Breaking Down the Grammys

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The 54th Annual Grammy Awards take place this Sunday, and we’re sure that you’re counting the minutes until you can see the reunited Beach Boys jam with Maroon 5 and Foster the People.

But in all seriousness, we’re very happy to see that Adele has recovered from her throat surgery and is back to rolling in the deep, and look forward to her public return this weekend.

There’s still time to adjust your bets in your office pool before the big show, so here are Nonstop Sound’s best guesses for who will walk away with trophies on Sunday.

There are no sure bets when it comes to an institution that would give a little-known Herbie Hancock jazz-piano Joni Mitchell tribute set an Album of the Year award over Amy Winehouse’s blockbuster Back to Black, but it’s always fun to try and guess anyway. It’s also fun to grouse about who got unjustly ignored this year, so we’ll helpfully include that below as well.

Album of the Year

Lady Gaga - Born This Way
Bruno Mars - Doo-Wops & Hooligans
Rihanna - Loud
Adele - 21
Foo Fighters - Wasting Light  

Who Will Win: Adele’s soul-bearing sophomore album moved more than six million copies last year, and pretty much kept the music industry afloat. Fun fact: Adele is pretty much impossible to dislike!

Who Should Win: We got no problem with Adele. We’d also be happy with Lady Gaga’s blend of now era-club pop and '80s-era arena rock or The Foo Fighters’ Butch Vig-assisted Wasting Light. Keeping the lights on for rock radio isn’t quite as glamorous as saving the entire record industry, but someone has to do it.

Who Should Win Who Wasn’t Even Nominated: St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy was a darkly beautiful deconstruction of the roles women are forced to play to navigate society. It also had some of the best guitar freakouts and barbed hooks that anyone recorded last year.

Record of the Year

Bruno Mars - "Grenade"
Mumford & Sons - "The Cave"
Katy Perry - "Firework"
Adele - "Rolling in the Deep"
Bon Iver - "Holocene"
Who Will Win: Adele. Duh.

Who Should Win: Record of the Year is more about the production and performance than the songwriting. Paul Epworth resisted modern pop’s bigger-is-better ethos and gave Adele a restrained backing that allowed her to wail the house down without distraction.

Who Should Win Who Wasn’t Even Nominated: M83’s “Midnight City” is the sound of a nation of bored children waiting for something, anything to take them away from the boredom of their lives to a place where anything can happen. It’s one of the most durable themes in pop music, but the goose-bump-inducing synthesizer pumps underpinning the French shoegazer’s opus makes it feel fresh and vital even if you’re long past your teenage ennui years.

Song of the Year

Bruno Mars - “Grenade”
Bon Iver - “Holocene”
Kanye West - “All of the Lights”
Mumford & Sons - “The Cave”
Adele - "Rolling in the Deep"

Who Will Win: Look, anytime you see the word “Adele” in a category this year you can just move along.

Who Should Win: Though we respect that people will be “Rolling in the Deep” at karaoke and wedding bars for years to come, Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” is a stadium-sized exploration of shame and regret that exposes his talents for introspective lyric writing and near-operatic arrangement. This song has 14 backing singers on it, including Elton John!

Who Should Win Who Wasn’t Even Nominated: Lady Gaga gets a rock legend to wail some sax on "Edge of Glory," and this is how Grammy voters repay her?

Best Rap Album

Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday
Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Jay-Z & Kanye West (The Throne) - Watch the Throne
Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter IV
Lupe Fiasco - Lasers
Nicki Minaj - Pink Friday

Who Will Win: We can’t imagine Grammy voters, not known for having current tastes, will resist the lazy urge to just be like “well The Throne has Kanye and Jay-Z on it so let’s go with that” even though that album is, on the whole, merely solid.

Who Should Win: Every critic in the world didn’t hyperventilate over My Beautiful Twisted Fantasy last year for nothing, you know.

Who Should Win Who Wasn’t Even Nominated: His album XXX wasn’t available in stores, and he’s still not on the mainstream radar, but Detroit sensation Danny Brown’s hyperactive flow and delirious conceptual bent made hip-hop a loopier place last year, and we were all the better for it.

Best Alternative Music Album

Foster the People - Torches
My Morning Jacket - Circuital
Bon Iver - Bon Iver
Death Cab for Cutie - Codes and Keys
Radiohead - The King of Limbs

Who Will Win: Bon Iver’s self-titled follow-up to his mythical little-cabin-that-could debut was the adventurous adult music story of the year. We dug it and all, though there were plenty of times that we felt that Justin Vernon was showing off his prodigious arrangement and production skills at the expense of his songs, which sometimes felt smothered underneath the studio-perfected beauty. (Not sure the triangles were really all that necessary.)

Who Should Win: My Morning Jacket’s Circuital proved that not all Americana-based music has to be sedate, unadventurous and afraid of guitar solos, a small miracle in the year when Fleet Foxes and Mumford & Sons won raves for making the sonic equivalent of warmed-over chamomile tea.

Who Should Win Who Wasn’t Even Nominated:  F***** Up, David Comes to Life. We’re running out of ways to call this thing epic, but there was no better collection of songs that came together as whole than this one last year, or a better examination of how many guitars tracks can be layered on a song until it achieves the perfect balance of huge and vicious. Plus, we’d love to have to watch some Grammy announcer have to say this band’s name live.

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance

The Black Keys - “Dearest”
Coldplay - “Paradise”
Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse - “Body and Soul”
Foster the People - “Pumped Up Kicks”

Who Will Win: Hard not to see the voters seizing one of their last opportunities to honor Amy Winehouse, and a young artist dueting with an elder statesman is practically crack to the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences

Who Should Win: Don’t pretend you’re too cool to like Coldplay. “Paradise” is a canny blend of the U.S. pop’s current club-land moment and Chris Martin and company’s standard artful songwriting, and you’re already getting that “para-para-paradise” thing in your head as you read this.

Who Should Win Who Wasn’t Even Nominated: Beyonce featuring Andre 3000, “Party.” Picking just one of the many great Andre 3000-assisted songs from last year is no easy feat, and our apologies to Lloyd, but his verse here about how you make him feel old when you idolize him is just too good not to take the top spot, and who can argue with Beyonce’s pro-party message?

Best Rock Album

Kings of Leon - Come Around Sundown
Red Hot Chili Peppers - I’m With You
Jeff Beck - Rock ‘n’ Roll Party (Honoring Les Paul)
Foo Fighters - Wasting Light
Wilco - The Whole Love

Who Will Win: Dave Grohl will benefit from last year’s widespread Nirvana nostalgia, and from his steady maturation into the type that Grammy voters love to reward, and from being one of the few modern rock artists who knows how to write a good hook.

Who Should Win: Wasting Light was the best most top-to-bottom consistent Foo Fighters album since The Colour and the Shape, and a showcase for Butch Vig’s ability to blend tuneful polish and rock band grit.

Who Should Win Who Wasn’t Even Nominated: The Joy Formidable’s A Big Roar should have dominated rock radio, if not for most radio programmers allergy to women and fresh ideas. Still, it was a coming out party for a Welsh trio that expertly blended catharsis and beauty.

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