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THE FIRST IN A 10-PART SERIES
By Grammy Whisperer Paul Grein
Over the course of the next five weeks, our resident Grammy seer, Paul Grein, will preview various "genre album" categories. We’re introducing the series with Grein’s takes on two Pop categories plus Contemporary Instrumental.
 
Best Pop Vocal Album
As likely finalists in the overall Album of the Year category, Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour and Ed Sheeran’s x are sure things here.

Ariana Grande’s My Everything, Coldplay’s Ghost Stories and Katy Perry’s PRISM will probably round out the field. Coldplay has had an interesting Grammy history. The band’s first two studio albums won for Best Alternative Music Album. Its fourth album, Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends, won for Best Rock Album. Now its sixth album is vying for a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album. Has the band’s music changed that much, or has the music scene shifted around it?

Miley Cyrus’ image-changing Bangerz will definitely get some votes.



Lady Gaga
won in this category for 2010’s The Fame Monster. She’s a contender this year with ARTPOP. The media quickly labeled the album a flop, but some voters may want to show their support. (Even if Gaga falls short here, she and Tony Bennett are certain to be nominated for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Cheek to Cheek.)

Kelly Clarkson is the only artist ever to win twice in this category (which dates to 1994). She’s a contender this year with her holiday album, Wrapped in Red.

If enough voters let their kids fill out their ballots, 5 Seconds of Summer’s eponymous album and One Direction’s Midnight Memories might have a chance. (That may help explain how Justin Bieber’s My World 2.0 got a nomination in this category four years ago.)

Other top contenders include Maroon 5’s V, Lana Del Rey’s Ultraviolence, Stevie Nicks24 Karat Gold—Songs From the Vault, Pentatonix’s PTX Vol. 3, Sia’s 1000 Forms of Fear, Andrea Bocelli’s Love in Portofino and Shakira’s Shakira.

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
Barbra Streisand
hasn’t won a Grammy since she took the 1986 award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for The Broadway Album. Her current album, Partners, is a smash hit, but to win it has to get past the Tony Bennett/Lady Gaga collaboration, Cheek to Cheek. Bennett has won 11 times in this category (which was introduced in 1991). Bennett and Streisand have gone head-to-head five times in this category. Bennett has come out on top every time. Gaga is also a Grammy favorite. She was the first artist since The Beatles to receive Album of the Year nominations three years running.

While Partners and Cheek to Cheek both debuted at #1, Streisand’s album has been a substantially bigger hit. Both albums are sure to be nominated. But which will win? (With all the attendant drama, this category belongs on TV this year.)



Annie Lennox
’s Nostalgia is also a sure-fire nominee. The collection of standards is marred only by a title that sells the album short. A great singer singing timeless songs is more than mere nostalgia.

Battling for the two remaining slots: Betty Buckley's Ghostlight, which was produced by T Bone Burnett; Barry Manilow's Night Songs and four holiday albums: Seth MacFarlane's Holiday For Swing, Johnny Mathis's Sending You A Little Christmas, Susan Boyle's Home For Christmas and Dave Koz & Friends' The 25th Of December.

Other contenders include Il Divo’s A Musical Affair, Steve Lawrence’s 60th Anniversary Celebration: When You Come Back to Me Again and a Various Artists album, From Broadway With Love: A Benefit Concert for Sandy Hook.

Best Contemporary Instrumental Album
This category takes the place of Best Pop Instrumental Album, which Herb Alpert won earlier this year. The pop mogul is likely to be back in the running with his new album, In the Mood. But Lindsey Stirling’s Shatter Me, which charted at #2 in May, may keep Alpert from winning back-to-back Grammys for the first time since 1965-66.

Jeff Lorber has a long history, which should boost Jazz Funk Soul, his collaboration with Chuck Loeb and Everette Harp.

Gerald Albright was nominated for Best Pop Instrumental Album in three of the last four years, which bodes well for the optimistically titled Slam Dunk.

The Piano GuysA Family Christmas, The Rippingtons featuring Russ Freeman’s Fountain of Youth and a Various Artists album, Burt Bacharach: This Guitar’s in Love With You, are vying to fill the fifth slot. A similar Various Artists album, Henry Mancini: Pink Guitar, was voted Best Pop Instrumental Album 10 years ago. Jim Brickman has two albums in the running: The Greatest Hits: 15 Solo Piano Favorites and Pure Worship. That could split his support.

Other contenders include: Mindi Abair’s Wild Heart, Najee’s The Morning After: A Musical Love Journey, Eric Johnson’s Europe Live, Acoustic Alchemy’s Live in London, Jonathan Butler’s Living My Dream and Michael Omartian’s Movie Moods: Love Stories.

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