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Like such other recent Album of the Year winners as Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Santana and Steely Dan, Springsteen is a veteran artist who was under-recognized by the Academy when he was at his peak.
GREIN ON GRAMMYS
An exclusive HITS report by Paul Grein

Bruce Springsteen should emerge as the big winner when the 45th annual Grammy Awards are presented Feb. 23 at Madison Square Garden. The Boss is likely to win all five awards for which he was nominated, including Album of the Year for The Rising and Song of the Year for its title track. Norah Jones will probably win four Grammys, including Record of the Year for "Don’t Know Why" and Best New Artist.

Like such other recent Album of the Year winners as Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Santana and Steely Dan, Springsteen is a veteran artist who was under-recognized by the Academy when he was at his peak. Springsteen didn’t win a Grammy until 1984, and he has won only once in one of the "Big Four" categories. The subject matter of Springsteen’s album—the country’s response to the 9/11 tragedy—will further boost its chances. The surprise victory of U2’s "Walk On" for Record of the Year last year was probably due to the track’s association with 9/11 (even though the song was part of an album that was released before the attacks).

And then there’s Eminem, the bad boy of the Grammys two years ago, who redeemed himself, at least part way, with the industry-pacing success of his 2002 album, The Eminem Show, and the acclaim for his first film, 8 Mile. Eminem is nominated for both Album of the Year and Record of the Year. He will finish strongly in both categories, but he probably won’t win either. But don’t feel too bad for Mr. Mathers. He’ll probably win in three other categories, including Best Rap Album. This will bring his career total to eight Grammys—more than such stalwarts as Don Henley, Stephen Sondheim and Whitney Houston.

Here’s the inside line in selected categories:

Album of the Year
Nominees: Dixie Chicks’ Home, Eminem’s The Eminem Show, Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me, Nelly’s Nellyville, Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising
Springsteen has won seven Grammys, but mostly in secondary categories. He’s never won for Album or Record of the Year, so he’s overdue. Sure, there could be a Norah Jones sweep or an Eminem upset. But in all likelihood, Grammys voters will echo what Springsteen’s fans have been saying for three decades—"Bruuuuuuce!" Pick: The Boss will rule. (Ed. note: Unless, of course, Norah gets out the broom.)

Record of the Year
Nominees: Vanessa Carlton’s "A Thousand Miles," Eminem’s "Without Me," Norah Jones’ "Don’t Know Why," Nelly featuring Kelly Rowland’s "Dilemma," Nickelback’s "How You Remind Me"

Eminem received a total of five Grammys for his first two albums, but all came in the rap field. Given his dominance last year, there will be some sentiment for him to win in one of the top four categories. And since Springsteen is so formidable in the Album of the Year contest, this is the only Big Four category in which Eminem has a realistic chance. But there’s no law that says Eminem has to win one of the top awards. He alienated many voters (women, gays, anxious parents) last time out, and while they may be coming around, it doesn’t mean they’re ready to hand him Record of the Year. Besides, Jones’ classy and understated "Don’t Know Why" is perfect Grammy fare. Arif Mardin, who co-produced and co-arranged the track, is a longtime Grammy favorite. It will be close, but in the end Eminem will probably come in second. Pick: Norah should edge out Eminem. (Ed. note: We’d pay good money to see that face-off in the ring.)

Song of the Year
Nominees: "Complicated" (Avril Lavigne & the Matrix), "Don’t Know Why" (Jesse Harris), "The Rising" (Bruce Springsteen), "A Thousand Miles" (Vanessa Carlton), "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" (Alan Jackson)

My first thought was that the two 9/11 songs would "split the vote," allowing the Norah Jones ballad to win. And since I’m fairly confident that Jones will win for Record of the Year, it seemed logical to check it off here, too. After all, these two awards went hand in hand every year from 1995 through 2000. But when they diverge—such as in 1994, when Springsteen’s "Streets of Philadelphia" won for Song of the Year, or last year, when "Walk On" won for Record of the Year—there’s often a social or political element in play. So let’s take another look at those two 9/11 songs. Jackson’s song was first out of the gate, and it was a substantially bigger hit than Springsteen’s. But Springsteen is a legend, while Jackson is merely a top recording star. Springsteen has won seven Grammys, while Jackson has yet to win his first. (And, for what it’s worth, Springsteen was one of the first artists confirmed to perform on the show.) Springsteen will win the lion’s share of the votes of progressive, rock-oriented members. Jackson will dominate with older, more conservative members—but he will have to share their votes with the Jones entry. Any of these three songs may win, but "The Rising" is the best bet. Pick: Bruce, but it will be close. (Ed. note: Where were you [when Paul Grein picked Springsteen]?)

Best New Artist
Nominees: Ashanti, Michelle Branch, Norah Jones, Avril Lavigne, John Mayer

Alfred Hitchcock couldn’t pump suspense into this race. It’s Jones. Pick: Jones, in a runaway. (Ed. note: Does Avril have a shot at slowing the Norah express?)

