HITS Daily Double
I don’t think Kanye's public tirades will prove fatal (the Grammys are well aware that they need to boost their credibility in the hip-hop world), but they probably won’t help.


Our Trophy Nostradamus Issues
His First Round of Predictions

By Paul Grein

Grein writes the Chart Watch blog and contributes awards coverage for Yahoo.com. Earlier this year, he correctly predicted the winners of each of the “Big Four” awards.

Justin Timberlake better get that “Suit & Tie” ready for the Grammys. Or will this be Daft Punk’s year to “Get Lucky”? One thing’s for sure: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won’t need to get their Grammy duds at the “Thrift Shop.”

You’ll be reading lame puns like that (and even worse ones, if that’s possible) between now and Jan. 26, when the 56th annual Grammy Awards are presented at Staples Center in Los Angeles. There are still three months left in the eligibility year (which runs through Sept. 30), but we’re far enough along in the year to look at how the races are starting to shape up.

Album of the Year
Justin Timberlake
’s third solo album, The 20/20 Experience, and Daft Punk’s fourth album, Random Access Memories, seem certain to get the nod from the committee that picks the final nominees in the top four categories. Timberlake was nominated in this category with his first two solo albums. Another nom would make him the first former group member to make the finals with his or her first three solo albums.

Taylor Swift
, who won in this category for Fearless and then wasn’t even nominated for Speak Now, may well make it back to the finals with her fourth studio album, Red. (But will the crossover-minded album compete for Best Country Album, as her past works have, or Best Pop Vocal Album?)

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ debut, The Heist, is also a strong contender, on the strength of two #1 singles and the heartfelt and very timely “Same Love.” Bruno Mars sophomore album, Unorthodox Jukebox, also has a good shot. Mars’ debut album was nominated in this category two years ago.

I’d say that that’s the field at this point, though keep in mind there are still three months to go. Looking ahead to upcoming releases, keep an eye on The Civil Wars’ eponymous sophomore album, Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail and Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines, among others.

Kanye West
was nominated in this category with three albums in a row, but was passed over with his last two solo albums. He’s a contender this year with Yeezus. West has publicly blasted the Grammys for showering him with awards in the rap field but not (yet) awarding him in the marquee categories. I don’t think his public tirades will prove fatal (the Grammys are well aware that they need to boost their credibility in the hip-hop world), but they probably won’t help.

Several other albums from the past nine months are on stand-by should any of the front-runners falter. Rihanna’s seventh studio album, Unapologetic, could put her back in the finals. She was nominated for Loud and then fell short with Talk That Talk. Florida Georgia Line’s Here’s to the Good Times is one of the year’s hottest country albums. John Fogerty’s star-studded Wrote A Song For Everyone will get a look, though no Duets-style album has made the finals since Ray CharlesGenius Loves Company.

Also in the mix: Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city, Blake Shelton’s Based on a True Story…, Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City and The Great Gatsby: Music From Baz Luhrmann’s Film.

Record and Song of the Year
These categories often overlap to a degree, so let’s take them together.

“Get Lucky” by Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams is irresistible ear candy. The exquisitely tailored “Just Give Me a Reason” by P!nk featuring Nate Ruess embodies the Grammy sound so completely that it could have been designed in a Grammy lab. And panelists will probably embrace Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. But which song will they choose? They could go with the genial hip-hop smash “Thrift Shop” (featuring Wanz), which is the year’s biggest hit. Or they could show support for “Same Love” (featuring Mary Lambert), which puts a very personal spin on a hot-button issue.

“Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke featuring T.I. + Pharrell, which is fast becoming one of the year’s biggest hits, is also a strong contender.

Panelists will probably be looking at three smash hits that were performed on the Grammys in February—the snazzy “Suit & Tie” by Justin Timberlake featuring Jay-Z, Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” and “Stay” by Rihanna featuring Mikky Ekko. The panel may dock “Locked Out of Heaven” for borrowing so heavily from The Police. Fortunately, Mars has a second smash in the running, the torchy ballad “When I Was Your Man.” In the same way, if “Suit & Tie” seems a little old by now, JT’s “Mirrors” is a solid alternate.

Other possibilities include Emeli Sande’s “Next To Me,” Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble,” Fall Out Boy’s “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark (Light Em Up)” and Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel.”

Imagine Dragons
’ “Radioactive” and Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” were released prior to the start of the eligibility year. Otherwise, they’d be likely nominees. (The remixed version of “Cruise,” featuring Nelly, will be eligible only for Best Remixed Recording.)

Best New Artist
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
, Florida Georgia Line and Emeli Sande seem to be the best bets. Sande’s album was eligible for Album of the Year last year (so it can’t compete for that award again this year), but the Grammys have some flexibility in the New Artist category for acts that came out one year and finally broke big the following year. (That rule could even pull in Imagine Dragons, though they really broke big in the last eligibility year.)

Two hot rappers, Kendrick Lamar and A$AP Rocky, are among the leading candidates for the remaining two spots. (This would give the Grammy panel some cover if it elects not to put West in the Album of the Year finals.)

Phillip Phillips
“Home” is the best-selling song by any contestant in American Idol history. And his follow-up, “Gone, Gone, Gone,” has cracked the top 40. But after all this time, only one Idol contestant (Carrie Underwood) has been nominated in this category. (I’ve always had the sense that the Grammys don’t want to be seen as simply rubber-stamping Idol’s choices.) And since Idol’s TV ratings are trending down, this would be an odd time for the Grammys to change their ways. Is Phillips strong enough to overcome the dynamics that are working against him?

Other possibilities include Season 12 Idol winner Candice Glover (whose debut album, Music Speaks, is due Aug. 13), Ariana Grande (whose debut album is also due in August), Randy Houser, Chief Keef, The Weeknd and gospel singer Tamela Mann.

Kacey Musgraves,
who broke through on her fourth album, probably won’t be eligible (assuming the three previous albums are all deemed to have had national commercial distribution). The Grammys run a tight ship.