The nominations for next year's Grammys won't be announced until December, but it surely wouldn't hurt to take a brief look at the early field of contenders. I took a stab at three of the main categories, putting the likelihood of a nomination in order from strongest to weakest as of right now.
Album of the Year
1. The Black Keys - El Camino
What it will need to get the nod: If no other indie rock act manages to catch fire with the critics and the mainstream, El Camino would be the strongest candidate for the token rock slot.
What might work against it: It's been released so long ago that it might've been forgotten.
2. Jack White - Blunderbuss
What it will need to get the nod: The solid reviews and White's name alone could be enough to do the trick, but most past Album of the Year nominees needed at least one song to catch on with the majority of the public. Blunderbuss hasn't delivered yet.
What might work against it: The reviews have been solid, but not something that suggests it's an event LP.
3. Lionel Richie - Tuskegee
What it will need to get the nod: If it continues to sell consistently, it will definitely stand out in a year that has not seen many breakout albums, plus plenty of support from both country and R&B voters would help. A big sales push during the holiday season would also boost its profile.
What might work against it: The Grammys have been slowly leaning away from acknowledging older acts in this category for the past few years in an effort to seem current and hip.
4. Gotye - Making Mirrors
What it will need to get the nod: Nobody is expecting him to have another song as big as "Somebody I Used To Know," but a follow-up single will be essential for this category.
What might work against it: Too much attention is on the song and not the album.
5. Drake - Take Care
What it will need to get the nod: If there is not another clear critical consensus in the hip hop and R&B genres, the album sales of Take Care and its multiple top 20 singles will give it an advantage.
What might work against it: Hip hop rarely gets nominated in this category unless its too huge of an album to ignore (think The Carter III and Speakerboxxx/The Love Below). Take Care has not reached that level.
6. Usher - Looking 4 Myself
What it will need to get the nod: Early reviews are embracing the new dance direction he's taken and with the help of some gaudy first week numbers, he instantly enters into the discussion.
What might work against it: Too early to tell since the album was released about a week ago, but a lack of serious content might hinder it if the album isn't a runaway commercial success.
7. D'Angelo's third album
What it will need to get the nod: Aside from all the great buzz and the terrific comeback story it would make, just imagine a scenario where D'Angelo releases a top-notch hit single, the album debuts at #1 and all the major music publications try to outdo each other with exaggerated praise for the album. How does it not get an Album of the Year nomination?
What might work against it: ?uestlove says that he's sitting on a classic, but it needs to be released first.
8. Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do
What it will need to get the nod: Apple will already benefit from the respect she's gotten for three terrific albums and lasting from one era to the next. The early buzz suggests that critical reception will be warm for this one, which might be all she needs to be considered.
What might work against it: If the reviews don't highlight any big strides in the music or don't claim it among one of her best, she'll be relegated to just the Best Alternative/Music Album category.
9. Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
What it will need to get the nod: Not much can be done at this point for an album that was released in October of last year. The rest of the rock and alternative field would have to be extremely weak and everyone would have to forget that The Black Keys existed.
What might work against it: The last time they were nominated here for Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends, they had a stronger album and more visibility with the single "Viva La Vida." All around, this has been perceived to be a lesser effort.
10. Carrie Underwood - Blown Away
What it will need to get the nod: Country albums don't get nominated here unless they have a bonafide crossover single (think Lady Antbellum's "Need You Now" and Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me"). "Good Girl" peaked at only #21 on the Billboard Hot 100. Any following singles need to chart higher than that to have a chance.
What might work against it: Miranda Lambert's Four The Record got the better reviews and could easily be viewed as the stronger choice to represent country, despite moving fewer units than Blown Away.
Record of the Year
1. Gotye feat. Kimbra - Somebody That I Used To Know
What it will need to get the nod: What else does it need? Eight straight weeks at #1, a quarter billion views on YouTube and countless covers. Its place is pretty much set in stone.
2. fun. feat. Janelle Monáe - We Are Young
What it will need to get the nod: Not much. Six weeks at #1 for a song with an indie rock sound combined with the Grammys trying to become more hip should lead to a nomination.
What might work against it: Aside from last year, there is usually only one token rock song in this category. "Somebody I Used To Know" has that spot sewn up.
3. Carly Rae Jepsen - Call Me Maybe
What it will need to get the nod: The song is already ubiquitous enough and gaining traction as 2012's pop song that's okay to like. A couple more weeks at #1 might be able to do the trick.
What might work against it: The content might be considered too lightweight. If her next single doesn't click, the academy may be wary of rewarding a newcomer for a song that some may consider fluff.
4. Adele - Set Fire To The Rain/Rumour Has It
What it will need to get the nod: I have no idea which song her record label will submit, but I think both of their chances are equal because of Adele's name recognition. If 21 is still sniffing around the top 10 during the fall, her chances of being nominated two years in a row for Record of the Year look good.
What might work against it: She won this category last year and there is a risk of fatigue by nominating her again for a song that came out so early in the eligibility period.
5. The Black Keys - Lonely Boy
What it will need to get the nod: The band already has the respect of the industry, so a good promotional push by its record label for the general and rock categories will be essential. By riding that momentum, they have a good shot.
