It’s Time For Popdust’s 2011 Grammy Predictions!

jay-z and alicia keys

Posted by on 02/11/2011 at 8:30 PM Live At The Grammys, News

The Popdust Files: alicia keys, arcade fire, beyonce, bruno mars, cee lo green, eminem, esperanza spalding, jaheim, jay-z, john legend, johnny cash, justin bieber, kanye west, lady antebellum, lady gaga, michael jackson, mumford & sons, paramore, predictions, rihanna, susan boyle, swizz beatz, the roots

The Popdust staff has been watching since Three Dog Night only had two dogs; since Seal was but a pup; since Toto’s “Africa” was part of Pangaea. We’re experts and not ashamed to show it. Here are our picks for the night from the long slate of nominees. (Feel free to put large amounts of money on any of these, but only if you send us a small percentage of your winnings.)

RECORD OF THE YEAR
“Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B feat. Bruno Mars
“Love The Way You Lie” by Eminem feat. Rihanna
“Fuck You” by Cee Lo Green
“Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
“Need You Now” by Lady Antebellum

Christopher R. Weingarten:
SHOULD WIN: Cee Lo Green
Yes, this song has one of the seven dirty words as its title, but that often overshadows its subtleties—the hypnotic and percolating bongo patterns, Cee Lo’s Oscar-worthy performance on the bridge, the euphoric background vocals that wash over like synth swells. It’s a mix of the comforting and the comical and the racy—a.k.a., everything a pop song should be.
WILL WIN: Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
This is a category that traditionally awards bombast, over-reaching and brazen enormousness. The bigger a song is, the more intricate its inner workings, the better chance it has of success. Don’t forget this is an award given to things like Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On,” U2′s “Beautiful Day,” and the mother of all musical monoliths, “We Are The World.” There is nothing on this list more maximalist and huge and suffocating and flashy than “Empire State Of Mind,” a track that might as well be a skyscraper jutting into the heavens to mock the natural world. Let’s hear it for production budgets.

Maura Johnston:
SHOULD WIN: Cee Lo Green
Sure, the sentiment on the verses of this kiss-off to a money-grubbing ex-lover was a bit icky, but in a year that was filled with rancor and aggravation and bad stuff all over, anyone who said that they couldn’t relate to the perfectly calibrated blend of joy and anger in this hook-filled song’s chorus was either lying or having a much better year than 99.9% of the population.
WILL WIN: Eminem feat. Rihanna
A victory for this afterschool-special-worthy slice of histrionics will send a dual message: “Hey, Eminem, thanks for bouncing back from your semi-crappy album and selling lots of records! Hey, Rihanna, we’re on your side still with regards to the whole Chris Brown incident!” Of course, Rihanna might not really give a crap about the latter, but the hardware will be given out anyway.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
Recovery by Eminem
Need You Now by Lady Antebellum
The Fame Monster by Lady Gaga
Teenage Dream by Katy Perry

Christopher R. Weingarten:
SHOULD WIN: Arcade Fire
Although their album is melodramatic, occasionally samey and even a little under-produced, indie rockers Arcade Fire have the best understanding of what makes an album and album. The drama ebbs and flows, its massive 65 minute run time complete with rising action and falling action. These are clearly guys who grew up listening to past winners like The Beatles and Stevie Wonder. Gaga, Eminem, Katy—those are just collections of singles.
WILL WIN: Lady Gaga
I would love for this to be the year that Eminem brings a proper rap album to victory (those Lauryn Hill and Outkast albums were kind of rap/R&B hybrids). I would love this to be the year that Arcade Fire brings an indie rock album to victory (in the heyday of the “alternative ’90s,” we didn’t get a winner unless you count the hipster re-embrace of Tony Bennett). Unfortunately this category is a victim to the fact that the older members of the voting panel don’t always have a lot of time to absorb full albums. This award usually goes to the record your mom or dad would understand the best—recent winners include Herbie Hancock, Robert Plant and U2. Though a pop star, I think the ubiquitous, universal appeal of Gaga will work in her favor.

Maura Johnston:
SHOULD WIN: Lady Gaga
Eight fantastic songs, at least two of which are killer; a format that helped extend the shelf life of an already-out-for-a-while LP and begin to extinguish the still-extant idea of the “12-track maxi-single” that irritated consumers in the late ’90s/early aughts; and a woman who brought the idea of new megacelebrities being birthed by pop music in a time where so much about the genre seemed moribund or near-dead. You’d think this—or at least outrage over the snubbing of “Bad Romance” in the Song and Record categories—would make Gaga’s eight-track album a shoe-in, but you’d be wrong.
WILL WIN: Eminem
Happy 10th anniversary of Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature beating out The Marshall Mathers LP, Em. You’re the man now!

