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The Only Grammys Prediction Post You Need To Read

This year's ceremony could be one of the few genuinely surprising awards shows. Here's why.

Charles Sykes/AP [Welch], Amy Sussman/AP [White], Simone Joyner/Getty [Mumford], John Shearer/AP [Clarkson], Christopher Polk/Getty [Ocean]

If you compare the Grammys with other major awards, they don't make a lot of sense. You can suss out the front-runners at the Oscars pretty easily even if you're just a casual observer of Hollywood culture, and the same goes for the Emmys and Tonys. The music industry, however, is more fragmented all the time, and it's difficult to get a sense of consensus within that world unless someone like Adele comes along and hits the perfect sweet spot of massive sales, critical acclaim, and intergenerational appeal. There are no obvious winners at this year's Grammy Awards, but there's a lot of worth contenders, which could potentially make this one of the few genuinely surprising awards shows. Here's a guide to who should win — and who probably will win — in all of the top categories.

Record of the Year

The Associated Press / AP

The Black Keys, "Lonely Boy"
Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"
Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe, "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"

This category is a perfect example of why this year's Grammys are very difficult to call — everything here is pretty good and very popular, and has a legit chance at winning. But Gotye and Fun.'s songs will probably be written off as fluke hits by long-term voters, and Frank Ocean and Black Keys are probably a little too niche to win the top category. So it's really down to Taylor and Kelly, and Kelly will win because she has more cred with older voters.


Album of the Year

Simone Joyner / Getty Images

The Black Keys, El Camino
Fun., Some Nights
Mumford & Sons, Babel
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
Jack White, Blunderbuss

The Black Keys or Jack White cancel each other out — if it were only one or the other, it'd be a lock for this category. This comes down to either Frank Ocean and Mumford & Sons, and the Mumfords will prevail because they sold more records and appeal to an older crowd.


Song of the Year

Lionel Cironneau / AP

Ed Sheeran, "The A Team"
Miguel, "Adorn"
Carly Rae Jepsen, "Call Me Maybe"
Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"
Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe, "We Are Young"

Record of the Year is a category for honoring producers, and Song of the Year is for recognizing songwriters. So with that in mind, there could be a bias in favor of singer-songwriters Miguel and Ed Sheeran, but there's a strong chance that Carly Rae Jepsen will take this for cowriting the most memorable pop hit of 2012.


Best New Artist

Mario Anzuoni / Reuters

Alabama Shakes
Hunter Hayes
The Lumineers
Frank Ocean

There's an outside chance that The Lumineers or Fun. could win, but this category belongs to Frank Ocean. He's nominated elsewhere, but voters will see this as the appropriate way to honor him and assume he'll just keep making Grammy-worthy records in the future.


Best Rap Performance

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Drake featuring Lil Wayne, "HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)"
Jay-Z and Kanye West, "N****s in Paris"
Nas, "Daughters"
Kanye West featuring Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz, "Mercy"
Young Jeezy featuring Jay-Z and Andre 3000, "I Do"

All of these songs are excellent, but Kanye and Jay-Z have the most cred and broadest appeal. Odds are even that some poor presenter will have to figure out a way to announce the title without actually saying the "n" word.

PROJECTED WINNER: Jay-Z and Kanye West

Best Rap Album

Theo Wargo / Getty Images

Drake, Take Care
Lupe Fiasco, Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album, Pt. 1
Nas, Life Is Good
The Roots, Undun
Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don't
2 Chainz, Based on a T.R.U. Story

Nas and The Roots will get some love from older voters, but Drake is the only artist here whose album was both massively successful and critically acclaimed, so he's got a lock on this.


Best Pop Solo Performance

Danny Moloshok / Reuters

Adele, "Set Fire to the Rain (Live)"
Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"
Carly Rae Jepsen, "Call Me Maybe"
Katy Perry, "Wide Awake"
Rihanna, "Where Have You Been"

The very fact that a live recording of an old Adele song is in this category is evidence that you just can't underestimate how much Grammy voters loooooooove her. But it's more likely that Kelly Clarkson will take this, since "Call Me Maybe" will be dismissed as a one-hit wonder by some voters, and Katy and Rihanna's songs are kinda lackluster compared with their other hits.


Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

Danny Moloshok / Reuters

Florence + The Machine, "Shake It Out"
Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe, "We Are Young"
Gotye featuring Kimbra, "Somebody That I Used to Know"
LMFAO, "Sexy and I Know It"
Maroon 5 featuring Wiz Khalifa, "Payphone"

Florence would win this in a just world, but this is the real world, and Maroon 5's song was a massive hit. This is the perfect way for Grammy voters to recognize Adam Levine's enduring success without having to put his band in a major category.


