Monday, December 03, 2007

Grammy Predictions for 2007

Grammy season is upon us once again, which means that it's time for my annual predictions of what I think will get nominated in the top four categories: Album Of The Year, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best New Artist. Nominees will be announced the morning of Dec. 6 and the ceremony itself takes place on Feb. 10, 2008.

Record Of The Year

There is never a shortage of contenders in this category and it's usually one of the hardest ones to narrow down to just five. This category typically has a mix of ubiquitous pop songs that are hard to escape and songs that although are not as widely popular, are still very much adored. I think there is no more ubiquitious song in 2007 than Rihanna's "Umbrella". This has been her year and it was hard not to forget about this song, even after the summer had passed.

Another thing that the NARAS loves to do is give nominations to past winners. It also doesn't hurt if their career is still red hot. Beyonce's "Irreplaceable" seems destined for a Record of the Year nod. It was another one of those songs that was inescapeable upon release and has the right amount of depth and pop drive that usually gets nominated here.

After "Umbrella" and "Irreplaceable", things get a little tricky. I wouldn't quite say that the field is wide open at this point, but things become a bit harder to gauge. I feel safe in saying that I think Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" will likely get a nod here as well. She's widely loved by critics, has a platinum album, and the "no no no" refrain in the song is one of the most memorable hooks of the year. The Grammys have a fondness for widespread acclaim and commercial success, which is another reason why I think Justin Timberlake's "My Love" also has a shot. Justin's only other nomination in this category was for the Black Eyed Peas collaboration, "Where Is The Love?", which is surprising considering the amount of hit singles that he has had. But upon further glance, it would make sense that "My Love" would be the one to finally get a ROTY nomination. FutureSex/LoveSounds has been out for a full year and Timberlake's light has yet to dim. The academy would probably still like to honor one of music's biggest stars, and since FutureSex, was already nominated last year, "My Love" is a good excuse for him to make an appearance on the show. Add to the fact the song is actually really good.

Now we're left with only one spot. In these cases, it's typical to look at other hugely successful songs. Kanye West's "Stronger" is another strong possibility, but it's success and impact is not on the same level as "Gold Digger", a previous ROTY nominee. In Fergie's case, all you would have to do is close your eyes and pick any of her hit singles for consideration. Although "Glamorous" is probably the strongest of her eligible singles, I get the sense that her music is too polarizing. Either you like it or you hate it with no indifference. I see her getting some nods in the pop category, but nothing here. Sean Kingston's "Beautiful Girls" might have had a stronger chance if it sustained life after the summer. It doesn't help that his follow-up singles have failed to keep the focus on him. If the academy is deciding to feel generous to Timbaland this year, who's had a great year as not only a producer, but as a recording artist, "The Way I Are" is his best shot in this category and I would also consider it one of the stronger contenders. Seemingly, one of the most obvious contenders is Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats", but according to the eligibility rules, it had its shot last year. And in the case of Alicia Keys' "No One", I think it would have stood a better shot for next year's Grammys, but it's eligible only for this one.

On the rock side of things, Daughtry's "Home" has to be mentioned simply due to the large year that he's had, but hard ballads like this typically go in Song Of The Year. Previous Best New Artist nominees, Fall Out Boy also have a chance with "This Ain't A Scene, It's An Death Arms Race", but I don't think they're quite at the level of respectability and admiration that landed Green Day a nom for "American Idiot". Same goes for Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend", which will probably do better in the pop categories. Maroon 5's "Makes Me Wonder" was a hit, and their Best New Artist win a few years ago shows that they're Grammy faves, but if "This Love" can't get a ROTY nomination, then I highly doubt that "Makes Me Wonder" will.The current mainstream success of indie rock music could prove helpful for Peter Bjorn & John's "Young Folks" in a few of the smaller categories, but they'll probably need more than an appearance on The Tonight Show to make an impact here. And something tells me to keep an eye out for Lily Allen's "Smile", but her album came and went with barely a trace in the U.S., so I'm guessing there's a chance she might get love in the pop categories as well.

At this point, I think there are two main contenders left standing: Robin Thicke and Gwen Stefani. The success and appeal of Robin Thicke's album leads me to believe that he'll land a ton of nods and "Lost Without U" might just luck out and get one for Record Of The Year. Akon has had a great year, but I think that the content of his songs are probably too rough for the general categories. I can see Akon landing nods in the R&B categories, but not anywhere else. But given the year that he's had, it would be hard not to take notice of his achievements, which is probably the blessing that goes in having produced and guested on a Gwen Stefani song. "The Sweet Escape", I believe, is the song that helped keep the spotlight on Gwen and her album after a really weak first single, "Wind It Up". Gwen is no stranger to this category, having already received a nod for "Hollaback Girl". Stefani had the strength of her 2004 album, Love.Angel.Music.Baby. to land her multiple nods that year, but I think that's it's Akon's involvement that will catapult "The Sweet Escape" into the final slot.

