This year's Grammy Awards tentatively acknowledge rock's cutting edge. Do those acts have a chance against the less adventurous mainstream? Based on experience, probably not.


Sometimes predicting Grammy winners can seem like an exercise in irrelevance. But this year’s crop of nominees, while typically older-skewing, does include some of the industry’s brightest young stars, artistically as well as commercially. Rejuvenated by that prospect, our critics weigh in with their choices of who will win the most anticipated awards on March 1, who should win, and (where appropriate) who was overlooked.


”I’ll Make Love to You,” Boyz II Men; ”He Thinks He’ll Keep Her,” Mary Chapin Carpenter; ”All I Wanna Do,” Sheryl Crow; ”Love Sneakin’ Up On You,” Bonnie Raitt; ”Streets of Philadelphia,” Bruce Springsteen
*WILL WIN: Boyz, for sheer numbers sold — namely, 1.6 million copies.
*SHOULD WIN: Springsteen, for the same reason he won’t win — crafting an understated, genuinely tragic ode.
*OVERLOOKED: Beck’s ”Loser,” arguably the only popular song to map new soundscapes in 1994.


MTV Unplugged, Tony Bennett; The 3 Tenors in Concert 1994, Carreras, Domingo and Pavarotti; From the Cradle, Eric Clapton; Longing in Their Hearts, Bonnie Raitt; Seal, Seal
*WILL WIN: Grammy fave Clapton; voters know a ”return to roots” blues album is something they should like.
*SHOULD WIN: Seal may seem out of place among these pop stalwarts, but at least his material is fresh, not rehashed.
*OVERLOOKED: Hole’s Live Through This — at once the year’s most harrowing and most hopeful album.


”All I Wanna Do,” David Baerwald, Bill Bottrell, Wyn Cooper, Sheryl Crow, Kevin Gilbert; ”Can You Feel the Love Tonight,” Elton John and Tim Rice; ”Circle of Life,” Elton John and Tim Rice; ”I Swear,” Gary Baker and Frank J. Meyers; ”Streets of Philadelphia,” Bruce Springsteen
*WILL WIN: Gushy love songs set to fuzzy cartoon characters? John’s a shoo-in.
*SHOULD WIN: The Boss, for the song, and because he wrote it all by himself.
*OVERLOOKED: The late Kurt Cobain’s ”All Apologies,” a masterpiece from the decade’s most powerful songwriter.


”Hero,” Mariah Carey; ”All I Wanna Do,” Sheryl Crow; ”The Power of Love,” Celine Dion; ”Longing in Their Hearts,” Bonnie Raitt; ”Ordinary Miracles,” Barbra Streisand
*WILL WIN: Carey has mastered the polished bombast so adored by voters.
*SHOULD WIN: Raitt, if only for retaining genuine emotion in her voice.
*OVERLOOKED: Des’ree’s uplifting ”You Gotta Be,” a true summer anthem.


Under the Pink, Tori Amos; God Shuffled His Feet, Crash Test Dummies; Dookie, Green Day; Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, Sarah McLachlan; The Downward Spiral, Nine Inch Nails
*WILL WIN: McLachlan, because she is the least alternative (although the multiplatinum Green Day has an outside shot).
*SHOULD WIN: Nails. If you wanna be cutting-edge, you gotta bleed a little.


”The Sign,” Ace of Base; ”I Swear,” All-4-One; ”Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm,” Crash Test Dummies; ”Stay,” Lisa Loeb & Nine Stories; ”I’ll Stand by You,” Pretenders
*WILL WIN: ”I Swear” outsold ”The Sign,” and All-4-One is American, dammit!
*SHOULD WIN: Pretenders, for their welcome return to form.
*OVERLOOKED: ”When I Come Around,” Green Day — the poppy punkers belong here, not in Alternative or Hard Rock.