Best Pop Vocal Album

Vittorio Zunino Celotto / Getty Images

Kelly Clarkson, Stronger
Florence + The Machine, Ceremonials
Fun., Some Nights
Maroon 5, Overexposed
Pink, The Truth About Love

Florence is way more likely to win here, if just because her high level of cred gives her a big advantage in an album category. Voters will want to recognize her as an emerging star, and this is the perfect place to do that.

PROJECTED WINNER: Florence + The Machine

Best Dance Recording

Andrew Benge / Getty Images

Avicii, "Levels"
Calvin Harris featuring Ne-Yo, "Let's Go"
Skrillex featuring Sirah, "Bangarang"
Swedish House Mafia featuring John Martin, "Don't You Worry Child"
Al Walser, "I Can't Live Without You"

The virtually unknown producer Al Walser scammed his way into a nomination by spamming Grammy voters with emails to boost his name recognition, so that just shows you how little the voting body knows about dance music. Skrillex has the most name recognition here and won a Grammy last year, so he'll almost certainly win again this year.


Best Alternative Music Album

Photo by Karl Walter / Getty Images

Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do
Björk, Biophilia
Gotye, Making Mirrors
M83, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
Tom Waits, Bad As Me

The "alternative" category is basically just a grab bag of misfit artists. Fiona Apple is the most likely to get a consensus, though Tom Waits could pull off an upset.


Best Rock Performance

The Associated Press / AP

Alabama Shakes, "Hold On"
The Black Keys, "Lonely Boy"
Coldplay, "Charlie Brown"
Mumford & Sons, "I Will Wait"
Bruce Springsteen, "We Take Care of Our Own"

The Black Keys have the only true rocker in this category, and Grammy voters love them. Consider this a lock, but don't get too shocked if Springsteen pulls ahead.


Best Rock Album

Stephen Lovekin / Getty Images

The Black Keys, El Camino
Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto
Muse, The 2nd Law
Bruce Springsteen, Wrecking Ball
Jack White, Blunderbuss

This is a toss-up between The Black Keys and Jack White. White might edge them out here, but if they end up canceling each other out, it could go to Springsteen.


Best Rock Song

Paul Connors / AP

Jack White, "Freedom at 21"
Mumford & Sons, "I Will Wait"
The Black Keys, "Lonely Boy"
Muse, "Madness"
Bruce Springsteen, "We Take Care of Our Own"

The Jack White/Black Keys rivalry is less strong here, since "Lonely Boy" was a much bigger hit than "Freedom at 21," so it's really a contest of Keys vs. Springsteen, and The Boss might take it. This is a very tricky category, so who knows.

PROJECTED WINNER: Bruce Springsteen

Best R&B Performance

Charley Gallay / Getty Images

Estelle, "Thank You"
Robert Glasper Experiment featuring Ledisi, "Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.)"
Luke James, "I Want You"
Miguel, "Adorn"
Usher, "Climax"

This is another category where name recognition outside of the hardcore genre base goes a long way. This one comes down to Miguel and Usher — the latter has more longevity, but the former is very hot right now. This could go either way.


Best R&B Song

Jason Merritt / Getty Images

Miguel, "Adorn"
Tamia, "Beautiful Surprise"
Trez Songz, "Heart Attack"
Anthony Hamilton, "Pray for Me"
Elle Varner, "Refill"

Miguel is up for a lot of awards, but this is the only place where he seems like a surefire winner. Elle Varner could take it, maybe, but that's kind of a long shot.


Best Urban Contemporary Record

Jason Kempin / Getty Images

Chris Brown, Fortune
Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream
Frank Ocean, Channel Orange

Only three albums in this poorly defined category! Frank Ocean is the most likely winner here, which could incite another temper tantrum from the notoriously volatile Chris Brown.


Best Country Album

Mike Coppola / Getty Images

Zac Brown Band, Uncaged
Hunter Hayes, Hunter Hayes
Jamey Johnson, Living for a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran
Miranda Lambert, Four the Record
The Time Jumpers, The Time Jumpers

Hunter Hayes is an outlier for Best New Artist, but the young star is a front-runner in this category. That said, Zac Brown Band could pull off an upset here.


Best Country Solo Performance

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Dierks Bentley, "Home"
Eric Church, "Springsteen"
Ronnie Dunn, "Cost of Livin'"
Hunter Hayes, "Wanted"
Blake Shelton, "Over"
Carrie Underwood, "Blown Away"

Hayes could very likely take this category too, but there's a strong chance voters will look at this as an opportunity to give the often-nominated Dierks Bentley his first Grammy win.