25 Songs To Download Before the Grammys
25. Hunter Hayes, ''If You Told Me To''
The album: Hunter Hayes
The hook: What would happen if Justin Bieber hailed from Nashville instead of Canada, put sweetly countrified strums on his odes to young love, and were up for both Best New Artist and Best Country Solo Performance (for ''Wanted'')? Probably something very much like this.
24. Mumford & Sons, ''Babel''
The album: Babel
The hook: With furious banjos and guitars and a great big shout-into-the-wind chorus, this is as punk-rock as Album of the Year-eligible bluegrass folk ever gets.
23. M83, ''Reunion''
The album: Hurry Up We're Dreaming
The hook: The French electro-pop act and Best Alternative Music Album nominees are (almost) as sexy as the Victoria's Secret commercial they memorably soundtracked last year.
22. 2 Chainz feat. Dolla Boy, ''Stop Me Now''
The album: Based on a T.R.U. Story
The hook: After popping up on every hot track last year, the dexterous Atlanta rapper has a shot at his biggest cameo yet: on the Grammy stage, if he wins in the Best Rap Album category. This soul-sampling slow jam just may help him get there.
21. Jack White, ''Sixteen Saltines''
The album: Blunderbuss
The hook: He may be a solo Stripe now, but White can wild out (and count crackers) with the best of them — and could walk away with the Album of the Year prize.
20. Nas feat. Amy Winehouse, ''Cherrywine''
The album: Life Is Good
The hook: As this jazzy collab (longtime fan Winehouse recorded her vocal a few years before her death) proves, the Best Rap Album favorite is still evolving nearly 20 years after the release of his seminal debut, Illmatic.
19. Kelly Clarkson, ''Mr. Know It All''
The album: Stronger
The hook: As long as there are bad boys who need lyrical schooling, there will be songs from this triple nominee that expertly cut them down to size.
18. Campo, ''1987''
The album: Campo
The hook: A blanket-warm lullaby crafted by Uruguayan multiculti collagist (and Best Latin Rock, Alternative or Urban Album nominee) Juan Campodónico, with a spry rhythmic undercurrent running beneath its sun-kissed melody.
17. Taylor Swift feat. The Civil Wars, ''Safe & Sound''
The album: The Hunger Games soundtrack
The hook: Both have been to the Grammy rodeo before, so the odds of winning for Best Country Duo/Group Performance are ever in this haunting ballad's favor.
16. Tom Waits, ''Chicago''
The album: Bad as Me
The hook: Is there anything that can match the power and pathos of the Best Alternative Music Album nominee's razor-worn growl on this shuffling redemption song? Only guest sideman Keith Richards' runaway-train blues licks.
15. Jimmy Cliff, ''Reggae Music''
The album: Rebirth
The hook: The Best Reggae Album-nommed icon recounts the complete history of the island sound over a skronking groove that precisely embodies the positivity revolution embedded in the rolling bass and jumpy horns.
14. Robert Glasper Experiment feat. Erykah Badu, ''Afro Blue''
The album: Black Radio
The hook: Badu coos over a dusty, low-ceilinged backbeat while progressive jazzbo Glasper, nommed for both Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Album, provides the piano-and-organ counterpoint on his smoky cover of a jazz classic.
13. Swedish House Mafia, ''Don't You Worry Child''
The album: Until Now
The hook: The trio's fellow Swede, guest vocalist John Martin, sings, ''Heaven's got a plan for you.'' And according to this absurdly triumphant Best Dance Recording candidate, said plan involves great fire-hose blasts of keyboard froth and ''Oh-oh-oh''s.
12. Dr. John, ''Locked Down''
The album: Locked Down
The hook: In full New Orleans-outlaw mode, Dr. John borrows garage-scuzz cool from his producer, Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, and strolls down Bourbon Street with menacing charm and pump-organ swagger. Will he also walk away with the Best Blues Album prize?
11. Florence + the Machine, ''Heartlines''
The album: Ceremonials
The hook: Double nominee Florence — she's up for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album — boldly storms the pagan-rock jungle with her enchanting pipes, chased by beastly drums and some serious full-moon-ritual vibes.
10. Gotye, ''Easy Way Out''
The album: Making Mirrors
The hook: The man born Wouter De Backer did snag a Record of the Year nod for ''Somebody That I Used to Know,'' but he's more than just the One-Hit Wonder From Down Under — the Best Alternative Music Album nominee is also into excellent art-funk pastiche like this fuzzed-out Beck-ish rocker.
9. Bruce Springsteen, ''Land of Hope and Dreams''
The album: Wrecking Ball
The hook: On the overnight freighter to salvation, the thrice-nommed Boss packs light: He needs little more than a stately mandolin and the late Clarence Clemons' final E Street sax solo to feed his hungry heart.
8. fun., ''Carry On''
The album: Some Nights
The hook: Frontman Nate Ruess' poperatic pipes and swaggy show tunes make these rock rookies a clear favorite; expect to see them pulling more than one acceptance speech from their pockets come Feb. 10 — maybe even for a biggie like Best New Artist, Song of the Year (for ''We Are Young''), or Album of the Year.
7. Ed Sheeran, ''The A Team''
The album: +
The hook: The sweet-voiced street busker-turned-Taylor Swift tour opener wrote this heartbreaking Song of the Year nominee about a drug-addled girl he met at a homeless shelter, and his line about her face ''Slowly sinking, wasting/Crumbling like pastries'' lilts with sad loveliness.
6. Alabama Shakes, ''You Ain't Alone''
The album: Boys & Girls
The hook: This '60s-inspired soul-powered torch song from the Best New Artist nominees conjures up the ghost of Otis Redding, then unleashes a wail that's all its own — and so smoldering, it could singe your eyebrows off.
5. Ana Tijoux, ''Shock''
The album: La Bala
The hook: This Chilean-French MC (up for Best Latin Rock, Alternative or Urban Album) raps en español, laying her seductive staccato rhymes over violins and Latin brass. Don't worry if you don't understand the words: It's probably just Spanish for ''sexiest South American hip-hop record ever.''
4. Fiona Apple, ''Werewolf''
The album: The Idler Wheel...
The hook: The Best Alternative Music Album nominee proves that all you need for a great love song is a gorgeously sad piano melody, some wrenching vocals, and a perfect lycanthropy metaphor.
3. Miguel feat. Alicia Keys, ''Where's the Fun in Forever''
The album: Kaleidoscope Dream
The hook: R&B's best new lady-killer has earned a whopping five nods, including Song of the Year (for ''Adorn'') and Best Urban Contemporary Album. Over propulsive drum fills and a swaggering bass line, he poses a silky-voiced rhetorical question for the ages: We've got tonight, babe — who needs eternity?
2. The Black Keys, ''Gold on the Ceiling''
The album: El Camino
The hook: The much-lauded duo (they've got five nods, including a solo one for frontman Dan Auerbach's producing work) deliver their deep-fried blues-rock with gospel harmonies and a buzzing, stand-up-and-testify organ riff that's so revelatory, it deserves its own church.
1. Frank Ocean, ''Pyramids''
The album: channel ORANGE
The hook: If you listen to only one fierce nine-minute electro-soul epic about cheetahs, serpents, and a Vegas stripper in a Cleopatra costume, make it this, from one of the year's most acclaimed — and nominated — artists.