Concert Special airing Wednesday night at 9PM ET on CBS!