Album Of The Year

This category is usually one of the easiest to predict since the formula to get nominated is easy: either be an old fogey and make a good record or be the best in your genre and sell a lot of records. Under those guidelines, the pickings are slim this year. The strongest contender without a doubt is Kanye West's Graduation. He's been nominated twice in this category and his 9/11 sales feud with 50 Cent kept him in the news towards the end of the eligibility period. Another prospect I feel very confidently in is Amy Winehouse's Back To Black. The critics love her, but it would mean nothing in this category without the commercial success. She's also a new artist (at least by American terms), and the Grammys tend to honor those who hit it out the park at their first at bat. The last slam dunk pick is Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad. Not only has "Umbrella" made her one of the defining music acts of 2007, but the album from which it came from is also pretty damn good. The only thing that might prevent it from being nominated in this category is the lacking popularity of her follow-up singles, which have been hits in their own right, but could have been easy to miss if you weren't careful.

After that, it gets tricky once again. If we look at some of the years other's biggest sellers, their AOTY worthiness is questionable. Linkin Park's Minutes To Midnight satisfied its fans, but I don't think it made any new ones. You can say the same for the Red Hot Chili Peppers' Stadium Arcadium, which got an AOTY nod last year, but the Peppers have had mainstream success for many years, and besides its gaudy first week numbers, Minutes To Midnight did not make much news, but having the biggest rock record of the year counts for something. Rascal Flatts' Still Feels Good also had a big first week, but country albums that get nominated in this category tend to get more mainstream attention. Also, being released only days before the eligilibity period ended probably hasn't given the time needed for those unfamiliar with their work to be won over. I like the chances for Fall Out Boy's Infinity On High, seeing as how they've been nominated for Best New Artist before and Green Day's nod for American Idiot in this category a few years back shows that the Grammys are getting younger, but I still think they have too many detractors who don't take them seriously enough to give them a spot here. Daughtry's self-titled album is also one of the biggest sellers of the year and cannot be ignored, but I don't hear enough talk about the album itself and if a band like Nickelback with all its commercial success can't get nary a Grammy nod, Daughtry's chances for this category are pretty slim. Norah Jones' Not Too Late has to also receive some serious consideration, seeing as how she's another Grammy fave, but I think that people have already forgotten about the album, but I also felt the same way about John Mayer's Continuum last year. Mayer's another Grammy favorite whose album I felt had received less attention than his previous efforts, but he still managed a nomination in this category.

Other big sellers like Maroon 5 and Gwen Stefani probably need more hit singles to even be considered. Avril Lavigne's The Best Damn Thing is probably a little too young for this category, but it's been mostly well-received. As I mentioned before, I think Akon's content is a bit too rough for the general categories, but this category loves the kind of albums that spawn as many hits as Konvicted did. And although Timbaland's Shock Value has managed a few hit singles, I think that too much focus has been on the singles themselves and not the album.

But an album that people have been talking about is Robin Thicke's The Evolution of Robin Thicke. It's been out for a full year now, and even though it took it a while to gain traction in the beginning, it eventually finished strong as far as album sales go. Although this is Thicke's second album, he is still a relatively new face who's music is safe and comforting, which is Grammy catnip (John Legend, Norah Jones, Corinne Bailey Rae, India.Arie).

Another album that won't leave my head when it comes to all this prognosticating is My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade. It's arguably the best mainstream release from the hardcore pop-punk genre within the past 12 months. It sold well. It also had a hit single with "Welcome To The Black Parade". And it also got a lot of press about the album's concept of a cancer patient reminiscing on their deathbed. The Grammys have slowly showed that they are getting younger and it's really not that improbable that The Black Parade could get nominated in this category. The only thing that might hold them back is that some voters may look at the genre and not take them seriously enough.

The recent indie rock boom this year surprisingly yields several mild contenders. The top ten debuts of albums from The Shins, Modest Mouse, Arcade Fire, Spoon, and Wilco are worth taking note, but the last album to be nominated in this category that I would consider that far left to the mainstream would be Radiohead's OK Computer, which was released 10 years ago. Even then, the album was being hailed as one of the best of the decade. There hasn't been that kind of buzz surrounding the aforementioned artists and they will likely be relegated to the Best Alternative/Music Album category. The indie rock artist that stands the strongest chance of getting a nod in this category, or in any of the general ones is Feist. Her iPod nano supported "1,2,3,4" is easily one of the most popular songs of the year (it even made it to #7 on the Hot 100). Another encouraging factor is Imogen Heap's surprise nomination last year for Best New Artist, which shows that all new trends are not lost on the academy, but The Reminder is also lacking the buzz of some of the albums that out sold it.