Best Pop Vocal Album
Nominees: Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me, Avril Lavigne’s Let Go, No Doubt’s Rock Steady, Pink’s M!ssundaztood, Britney Spears’ Britney

As the only finalist here to also snag an Album of the Year nomination, Jones has this one wrapped up. Pick: It’s Jones again. (Ed. note: Is this the only category where Lavigne stands a chance of avoiding a shutout?)

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance
Nominees: Sheryl Crow’s "Soak Up the Sun," Norah Jones’ "Don’t Know Why," Avril Lavigne’s "Complicated," Pink’s "Get the Party Started," Britney Spears’ "Overprotected"
Grammy voters love Crow, who won here in 1994 with her breakthrough hit "All I Wanna Do," but this is Jones’ year. Pick: Jones will make Crow feel a little less sunny. (Ed. note: Gotta second that notion, although Crow can never be counted out at Grammy time.)

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance
Nominees: Craig David’s "7 Days," Elton John’s "Original Sin," John Mayer’s "Your Body Is a Wonderland," Sting’s "Fragile," James Taylor’s "October Road"
Past category champs Elton John, James Taylor and Sting, with a combined total of 90 years of recording stardom, will split the geezer vote. That creates an opening for newcomer Mayer. A win here would be a way of offsetting his expected loss for Best New Artist. Pick: Columbia should fire up the trade ads celebrating Mayer’s win (like they haven’t already). (Ed. note: Hate to disagree, but Sting is such an Academy fave, this could be an upset win.)

Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal
Nominees: Bon Jovi’s "Everyday," Bowling for Soup’s "Girl All the Bad Guys Want," Dave Matthews Band’s "Where Are You Going," No Doubt’s "Hey Baby," NSYNC’s "Girlfriend"
No Doubt’s nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album gives it an edge. Pick: No Doubt, without a doubt. (Ed. note: Wouldn’t it be a hoot if Bowling for Soup pulled this one out?)

Best Dance Recording

Nominees: Daniel Bedingfield’s "Gotta Get Through This," Dirty Vegas’ "Days Go By," Groove Armada’s "Superstylin’," Kylie Minogue’s "Love at First Sight," No Doubt’s "Hella Good"
No Doubt and Dirty Vegas are both strong, but this is No Doubt’s year. Pick: No Doubt. (Ed. note: The only catch here would be a last-minute vote from Down Under for Kylie Minogue.)

Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album
Nominees: Tony Bennett’s Playin’ With My Friends: Bennett Sings the Blues, Michael Feinstein With the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Bernadette Peters Loves Rodgers & Hammerstein, Rod Stewart’s It Had to Be You…The Great American Songbook, Barbra Streisand’s Christmas Memories
Stewart has never won a Grammy (!) and he won’t this year, either. Bennett has won this award six times and has yet to lose it. Pick: This will be lucky seven for Tony. (Ed. note: Unless Clive got to the Grammy voters in time to give Rod the Mod a shot.)

Best Rock Album
Nominees: Elvis Costello’s When I Was Cruel, Sheryl Crow’s C’mon, C’mon, Robert Plant’s Dreamland, Bruce Springsteen’s The Rising, Tonic’s Head On Straight
Pick: Springsteen. No discussion needed. (Ed. note: Wonder what the odds are on a Tonic victory?)

Best Alternative Music Album
Nominees: Beck’s Sea Change, Clinic’s Walking With Thee, Coldplay’s A Rush of Blood to the Head, Elvis Costello & the Imposters’ Cruel Smile, The Soundtrack of Our Lives’ Behind the Music
Beck is vying to become the first act to win this award three times. He won in 1996 with Odelay and in 1999 with Mutations. Coldplay is aiming to become the first act to win this award two years in a row. The band won last year with Parachutes. They’re on a roll, which should give them an edge. Also, Coldplay was among the first acts confirmed to perform on the telecast. Pick: Coldplay will be hot on Grammy night. (Ed. note: Their "Clocks" are ticking.)

Best Female Rock Vocal Performance
Nominees: Sheryl Crow’s "Steve McQueen," Melissa Etheridge’s "The Weakness in Me," Avril Lavigne’s "Sk8er Boi," Bonnie Raitt’s "Gnawin’ on It," Susan Tedeschi’s "Alone"

MTV fave Lavigne has an outside chance of winning, if the four veteran artists split the Lifetime Channel vote. But the voters’ fondness for Crow (and for Steve McQueen, for that matter) should put her in the winners’ circle again. This will be Crow’s fourth Grammy in this category, putting her in a tie with Pat Benatar and Tina Turner for the most wins by anyone in the category’s 24-year history. Pick: Crow always wins. (Ed. note: Grein’s argument sounds reasonable, but this is another category for those voters that want to avoid a Lavigne shutout for the evening, a la India.Arie)

Best Male Rock Vocal Performance
Nominees: David Bowie’s "Slow Burn," Elvis Costello’s "45," Peter Gabriel’s "The Barry Williams Show," Robert Plant’s "Darkness, Darkness," Bruce Springsteen’s "The Rising"

Same story, different players: This will be Springsteen’s fourth win in this category, putting him in a tie with Lenny Kravitz (of all people) for the most victories by anyone in the category’s 24-year history. Pick: Bruce has a lock on this one. (Ed. note: As strong as Springsteen’s hold on this category looks, if Kravitz were nominated, we wouldn’t bet against him.)

Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal
Nominees: Aerosmith’s "Girls of Summer," Coldplay’s "In My Place," Creed’s "My Sacrifice," Chad Kroeger featuring Josey Scott’s "Hero," 3 Doors Down’s "When I’m Gone," Tonic’s "Take Me as I Am," U2’s "Walk On"

This seven-way race is a muddle. U2’s entry is from the America—A Tribute To Heroes album. Since the studio version won for Record of the Year last year, a win here would seem to be a bit much. Aerosmith has won this award four times, but this entry was from a greatest-hits set. Since somebody has to win, and since Grammy voters go to the movies, I’ll go with "Hero," which was featured in the box-office hit, Spider-Man. Pick: The Spider-Man song. (Ed. note: Wonder who’ll accept this one, Chad or Josey—or Glen Brunman?)

Best Hard Rock Performance
Nominees: Foo Fighters’ "All My Life," Godsmack’s "I Stand Alone," P.O.D.’s "Youth of the Nation," Queens of the Stone Age’s "No One Knows," System of a Down’s "Aerials"

The Foo Fighters and Godsmack entries are also nominated for Best Rock Song. Foo Fighters won two years ago for Best Rock Album, so they ought to be able to win this lower-profile award. Pick: Foo Fighters will smack Godsmack. (Ed. note: What happened to Jethro Tull?

Best R&B Album
Nominees: India.Arie’s Voyage to India, Joe’s Better Days, Musiq’s Juslisen, Raphael Saadiq’s Instant Vintage, Remy Shand’s The Way I Feel
Musiq and India.Arie made the biggest commercial impact. India.Arie, Saadiq and Shand are also represented in the Best R&B Song category. But it might just come down to this: Everybody knows India.Arie went 0-for-7 at last year’s show. They can’t send her away empty-handed again. Pick: India.Arie can finally put her Grammy nightmares to rest. (Ed. note: ...while ours are just starting.)

Best Contemporary R&B Album
Nominees: Ashanti’s Ashanti, Brandy’s Full Moon, Faith Evans’ Faithfully, Floetry’s Floetic, Meshell Ndegeocello’s Cookie: The Anthropological Mixtape

Ashanti’s nomination for Best New Artist cast a spotlight on her. Her monster crossover hit, "Foolish," also gives her an edge here. But watch out for Floetry. The title song from its album is nominated for Best R&B Song. Pick: Any pick other than Ashanti would be "Foolish." (Ed. note: The wordplay may be lame, but the thought process is right-on.)

Best Rap Album
Nominees: Eminem’s The Eminem Show, Ludacris’ Word of Mouf, Mystikal’s Tarantula, Nelly’s Nellyville, Petey Pablo’s Diary of a Sinner: 1st Entry

Eminem will crush fellow Album of the Year finalist Nelly. This will be Eminem’s third album in a row to win this award. No one else has won it more than once. Pick: It’s The Eminem Show. (Ed. note: Wonder if Triumph the Insult Comic Dog will be on hand to give it to him.)

Best Country Album
Nominees: Dixie Chicks’ Home, Alan Jackson’s Drive, Willie Nelson’s The Great Divide, Joe Nichols’ Man With a Memory, Dolly Parton’s Halos & Horns

The Dixie Chicks’ Album of the Year nomination is the tip-off. This will be the Chicks’ third album in a row to win this award. As in the rap album category, no one else has won it more than once. Pick: The Dixie Chicks like to call this category Home. (Ed. note: Can’t argue with that, but Alan Jackson’s hat is in the ring.)

Producer of the Year, Non-Classical
Nominees: Dr. Dre, Nellee Hooper, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Arif Mardin, Rick Rubin

Mardin is nominated for Album and Record of the Year for his work with Norah Jones. Dre is nominated for Album of the Year for his work with Eminem. Both are past winners for Producer of the Year, as are Jam & Lewis. Mardin won in 1975—and he was a top producer for nearly a decade prior to that. His staying power gives him an advantage: He has worked with half the voting membership. Mardin, 70, will become the oldest winner ever in this category. We should all age so gracefully. Pick: Mardin has a "Jones" for winning. (Ed. note: Reminds us we have to schedule that prostate exam.)

Paul Grein has been covering, analyzing and handicapping the Grammys since before Norah Jones was born.

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