Will Eminem finally get Grammy coronation?
NEW YORK (AP) -- The Grammy Awards are in danger of turning into Eminem's own personal "Groundhog Day."
It was undoubtedly his year in 2001. He had created a twisted masterpiece with his sophomore debut, the equal-opportunity offender "The Marshall Mathers LP," which did everything the best rock 'n' roll is supposed to do: electrify the youth, delight the critics, offend the parents, outrage society — only it was a rap album.
And yet, when it came to announce album of the year, the trophy went to ... Steely Dan (10 points if you remember the title of THAT one).
In 2003, he had a strong shot at a Grammy with another top-selling, critically acclaimed CD, "The Eminem Show." And it seemed as if the Recording Academy might finally give Eminem his due coronation. But a jazzy songbird named Norah Jones enchanted them, and he went home without the prestigious award once again.
Now, it's a new decade and a new Eminem. He's still got the radioactive tongue, but he's endured a painful drug addiction, personal tragedy and an artistic lapse, yet overcome all of them to create "Recovery," an album that riveted millions and earned him a leading 10 Grammy nominations. He's not only nominated for album, but also for record and song of the year for "Love the Way You Lie" with Rihanna.
It's looking like an Eminem coronation — but looks can be deceiving, and the Grammys have proven time and time again that things aren't always what they seem ... as we explain below.
RECORD OF THE YEAR: "Nothin' on You," B.o.B featuring Bruno Mars; "Love the Way You Lie," Eminem featuring Rihanna; "(Expletive) You," Cee Lo Green; "Empire State of Mind," Jay-Z and Alicia Keys; "Need You Now," Lady Antebellum.
MOODY: Although Jay-Z and Lady Antebellum both made compelling anthems that still resonate, those tunes are both also at least a year old — and we think Grammy voters will be in a current state of mind when determining the winner. "Nothin' on You" isn't a serious contender, so the real race is between Eminem's haunting "Love the Way You Lie" and Cee Lo's "Glee"-fully foul "(Expletive) You." Methinks the Grammys will try and show they're not the Grannys — as well as honor what frankly was the best record of the year — with "(Expletive) You."
FEKADU: You're wrong about one thing: The real race is between "Empire State of Mind" and "(Expletive) You." But you're right about Cee Lo's retro groove taking this honor.
SONG OF THE YEAR (songwriters): "Beg Steal or Borrow," Ray LaMontagne, songwriter (Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs); "(Expletive) You," Brody Brown, Cee Lo Green, Ari Levine, Philip Lawrence and Bruno Mars, songwriters (Cee Lo Green); "The House That Built Me," Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin, songwriters (Miranda Lambert); "Love the Way You Lie," Alexander Grant, Skylar Grey and Marshall Mathers, songwriters (Eminem featuring Rihanna); "Need You Now," Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott, songwriters (Lady Antebellum).
FEKADU: I wouldn't be surprised if Lambert's ode to her childhood, "The House That Built Me," won this award. But it won't because Cee Lo's expletive-laden, fresh-sounding, Bruno Mars-assisted, "I hate you so much right now" 3-minute EPIC jam will win here.
MOODY: OK, now here's where I think Eminem will catch a break. "(Expletive) You" is undeniably catchy with its groove and clever with its wit, but telling a story through song? Well, you cannot beat Eminem's twisted love song for that, which weaves a disturbing, dysfunctional and ultimately haunting story arc in brilliant fashion.
ALBUM OF THE YEAR: "The Suburbs," Arcade Fire; "Recovery," Eminem; "Need You Now," Lady Antebellum; "The Fame Monster," Lady Gaga; "Teenage Dream," Katy Perry.
MOODY: This is Eminem's moment. His "Recovery" was 2010's best-selling album, and it represented a critical rebirth and triumph: He's the obvious choice for album of the year ... but the Grammys rarely pick the obvious choice. Which brings us to Arcade Fire, the rock band that reached a mainstream milestone this year with "The Suburbs" and had critics swooning. I'm thinking some members of the Recording Academy were swept up into this swoon as well, giving them an excuse to put off Eminem once again.
FEKADU: We all know that Katy Perry will win. SIKE! In her California dreams. Gaga's album was too short, and Lady A's was too bad. Seriously. Or $eriously as Ke$ha would say, who was deservingly snubbed in every category this year. But I digress. You're right about Eminem being the obvious choice here.
NEW ARTIST: Justin Bieber, Drake, Florence & The Machine, Mumford & Sons; Esperanza Spalding.
FEKADU: Usually the pop phenomenon, though a multiplatinum-sellin g fan favorite, never wins in this category. Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and the Jonas Brothers are perfect examples. But Christina Aguilera won in 2000, and like Aguilera (pre-"Bionic"), there's something deeper with Bieber than your typically teen superstar. He's got competition, but not enough of it: Though talented, Spalding is too unknown; Florence & The Machine is great, but we needed to see more this year; and Drake is no Nicki Minaj. That leaves U.K.-based Mumford & Sons, a four-piece bluegrass band whose lead singer has a voice to die for. They should win, but more than just a sensation, 16-year-old Bieber is a brand that keeps on building, and the Recording Academy wants in, too.
MOODY: Even though Esperanza Spalding has better hair, the Biebs wins.
POP PERFORMANCE BY A DUO OR GROUP WITH VOCALS: "Don't Stop Believin' (Regionals Version)," Glee cast featuring Lea Michele, Cory Monteith, Naya Rivera, Mark Salling, Amber Riley, Kevin McHale, Chris Colfer and Jenna Ushkowitz; "Misery," Maroon 5; "The Only Exception," Paramore; "Babyfather," Sade; "Hey, Soul Sister (Live)," Train.
