Album of the Year
Who Will Win: Eminem, Recovery
The Academy seems unprepared to recognize Gaga here (for The Fame Monster), Katy Perry’s nod (for Teenage Dream) has already been roundly scorned in the press, and Lady Antebellum’s pop-country (Need You Now) likely lacks gravitas, so this one is Eminem’s to lose.
Who Should Win: Arcade Fire’s lovely, thematically rich release The Suburbs is an album in the truest sense, not a haphazard collection of singles and filler.
Record of the Year
Who Will Win: Eminem and Rihanna, ”Love the Way You Lie”
Academy voters will be powerless against the combined forces of a perennial Grammy favorite and a pop star in her prime.
Who Should Win: B.o.B and Bruno Mars are probably too young to have a serious shot in this category, but ”Nothin’ on You” is the most perfect pop tune of the bunch.
Song of the Year
Who Will Win: Lady A, ”Need You Now”
This is where Lady Antebellum can take it: Their ”Need You Now” was both ubiquitous and beloved across genres, which may trump both the social impact of Eminem’s domestic-violence screed (”Love the Way You Lie”) and the subtler charms of Ray Lamontagne (”Beg Steal or Borrow”) and Miranda Lambert (”The House That Built Me”).
Who Should Win: Seriously, how fun would it be to watch a presenter open that envelope and announce Cee Lo’s ”F— You” to an audience of millions?
Best New Artist
Who Will Win: Drake
With his proven crossover potential and abundant star quality, hip-hop’s crown prince is a lock for this award — unless voters are really desperate to prove they’re down with today’s youth, in which case Justin Bieber just might pull off a long-shot upset.
Who Should Win: We’d love to see a quirkier choice rewarded over the big commercial names. How about Florence + the Machine (above) or Esperanza Spalding?
Best Contemporary R&B album
Who Will Win: Usher, Raymond V Raymond
It’s debatable whether his music tends more toward R&B or pop these days, but labels don’t mean very much at the Grammys. Usher’s smashing success this year speaks for itself.
Who Should Win: Janelle Monae’s virtuosic debut (The ArchAndroid) contains more wild ideas than the other four nominated albums combined.
Best Male Pop Vocal
Who Will Win: Michael Jackson, ”This Is It”
Leave Jackson’s posthumous soundtrack single off the list and this category might have been a toss-up. As it stands, though, there’s no chance that voters won’t recognize the late King of Pop.
Who Should Win: Jackson deserves this one for sentimental reasons, but Bruno Mars did a superior MJ impression on ”Just the Way You Are.”
Best Dance Recording
Who Will Win: Rihanna, ”Only Girl (in the World)”
Rihanna’s triumphal synth-pop single sounds as great in a club as it does on pop radio, where it was inescapable last fall. No contest.
Who Should Win: If Academy voters could find it in their hearts to introduce more listeners to Robyn’s ”Dancing on My Own” — the finest of the many superlative tunes the Swedish dynamo released last year to disappointing commercial results — they would be performing a laudable public service.
Best Compilation Soundtrack Album for Motion Picture, Television, or Other Visual Media
Who Will Win: Crazy Heart
With a Best Original Song Oscar for ”The Weary Kind” already under its belt, the country set is a natural front-runner. The participation of producer T Bone Burnett, an eight-time Grammy winner, puts it over the top.
Who Should Win: The indie-heavy Eclipse soundtrack, featuring artists like Metric, the Black Keys, and Florence + the Machine, is the coolest option here.
Producer of the Year, Non-Classical
Who Will Win: The Smeezingtons
The production trio led by Bruno Mars had pop in a stranglehold last year, scoring major credits with artists like B.o.B, Travie McCoy, and Cee Lo Green.
Who Should Win: The Smeezingtons deserve this one, though we wouldn’t be sorry to see RedOne’s work with Lady Gaga recognized.
Who Will Win: Miranda Lambert
It’s a category with no weak spots, essentially, but Lambert’s multiple triumphs at the CMAs last November seem to give her the edge here.
Who Should Win: We’re happy to see Miranda take it, though a vote for outlaw beardo Jamey Johnson’s wild and wooly double album would signify a nice reach for the Academy.
Rap Solo Performance
Who Will Win: Eminem, ”Not Afraid”
Once again, the man with the most nominations of the night tops the list; Ludacris is hardly in the running with ”How Low,” and the rest likely just can’t beat Marshall Mathers on this one.
Who Should Win: Kanye, for the sheer audacity and originality of the King Crimson-sampling, densely operatic ”Power,” no question.
Who Will Win: Gaga and Beyoncé (”Telephone”)
For star power alone, it’s hard to beat Gaga and Honey B.
Who Should Win: ”Telephone” is a truly visual phenomenon, not a sonic one; B.o.B, Eminem & Hayley Williams’ ”Airplanes, Part II” and Elton John & Leon Russell’s ”If It Wasn’t for Bad” are both worthy contenders, in their own ways.
Who Will Win: Mumford and Sons, ”Little Lion Man”
Breakout Brit folkies Mumford and Sons probably won’t win their Best New Artist category, so this seems like a likely (and deserved) consolation prize.
Who Should Win: Mumford have earned it, but we wouldn’t be mad at a trophy for the Black Keys’ excellent ”Tighten Up,” either.
Who Will Win: Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
This one’s a gimme for the Canadian collective, since they’re the only ones to also appear on the top of the ballot in truly major categories. Sorry, other dudes.
Who Should Win: Like most years, they’re all worthy, though Band of Horses (Infinite Arms) and Broken Bells (Broken Bells) are perhaps less progressive achievements than the others.
Who Will Win: Gaga’s ”Bad Romance”
Step aside, all non-Gagas — this one belongs to the woman who practically makes videos her primary art form.
Who Should Win: Gaga, in all her zombie-claw-dancing, hairless-cat-costarring glory.