Record of the Year

“Irreplaceable” – Beyoncé

“The Pretender” – Foo Fighters

“Umbrella” – Rihanna ft. Jay-Z

“What Goes Around. Comes Around” – Justin Timberlake

“Rehab” – Amy Winehouse

Should win: “Umbrella” – Rihanna ft. Jay-Z

Will win: “Rehab” – Amy Winehouse

In a year when the charts have been completely dominated by R&B and hip-hop songs, “Umbrella” stands as the unchallenged best. Despite the track’s unfortunate bastard spawn – the version of “Umbrella” that features Chris Brown – Rihanna’s masterpiece has solidified her as a pop force. The song’s cascading chorus and shuffling, sharp beat make it an instant classic. The Grammys need to look past its adult-rock stint and finally choose a pop R&B track for this award (which is misleadingly named and actually goes to the best song) – recent winners include the Dixie Chicks, Green Day, U2 (twice) and Norah Jones (twice, though one was awarded for a duet with Ray Charles). That said, “Rehab” is a close second, and given Winehouse’s headlines, expect the voting to tilt towards her.

Album of the Year

Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace – Foo Fighters

These Days – Vince Gill

River: The Joni Letters – Herbie Hancock

Graduation – Kanye West

Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

Should win: Graduation -Kanye West

Will win: Graduation -Kanye West

What a rag-tag bunch of hopefuls. Finally, though, the man catches a break. Take it for what it’s worth when he complains on MTV about never winning anything, but Kanye West deserves this. It’s been a few years since anything remotely related to hip hop took home the award (OutKast in 2003), and Kanye is much more of a household name now than ever. He’s cementing himself as a stalwart in the mainstream. He doesn’t pull too many punches and has flash without the over-the-top generalizations of the genre that would turn off the Academy. The Foo Fighters might give him a run, but if Kanye doesn’t win this year, he has the right to scream bloody murder about a racist Academy.

Song of the Year

“Before He Cheats” – Josh Kear & Chris Tompkins (Carrie Underwood)

“Hey There Delilah” – Tom Higgenson (Plain White T’s)

“Like A Star” – Corinne Bailey Rae (Corinne Bailey Rae)

“Rehab” – Amy Winehouse (Amy Winehouse)

“Umbrella” – Shawn Carter, Kuk Harrell, Terius Nash and Christopher Stewart (Rihanna ft. Jay-Z)

Should win: “Hey There Delilah” – Tom Higgenson (Plain White T’s)

Will win: “Before He Cheats” – Josh Kear & Chris Tompkins (Carrie Underwood)

An unabashed song of longing, “Hey There Delilah” put Plain White T’s on the map – for better or worse. The track is comfortably soft and immediately recognizable. Born from emo tendencies, the track has a heart, something missing from contemporary radio. Carrie Underwood’s defiant and rambunctious “Before He Cheats,” however, will almost certainly take the category. Its sadistic subject matter will be overlooked for its catchy chorus and sheer popularity.

Best New Artist

Feist

Ledisi

Paramore

Taylor Swift

Amy Winehouse

Should win: Feist

Will win: Feist

We’re all pretty sick of “1234” by now, but still, Feist’s on a roll. Easily one of the most accessible and vocally pleasing releases of the year, The Reminder was played just about everywhere during 2007 – local malls, Pottery Barns, your house party. Winehouse could creep in and snag this from old Ms. Broken Social Scene. But the legal problems, overall image and insanity level of Winehouse should kill any chance she has of winning considering that the last few winners in the category have been squeaky clean and overrated. Feist is pretty damn innocent, but it’s time the underrated label in this category disappears. This has Feist written all over it.

