The Associated Press' crack Grammy team gives their insider analysis on who's going to win on Grammy night Feb. 13 - but hey, we wouldn't bet the house on these predictions.
Record of the Year: "Let's Get It Started," The Black Eyed Peas; "Here We Go Again," Ray Charles and Norah Jones; "American Idiot," Green Day; "Heaven," Los Lonely Boys; "Yeah!" Usher featuring Lil Jon and Ludacris.
MOODY: Let's get the losers out of the way, first, shall we? The Black Eyed Peas are nominated a second year in a row for a catchy song, and again they will lose - besides, how can you give a Grammy to a song originally titled "Let's Get Retarded" anyway? And even though Charles has had a banner (posthumous) year, "Here We Go Again" is about as below-the-radar as you can get. And yes, "Yeah!" was the most popular, but the Grammys don't seem to be keen on picking dance tracks as the year's most memorable - even if they are. So that leaves "American Idiot," and "Heaven," and the Los Lonely Boys' ballad was the most ubiquitous of the two - so they'll get it.
BAUDER: "Heaven" was a pleasant enough song, but couldn't match the entries of Usher, Green Day or Black Eyed Peas for cultural impact. Charles has the sympathy vote. In other words, "Heaven" has the LEAST chance of winning this category, Nekesa. Go with "Yeah!" It was everywhere.
Album of the Year: "Genius Loves Company," Ray Charles and Various Artists; "American Idiot," Green Day; "The Diary of Alicia Keys," Alicia Keys; "Confessions," Usher; "The College Dropout," Kanye West.
BAUDER: Probably everybody except the ever confident West is picking Charles in this category. I'll be contrarian. Charles WAS a genius, just not on "Genius Loves Company." It was a mediocre end to a stellar career. Be honest: would this disc even catch a whiff of the Grammys if he hadn't died? He's a legend, deservedly so, but decades removed from his peak. Meanwhile, "American Idiot" IS the peak of Green Day's career and a commercial blockbuster to boot. The only rock nominee will sneak through.
MOODY: Although Usher was the king of the charts with "Confessions," not a whole lot of critics named it the year's best album (moi excluded). On the other hand, West's stunning debut was both a commercial and critical success, but let's face it - there are three hip-hop oriented albums nominated in this category when you include Keys, and they'll all cancel each other out. That leaves Charles and Green Day, and with the political overtones and ambitious nature of "American Idiot" - plus it's commercial hit right now - Green Day takes it over sentimental favorite Charles.
Song of the Year: "Daughters," John Mayer (John Mayer); "If I Ain't Got You," Alicia Keys (Alicia Keys); "Jesus Walks," C. Smith and Kanye West (Kanye West); "Live Like You Were Dying," Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman (Tim McGraw); "The Reason," Daniel Estrin and Douglas Robb (Hoobastank).
MOODY: "Jesus Walks" was the most original, breathtaking record of the year, but has any rapper ever really won this category? So my bet's on the luscious, throwback groove provided by Keys, the second stellar song in this otherwise sub-par list.
BAUDER: "If I Ain't Got You" is a great song. Ditto.
New Artist: Los Lonely Boys; Maroon 5; Joss Stone; Kanye West; Gretchen Wilson.
BAUDER: Mediocre 5? Forget it. Gretchen Wilson's probably the favorite here. It would be worth it to see her win just to be invited to the party. But I'm putting my money on West; he seems the best bet to be around longest.
MOODY: If West had a meltdown after losing the best new artist trophy at the American Music Awards, can you imagine the hissy fit he'd have losing at the Grammys? It'd make for better TV than when 50 Cent walked on stage last year when Evanescence beat him in the same category. But it won't happen - with his production credits, multiple collaborations and revolutionary debut, West's got a lock on this.
Pop Vocal Album: "Genius Loves Company," Ray Charles and Various Artists; "Feels Like Home," Norah Jones; "Afterglow," Sarah McLachlan; "Mind, Body and Soul," Joss Stone; "Brian Wilson Presents Smile," Brian Wilson.
MOODY: A toughie here - honor the dead legend who scored a major comeback or honor the living legend who did the same? Though Wilson might be a sentimental favorite for finally delivering his long awaited "Smile" album after decades of depression and drugs, I doubt he'll be able to overcome the tidal wave of sentimentality over Charles' last album.
BAUDER: I think you're right, even though "Smile" - despite being overrated - is the better disc.
Alternative Music Album: "Medulla," Bjork; "Franz Ferdinand," Franz Ferdinand; "Uh Huh Her," PJ Harvey; "Good News for People Who Love Bad News," Modest Mouse; "A Ghost Is Born," Wilco.
BAUDER: Franz Ferdinand seems to be the favorite here. But I'm a critic, so I have to pick Wilco, right? It's the critics' favorite band. So I will. It's actually a better, and more satisfying, album than the overly hyped "Yankee Hotel Foxtrot."
MOODY: Oh, will you critics please get over Wilco already? Overhyped, indeed! Add Bjork's "Medulla" to that as well; though it topped a lot of critics' "best-of" lists, it was the most horrid-sounding album of the year (and that's saying a lot considering both Lindsay Lohan and Hilary Duff were in the mix in 2004). I think it will end up being good news for Modest Mouse (unless they really do like bad news).
Contemporary R&B Album: "Afrodisiac," Brandy; "Damita Jo," Janet Jackson; "It's About Time," Christina Milian; "Confessions," Usher; "Hurt No More," Mario Winans.
BAUDER: Maybe if Janet wins this, Justin Timberlake will help her accept the award. Oh, stop it. She doesn't have a chance, anyway. Usher pretty much was contemporary R&B this year.
MOODY: Usher would have won this one hands down anyway, but totally wins with this competition - besides Brandy, whose album got little love from the public, none of these albums is even worthy of a nomination.
Rap Solo Performance: "On Fire," Lloyd Banks; "Just Lose It," Eminem; "99 Problems," Jay-Z; "Overnight Celebrity," Twista; "Through the Wire," Kanye West.
BAUDER: I'm going to go with the non-retiring man, Jay-Z.
MOODY: Wait a minute! How did Banks get in this category? Oh well, no matter - he wouldn't win in this lineup anyway. And as hard-rocking as Jay-Z's "99 Problems" was, I'm going to pick West just for being able to deliver an amazing rap with his jaw wired shut. And I think Grammy voters will do the same.
Country Album: "Van Lear Rose," Loretta Lynn; "Live Like You Were Dying," Tim McGraw; "Tambourine," Tift Merritt; "Be Here," Keith Urban; "Here for the Party," Gretchen Wilson.
MOODY: As big a year as Wilson had, I still think voters will be more inclined to vote for Lynn's "Van Lear Rose" - she not only has that whole "country legend" thing going for her, it's the hippest album of the bunch, thanks to production work from the White Stripes' Mr. Jack White himself. My bet's on Ms. Lynn.
BAUDER: Will win: Wilson. Should win: Lynn. "Van Lear Rose" was one of the year's best albums, whatever the category. Adventurous and thrilling. Now what makes me think those are qualities not prized by the Grammy country contingent?