Oooooh, lord! Can you feel the tension in the air? No, it’s not because everyone’s looking at sexy pictures of Chace Crawford. Well, that’s part of it, but the biggest reason to be excited is tonight’s announcement of the Grammy nominations. Will they change music forever?!?!
Ahem. Pardon me.
The point is: It’s fun to predict who’s going to get nominated. I’ve already predicted who’s getting tapped for Best New Artist, and the wise and witty Chris Spargo has called the races for Song and Record of the Year. (I think he’s right about Adele, but I think his “Payphone” hatred is going to lead to a broken heart.)
To wrap things up, I’m going to predict the Album of the Year nominees. This category seems especially fraught in 2012, when so many music fans are buying individual tracks instead of full albums. When a majority of listeners don’t even experience the album as an art form, is there any way for this award to stay relevant?
It’s possible the answer is “no,” but since I’m old-fashioned enough to love full-length albums (from my favorite artists, at least), I am still invested in this category. So with my Old Man Pants hiked up to my armpits, I’m ready to start predictin’!
* Tuskegee by Lionel Richie
Don’t even fight it. This is happening. Lionel Richie is a vintage act who appeals to older voters, and he released a new album this year that also became a commercial success. (Tuskegee spent several weeks at number one and is one of the few albums to sell over a million copies in 2012.) That kind of success lets oldsters feel like the Music of Their Youth is still relevant, which helps them justify voting for it in this prestigious category. Plus, the album features Richie re-recording his classic hits with country superstars like Jennifer Nettles and Billy Currington. That means the country bloc can support it, too. And when you’ve got the senior citizens AND the cowboys, you cannot lose.
* Babel by Mumford & Sons
Is Babel breaking new artistic ground? No. It sticks to the folk-rock formula that Mumford delivered on their debut. But you know what? That sound is still good. And if you’ll remember, it was a Grammy performance that made Mumford & Sons explode a few years ago. A year after that appearance, they got nominations for Record and Song of the Year, and now that their follow-up album is both a commercial and artistic success, Grammy voters will not miss the chance to keep proving they were right about this band.
It’s also important to remember that Album of the Year always feature a mixture of “singles albums,” meaning records that collect a lot of hot songs, and “experience albums,” meaning records that feel like they tell cohesive artistic stories. (Among last year’s nominees, Rihanna’s Loud was a “singles album,” while Adele’s 21 was an “experience album.”) While Tuskegee is the ideal singles album—it’s basically a greatest hits package with a twist—Babel will probably be seen as a complete experience.
* Take Care by Drake
Drizzle’s album came out a hundred years ago, but it was technically at the start of the eligibility period for this year’s awards. This is one of the few hip-hop albums of the year that felt both artistically ambitious and broadly accessible, and the fact that it’s really good is another point in its favor. Lingering fury that Drake lost Best New Artist to Esperanza Spalding may also garner a few votes.
* Making Mirrors by Gotye
Chris is right to point out that “Somebody That I Used to Know” was technically released before the eligibility period, so that may give it trouble in the Record and Song of the Year categories. However, Gotye’s album is totally eligible, and my gut tells me that while Fun. will got lots of love for “We Are Young,” voters will be more impressed by Gotye’s entire record. And it really is a wonderful album, y’all. It blends 80s alt-rock (Sting, especially) with loopy experimental sounds, homages to vintage Motown, and really catchy hooks. Plus, songs like “Eyes Wide Open,” which is about human indifference to the environmental crisis, deliver lefty political ideas that you can sing along to. That may be the final key in giving Gotye the “edgy new rocker” slot that Arcade Fire and Radiohead have taken in the past.
* Four the Record by Miranda Lambert
Miranda Lambert is edgier than Carrie Underwood and more mature than Taylor Swift, and her music just oozes “authenticity.” The only drawback is that Four the Record is simply excellent, while her last two albums, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Revolution are modern masterpieces. That might lose the album some votes, but if a country record is getting invited to the big dance, then it is the one.
* Overexposed by Maroon 5
Grammy voters love it when a former Best New Artist has continued success. It proves they weren’t totally crazy for liking someone right out of the gate. Now that Maroon 5’s comeback is in full swing—and since Overexposed produced two massive hits—they might get nominated here. It’s more likely, though, that “Payphone” or “One More Night” will score for Record or Song of the Year.
* Channel Orange by Frank Ocean
Frank Ocean is pretty much the future of R&B, and his music is getting just as much attention as his frank attitude about his sexuality. But I’m guessing he’ll be relegated to Best New Artist and the R&B genre categories. His music is just a little too spacey, I think, to get broad-based support.
* Some Nights by Fun.
If I’m reading the tea leaves correctly, it seems like people love Fun.’s big hits, but they’re not quite in love with the album tracks. And I just don’t think there’s room in the category for two alt-rock records, which is why I’m going with Gotye. Still, I might be wrong. If Fun. dominates every category tonight, I won’t be surprised.
* Up All Night by One Direction
Never count out the biggest pop record of the year. Since Adele already won this category last year for 21, that leaves One Direction, with their well-produced collection of shiny pop singles. Still… they might need to show a bit more staying power to make it this far. And the fact that their pretty new ballad “Little Things” is on their second album, which isn’t even eligible until next year, could work against them.
Probably Not Happening
* The Truth About Love by Pink
And it breaks my heart! I love this album, and I love Pink, and if I got to vote, it would definitely make the cut. But the Grammys have never quite embraced Pink’s music. She’s never gotten nominated for Record, Song, or Album of the Year, despite being awesome at every turn. If anything, I think she might get nominated for Record or Song next year, after “Just Give Me a Reason” gets released as a single.
Definitely Not Happening
* Red by Taylor Swift
But only because the album dropped after the cut-off date. Expect big things in 2013.
Mark Blankenship really wants to be wrong about the Pink nomination. He tweets as @IAmBlankenship.