MOODY: Oh, how cruel is life: The incomparable Sade makes a comeback with one of 2010's best albums, yet is shut out from the top categories and is instead battling it out with a TV-karaoke show, among others. Things will get even more cruel on Grammy night, when the "Glee" cast actually beats Sade.
FEKADU: The first slap in the face for Sade came when the band only received two Grammy nominations. The second slap will come when they lose this award. But they won't lose to the "Glee" cast, it will be Train who will ride away with one of many trophies that belong to that soul sister, and I'm talking about Sade Adu.
MALE POP VOCAL PERFORMANCE: "Haven't Met You Yet," Michael Buble; "This Is It," Michael Jackson; "Whataya Want From Me," Adam Lambert; "Just the Way You Are," Bruno Mars; "Half of My Heart," John Mayer.
FEKADU: Let's get things straight: Mayer's "Half of My Heart" featured Taylor Swift, so he better not win in this category. And he won't. Buble and Mars are the front runners, and Mars will be victorious. Mars' breakthrough was on other people's songs, but with "Just the Way You Are," he proved he could do things solo and the Grammy voters want to congratulate him for that. And they should.
MOODY: But it would so much fun if John won! Then maybe Taylor could come onstage and they'd reunite and then ... OK, that's a stretch. But it's not a stretch to see the Grammys give Mayer another trophy in this category: He's won it four times in the last decade, and they love him almost as much as he loves himself. Still, it's hard to see them not giving it to the King of a Pop in a posthumous honor. I mean, it's not like he's going to have that many more chances.
ALTERNATIVE MUSIC ALBUM: "The Suburbs," Arcade Fire; "Infinite Arms," Band of Horses; "Brothers," The Black Keys; "Broken Bells," Broken Bells; "Contra," Vampire Weekend.
MOODY: Arcade Fire is going to torch the competition in this category, and yes, bad pun intended.
FEKADU: Every album nominated here is top-notch and deserves to win. But Nekesa, let's be real: You think Arcade Fire will win because "The Suburbs" is the only CD here that's also up for album of the year. But it's all good because I'm thinking that, too.
FEMALE R&B VOCAL PERFORMANCE: "Gone Already," Faith Evans; "Bittersweet," Fantasia; "Everything to Me," Monica; "Tired," Kelly Price; "Holding You Down (Going in Circles)," Jazmine Sullivan.
FEKADU: Where do I begin? This list includes mediocre efforts from Faith, Kelly and Fantasia. What about Corinne Bailey Rae's "Closer" or "Window Seat" from Erykah Badu? Or any track from Janelle Monae's disc? If there's one category the Grammy voters don't know much about, it's the R&B one. Though her song heavily samples "Silly" by Deniece Williams, Monica is one of R&B's brightest and best singers. She should — and will — take home this award.
MOODY: C'mon Mesfin, 'Tasia needs a break!!! She had a rough 2010 — Pill-popping! Money woes! Homewrecker drama! But I think it will get a little better for her this year with a win for "Bittersweet," though Jazmine had the superior performance in this lot.
RAP/SUNG COLLABORATION: "Nothin' on You," B.o.B and Bruno Mars; "Deuces," Chris Brown, Tyga and Kevin McCall; "Love the Way You Lie," Eminem and Rihanna; "Empire State of Mind," Jay-Z and Alicia Keys; "Wake Up Everybody," John Legend, The Roots, Melanie Fiona and Common.
MOODY: Chris Brown can say "Deuces" to his chances of getting this award; a nomination is one thing, and he's on the come up, but it's gonna take some time for Grammy voters to completely forgive what happened with Rihanna. Plus, this is Jigga's category! Even Eminem and Rihanna can't compete with Jay and Alicia's feel-good New York anthem here.
FEKADU: Ditto. But please let me add this: While "Nothin' on You" and "Deuces" are great songs, the rappers' rhymes on them are weak! "The other chick I'm with never complain, she make me wanna leave the one I'm with, Usher Raymond, probably didn't register, don't trip, later on it will." Really dude?
COUNTRY SONG (songwriters): "The Breath You Take," Casey Beathard, Dean Dillon and Jessie Jo Dillon, songwriters (George Strait); "Free," Zac Brown, songwriter (Zac Brown Band); "The House That Built Me," Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin, songwriters (Miranda Lambert); "I'd Love to Be Your Last," Rivers Rutherford, Annie Tate and Sam Tate, songwriters (Gretchen Wilson); "If I Die Young," Kimberly Perry, songwriter (The Band Perry); "Need You Now," Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley and Hillary Scott, songwriters (Lady Antebellum).
FEKADU: There aren't many country songs that crossover to the world of pop music like "Need You Now" did. It easily wins here, though "If I Die Young" and "The House That Built Me" are tough competitors.
MOODY: Yes, "Need You Now" had massive crossover appeal, but Miranda Lambert's touching "The House That Built Me" has dominated the country music awards over the last few months, and anything Lambert touches seems to turn to gold: I'd say that equals a Grammy for Douglas and Shamblin.
The Grammy Awards will be presented live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday (8 p.m. EST) on CBS.
Editor's Note: Nekesa Mumbi Moody is the AP's music writer. Mesfin Fekadu covers entertainment for the AP. Follow both on Twitter at twitter.com/nekesamu mbi and twitter.com/music—me sfin.
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