Grammy's main events

Canadian indie-rock band Arcade Fire should win album of the year for "The Suburbs" - the most coherent, consistent artistic statement of the final five. But look for Eminem to win.
Canadian indie-rock band Arcade Fire should win album of the year for "The Suburbs" - the most coherent, consistent artistic statement of the final five. But look for Eminem to win.

It's a three-man show in the four major categories, our critic says.

Posted: February 13, 2011

It's all about Eminem, Cee Lo, and Bieber fever.

That's the way I'm breaking down the four major categories - Album, Record, and Song of the Year, plus Best New Artist - at the 2011 Grammy Awards, which will be broadcast at 8 p.m. Sunday on CBS, live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

Of course, those are only four of the 108 awards that will be given out by the Recording Academy (one short of the 109 categories, because fewer acts than the minimum of 10 entered the Mexican Regional album category).

But Album, Record, Song (a songwriter's award), and New Artist are the four big ones. They're the battles royal in which artists from all genres fight it out, rather than be cornered into niches such as Contemporary R&B Gospel or Female Pop Vocal or Spoken Word Album for Children.

(Speaking of which, nominees for the last include the Philadelphia-connected Healthy Food For Thought: Good Enough to Eat CD. It features contributions from Moby and Julian Lennon as well as Philadelphia radio personalities Gene Shay and Kathy O'Connell, among others.)

The star-studded list of performers scurrying to be a part of what the industry endlessly touts as "Music's Biggest Night" keeps getting longer and includes Eminem, Rihanna, Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, Esperanza Spalding, B.o.B., Bruno Mars, Janelle Monae, Arcade Fire, and Lady Gaga.

Most prominent among Philadelphia nominees is hip-hop band the Roots, whose members are in the running for four for Wake Up!, their collaborative album with John Legend, plus one for their own How I Got Over. I'm favoring Wake Up! to win three: Best traditional R&B vocal song for "Hang on in There"; best R&B song for the Legend-penned "Shine"; and best R&B album, where it should top skimpy competition from Raheem DeVaughn, Fantasia, Monica, and Jaheim.

Other Philadelphia-area acts with a shot at glory include: Jill Scott (up for R&B performance by a duo or group with vocals for "Love," with Chuck Brown and Marcus Miller); Jazmine Sullivan (female R&B performance for "Holding You Down (Going in Circles)"); Musiq Soulchild (male R&B performance for "We're Still Friends," a duet with Kirk Whalum); Bilal (for "Little One," in urban/alternative performance); organist Joey DeFrancesco (for Never Can Say Goodbye, in contemporary jazz album); the late soul great Solomon Burke (for Nothing's Impossible, in contemporary blues album); Bobby McFerrin (for Vocabularies, in classical crossover album); and former Temple University professor Bill Cunliffe, who is nominated for "Fourth Stream . . . La Banda," with the Temple University Symphony Orchestra, in the best instrumental composition category, and has a shot at going back-to-back after winning last year.

And now, on to the big kahunas.

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

Will Win: Recovery. A decade ago, in 2001, Eminem was poised to dominate the Grammys with his mega-selling sophomore release, The Marshall Mathers LP, which Em performed with Elton John on the 2001 telecast. That was before 9/11, however, and at a time when an America with a booming economy had nothing scarier to worry about than a sociopath rapper with homicidal fantasies. So when album of the year was given out, Em got jobbed, and Steely Dan's Two Against Nature walked away with the top prize.

This year, the Detroit rapper gets his makeup Grammy. The rapid-fire rhymer's 2010 release wasn't the best album of the year - that was Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, released in late November, too late to qualify under the Grammys' illogical nomination system. But Recovery is an aptly titled return to form by a prestige artist who's a perennial Grammy favorite - he has won 11 over the course of his career. Plus, it was the biggest-selling album of 2010, with more than three million units moved. The Grammys aren't purely a popularity contest - if they were, Katy Perry would have a chance - but in a beleaguered music industry, commercial clout counts for something.

Should Win: The Suburbs. Arcade Fire's nomination is a milestone for indie rock, and the heart-stirring Canadian consortium made by far the most coherent and consistent artistic statement of any of the final five. Along with Eminem, Lady Gaga is the only other legit contender, but The Fame Monster is an EP that came out more than a year ago and is only on the list for show.

Record of the Year Nominees: B.o.B. featuring Bruno Mars, "Nothin' on You"; Eminem featuring Rihanna, "Love the Way You Lie"; Cee Lo Green, "F- You"; Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys, "Empire State of Mind"; Lady Antebellum, "Need You Now."

Will win: "F- You." Cee Lo Green's profane proclamation is the most satisfyingly catchy soul-pop song of the year, with the extra transgressive pleasure that comes from gleefully dropping the F-bomb on the one who doesn't love you. Grammy gets to feel naughty by rewarding the song with the bad word that everybody loves.

Should win: "F- You." See above.

Song of the Year. Nominees: Eminem featuring Rihanna, "Love the Way You Lie"; Cee Lo Green, "F- You"; Lady Antebellum, "Need You Now"; Miranda Lambert, "The House That Built Me"; Ray LaMontagne & the Pariah Dogs, "Beg Steal or Borrow."

Will Win: "Love the Way You Lie." It's probably too much to expect "F- You" to make a clean sweep of both of the redundant singles-oriented categories. It's also perverse that well-deserving country firebrand Miranda Lambert is nominated here for one of the few songs on her album Revolution that she didn't write.

Should win: "Love the Way You Lie." The knockdown codependency drama is just the type of multipart story-song that Eminem has long excelled at. And with his own public battles with his wife, and Rihanna's history of abuse at the hands of former boyfriend Chris Brown, this one has a ripped-from-the-headlines resonance to go with a killer hook.

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

Will win: Justin Bieber. Drake is the odds-on favorite, a clean-cut, hip-hop matinee idol who's both critically acclaimed and a solid seller. I'm betting on Bieber in an upset, however: The pint-size combover king is far and away the most popular of the bunch, with unmatched ubiquity and with pull on the heartstrings of the daughters of aging Grammy voters. Mumford & Sons' hit "Little Lion Man" also drops the F-bomb, making it a dark horse. It's Bieber's world, and welcome to it.

Should win: Florence & the Machine. Robust, redheaded Brit Florence Welch is the true standout, based on her album Lungs, on which she comes off like a rocked-out cross between Kate Bush and PJ Harvey. She doesn't stand a chance, but she'll get to join Christina Aguilera and others in an Aretha Franklin tribute.

Contact staff writer and

music critic Dan DeLuca

at 215-854-5628 or

Read his blog, "In the Mix,"



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