The 54th Annual Grammy Awards are almost upon us! Hey, we’d love to help you with your office pools and living room side-bets with some sure-thing Vegas-ready odds. However, we always seem to be dead wrong (fucking Esperanza Spalding). So here are some completely arbitrary, critical decisions on who should win the nine biggest categories, just in case you want to know who we’re rooting for on the SPIN couch.
Record of the Year Adele – “Rolling in the Deep” Bon Iver – “Holocene” Bruno Mars – “Grenade” Mumford & Sons – “The Cave” Katy Perry – “Firework”
Who Should Win: Adele Why: This one goes to the producers, engineers, and performer for making the total pop package. Bon Iver and Mumford are a little to insular, Bruno and Katy a little too eager. Adele somehow lives right in between, both muted and bombastic, rockist-pleasing “authentic” and poptimist-pleasing immediate. It’s the “Heart Shaped Box” of a new generation. We had it all!
Album of the Year Adele – 21 Foo Fighters – Wasting Light Lady Gaga – Born This Way Bruno Mars – Doo-Wops & Hooligans Rihanna – Loud
Who Should Win: Lady Gaga Why: It did rank the highest of these five albums on our Top 50 Albums of 2011 list, and we can’t exactly give the award to Fucked Up, can we? Writes our own Mikael Wood: “Beneath the hair and makeup and arena-razing disco-metal grooves, Born This Way delivers a message that old glamazon Pete Seeger could dig: She thinks pop can still move policy, and she might be right.”
Song of the Year Kanye West – “All of the Lights” (songwriters: Kanye West, Jeff Bhasker, Really Doe, & Malik Yusef) Mumford & Sons – “The Cave” (songwriters: Ted Dwane, Ben Lovett, Marcus Mumford & Country Winston) Bruno Mars – “Grenade” (songwriters: Brody Brown, Claude Kelly, The Smeezingtons & Andrew Wyatt) Bon Iver – “Holocene” (songwriter: Justin Vernon) Adele – “Rolling in the Deep” (songwriters: Adele & Paul Epworth)
Who Should Win: Adele Why: This one goes to the songwriter, and naturally we’d want to give it to the co-writer of our No. 1 single of 2011, a blown-out blowback of relationship bluster and that high D that can drown out car alarms.
Best New Artist The Band Perry Bon Iver J. Cole Nicki Minaj Skrillex
Who Should Win: Skrillex Why: Before you Bon Iver fans tear us limb from limb in the comments section, let us clarify. Although we clearly love Bon Iver’s extra-naked, sensitive, ’80s AM gold take on folk rock, our guyliner-and-glasses pal is essentially helping reinvent a new musical language of bowel-busting bass and whirring industrial noise. Bon Iver’s forbear Bruce Hornsby already won this very award in 1987, while an electronic artist has never taken one home. Let’s hear it for drawing new blood.
Best Rock Album Jeff Beck – Rock ‘n’ Roll Party (Honoring Les Paul) Foo Fighters – Wasting Light Kings of Leon – Come Around Sundown Red Hot Chili Peppers – I’m With You Wilco – The Whole Love
Who Should Win: Foo Fighters Why: Because exactly one album on this list actually “rocks.”
Best R&B Album Chris Brown – F.A.M.E. El DeBarge – Second Chance R. Kelly – Love Letter Ledisi – Pieces of Me Kelly Price – Kelly
Who Should Win: R. Kelly Why: An underrated classic of throwback soul in the Raphael Saddiq vein, Kells proves he can pretty much do it all.
Best Rap Album Jay-Z & Kanye West (The Throne) – Watch the Throne Lil Wayne – Tha Carter IV Lupe Fiasco – Lasers Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
Who Should Win: Kanye West Why: Not only is it the most meticulously constructed, labored over rap album in the history or time; not only is it full of weird vocoder noise and Nicki’s greatest verse ever; but Kanye will be totally mad if he loses and we’ll never hear the end of it.
Best Rap Song Kanye West – “All of the Lights” Wiz Khalifa – Black and Yellow Dr. Dre ft. Eminem & Skylar Grey – “I Need a Doctor” Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne & Busta Rhymes – “Look at Me Now” Jay-Z & Kanye West (The Throne) – “Otis” Lupe Fiasco – “The Show Goes On”
Who Should Win: Diplo, Busta Rhymes, and Lil Wayne Why: Fuck unrepentant dickhead Chris Brown with a hot waffle iron forever and ever. But, seriously, two amazing rappers bringing their lightning-round A-games and one headknocking beatmaker need to go home with some trophies.
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance Tony Bennet & Amy Winehouse – “Body and Soul” The Black Keys – “Dearest” Coldplay – “Paradise” Foster the People – “Pumped Up Kicks”
Who Should Win: Coldplay Why: Fuck you, we like this song.