The 2012 Grammys: Winning predictions?
Music • In a strong year of music, it looks like everything will turn golden for Adele.
Published: February 10, 2012 04:20PM
Updated: May 24, 2012 11:34PM
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Sarah A. Miller | The Salt Lake Tribune Lady Gaga performs her hit "Love Game" at EnergySolutions Arena in Salt Lake City in April.

In 2011, Grammy Awards were awarded in 109 categories. This year, that number has been slashed to 78.

Paradoxically, the televised length of the program will stay the same.

Many of the changes to the music awards elicit head-scratching.

In the Classical music category, the main award, Best Classical Album, has been discontinued. Classical recordings are now eligible to be nominated for the overall Album of the Year category — like that will ever happen.

Since last year, the distinction between male and female soloists in various pop, rock, R&B, country and rap has been eliminated. Which would make sense, if we could all agree that music fans have become a truly gender-neutral global community.

Getting respect this year is Kanye West, who tops the nominations with seven, despite receiving no nominations for Record of the Year or Album of the Year.

Adele, the Foo Fighters and Bruno Mars each garnered six nods, while Lil Wayne and Skrillex each got five. Drake, Paul Epworth, Cee-Lo Green, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine, Nicki Minaj, Mumford & Sons, Radiohead, Rihanna and Bon Iver each received four.

But to West’s probable dismay, it will likely be Adele who walks away with the most awards. In addition, she will perform during the ceremony for the first time in the five months — due to her recent vocal-cord surgery — which should produce the show’s most talked-about moment. Especially if she tanks it.

Here are The Tribune’s predictions of which music will most likely earn rewards, as well as what music we’d rather hear on the radio as we drive home today.

Record of the Year

“Rolling in the Deep” • Adele

“Holocene” • Bon Iver

“Grenade” • Bruno Mars

“The Cave” • Mumford & Sons

“Firework” • Katy Perry

Will win • “Rolling in the Deep” was an overwhelming commercial hit that also earned critical praise for its neo-soul stylings. Surprisingly, this proved a particularly strong category this year, with the only stinker being Katy Perry’s “Firework,” which contains the worst vocals ever recorded on a No. 1 album. So what if it has an inspirational message? It doesn’t eliminate the fact that she oversings throughout.

What I’d rather listen to • Bon Iver is the black sheep this year, since most people have no idea who Justin Vernon is and why he sounds as if he’s been castrated. “Holocene” is a geological epoch that began at the end of the Pleistocene, which Vernon has said the song was partly named after. In addition, the song is partly named for a bar in Portland where he had a rough night. Well, I think he’ll have a rough night at the Grammys, so I predict that soon he will release the song “Pliocene.”

Album of the Year

“21” • Adele

“Wasting Light” • Foo Fighters

“Born This Way” • Lady Gaga

“Doo-Wops & Hooligans” • Bruno Mars

“Loud” • Rihanna

Will win • While I’m glad a bona-fide rock act like Foo Fighters got a nomination, it wasn’t their best album. Besides, Adele is nominated, and we’re still crying to “Someone Like You.”

I’d rather listen to • Don’t dismiss Lady Gaga. Sure, we’re all getting a little tired of her antics, but she made the best pop album of the year. “Born This Way” is a triumph of will that is consistent throughout, while the other albums have filler in between the killer.

Song of the Year

“All of the Lights” • Kanye West

“The Cave” • Mumford & Sons

“Grenade” • Bruno Mars

“Holocene” • Bon Iver

“Rolling in the Deep” • Adele

Will win • This will be the rare case when the artist with the most nominations — West — doesn’t win this songwriter’s award. I predict he will lose ungraciously to Adele, who co-wrote her song.

I’d rather listen to • West’s song features not only Kanye, but also John Legend, Alicia Keys, Fergie, Kid Cudi, Elton John and Rihanna, with the latter singing the cannot-get-it-out-of-your-head hook. Rihanna should replace James Earl Jones as the new voice of CNN.

Best New Artist

The Band Perry, Bon Iver, J. Cole, Nicki Minaj, Skrillex

Will win •Adele. Ooops, she’s not nominated in this category. Bon Iver, nominated for Song and Record of the Year, as well as two other Grammys, would seem to be the most logical choice. Then again, after jazz bassist Esperanza Spalding’s shocking win in this category last year, anything can happen. While I see the appeal of Skrillex, most of his electronic music is created via computers and remixes, and I would prefer that a more organic artist like The Band Perry be recognized.

I’d rather listen to • The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” creeps me out. Although Nicki Minaj gets much help from a phalanx of producers, her unique mashup of pop, hip-hop and R&B is refreshing, and her breakthrough hit “Super Bass” is undeniably catchy. But when it comes to influence and emotional intensity, Bon Iver’s self-titled follow-up to 2008’s astonishing “For Emma, Forever Ago” exceeded expectations. Plus he killed as a guest artist on Kanye West’s most recent solo album.

Best Pop Instrumental Album

“Wish Upon a Star” • Jenny Oaks Baker

“E Kahe Malie” • Daniel Ho

“The Road From Memphis” • Booker T. Jones

“Hello Tomorrow” • Dave Koz

“Setzer Goes Instru-Mental!” • Brian Setzer

Will win • Jazz saxophonist Dave Koz, rockabilly revivalist Brian Setzer, the legendary Booker T. and five-time Grammy winner Daniel Ho are all much better-known than Utah native and classical violinist Jenny Oaks Baker, who might be considered the Bon Iver of the Best Pop Instrumental Album category. But Baker’s collection of Kurt Bestor-arranged Disney songs is appealing to children and adults, and the princess dress she wears on the cover of her album might come in handy if she wins. Plus, she records for Shadow Mountain Records, a label owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so you can say God is on her side.

