Despite their history of conflict, Kanye West is the best thing that ever happened to the Grammys. The music industry's annual awards have been widely and publicly derided as meaningless or worse since at least 1988, when the first-ever Grammy for Best Metal Performance went to the be-tighted flautists of Jethro Tull, with the derision reaching its pop-culture apex in 1993, when Homer Simpson hucked a Grammy off a balcony and was cited for littering. But all that changed with Kanye West, as the multiplatinum hiphop superstar, critics' darling, and not-infrequent Grammy winner devoted an inordinate amount of time and energy to perceived Grammy snubs (why "Best Rap Album" but never "Best Album"?). Thanks to the very public obsession of the most accomplished and inventive pop-music maker of the era, the Grammys almost started to seem like they meant something, or should mean something, and it is in this spirit of hopeful possibility that I offer completely arbitrary predictions for this year's completely arbitrary Grammys.
Not to be confused with Song of the Year or Album of the Year, Record of the Year celebrates the artist(s), producer(s), engineer(s), and mixer(s) who created the nominated songs, which are
• "Nothin' on You" by B.o.B feat. Bruno Mars
• "Love the Way You Lie" by Eminem feat. Rihanna
• "F*** You" by Cee Lo Green
• "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
• "Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum
Will win: Most people who enjoy "Nothin' on You" also enjoy "Love the Way You Lie," "Empire State of Mind," and "Fuck You," which means after all the vote-splitting, the winner will be "Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum, a highly successful band so lost on The Stranger's demographic that we illustrated them with the antebellum-era lady above.
SHOULD win: Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You," asterisked by the Grammy folks, but f*** them. When this year's Grammy nominations were announced, defenders of traditional values exploded at the inclusion of Green's beloved F-bomb extravaganza, citing it as proof of a degenerate culture. Duh. Give it a trophy and make it official.
Not to be confused with Record of the Year, Album of the Year celebrates the artist(s), producer(s), engineer(s), and mixer(s) who created the nominated albums, which are
• The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
• Recovery by Eminem
• Need You Now by Lady Antebellum
• The Fame Monster by Lady Gaga
• Teenage Dream by Katy Perry
Will win: Recovery, by Eminem. He's paid his dues, gotten sober (good for him, bad for his music), and in the world of the Grammys, he's the least confusing hiphop artist in history.
SHOULD win: Jesus, I don't know. I love both The Suburbs and The Fame Monster, but neither seems like Album of the Year material (the former's too bloated and messy, the latter's a weird piggyback release with last year's also-nominated The Fame). In a perfect world, this would go to Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, but that's not eligible to enter Grammy Land until next year, when we'll all be so much sicker of that goddamn masterpiece than we already are and Kanye will have released six subsequent albums. So just give it to Eminem and let's get on with it.
Not to be confused with Record of the Year, Song of the Year celebrates the writers of the nominated songs, which are
• "Beg Steal or Borrow" by Ray LaMontagne and the Pariah Dogs (Ray LaMontagne, songwriter)
• "F*** You" by Cee Lo Green (Cee Lo Green, Philip Lawrence, and Bruno Mars, songwriters)
• "The House That Built Me" by Miranda Lambert (Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin, songwriters)
• "Love the Way You Lie" by Eminem feat. Rihanna (Alexander Grant, Skylar Grey, and Marshall Mathers, songwriters)
• "Need You Now" by Lady Antebellum (Dave Haywood, Josh Kear, Charles Kelley, and Hillary Scott, songwriters)
Will win: Either the people who wrote the Eminem song or the people who wrote the Miranda Lambert song.
SHOULD win: Whichever of Robyn's tracks landed during the arbitrary Grammy eligibility window. The amazing "Call Your Girlfriend" didn't make it (landing on late-November's full-length Body Talk) so I'll go with the lesser but still great "Dancing on My Own." (Seriously, with Stephin Merritt gone Hollywood, Robyn's the smartest pop songwriter going.)
• Justin Bieber
• Florence & the Machine
• Mumford & Sons
• Esperanza Spalding
Will win: This will be a battle to the death between Drake and the Beeb. Drake has made better music (mining the sensitive-and-eloquent guy act Kanye dropped to become The World's Greatest Everything). But Justin Bieber is apparently made of Jesus. Did you read the Vanity Fair profile? It made him seem like some mystical pop sorcerer whose mysterious powers cannot be denied, and thus the likely winner of this stupid (and traditionally career-hobbling) Grammy.
SHOULD win: Nicki Minaj, who'll win next year, when she and her alter egos (Nicki Lewinski, Harajuku Barbie, Roman, Martha, et al.) fill the entire nomination list.
• "Airplanes, Part II" by B.o.B, Eminem, and Hayley Williams
• "Imagine" by Herbie Hancock, Pink, India.Arie, Seal, Konono Nº1, Jeff Beck, and Oumou Sangaré
• "If It Wasn't for Bad" by Elton John and Leon Russell
• "Telephone" by Lady Gaga and Beyoncé
• "California Gurls" by Katy Perry and Snoop Dogg
Will win: "Imagine," written by John Lennon, performed by all those folks listed above. Since the passage of HB 3011, voting against or otherwise denigrating Lennon's "Imagine" is a prosecutable hate crime.
SHOULD win: "U Should Know Better," performed by Robyn with Snoop Dogg—the highlight of Robyn's Body Talk Pt. 2 and the most attractive showcase for Snoop since prison.
• The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
• Infinite Arms by Band of Horses
• Brothers by the Black Keys
• Broken Bells by Broken Bells
• Contra by Vampire Weekend
Will win: The only one of these records to make it out of the alterna-ghetto into Album of the Year consideration, aka The Suburbs.
SHOULD win: I like Contra more than The Suburbs, but to honor the spirit of throwing a bone to the alterna-world, this should probably go to that stupid gorgeous Deerhunter album.
• Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition by Selma Blair
• The Best Candy in the Whole World by Bill Harley
• Healthy Food for Thought: Good Enough to Eat by various artists
• Julie Andrews' Collection of Poems, Songs, and Lullabies by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton
• Nanny McPhee Returns by Emma Thompson
Will win: Emma Thompson versus Julie Andrews is a fierce fight, but you really can't fuck with Anne Frank, even when read by Selma Blair.
SHOULD win: Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition. Because there'll never be a sequel.
* The term “year” is used loosely, as the Grammys’ janky eligibility period lags behind the calendar. Thus, Jay-Z’s “Empire State of Mind” (which topped the 2009 Pazz & Jop singles poll) is now up for Grammy’s Record of the Year, while the 2010 Pazz & Jop album winner (Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy) won’t be eligible for Grammy consideration—thanks to its late fall release—until next year. (Also in this late-release/wait-till-next-year boat: Nicki Minaj, whose Pink Friday and “Monster” verse should earn her a number of 2012 Grammys.)