Best Female Pop Vocal Performance

“Candyman” – Christina Aguilera

“1234” – Feist

“Big Girls Don’t Cry” – Fergie

“Say It Right” – Nelly Furtado

“Rehab” – Amy Winehouse

Should win: “1234” – Feist

Will win: “1234” – Feist

This year it should really be called the “Lamest/Most Unoriginal Song Title” category. It could also be one of the toughest categories to call. Everyone’s heard “1234.” Feist should have this on lockdown, but maybe Apple’s incessant advertising killed her. Or maybe it helped her. Again, Winehouse is a tough pick with her career suicide moves, and “Say It Right” by Nelly Furtado with the aid of Timbaland had an understated, sizzling Cyndi Lauper edge. But Christina Aguilera is a classy Academy favorite, winning the award last year. Fergie doesn’t have a chance. She might not even be real. In the end, the addictive, eclectic and sparkly “1234” probably gets the nod over the slightly more risqué “Rehab” and the underrated “Say It Right.”

Best Male Pop Vocal Performance

“Everything” – Michael Bublé

“Belief” – John Mayer

“Dance Tonight” – Paul McCartney

“Amazing” – Seal

“What Goes Around. Comes Around” – Justin Timberlake

Should win: “What Goes Around. Comes Around” – Justin Timberlake

Will win: “What Goes Around. Comes Around” – Justin Timberlake

Justin Timberlake has a lock on this category. Aside from his dominance of anything mainstream this year, Timberlake stands as the only category nominee that isn’t over the hill or a long shot. McCartney and Seal are both too far past their respective primes – McCartney’s only shot at another Grammy is a pity you-were-once-part-of-the-Beatles award (which he’ll probably get in another category). And Michael Bublé and John Mayer have both pulled themselves too far from the mainstream to take this award home to their trophy shelves.

Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals

“Steppin’ Out” – Tony Bennett and Christina Aguilera

“Beautiful Liar” – Beyoncé and Shakira

“Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)” – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

“The Sweet Escape” – Gwen Stefani and Akon

“Give It To Me” – Timbaland ft. Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake

Should win: “The Sweet Escape” – Gwen Stefani and Akon

Will win: “Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On)” – Robert Plant and Alison Krauss

The greatest part of Gwen Stefani’s “The Sweet Escape” is its resemblance to the Motown greats of old. Maybe it’s the lo-fi guitars and tambourine; or maybe it’s Akon’s freakishly simulated horn line; or maybe it’s the chorus’ glittery, bouncing melody. Whatever the case, this is an unforgettable track that, unfortunately, will be passed over for a collaboration of epic proportions. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss will almost certainly win because of mutual mythic statuses rather than on the merit of what is a mediocre song at best.

Best Pop Vocal Album

Lost Highway – Bon Jovi

The Reminder – Feist

It Won’t Be Soon Before Long – Maroon 5

Memory Almost Full – Paul McCartney

Back to Black – Amy Winehouse

Should Win: The Reminder – Feist

Will Win: Memory Almost Full – Paul McCartney

Like a broken record, this should really be no contest for Feist. But really, she’s just in way over her head here. There’s no way the Academy goes with anything outside of the old guard in such a stacked category. Every few years, Best Pop Vocal Album goes to the ageless, radio-friendly winners of old, and this year will return to normal form. Paul McCartney got a lot of flack for the Starbucks label, but it will probably earn him the win regardless. Poor Amy Winehouse gets another slap in the face. She can’t catch a break. And rumor has it she’s attending the awards, too. Could be a long night for her. More rehab?

Best Dance Recording

“Do It Again” – The Chemical Brothers

“D.A.N.C.E.” – Justice

“Love Today” – Mika

“Don’t Stop the Music” – Rihanna

“LoveStoned/I Think She Knows” – Justin Timberlake

Should Win: “D.A.N.C.E.” – Justice

Will Win:”LoveStoned/I Think She Knows” – Justin Timberlake

There’s no clear standout here, but it would be a travesty to look past the stunner by the upstart Justice. The track has a slight disco edge but is grounded by the slightly comprehensible lyrics shouted by what must be an 8-year-old girl. However, there’s a chance the song didn’t get much play outside the underground sects, even if MySpace is sponsoring its latest tour. Timberlake is just too strong and well known and will likely repeat this year. Don’t be surprised, though, if some bullshit like “Love Today” wins. One hit wonders are still big hits.

Best Electronic/Dance Album

We Are The Night – The Chemical Brothers

+ – Justice

Sound of Silver – LCD Soundsystem

We Are Pilots – Shiny Toy Guns

Elements Of Life – Ti

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