Now that we've singled out a good deal of the genres, it's time to focus on the fogeys. In 2007, only two icons have a remote chance of getting nominated. One can never count out Bruce Springsteen. He's been on a roll lately and his albums continue to get praise. I honestly think that The Boss gave stronger efforts with Devils and Dust and We Shall Overcome, but in a year this weak, anything is possible. Magic debuted at #1, but it was released right at the end of the eligibility period. I simply don't think the buzz is strong enough for it to garner a nod here, but he's surely a lock for Best Rock Album.

The only other old fogey left is Paul McCartney. The academy has been pretty fair when it comes to McCartney. They feel that if he makes a decent album, he automatically gets an AOTY nod. If he doesn't, well, he gets nominated elsewhere. The thing about McCartney is that no one really talks about him a lot unless he releases an album that doesn't suck. He received nods for Flaming Pie and Chaos and Creation In The Backyard, which everyone seemed to agree didn't suck. Not so much for Driving Rain. Looking at the amount of attention that it got upon its release (mostly due to the Starbucks deal) and the mostly positive reviews, I think that Memory Almost Full has one of the strongest shots at landing that final spot.

Song Of The Year

I usually end up missing some country song in this category, so I'm going to make a preemptive strike and guess that Taylor Swift's "Tim McGraw" will be one of the lucky ones. It's a sentimental song about a former love and she name checks one of the genre's biggest stars, which has garnered the kind of attention that grabs Grammy nominations. If it doesn't get a nod here, it will definitely get one elsewhere. I think that the aforementioned "Rehab", "Irreplaceable" and "Lost Without U", are also pretty strong contenders. I don't follow Rascal Flatts too much, but I can't count them out in this category either. Feist's "1,2,3,4" is another strong contender, but I think that it lacks universal appeal and that a good deal of people just aren't going to get it. Alicia Key's "No One" just might get a nod here due to the fact that it was gaining traction right around the time voters were filling out their ballots, but I think its peak came a little too late. That leaves me with one last option: Daughtry. This category is probably the best place for "Home" and since I can't think of any other hit songs heavy on the type of sentimentality that gets nominated in this category, I'm going with this one.

Best New Artist

Depending on how the academy defines a new artist, this category could deliver the most head scratches. Before we get into that, let's just state the obvious contenders: Amy Winehouse, Taylor Swift and Daughtry. In the past, the academy has given Best New Artist nominations to "newcomers" like Green Day, Fountains Of Wayne, Kid Rock and Shelby Lynne, who actually won in spite of charting as early as 12 years prior. My main dilemma is to whether I give the academy the benefit of the doubt or take a gamble. I'm going to take a gamble and put Feist in the final five. The academy has shown that they're catching up with the times with nominations for Goldfrapp, Imogen Heap and LCD Soundsystem last year, which could mean that voters are not as square as we thought. Feist's 2004 album, Let It Die definitely got its fair share of attention on the blogosphere and other indie-oriented publications, but when you add a widely seen iPod commercial and a major label debut to the occassion, you could forgive a lot of people for thinking she's new on the scene. Sara Bareilles is another quasi-newcomer who's eligibility is questionable, but she's only had one hit song and not much attention elsewhere. Colbie Calliat's success on the Internet is the kind of story that people can get behind, but I'm not sure how seriously people take her yet as far as longevity. Same goes for Sean Kingston who has yet to deliver another hit song besides "Beautiful Girls". Kellie Pickler has sold enough records to get attention, and with a year short on big fresh faces, she could find herself being a Best New Artist nominee as well, but I'm just not buying it. Since there aren't any more obvious choices, you'll have to look deeper into the pool at artists who have made a lot of attention, but not huge sales. Peter Bjorn and John's VMA nomination for Best New Artist is proof that they're not completely invisible, but I'm not sure how many people know any of their other songs besides "Young Folks". There is no scientific reasoning to this guess, but for some reason, I like Lily Allen in this category. She got a ton of attention at the time of Alright, Still's release and she would by far be the hippest choice here.

Once again, I'm going to take a shot at who I think will get the most nominations:

Akon - 8
Kanye West - 6
Amy Winehouse - 6
Rihanna -5
Taylor Swift - 5
Robin Thicke - 5

Nominations will be announced Dec. 6 and a full list of the nominees will be available at


  1. Great analysis. I see Timbaland in record of the year and Springsteen in album of the year.

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  3. you were really close on a lot of them!

    except you overestimated Akon and Robin Thicke!

    I was so impressed since I read your predictions after they announced the nominations.