When the Grammy Award nominations were announced in December, it was shocking to hear that the soundtrack for Ben Affleck’s movie was snubbed.
After all, soundtracks for “The Descendants,” “Midnight in Paris,””The Artist,” “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “Hugo” and even that Muppet movie were nominated. But the music for Affleck’s “Argo” was left off the list.
That affront to the actor/director, and all human decency for that matter, is probably why Affleck cleaned up at the Golden Globes.
But somehow, we must move on and recognize the worthy nominees for the 55th annual Grammy Awards. (Here’s a Spotify playlist for the Grammy nominees.)
The telecast itself should be entertaining, thanks to scheduled performances by Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Sting, The Black Keys, fun., the Lumineers, Mumford & Sons, Frank Ocean, Taylor Swift, Jack White, Elton John and Justin Timberlake. The star quotient remains high, with presenters including Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, Prince, Carly Rae Jepsen, Katy Perry, Neil Patrick Harris, Keith Urban and Faith Hill and Tim McGraw.
Unless Kanye West shows up to assail the Recording Academy for freezing out Affleck, the awarding of gilded gramophones should be fairly straightforward. But in the absence of another Adele sweep, it’s more difficult to predict the winners than it was last year.
Here are my predictions for who should win, who will win, and who shouldn’t, under any circumstances, take the gramophone home.
Record of the year (awarded to performer)
“Lonely Boy” • The Black Keys
“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” • Kelly Clarkson
“We Are Young” • fun., featuring Janelle Monáe
“Somebody That I Used To Know” • Gotye featuring Kimbra
“Thinkin’ Bout You” • Frank Ocean
“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” • Taylor Swift
Will win • Ocean might pull this out, as his feud with Chris Brown doesn’t hurt. Plus, his bravery of being open about his sexual orientation should earn him votes. Ocean’s atmospheric, well-produced “Thinkin’ Bout You” conveys heartbreak much more convincingly than Gotye ever could. (Plus, Kimbra steals the song from Gotye.)
Should win • Swift’s single annoyed more people than it delighted. But I was of the latter opinion, who thought the coupling of her acoustic guitar and Max Martin’s Swedish production was inspired.
Shouldn’t win • “We Are Young” is a good song, but it was the wrong fun. song to be nominated. The title track of “Some Nights” was the most smartly written record of the entire year, with singer Nate Ruess’ operatic arias about existential loneliness teaming up with heavy percussion and Afrobeat to rousing effect.
Album of the year
“El Camino” • The Black Keys
“Some Nights” • fun.
“Babel” • Mumford & Sons
“Channel Orange” • Frank Ocean
“Blunderbuss” • Jack White
Will win • With the rock albums canceling each other out, and fun.’s nomination on the basis of two good singles (“We Are Young” and the title track), the race is between Mumford & Sons and Ocean. Mumford & Sons is one of the few acts whose songs are aired on country, rock, alt-rock and bluegrass radio stations, and it’s difficult to find anyone who downright hates that quartet. The album is more of an accessible crowd-pleaser than Ocean’s challenging album and will beat out Ocean by a nose.
Should win • “Blunderbuss” was one of the best rock albums of the year and was included on my Top 10 list, but Ocean’s R&B masterpiece was No. 1.
Shouldn’t win • “El Camino” and “Some Nights” were simply OK albums, with a few gems but overall not remarkable efforts.
Song of the year (awarded to the songwriter)
“The A Team” • Ed Sheeran
“Adornæ” • Miguel Pimentel
“Call Me Maybe” • Tavish Crowe, Carly Rae Jepsen, Josh Ramsay
“Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” • Jörgen Elofsson, David Gamson, Greg Kurstin and Ali Tamposi
“We Are Young” • Jack Antonoff, Jeff Bhasker, Andrew Dost and Nate Ruess
Will win • fun.’s stirring chorus, along with producer Jeff Bhasker’s hip-hop-influenced wizardry at the soundboard, will ensure that fun. doesn’t get shut out of the three major categories.
Should win • I have a soft spot for “The A Team,” a deceptively simple song about a young woman addicted to heroin with an unconventional melody that gets better each time you hear it. But you know what? Is there one person in the world who heard “Call Me Maybe” for the first time and didn’t hum along? It might be underwhelming when you look at it lyrically, yet it’s still an irresistible tune — though too many music snobs will pooh-pooh it.
Shouldn’t win • Clarkson had no hand in writing her hit “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” and she needs to find a different shtick beyond girl-power anthems. Great singer, weak material.
