By Nick Catucci
Updated December 06, 2013 at 06:40 PM EST
Rich Polk/Getty Images

Not everyone can expect to win a Grammy. But as Scooter Braun demonstrated last year, some artists—like Braun’s ward Justin Bieber—count at least on a nomination. The fact of which provides a faint veneer of drama for tonight’s frantically-titled ceremony The Grammy Nominations Concert Live!, airing at 10 PM tonight (Dec. 6) on CBS.

Likewise, the hope that a beloved, non-ubiquitous artist might win some publicity with a placement in one of the major categories should carry us into tonight’s show. LL Cool J will once again host—with a little buddy, Ed Sheeran, along as presenter—and Miguel, Keith Urban, Lorde, Robin Thicke, Taylor Swift, and Katy Perry will perform (Swift and Perry via satellite). In the meantime, here are some thoughts on the big categories and the artists in play.

Best New Artist

More than anyone, Lorde’s got that Best New Artist smell: She’s young (17) and contrarian, a perfect vessel for fantasies about a new pop order that better accommodates coastal American hipster ideals. (Even though she’s from New Zealand and befriended the “flawless” Taylor Swift.) My own coastal American hipster picks would be the more openly aspirational, less coolly outsiderish Kendrick Lamar and Kacey Musgraves. And of course, I love Ariana Grande

Album of the Year

Speaking of the flawless Taylor Swift: Red, released in 2012 (within the window of Grammy eligibility), resonated throughout much of this year. And yet it faded to more of a Nantucket red as Justin Timberlake took the sales crown with The 20/20 Experience and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis captured the zeitgeist with The Heist. Lurking along the edge of this narrative? Bruno Mars and the awesome Unorthodox Jukebox. I’d be glad to see that back in the spotlight.

Record of the Year Maybe Bruno Mars will make the cut here, with “Locked out of Heaven.” Lorde will perform “Royals,” a shoo-in, on tonight’s show. Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” seems like an even more obvious nomination. But among likely candidates, I’ll be happiest for “Roar,” the Katy Perry single that, for all its airplay, seemed to fall through the cracks.

Song of the Year

Who haven’t I mentioned? Imagine Dragons, who no critic likes to talk about, probably because it’s hard to wrap one’s head around vital rock music in 2013—never mind a massive, slow-burn hit like “Radioactive,” which practically makes “Royals” look like a blip. But how much more fun is it to root for “Cruise” by Florida Georgia Line?

Who do you fear might be “snubbed”? And which artists do you naively hope still have a shot at a Grammy? You know where the comments go …