HITS Daily Double
OutKast is likely to win for Album of the Year... Hip-hop acts have been nominated in this category several times since M.C. Hammer hit it big in 1990, but OutKast will be the first to take the award home.


An Exclusive Peek Into the Mind of an Expert Awards-Show Prognosticator
by Paul Grein

Rap will finally get its due at this year’s 46th annual Grammy Awards, Feb. 8 at L.A.’s Staples Center. The Atlanta hip-hop duo OutKast is likely to win for Album of the Year with its acclaimed double CD Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below. Hip-hop acts have been nominated in this category several times since M.C. Hammer hit it big in 1990, but OutKast will be the first to take the award home.

Rap acts are also leading contenders in the three other “Big Four” categories, though pop and rock entries are expected to win—Coldplay (“Clocks”) for Record of the Year, Christina Aguilera’s hit “Beautiful” for Song of the Year and Evanescence for Best New Artist.

Here’s the low-down on the key categories.

Album of the Year
Missy Elliott, Under Construction; Evanescence, Fallen; OutKast Speakerboxxx/The Love Below; Justin Timberlake, Justified; The White Stripes, Elephant.
The top contenders are OutKast, which was nominated in this category two years ago with Stankonia, and Timberlake, whose transformation from boy-band pin-up to mainstream pop star has echoes of George Michael’s solo emergence in 1988—when Faith won Album of the Year. OutKast is also nominated for Producer of the Year and Best Short Form Music Video. Timberlake may need one more album to prove he’s all grown up.Pick: A win here will make OutKast the ultimate InSiders.

Record of the Year
Beyonce featuring Jay-Z (“Crazy In Love”), The Black Eyed Peas & Justin Timberlake (“Where Is The Love”), Coldplay (“Clocks”), Eminem (“Lose Yourself”), OutKast (“Hey Ya!”)
For the first time, four of the five candidates for Record of the Year have a hip-hop flavor. That may work to the benefit of the fifth finalist, Coldplay. (First rule of awards predictions: Anytime you have four oranges, put your money on the apple.) And Coldplay is a band on the rise: It has won three Grammys in the last two years in the alternative and rock fields.
Pick: Coldplay will boost the Grammys’ cool factor.

Song of the Year
“Beautiful” (Linda Perry), “Dance With My Father” (Richard Marx, Luther Vandross), “I’m With You” (Avril Lavigne, The Matrix), “Keep Me In Your Heart” (Jorge Calderon/Warren Zevon), “Lose Yourself” (J. Bass, M. Mathers, L. Resto)
“Lose Yourself” is the only work to be nominated for both Record of the Year and Song of the Year. And this time, Eminem has the hip-hop vote all to himself. But “Lose Yourself” was released so early in the eligibility period that it has lost its freshness. And the song is nominated in two other songwriting categories—Best Rap Song and Best Song Written For a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media. Some voters may think that’s recognition enough. “Dance With My Father” and “Keep Me In Your Heart” may split the sentimental vote. “I’m With You” is along for the ride. That leaves “Beautiful,” a hit for Christina Aguilera that addresses the need for a positive self-image. Grammy voters with kids liked the message and may want to show their appreciation.
Pick: If “Beautiful” doesn’t win, things could get ugly.

Best New Artist
Evanescence, 50 Cent, Fountains of Wayne, Heather Headley, Sean Paul
Though it was last year’s top-selling album, 50 Cent’s “Get Rich Or Die Tryin’” was too hard-core for many Grammy voters. So Evanescence, the second most successful of these finalists, will probably win—despite the historical preference for solo acts in this category. The band should be very glad that Lisa Marie Presley wasn’t nominated. Even though Presley wasn’t able to follow up her breakthrough hit, “Lights Out,” she probably would have won in a walk.
Pick: Voters will have “Fallen” for Evanescence.

