The Boss or Norah? We predict the Grammy winners
There’s nothing Grammy voters love more than an aging rocker on a comeback — except, perhaps, a comely young singer with a classic sound. So with Bruce Springsteen and Norah Jones among the top contenders for the 45th annual awards on Feb. 23, some voters’ knees may not have known which way to jerk. Add in the once-verboten, now-adored Eminem, and you have a suspenseful Grammy race. All three are nominated in five categories, along with Ashanti, Avril Lavigne, Sheryl Crow, Nelly, and Raphael Saadiq.
As the ceremony returns to New York City after four years in L.A., we polled some music-industry pros — many of them Grammy voters — for the anonymous scoop on who they think will nab the top trophies. Read on for our predictions in 14 Grammy races.
of the Year
Here’s our pick to win Album of the Year
SURVEY SAYS Springsteen will likely rise to the podium for his E Street-backed meditation on 9/11. ”He captured a moment poignantly and he’s getting respect for that,” says one major-label president. ”They gave it to Steely Dan [in 2001] — you’ve gotta think they’re gonna give it to Bruce,” adds a veteran songwriter. Eminem has an, um, slim chance, even though one insider insists ”it’s the strongest album.”
of the Year
Here’s our pick to win Record of the Year
SURVEY SAYS Norah. ”She’s the Alicia Keys of this year,” says one A&R exec. ”She’s captured the attention of such a cross section of people.” Adds the label chief, ”She made a textbook Grammy album.” But some counter that it feels so empty without a certain white rapper. ”’Record of the Year’ is the song that you remember from this year — that’s Eminem.” And don’t waste your dime betting on Nickelback.
of the Year
Here’s our pick to win Song of the Year
SURVEY SAYS Norah’s — by a nose. As three panelists say, ”it’s a timeless song.” But Springsteen’s and Jackson’s timely tunes are also in the running. ”Of the two September 11 songs it’s probably Alan Jackson,” says a major producer. One label GM agrees: ”It’s much bigger than a country song.” But one insider dissents. ”They’ll reward Bruce for being the great songwriter that he’s been throughout the years.”
Here’s our pick to win Best New Artist
SURVEY SAYS The verdict is unanimous. ”I don’t think you could find a better prototype for Best New Artist than Norah Jones,” says the producer. ”Anyone not putting money on Norah Jones is better off just sending the money to me,” says another insider (who, sadly, didn’t provide an address). Still, one Norah fan jokingly hopes ”they give it to Avril, because [winning] Best New Artist can hurt your career.”
Pop Vocal Album
Here’s our pick to win Best Pop Vocal Album
SURVEY SAYS Despite several votes for Norah, No Doubt are serious contenders — especially after upstaging Sting at the Super Bowl. ”Gwen [Stefani] is such a strong female presence, and she continues to make popular music with credibility.” While voters scoffed at the chances for Avril and Britney, several admitted they were tickled by Pink. ”Pound for pound, inch for inch, ‘M!ssundaztood’ is the best album.”
Here’s our pick to win Best Rock Album
SURVEY SAYS Don’t worry, they’re not booing. ”Bruuuuuce! That record is just heads and tails above the others here.” Forty-one-year-old VH1 mainstay Crow, who’s ”done well in the past,” also has a chance. On the other hand, Tonic, whose last hit was 1999’s ”You Wanted More,” has our panelists reaching for the gin. ”How they keep putting out albums that don’t sell and getting nominations is beyond me.”
Hard Rock Performance
Here’s our pick to win Best Hard Rock Performance
SURVEY SAYS Looks like a Foo-in. ”Dave Grohl is a legendary guy, funny and gracious and talented,” gushes one source. ”People know who they are and there’s respect for Nirvana.” Of course, Grohl would be a loser as drummer for Queens of the Stone Age. ”That band is brilliant, but I’m not sure their album reached enough people.” And one insider picks the dark horse: ”Hands down, P.O.D. They sold a lot of records.”
Alternative Music Album
Here’s our pick to win Best Alternative Music Album
SURVEY SAYS ”Coldplay, ’cause they’re sexy.” And easy to digest: ”They’re like the alt-rock Sade — background music.” And popular (not just with Gwyneth). ”I would be incredibly shocked and disappointed if [the band] doesn’t win. They’ll be U2-like two or three albums down the line.” While Grammy perennial Beck may get some votes, one insider concedes: ”I’m a big Beck fan and I can’t get through this album.”
Contemporary R&B Album
Here’s our pick to win Best Contemporary R&B Album
SURVEY SAYS ”Easy: Ashanti. Everybody thought she’d be up for Record of the Year. This award she gets.” After all, her not-exactly-stiff competition includes two high-profile flops (Brandy and Evans) and a couple of fringe favorites (Floetry and Ndegeocello). ”When people are voting in unfamiliar categories, they pick names that are familiar. Ashanti and the Murder Inc. squad are certainly well known.”
Here’s our pick to win Best R&B Album
SURVEY SAYS In a field of relative unknowns, ”India.Arie might win. People will give her the sympathy vote because she was nominated for all those awards last year and didn’t win a thing.” Some panelists were puzzled over precisely how this category differs from Best Contemporary R&B Album, while one insider notes, ”It wasn’t a great year for R&B albums.” Or, as another succinctly puts it: ”Joe? Ech.”
Here’s our pick to win Best Rap Album
SURVEY SAYS Marshall, Marshall, Marshall. Mr. Mathers’ 7.8 million-selling hit ”The Eminem Show” is ”the most important record of the year.” Plus, it’s ”absolutely the weakest rap-album category since the days of the Fresh Prince and M.C. Hammer,” says a famed studio wizard. ”Petey Pablo? I mean, come on. Mystikal? Terrible record. What a diluted category.” Hey, dude, hate the sin, not the ”Sinner.”
Here’s our pick to win Best Rap/Sung Collaboration
SURVEY SAYS It’s Nelly in herre. ”That’s a monster record.” Twin nominations ”will split the Ashanti vote,” and ”the Nappy Roots record isn’t as well-known.” His newfound street cred aside, Timberlake is unlikely to pull out a victory here. ”Him winning a rap award would be the first sign of the Apocalypse. If he wins, he should keep his Grammy next to Jethro Tull’s  best metal performance award.”
Here’s our pick to win Best Country Album
SURVEY SAYS Grammy will be whistlin’ Dixie. ”It’s that combination of popularity and critical acclaim.” Adds an A&R exec: ”They made a record that was very much in the ‘O Brother, Where Art Thou?’ vein.” Alan Jackson’s triple-platinum album could be a factor, but ”not as many people are familiar with the other records.” (Willie and Dolly were big names with small sales figures.) Stick with the Chicks.
Pop Instrumental Performance
Here’s our pick to win Best Pop Instrumental Performance
SURVEY SAYS Our panelists were stumped. ”God, some of these categories are just so head-scratching.” ”What is this all about?” Pressed for a guess, one offers, ”Moby is super-identifiable.” On the other hand, one voter is ”sick to death of your gospel-choir-over-techno-beat one-trick pony, so nice work shooting yourself in the foot.” Another insists: ”People love Dave Koz.” Okay: Dave Koz. What the hell.