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The panelists will probably realize that if they put Live at the Troubadour on the final ballot, it has a very good chance of winning.
GREIN ON GRAMMYS
In Which Our Peerless Forecaster Check Out His Crystal Ball and Comes Up With His Nominees
Paul Grein, who writes the weekly Chart Watch blog for Yahoo.com., has been reporting on the Grammys since 1978. He has been forecasting them since 1981, when Bob Hilburn first asked him to do so for the L.A. Times. He has an incredible record for accuracy, which is why his appearance in these pages is such an anomaly. Our own self-styled Grammy experts, Lenny Beer and Roy Trakin, will follow shortly with their own assessments.

Will this finally be Eminem’s year at the Grammys? That’s an odd question to ask about someone who has amassed 11 of the little gramophones, more than such stalwarts as Barbra Streisand and Sheryl Crow. But Em has yet to win in one of the “Big Three” categories—Album, Record and Song of the Year. He’ll have three more chances this year. He’s almost certain to be in the running in all three categories when the nominations for the 53rd annual Grammy Awards are announced on Dec. 1.

Record of the Year

“Love the Way You Lie,” Eminem’s chart-topping collaboration with Rihanna, is a front-runner for Record of the Year. Lady Antebellum is virtually guaranteed a nomination for its heartfelt country/pop smash “Need You Now.” Lady Gaga, a finalist last year for “Poker Face,” will probably be back in the finals with “Bad Romance.” (She would be the first artist to land back-to-back nominations in this top category since Green Day scored in 2004 and 2005.)

Two other collabos will probably round out the category: “Empire State of Mind” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys and “Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B featuring Bruno Mars. This would mark the first time in Grammy history that three collaborations have vied for Record of the Year.

Several more collabos are on the list of likely runners-up: “Airplanes II” by B.o.B featuring Eminem & Hayley Williams (Grammy rules would allow both B.o.B hits to make the finals), “California Gurls” by Katy Perry featuring Snoop Dogg (summer’s irresistible popsicle may seem a little light for the top award), “I Like It” by Enrique Iglesias featuring Pitbull (the genre-bridging aspect will appeal to Grammy voters) and “OMG” by Usher featuring will.i.am.

Other records that will probably be considered include Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are,” The Script’s “Breakeven,” Cee-Lo Green’s “Fuck You (Forget You),” Miranda Lambert’s “The House That Built Me,” Rihanna’s “Rude Boy,” Drake’s “Find Your Love,” Paramore’s “The Only Exception,” Muse’s “Resistance” and Florence + the Machine’s “Dog Days Are Over.”

Album of the Year

Eminem is also a prime contender for Album of the Year for Recovery, which is the best-selling album so far this year. But to win, he’s going to have to get past Carole King & James Taylor’s Live at the Troubadour.

To understand how this is likely to play out, you need to know how the nominees are selected in the top categories. A panel of industry insiders picks the final nominees, drawing from lists of the top vote-getters of the rank-and-file membership of the Recording Academy. The panelists will probably realize that if they put Live at the Troubadour on the final ballot, it has a very good chance of winning. The album has the unbeatable Boomer appeal of such recent winners as Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters and the Robert Plant/Alison Krauss collaboration Raising Sand (not to mention Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature, which denied the award to Eminem’s The Marshall Mathers LP 10 years ago). Some panelists, mindful of the Grammys’ need to be current, may have misgivings about yet another Boomer title winning this award. Those calculations could cost Live at the Troubadour a nomination.

Some panelists will probably argue that King and Taylor had a legitimate comeback with a hit album and a smash tour. Others will counter that they didn’t really do anything new with the songs; the album could have been recorded in the early ’70s. This will probably provoke the most contentious debate of the session, which is ironic for music that is so calming. It’s hard to predict the outcome. It really depends on how well each side is argued. I would guess that the album will be left off the final ballot on the grounds that the Grammys should be honoring the best music of 2010, not 1971.

So who will Eminem face? The four albums with the strongest shot at a nomination are Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now (the #2 seller so far this year), Sade’s Soldier of Love (the group plays by its own rules and wins), Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs (a rock album usually makes the finals) and Miranda Lambert’s Revolution (which took Best Album honors at both leading country music award shows). It would be the first Album of the Year nomination for all four of these acts, which is fairly remarkable in the case of veteran Sade.

Other albums in the mix include Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed a Dream (the album was a phenomenon, but her reality TV background may hurt her), Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3 (the rap icon has never been nominated in this category), Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster (she’s on fire, but some panelists may be reluctant to nominate an EP), John Mayer’s Battle Studies (he’s a Grammy favorite, but he hurt his chances with some graceless comments), Usher’s Raymond v Raymond, Drake’s Thank Me Later, Michael Buble’s Crazy Love, Rosanne Cash’s The List, Rihanna’s Rated R, Mumford & SonsSigh No More, Muse’s The Resistance, Ke$ha’s Animal and B.o.B’s The Adventures of Bobby Ray.

Best New Artist

Drake is a sure thing in this category. Susan Boyle and Justin Bieber are also likely to make the finals. Boyle, 49, is vying to become the oldest nominee in the history of the category. That distinction is currently held by Andrea Bocelli, who was 40 when he was nominated 12 years ago. Bieber, 16, is vying to become the youngest solo nominee since LeAnn Rimes, who was 14 when she was nominated 14 years ago.

Ke$ha and B.o.B will probably round out the field. Runners-up will likely include Adam Lambert, The Script, Florence + the Machine, Mumford & Sons, The xx, Jason Derulo, Vampire Weekend, Owl City, Kid Cudi, Taio Cruz, Orianthi and Mike Posner.

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