Expect the third time to be the charm for Eminem. The rap star’s smash album Recovery is the front-runner to win for Album of the Year


An exclusive HITS Grammy preview by Paul Grein
Expect the third time to be the charm for Eminem. The rap star’s smash album Recovery is the front-runner to win for Album of the Year on Feb. 13, when the 53rd annual Grammy Awards are presented at L.A.’s Staples Center and around the world on the CBS telecast. Eminem has been nominated in this category twice before, but lost both times. Ten years ago, The Marshall Mathers LP lost to Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature. Two years later, The Eminem Show lost to Norah Jones’ Come Away With Me.

The loss to Steely Dan was controversial. Many believed that Grammy voters couldn’t bring themselves to give their top award to an artist whose raw lyrics made him a polarizing figure. Since then, Eminem starred in a hit movie and won an Oscar. He has shown resilience and staying power, which Grammy voters respect.

Also, in the past decade, the Recording Academy has recruited more young voters. Seven years ago, a rap album, OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, won Album of the Year. Rap is so central to pop culture at this point that even Grammy voters have gotten on board.

Lady Antebellum and Drake will also do well on Grammy night. Lady A’s heartfelt ballad “Need You Now” is the favorite to win for both Record and Song of the Year. Drake will probably become the second rap artist to win for Best New Artist, after Arrested Development won in 1992.

Here’s a closer look at the top categories.

Record of the Year
B.o.B featuring Bruno Mars’ “Nothin’ on You,” Eminem featuring Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie,” Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You,” Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind,” Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now.”

The likely winner: “Need You Now.” This is the first time in Grammy history that three collaborations have been nominated for Record of the Year. All three of these pairings are vying for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. They will likely split the votes of younger, urban-oriented voters. Lady A’s ballad is the only choice for older, more conservative and country-leaning voters.

Album of the Year
Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, Eminem’s Recovery, Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now, Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster, Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream.

The likely winner: Recovery. The critically-lauded Arcade Fire would stand a better chance if the band had more pop radio presence (like U2 did when it won for The Joshua Tree). Lady A’s album would stand a better chance if it had produced a second crossover smash. Gaga’s release (the first EP to be nominated for Album of the Year) would have more consideration if it was a full-length album.

Song of the Year
“Beg Steal Or Borrow” (Ray LaMontagne), “Fuck You” (Cee Lo Green, Philip Lawrence, Bruno Mars, Brody Brown and Ari Levine), “The House That Built Me” (Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin), “Love the Way You Lie” (Eminem, Alexander Grant and Skylar Grey), “Need You Now” (Lady Antebellum, Josh Kear).

The likely winner: “Need You Now.” Eminem’s song deals with an important topic, domestic abuse, which gives it added weight. But a rap song has never won in this category.  “Fuck You” is an irresistible slice of old-school soul, but the title will scare off some voters. Even with two country songs in the running, I think voters may settle on “Need You Now,” which has the grace and poignancy of an Eagles classic from the ’70s.

Best New Artist
Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence + the Machine, Mumford & Sons, Esperanza Spalding.

The likely winner: Drake. Bieber is the biggest seller of this bunch, but teen idols rarely win. Florence + the Machine and Mumford & Sons both appeal to the same alternative-minded voters, which may split their votes.

Best Pop Vocal Album
Justin Bieber’s My World 2.0, Susan Boyle’s I Dreamed A Dream, Lady Gaga’s The Fame Monster, John Mayer’s Battle Studies, Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream.

The likely winner: The Fame Monster, with Mayer and Perry close behind. Mayer won here with his last studio album, Continuum, but he didn’t make any friends with his trash-talking Playboy interview a year ago. Perry came on strong during the voting period with her first-rate hit “Firework.”

Best Rock Album
Jeff Beck’s Emotion & Commotion, Muse’s The Resistance, Pearl Jam’s Backspacer, Tom Petty & the HeartbreakersMojo, Neil Young’s Le Noise

The likely winner: The Resistance. This album entered the chart at #3, which marked a new high for the English trio. Besides, Beck, 66; Young, 65; and Petty, 60, may well split the geezer vote.

Best Alternative Music Album
Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, Band of HorsesInfinite Arms, the Black KeysBrothers, Broken BellsBroken Bells, Vampire Weekend’s Contra

The likely winner: The Suburbs. The album has seemed like a sure-fire Grammy winner since it debuted at #1 in August.

Best Contemporary R&B Album
Chris Brown’s Graffiti, R. Kelly’s Untitled, Ryan Leslie’s Transition, Janelle Monae’s The Archandroid, Usher’s Raymond V Raymond

The likely winner: Raymond V Raymond. Usher won in this category six years ago with Confessions. His only serious competition is the critically hailed Monae.

Best Rap Album
B.o.B’s The Adventures of Bobby Ray, Drake’s Thank Me Later, Eminem’s Recovery, Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3, the Roots’ How I Got Over

The likely winner: Recovery. This will be Eminem’s fifth win in this category, which is more than any other artist. (Sorry, Kanye.)

Best Country Album
Dierks Bentley’s Up on the Ridge, Zac Brown Band’s You Get What You Give, Jamey Johnson’s The Guitar Song, Lady Antebellum’s Need You Now, Miranda Lambert’s Revolution

The likely winner: Need You Now. Lambert won in this category at both of the major country music awards shows, but Lady A’s nominations in the top three categories will probably give them the edge.

Paul Grein writes the weekly Chart Watch blogs for Yahoo.com. He has been handicapping the Grammys since Eminem was in grade school.


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