What might work against it: The video and its solitary dancing got some attention upon its initial release, but the track wasn't the kind of event record that usually gets nominated here.
6. Jay-Z & Kanye West - N----s In Paris
What it will need to get the nod: It's already the hip hop song of the year, but a decent impact from the upcoming G.O.O.D. Music compilation will keep Kanye in the spotlight and remind voters of this track.
What might work against it: That title could certainly make things awkward.
7. Kelly Clarkson - What Doesn't Kill You (Stronger)
What it will need to get the nod: If the Blue Ribbon panel is looking for a more serious pop record to substitute, "Call Me Maybe," "What Doesn't Kill You" is the next best choice.
What might work against it: While the song was very popular, in order to justify its nomination over "Call Me Maybe," Clarkson would probably have to get a nod in AOTY of as well, which is not likely since it has only yielded two hits. Most pop albums nominated there need at least three (see: Teenage Dream, The Fame, Loud).
8. The Wanted - Glad You Came
What it will need to get the nod: Having peaked at #3, reaching the summit of the Hot 100 for a few weeks would transform this track from just hugely popular to event song.
What might work against it: The whole boy band thing and that it fell out of the top 10 this week, which means its days of chart-climbing are done.
9. Katy Perry - Wide Awake
What it will need to get the nod: If it becomes as successful as any of the other key singles from Teenage Dream, it would certainly leapfrog a few spots.
What might work against it: I honestly believe that its chances lie with how successful her upcoming 3-D film is. If it turns out to be a turkey, her chances become slim in the general field.
10. Flo Rida feat. Sia - Wild Ones
What it will need to get the nod: The song will have to remain strong throughout the summer and eventually challenge "Call Me Maybe" for ubiquity during the season.
What might work against it: The NARAS has shown they're not afraid to nominate carefree dance pop, as evidenced by Black Eyed Peas' "I Got A Feeling," but that song was #1 for several consecutive weeks. "Wild Ones" has yet to reach the top. Also, there's a possibility of a huge uproar if an artist as polarizing as Flo Rida made it in this category.
Best New Artist
What he will need to get the nod: If you need an explanation, you've probably been in a coma for the first half of 2012.
What might work against him: We're still waiting on a follow-up single, if only to shake the stigma of a one-hit wonder.
2. Kip Moore
What he will need to get the nod: He already has a #1 country single to his credit in "Somethin' 'Bout A Truck," so all that's needed is another solid showing and he could be close to automatic.
What might work against him: Despite being a steady seller, he has yet to truly crossover.
What they will need to get the nod: Their follow-up single, "Some Nights," has already charted. If it gets within the top 25, it will be hard to deny them.
What might work against them: Foster The People was shut out of the general field categories last year in favor of the more relevant Bon Iver. That same kind of distinction between mainstream indie and indie indie could possibly spell upset for fun.
4. Lana Del Rey
What she will need to get the nod: She garnered enough press leading up to the release of Born To Die that she might be able to get votes based on name recognition alone.
What might work against her: The blogosphere backlash she received has made her one of the most divisive music figures of 2012. That Saturday Night Live performance won't do her any favors either.
5. Of Monsters and Men
What they will need to get the nod: They're only familiar to those who listen to rock radio, where they're doing pretty well, but to really clinch a slot they'll have to make the best of their upcoming U.S. shows, especially Lollapalooza where they will likely have their biggest audience stateside to date. A buzzworthy performance would give them the extra bit of momentum that they need.
What might work against them: As the indie rock scene finally assimilates into the mainstream, the door becomes open for more acts, any of which that could pass by Of Monsters and Men by gaining some buzz and record sales.
6. Alabama Shakes
What they will need to get the nod: So far, music industry insiders have been the main ones championing this band. A slot on Saturday Night Live would instantly boost their profile and expose the rest of the nation to Brittany Howard's gutbusting vocals.
What might work against them: Their sound might be too old-fashioned for a category that has nominated MGMT, Florence + The Machine and Bon Iver in the past couple of years.
7. Azealia Banks
What she will need to get the nod: Her debut album will have to deliver on the ridiculous amount of hype she's received so far. The press has been there, so all that's needed is something that will catch as many ears as "212."
What might work against her: Her subsequent songs have ranged from decent to good, but nothing that has suggested she will stick out the way "212" helped for her.
8. One Direction
What they will need to get the nod: They've done a great job of connecting with their target audience, but the rest of America needs to be able to identify with at least one individual to make them a hot topic.
What might work against them: Teen pop acts nominated here are usually cultural talking points well before the nominations are announced (think Justin Bieber, The Jonas Brothers, Backstreet Boys). One Direction may not have enough time to reach that next level within the next few months.
9. Rebecca Ferguson
What she will need to get the nod: Much like Alabama Shakes, she could be just one televised performance away from being a name that everyone knows about.
What might work against her: For someone who has a lot of the desirable qualities in a Best New Artist nominee (songwriter, distinct voice, female British vocalist), her albums sales have been disappointing so far.
10. Frank Ocean
What he will need to get the nod: As long as his debut album builds upon nostalgia, ultra, he'll have critics in the palm of his hand.
What might work against him: Due to the shutout of Tyler, The Creator from last year's nominations, one has to wonder if the academy still considers Odd Future too controversial.