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EW's Grammy Watch

EW’s Grammy Watch — Our predictions on which artists will win the music industry’s top honor

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And your time is up! Sept. 30 marked the final release date to be eligible for the 2006 Grammys. Impatient pop stars can wait until Dec. 7 for official nominations…or get a head start by obsessing over EW’s early picks.

Bob Dylan, Modern Times (Columbia)
Why It Will Win Boomers are a mighty voting bloc, which is why Bruce Springsteen could also strong-arm this nom. Why It Won’t Four awards in 10 years — Dylan’s mantel is already full.

Dixie Chicks, Taking the Long Way (Open Wide/Columbia)
Why It Will Win The mix of political lyrics and impressive sales (over 1.6 million units) is like Grammy catnip. Why It Won’t Liberal, elite music insiders don’t want to come off like, you know, liberal, elite music insiders.

Nickelback, All the Right Reasons (Roadrunner)
Why It Will Win The Recording Academy loves to reward popularity, and the ‘Back are (we kid you not) 2006’s best-selling rock band. Why It Won’t Old-fashioned hard rock usually has a tough time in this prestigious category.

OUR PICK The Chicks, partly because the controversial win would make headlines. And it’s about time they moved out of the country category.

James Blunt
Why He Will Win Sweet, sentimental, and successful are three words of which voters are very fond. Why He Won’t Because if voters are subjected to another round of ”You’re Beautiful,” it could set off a bloody revolt.

Panic! At the Disco
Why They Will Win A nod to Panic would give the Grammys cred with the MySpace generation. Why They Won’t Skepticism about emo’s future — and a band with a predisposition for ruffled Victorian collars — runs deep in the industry.

Corinne Bailey Rae
Why She Will Win The U.K. songbird is Norah Jones, version 2006 — a singer of gentle, milk-and-cookies soul. Why She Won’t Rae’s debut hasn’t even gone gold…yet.

OUR PICK Bailey Rae, whose appeal stretches from R&B fans to soccer moms to the NPR set.

Gnarls Barkley, ”Crazy” (Downtown/Atlantic)
Why It’ll Win Who doesn’t love summer’s most addictive song? Why It Won’t Rock-snob alert! Academy members haven’t fully accepted samplers as legit instruments.

Shakira (feat. Wyclef Jean), ”Hips Don’t Lie” (Epic)
Why It Will Win Recognition of one of the year’s biggest radio (and download) hits also doubles as a shout-out to the booming Hispanic music scene. Why It Won’t Contemporary concepts like digital beats and reggaeton instill voter unease.

Daniel Powter, ”Bad Day” (Warner Bros.)
Why It Will Win Like a comfy blanket, Powter reminds folks of respected Grammy vets such as Elton John and Billy Joel. Why It Won’t Despite a push on American Idol, Powter’s CD may as well have been voted off the charts.

OUR PICK Powter. If we’ve learned one thing from Grammys past, it’s that the safe bet is the best bet.