Best new artist
Will win • fun. and Ocean dominated the major nominations (record, album and song), with Ocean scoring two nominations and fun. scoring three. By a score of 3-2, fun. wins.
Should win • I’ll flat-out say that Ocean should win any category he’s nominated in. Even though Hayes won’t win, can you think of any other artist besides Prince who ever wrote, produced and played all of the instruments on his debut record? Plus, the super-talented Hayes is the next big star coming out of Nashville (via Louisiana), with his single “Wanted” becoming the latest country song to cross over onto the pop charts.
Shouldn’t win • I like The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” as much as anyone, but one song doesn’t a Best New Artist make when the competition in the category is so strong.
Best dance/electronica album
“Wonderland” • Steve Aoki
“Don’t Think” • The Chemical Brothers
“Title Goes Here” • Deadmau5
“Fire & Ice” • Kaskade
“Bangarang” • Skrillex
Will win • Skrillex dominated the dance and electronic categories in 2012, so he should do so again despite the rapid ascent of Deadmau5.
Should win • I’m biased because Kaskade is a University of Utah graduate who once owned a Salt Lake City record store, but local ties aside, I still think “Fire & Ice” is his greatest achievement yet. Being the first EDM artist to book and sell out the Staples Center (where the Grammy Awards will be held) in 2012 illustrates how good he is and how great he is becoming.
Shouldn’t win • In EDM, what’s cool one month becomes passé the next. Skrillex’s sound defined 2011, but already seemed played out in 2012.
Best rap song
“Daughters” • Nas
“Lotus Flower Bomb” • Wale, featuring Miguel
“Mercy” • Kanye West, featuring Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz
“The Motto” • Drake Featuring Lil Wayne
“N****s In Paris” • Jay-Z and Kanye West
“Young, Wild & Free” • Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa, featuring Bruno Mars
Will win • West has had Grammy success in the past, despite his repeated petulance at being snubbed for major awards. But Nas’ recent album, “Life Is Good,” is a welcome return to form for one of the best MC’s out there.
Should win • “Daughters” was an insightful, complex reflection on raising a daughter in a not-so-righteous life: “She’s seen me switching women, pops was on some pimp s--- / She heard stories of her daddy thugging /So if her husband is a gangster, can’t be mad, I’ll love him.” Plus the soul music samples made this a smooth ride. Honorable mention goes to West’s drawled rhyming on “N****s In Paris” : “Prince William’s ain’t do it right if you ask me / Cause I was him I would have married Kate & Ashley.”
Shouldn’t win • “Young, Wild & Free” is fun but slight, and the title sounds too much like a One Direction song. Plus, Snoop has turned into a cartoon.
Best country album
“Uncaged” • Zac Brown Band
“Hunter Hayes” • Hunter Hayes
“Living For a Song: A Tribute to Hank Cochran” • Jamey Johnson
“Four the Record” • Miranda Lambert
“The Time Jumpers” • The Time Jumpers
Will win • In 2010, Lambert’s “Revolution” was robbed in this same category. Voters won’t make the same mistake twice. Plus, even though Vince Gill is a new member of The Time Jumpers, no one has heard of them.
Should win • Zac Brown Band’s latest was amusing, but “Four the Record” was just as good as “Revolution,” and heads and shoulders above other country albums. The straight-talking, rocking Texan should win in a landslide.
Shouldn’t win • Johnson’s well-intentioned tribute album to Hank Cochran is something to be admired, rather than enjoyed.
Best rock song
“Freedom at 21” • Jack White
“I Will Wait” • Mumford & Sons
“Lonely Boy” • The Black Keys
“Madness” • Muse
“We Take Care of Our Own” • Bruce Springsteen
Will win • While “Wrecking Ball” was just an average album for The Boss, “We Take Care of Our Own” was its best moment, thanks to lyrics that emphasized what Springsteen does best: celebrate community and the common man with a jab at the government (“From the shotgun shack to the Superdome / We yelled “help” but the cavalry stayed home / There ain’t no-one hearing the bugle blown”). While The Black Keys and White are comparatively young upstarts who might be “cooler,” the Recording Academy loves Springsteen.
Should win • White’s slinky critique of a woman who has wronged him shows some of the best vocals he’s ever displayed, but my choice goes to Muse, whose “Madness” was one of the year’s best showcases for how EDM can work with guitars to create something truly hypnotizing. It’s 12-bar blues for the 21st century.
Shouldn’t win • Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait” is a bluegrass song, not rock.
Music’s big show
The 55th annual Grammy Awards will air on CBS (Channel 2) on Sunday, Feb. 10, at 7 p.m. The show is tape-delayed in our time zone.