I’d rather listen to • Only a pre-op Tin Man wouldn’t want to listen to Disney songs.

Best Dance Recording

“Raise Your Weapon” • Deadmau5 & Greta Svabo Bech

“Barbra Streisand” • Duck Sauce

“Sunshine” • David Guetta & Avicii

“Call Your Girlfriend” • Robyn

“Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” • Skrillex

Will win • At first glance, you might be surprised to see Barbra Streisand on this list. Look again, because the name of the song is “Barbra Streisand” by Duck Sauce, a DJ duo consisting of Armand Van Helden and A-Trak. But voters might get confused anyway and might vote for Barbra — one of the few entertainers to have won an Oscar, Emmy, Grammy and Tony — because she wins everything.

I’d rather listen to • Skrillex divides listeners, but I appreciate a DJ bringing the bass-heavy, clipped style of “dubstep” to the forefront. Besides, watching people trying to dance to “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” is entertaining.

Best Rock Performance

“Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall” • Coldplay

“Down by the Water” • The Decemberists

“Walk” • Foo Fighters

“The Cave” • Mumford & Sons

“Lotus Flower” • Radiohead

Will win • It better not be Radiohead, a band that hasn’t written a listenable song since 1999. But it probably will be, because people vote for things they think they’re supposed to like but are too afraid to admit that they dislike. Radiohead is bollocks.

I’d rather listen to • The Decemberists when I feel like listening to R.E.M. pre-“Monster,” and Coldplay when I feel like listening to R.E.M. post-“Monster.”

Best Rap Performance

“Look at Me Now” • Chris Brown, Lil Wayne & Busta Rhymes

“Otis” • Jay-Z & Kanye West

“The Show Goes On” • Lupe Fiasco

“Moment 4 Life” • Nicki Minaj & Drake

“Black and Yellow” • Wiz Khalifa

Will win • Chris Brown isn’t likely to win a Grammy after pleading guilty to felony assault of singer and then-girlfriend Rihanna in 2009. While Nicki Minaj and Drake are flavors of the moment, a partnership between Jay-Z and Kanye West is historic. Nicki and Drake will win later, so don’t cry for them.

I’d rather listen to • Otis Redding + Jay-Z + Kanye West. Are you kidding me? Plus, kudos to Kanye using “Phillip Drummond” as a verb.

Best Country Song

“Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not”• Thompson Square

“God Gave Me You” • Blake Shelton

“Just Fishin’ ” • Trace Adkins

“Mean” • Taylor Swift

“Threaten Me With Heaven” • Vince Gill

“You and Tequila ” • Kenny Chesney (featuring Grace Potter)

Will win • Taylor Swift is the only nominee to have written the song he or she is nominated for, so she earns a nod of respect. Plus, it’s actually a country song from a songwriter who tends to not write country songs. The only thing that could count against her is that the song is essentially a diatribe to the world for being too “mean.” C’mon, Taylor, you’re not in high school anymore.

I’d rather listen to • “God Gave Me You” and “Just Fishin’ ” are maudlin. Kenny Chesney’s song is another country drinkin’ song. “Threaten Me With Heaven” is well-written, but it’s also Bible-thumping and boring at the same time. Thompson Square’s signature is one of the most pleasant and memorable debut singles a country act has had in years, with the perfect subject matter for a duet between a real-life husband-and-wife. In addition, it mentions the smell of honeysuckle, which I would like to smell one day when I move to a less-polluted state.

Best Folk Album

“Barton Hollow” • The Civil Wars

“I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive” • Steve Earle

“Helplessness Blues” • Fleet Foxes

“Ukulele Songs” • Eddie Vedder

“The Harrow & The Harvest” • Gillian Welch

Will win • Either The Civil Wars or Fleet Foxes deserve to win, but as the new kids in this category, they haven’t earned the cred of Steve Earle and Gillian Welch. Earle will win because using a Hank Williams song title as your album title is a crafty way to earn votes. Plus, death and folk music go together like Hank Williams and alcohol poisoning.

I’d rather listen to • I’m a sucker for ukulele. Vedder’s is the bravest album a non-Hawaiian has ever recorded.

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical, Danger Mouse, Paul Epworth, The Smeezingtons, Ryan Tedder, Butch Vig

Will win • Danger Mouse and Butch Vig only have one album eligible between them, so this is a race between Paul Epworth (who produced tracks for Foster the People, Cee-Lo Green and Adele’s “Rolling in The Deep”), The Smeezingtons (Bruno Mars, Lil Wayne, Bad Meets Evil, Far East Movement) and Ryan Tedder (Colbie Caillat, Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé, Adele’s “Rumour Has It” and Demi Lovato). Despite Bruno Mars being a members of The Smeezingtons, everything associated with Adele is coming up gold this year, so the award will likely go to Epworth, who produced the year’s biggest hit “Rolling in the Deep” as well as tracks for this year’s unlikeliest success story, Foster the People.

I’d rather listen to • Butch Vig produced Nirvana’s “Nevermind,” so while Kurt Cobain always complained about the sheen Vig added to Nirvana’s rawness, perhaps we would all be listening to Warrant and Cinderella on modern-rock radio today if it hadn’t been for “Nevermind.”

dburger@sltrib.com

Music lovers unite

The 54th annual Grammy Awards will be broadcast on KUTV-Channel 2 tonight at 7 p.m. Follow David Burger’s live tweets from the awards ceremony at @dburger.