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2011 Grammy Awards: Who will win and what to look for

Scene Writer | Thursday, February 10, 2011

The 53rd annual Grammy Awards are set to take place Sunday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where they have been held every year since 2004. As always, the awards arrive accompanied by a wave of mixed reactions from the music community. The perennial questions of “are the Grammys still relevant?” and “why was so-and-so nominated?” are just as prevalent this year as in previous ones.

When surveying this year’s nominations, it is apparent that Eminem could be considered the leader in this year’s edition. He has been nominated for a total of 10 awards, including Album of the Year, Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

Other artists receiving nominations include Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Jay-Z and Lady Antebellum. With the exception of Bruno Mars, a relative newcomer to the awards, these artists comprise some of the Grammy’s favorites in recent years. (Note: To avoid confusion from this point on, take note that the eligibility period for this year’s awards is Sept. 1, 2009 to Sept. 30, 2010, not just all of 2010.)

In the Album of the Year category, for example, Lady Antebellum, Gaga and Eminem join Katy Perry and surprise nominee Arcade Fire. The indie rock group got a nod for their expansive concept album “The Suburbs.” Most of the nominees besides Arcade Fire are neither too surprising nor too adventurous, so it’s nice to see a little bit of variety.

Eminem seems to be a favorite in this category, if only because awards shows love a comeback story. That’s understandable, but what they see in “Recovery” is more difficult to understand. Out of the artists nominated in this category, Arcade Fire probably deserve the title the most — but I wouldn’t bet on them winning.

The Song of the Year category features two of the same artists as Album of the Year — Eminem (and Rihanna), “Love the Way You Lie” and Lady Antebellum, “Need You Now” — as well as Cee Lo Green’s blissfully profane “Forget You,” and nods to country crooner Miranda Lambert and folk artist Ray LaMontagne.

Cee Lo certainly deserves this award, but that again seems like a long shot. Look for either Eminem or Lady Antebellum to come out on top in the Song of the Year category.

All three of those songs — “Forget You,” “Love the Way You Lie” and “Need You Now” — are also nominated for Record of the Year, so one might think that, for example if Eminem wins song of the year, then Lady Antebellum will win Record of the Year.

However, the Record of the Year category also includes the now-famous Big Apple anthem “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys. This record definitely deserves to win this category and seems to have a pretty fair chance of taking home the award as well.

Elsewhere in the nominations, look for Justin Bieber to edge out Drake for Best New Artist (a somewhat puzzling term when applied to those two artists), Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” to win Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Michael Jackson to posthumously win Best Male Pop Vocal Performance with “This Is It.” Lady Gaga also seems set to win Best Pop Vocal Album for “The Fame Monster.”

On the rock side of the spectrum, “Tighten Up” by The Black Keys seems to be a shoo-in for Best Rock Song, while Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers will probably win Best Rock Album with “Mojo.” Remember, if there are two things the Grammy committee loves, it’s comebacks and classic rockers.

Arcade Fire will likely win Alternative Album of the Year amid a surprisingly strong set of nominees, which is a shame because Vampire Weekend certainly deserves the award for “Contra.”

As far as rap goes, Kanye West should get Best Rap Solo performance with “Power,” while Eminem will get Best Rap Album with “Recovery.” Eminem and Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie” and Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” are certainly the frontrunners in both the Best Rap/Song Collaboration and Best Rap Song categories.

Regardless of who wins what, the awards ceremony promises to be extremely entertaining as always. Live performers include Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Eminem, Arcade Fire, B.o.B, Barbara Streisand — who will receive this year’s “MusiCares Person of the Year” award — Muse, Bruno Mars and a collaborative performance by Rihanna and Drake.

Award presenters include Jamie Foxx, Neal Patrick Harris, John Mayer, Miley Cyrus, LL Cool J, Seth Rogen and Selena Gomez.

As always, there are a few surprise nominees at this year’s Grammys, and there will certainly be a few surprise wins as well. Many question the relevance of the awards ceremony — but it would be fair to counter that the ceremony has never been that relevant.

Pop quiz time: Which album won the Album of the Year award in 1992? “Unforgettable … With Love,” a collection of Nat King Cole covers by his daughter Natalie Cole — an interesting album, but nothing groundbreaking — or Nirvana’s “Nevermind?” Here’s a hint: It wasn’t Nirvana.

Whether the Grammy Awards are relevant or not, whether they actually “matter” or not, they are at least very entertaining. Tune into CBS Sunday at 8 p.m. and join America in celebrating (some of) the best music released recently.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Chris Collum at [email protected]