The big story at the 55th Annual Grammy Awards is Frank Ocean, who received a total of six nominations. But that doesn't mean he's a lock to win. Remember in 2004, when Kanye West burst onto the scene with seven nominations, only to lose repeatedly to Maroon 5? Here, we break down this year's nominees into who deserves a statue and who will actually win one.
Album of the Year
What's the secret to winning Album of the Year? Mass appeal, of course. A sonic connection to the R&B or rock-and-roll of yesteryear doesn't hurt, either (see: Adele in 2012, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss in 2009). Throw in a dash of critical acclaim and you've got yourself a winner. While there's no clear front-runner this year, Mumford & Sons' Babel was the fourth best-selling album in the United States behind releases from Adele, Taylor Swift, and One Direction. While Frank Ocean's Channel Orange was more revolutionary, Babel has the right combination of commercial and critical success to bring home the Grammy.
Will Win:Mumford & Sons, Babel
Should Win:Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
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Record of the Year
Any other year and Fun.'s anthemic "We Are Young" probably would've walked away with this one, but it was Gotye who truly dominated the airwaves in 2012. In the YouTube age, viral hits have extra pull, and no video was more shared and parodied than "Somebody That I Used to Know." Of course, the amount of voters still secretly singing along to "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" determines how much of a chance Taylor Swift, always popular at the Grammys, has of winning.
Will Win: Gotye, "Somebody That I Used to Know"
Should Win: Gotye, "Somebody That I Used to Know"
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Best New Artist
Ever since Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros invaded America's ears in 2009, the trend toward jangly, sing-along pop-folk has only intensified, resulting in the success of bands like Fun. and the Lumineers. Sadly, those two artists might cancel each other out this year, making bland country-bot Hunter Hayes the winner. For a category that's about discovering fresh talent, best new artist is usually pretty conservative, meaning Frank Ocean might get snubbed.
Will Win: Hunter Hayes
Should Win:Frank Ocean
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Song of the Year
If the Grammys were any fun, they would just hand Carly Rae Jepsen the award so we could indulge in a little pre-"Gangnam Style" nostalgia and have a good time. Sadly, the voters are still under the illusion that the awards are somewhat respectable, which usually results in a middlebrow pick that won't offend or excite anyone.
Will Win: Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"
Should Win: Carly Rae Jepsen, "Call Me Maybe"
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Best Pop Solo Performance
How popular is Adele? Her album 21, released in 2011, was the best-selling album for the second year in a row, the first time that's happened since Michael Jackson's Thriller. Whether she can win for her impassioned live performance of "Set Fire to the Rain," despite already winning this same category last year remains to be seen. The safe bet is on Kelly Clarkson, who continues to hit the Grammy Awards' superstar sweet spot.
Will Win:Kelly Clarkson, "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"
Should Win:Adele, "Set Fire to the Rain (Live)"
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Best Alternative-Music Album
M83 is poised to become the next Arcade Fire, a band with serious indie cred that manages to sell out huge venues and get played on the radio. Fiona Apple's preposterously named "The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do" might be her best album ever. Ideally, one of them will win this category, but we have the weird feeling that Gotye might come out on top.
Will Win: Gotye, Making Mirrors
Should Win: M83, Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
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Best Rap Performance
Will voters scream "YOLO!" and give the Grammy to Drake or reward Kanye "Imma Let You Finish" West for one of his two big hits, "Mercy" and the Jay-Z collaboration "Ns in Paris"? Considering that Jay-Z and Kanye won last year for "Otis," it's not hard to imagine the dynamic duo striking gold again, but we have to assume that eventually the Grammys will award Drake his first-ever win.
Will Win:Drake feat. Lil' Wayne, "HYFR (Hell Ya F***ing Right)"
Should Win:Jay-Z and Kanye West, "Ns in Paris"
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Best Urban Contemporary Album
You know an artist is influential when he requires a brand-new category. Officially it includes contemporary R&B artists who incorporate "urban pop, urban Euro-pop, urban rock, and urban alternative," but it might as well be called the Frank Ocean category. Some might argue for Miguel's excellent Kaleidoscope Dream, but we're betting no one will be pulling for Chris Brown.
Will Win: Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
Should Win: Frank Ocean, Channel Orange
—Keith Wagstaff is a writer and editor based in Brooklyn. Follow him at @kwagstaff.
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