SONG OF THE YEAR
Ray LaMontagne for “Beg Steal or Borrow” performed by Ray LaMontagne and The Pariah Dogs
Cee Lo Green, Phillip Lawrence, and Bruno Mars for “Fuck You” performed by Cee Lo Green
Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin for “The House That Built Me” performed by Miranda Lambert
Alexander Grant, Holly Hafferman, and Marshall Mathers for “Love the Way You Lie” performed by Eminem feat. Rihanna
Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott for “Need You Now” performed by Lady Antebellum

Christopher R. Weingarten:
SHOULD WIN: Cee Lo Green
When’s the last time you sang a Ray LaMontagne song to yourself?
WILL WIN: Cee Lo Green
The only reason they nominated a song called “Fuck You” and will risk someone saying “Fuck You” on national television is because a song named “Fuck You” really, truly, undeniably deserves an award. This is that award.

Maura Johnston:
SHOULD WIN: Cee Lo Green
When’s the last time you sang a Ray LaMontagne song to yourself?
WILL WIN: Lady Antebellum
It’s an ode to drunk dialing that sounds like a slightly twangy Chicago, a formula that will make it unkillable on your local “music everyone at work can enjoy” radio outlet for years to come. Might as well honor that now.

BEST NEW ARTIST
Justin Bieber
Drake
Florence and the Machine
Mumford & Sons
Esperanza Spalding

Christopher R. Weingarten:
SHOULD WIN: Esperanza Spalding
Spalding is just overloaded with talent—her nimble upright bass playing is slippery and rubbery, her voice is fragile-yet-assured, her sound crosses the boundaries of soul and jazz. And unlike Drake, she never ruined a Rihanna song with bad oral sex jokes.
WILL WIN: Mumford & Sons
A rapper hasn’t won this since Arrested Development (sorry, Drake). A bubblegum pop star hasn’t won this since Milli Vanilli, and they’re definitely not making that mistake again (sorry, Bieber). An indie rocker hasn’t won this since, well, ever (sorry, Florence). This race is definitely between Mumford and Esperanza. Until Esperanza gets a Norah-sized hit, I doubt she’s gonna register on too many voters’ radars. Enjoy your trophy, little lion men.

Maura Johnston:
SHOULD WIN: Justin Bieber
Because he’s the future. He’s a kid who actually sort of came up via YouTube, who has an uncanny amount of charm that has helped elevate his notoriety beyond that of the Radio Disney demo (just look at the way he kept himself composed during that Daily Show segment while Jon Stewart was about to bite his lip off from trying to not laugh), who has chops on the drums and the guitar that will help him as age gracefully out of the tweenage demo, who has a bunch of catchy songs in his arsenal already. But people are pretty snobby about music beloved by women aged 12-18, still, after all these years. (So much for feminism.)
WILL WIN: Mumford & Sons
Their “authenticity” and slow-burn success will resonate with those voters who look at this year’s crop of pop stars and feel a weariness taking over.

PRODUCER OF THE YEAR
Rob Cavallo
Danger Mouse
Dr. Luke
RedOne
The Smeezingtons (Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, Ari Levine)

Christopher R. Weingarten:
SHOULD WIN: RedOne
The way he can make Lady Gaga sound at once chilly and inviting on “Bad Romance” is magical. The weird robo effects that are spooky and sexy at once, complete with those shrill Tron motorcycles revving all over the place. Not to mention that’s he’s also responsible for the way Enrique Iglesias’s voice peaks on “I Like It” and the itchy drum fills on Usher’s “More.”
WILL WIN: Dr. Luke
The Grammy voters often go with who shouts the loudest, and you can hear a Dr. Luke production from a mile away. That candy-coated FBOOM-FBOOM from any number of Ke$ha and Katy Perry songs is the sound of 2010.

Maura Johnston:
SHOULD WIN: RedOne
The lowlight of his slate of nominated songs in my opinion will probably be the highlight to quite a few voters—”We Are The World 25,” after all, epitomized the concept of “giving back” so beloved by the biz. But the fact that he was also responsible for Lady Gaga’s oppressively danceable “Bad Romance” should win him this award on its own.
WILL WIN: The Smeezingtons
This songwriter/producer trio had quite the run in 2010, with Bruno Mars’ uxorious top-40 staples like the lightning-bolt love song “Just The Way You Are” and the sweetly retro “Nothin’ On You” the particular highlights. (Why Dr. Luke won’t win: Do you see Ke$ha nominated anywhere else?)

BEST FEMALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE
SHOULD WIN: Lady Gaga – “Bad Romance”
The wordless parts alone should have given her this trophy.
WILL WIN: Beyoncé – “Halo (Live)”
Could the same song win the same category two years in a row with slightly different performances? Well, Beyoncé is the best pure singer in this entire category, so if people took the word “vocal” seriously enough when casting their ballots, yes.—MJ

BEST MALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE
SHOULD WIN: Bruno Mars – “Just The Way You Are”
Mars plays it besotted here, his falsetto reaching heights that sound like the direct result of his pulse quickening and his brow dampening with anticipatory sweat.
WILL WIN: Michael Jackson – “This Is It”
It could be worse; the wretched Akon duet “Hold My Hand” could be the recipient of the first posthumous Grammy given to the late superstar. But this cast-off track should have stayed in Jackson’s vaults.—MJ