Best Pop Vocal Album
Christina Aguilera, Stripped; George Harrison, Brainwashed; Annie Lennox, Bare; Michael McDonald, Motown; Justin Timberlake, Justified
As the only Album of the Year finalist to be nominated in this genre-specific category, Timberlake should have this all sewn up. But this award usually goes to respected veterans (Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor) and/or jazz-tinged pop acts (Norah Jones). The only dance-pop artist to have won here is Madonna. This history works to the advantage of veterans Harrison, McDonald and Lennox and works against popsters Timberlake and Aguilera. Which veteran has the best chance? You can make a case for any of them, but we’ll point out that Lennox has won three Grammys since McDonald last walked up to the stage—and two since Harrison’s last win.
Pick: Lennox has a “Bare” lead over McDonald.

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
Tony Bennett & k.d. lang, A Wonderful World; Rosemary Clooney, The Last Concert; Bette Midler, Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook; Rod Stewart, As Time Goes By…The Great American Songbook: Volume II; Barbra Streisand, The Movie Album
I will first eliminate Streisand (the downside to being so famous for so long is that everyone takes your success for granted) and Midler (it would be odd and unsettling for a tribute album to beat the real thing). In a strange irony, Midler’s tribute to Clooney may steal enough votes away from the late singer to cost Clooney the award. So we’re left with Stewart, who has never won a Grammy, and Bennett, who has never lost in this category. I’ll take Stewart, whose album boasts co-production by Grammy favorite Phil Ramone and the backing of industry legend Clive Davis.
Pick: Better get Volume III ready. Stewart may finally bring home a Grammy.

Best Rock Album
Audioslave, Audioslave; Evanescence, Fallen; Foo Fighters, One By One; Matchbox Twenty, More Than You Think You Are; Nickelback, The Long Road
Evanescence is the only one of these candidates to be nominated for Album of the Year. But Matchbox Twenty has a track nominated in the pop field, and Foo Fighters won in this category three years ago. Decisions, decisions. We’ll stick with Evanescence, whose “Bring Me To Life” is also nominated for Best Rock Song and Best Hard Rock Performance.
Pick: Evanescence wins again.

Best Alternative Music Album
The Flaming Lips, Fight Test; Radiohead, Hail to the Thief; Sigur Ros, Untitled; The White Stripes, Elephant; Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Fever to Tell
Radiohead, which has won in this category twice, can’t be counted out. The band’s producer, Nigel Godrich, received nominations for both Producer of the Year and Best Engineered Album for his work on Hail. But the Stripes’ Album of the Year nomination and tremendous critical praise give them the edge.
Pick: The White Stripes owe Bob Hilburn a debt of gratitude.

Best R&B Album
Erykah Badu, Worldwide Underground; Blu Cantrell, Bittersweet, Aretha Franklin, So Damn Happy; The Isley Brothers featuring Ronald Isley aka Mr. Biggs, Body Kiss; Luther Vandross, Dance With My Father
Vandross’ struggle to come back from a near-fatal stroke has made him the sentimental favorite. His Song of the Year nomination shows how many people are pulling for him.
Pick: Vandross win will provide the show’s most emotional moment.

Best Contemporary R&B Album
Ashanti, Chapter II; Beyonce, Dangerously In Love; Mary J. Blige, Love & Life; Anthony Hamilton, Comin’ From Where I’m From; R. Kelly, Chocolate Factory
Ashanti won this award in its first incarnation last year with her eponymous debut album. And the influential Blige is widely admired. But Beyonce had a sensational year. Her emergence from Destiny’s Child brings to mind Diana Ross’ arrival as a solo star three decades ago.
Pick: Now maybe Beyonce can get a little media exposure.

Best Rap Album
Missy Elliott, Under Construction; 50 Cent, Get Rich Or Die Tryin’; Jay-Z, The Blueprint2—The Gift & The Curse; OutKast, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below; The Roots, Phrenology
Pick: OutKast wins again.

Grein, a writer in Los Angeles, has covered the Grammys since 1977 and has predicted the winners each year since 1981. Don’t ask why he continues to write this for the paltry amount we pay him.