BEST POP PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP WITH VOCALS
SHOULD WIN: Paramore – “The Only Exception”
This mournful love song has a gorgeously understated vocal performance by Hayley Williams, one of the few remaining rock stars in this pop-obsessed moment, at its core. Plus, any voters who loved the Monkees’ “As We Go Along” during the Head era are probably oddly drawn to it, given that the two tracks eerily echo one another.
WILL WIN: Glee – “Don’t Stop Believin’”
Glee was a commercial juggernaut this year, even if the “records” their one-week-wonder tie-in tracks set were more the result of iTunes and television synergizing than anything else. This category will serve as a “thank you” for that new-model commercial prowess.—MJ

BEST POP COLLABORATION WITH VOCALS
SHOULD/WILL WIN: Lady Gaga and Beyoncé – “Telephone”
“California Gurls” is too fluffy (and half the radio stations that play it excise the collaborative aspect entirely); “Airplanes” is too overblown. “Telephone,” with its clash of bravados and intricate production tricks (can you catch all the aural nods to modern technology?), was the pinnacle of this year’s many duets.—MJ

BEST POP VOCAL ALBUM
SHOULD WIN: Lady Gaga – The Fame Monster
Not only are the songs great, but Gaga’s voice sounds a lot stronger than it did on The Fame, where she often sounded like she was straining to have slightly better pitch control than your typical third-tier freestyle diva.
WILL WIN: Susan Boyle – I Dreamed A Dream
She sold a boatload of records thanks to her Eliza Doolittle-ish charm and her appeal to one of the few remaining record-purchasing demos. And despite her complete mishandling of many of the songs she’s tasked with singing, her voice does often sound kinda nice.—MJ

BEST URBAN/ALTERNATIVE PERFORMANCE
SHOULD/WILL WIN: Cee Lo Green – “Fuck You”
Even though it would nice to see Janelle Monae walk home with something for creating the year’s most ambitious urban/alternative song suite with The ArchAndroid, this category is for songs only—and Cee Lo’s is three minutes and 44 seconds of perfection. Plus, it’s the only song in this category nominated for either Record Of The Year or Song Of The Year—and it happens to be up for both.—CRW

BEST R&B SONG
SHOULD WIN: Jaheim – “Finding My Way Back”
A great blend of whining electric guitars, fluttery textures, floating flutes and a maddening, hyper-syncopated chorus—all bolstering Jaheim’s unfiltered soaring croon.
WILL WIN: The Roots & John Legend – “Shine”
A mellow, throwbacky vibe and two powerhouses of the game. It will make this kind of treacly and monochromatic song look a lot better than it is.—CRW

BEST RAP SOLO PERFORMANCE
SHOULD WIN: Kanye West – “Power”
T.I.’s “I’m Back” easily has the best rapping of all of these, but Kanye’s performance is a true performance. You can hear the cocky kid telegraphing his jokes, changing his voice, beefing, having fun. It’s all very complex and very messy and very human.
WILL WIN: Eminem – “Not Afraid”
Eminem’s 10 nominations attest to the fact that the Grammys are very impressed with his new sincerity. Whether his earnestness is an act or affectation is not going to matter one bit.—CRW

BEST RAP PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP
SHOULD/WILL WIN: Jay-Z ft. Swizz Beatz – “On To The Next One”
Although Young Jeezy and Plies bring some seeeerious sweat into the booth, this is a bravado performance by the only guy cocky enough to go after his own fans on a record: “N****s want my old shit? Buy my old albums.” Jay is becoming a legacy artist like Robert Plant. Expect him to be hogging Grammys from now to forever.—CRW

BEST RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION
SHOULD WIN: No one
Any rap fan will tell you that singing never makes a rap song better.
WILL WIN: Jay-Z and Alicia Keys – “Empire State Of Mind”
Unavoidable, huge, celebratory: the U2 of rap songs will strike again.—CRW

BEST RAP SONG
SHOULD WIN: Jay-Z ft. Swizz Beatz – “On To The Next One”
That skipping beat is annoying like rap is supposed to be, the rapping is practically non-stop, and it takes a stand against Autotune. Sign us up.
WILL WIN: Eminem – “Not Afraid”
Yeah, this song makes itself sound a lot more important than it is. A lot of bluster masquerading as guts.—CRW

BEST SHORT FORM MUSIC VIDEO
SHOULD WIN: Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance” (Francis Lawrence, director)
This clip, in which our heroine plays a woman for sale and pays homage to The Burning Bed, inspired almost as many memes as Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” video. Then again, that video didn’t even get nominated last year (when the Black Eyed Peas’ seemingly Hackers-inspired “Boom Boom Pow” won the prize). So.
WILL WIN: Johnny Cash, “Ain’t No Grave / The Johnny Cash Project” (Chris Milk, director)
“The Wilderness Downtown,” the Google Maps mash-up he created for the Arcade Fire, was a more intriguing project from Milk, but this crowdsourced tribute to the Man In Black will probably hit the sweet spot of “seeming modern” and “paying homage to the classics” for many voters.—MJ

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