The 55th 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 about this stuff (we'll get you yet, Esperanza Spalding). So, once again, here are some completely arbitrary critical decisions about who should win, just in case you want to know who we'll be rooting for on the SPIN couch. We already ran down our picks for the nine biggest categories, so here's our picks for the nine you'll actually be paying attention to.
Don't forget: SPIN will be live-blogging the Grammys this Sunday (February 10) starting at 8 p.m. ET, and if you tweet along with us, you could win a prize! Come back and watch this mess with us then! And don't miss Award Tour: 22 Times the Grammys Saluted the Underground.
Best Rock Song
Jack White - "Freedom at 21"
Mumford & Sons - "I Will Wait"
The Black Keys - "Lonely Boy"
Muse - "Madness"
Bruce Springsteen - "We Take Care of Our Own"
Who Should Win: Muse - "Madness"
Why: Muse will never be Radiohead. Not even Pablo Honey-era Radiohead. But they can be our Zooropa-era U2 any day of the week. This thing is a marvelous, maddening mess of ideas and directions. Some keywords for "Madness": "Faith" (the George Michael version but not the Limp Bizkit version), "Numb" (the U2 version and the Linkin Park version), "I Want to Break Free" (Queen), Skrillex, Steve Reich (via Brooklyn), Ween (cf. guitar solo), Blue Man Group (tubes era).
Best Alternative Music Album
Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do…
Björk - Biophilia
Gotye - Making Mirrors
M83 - Hurry Up, We're Dreaming
Tom Waits - Bad as Me
Who Should Win: Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do…
Why: On one hand, totally rubbed-raw Weill-punk that cuts deeper than Tom Waits, projects into wilder places than the Projectors, and basically pokes at neuroses until they come blurring out as prismatic, expressionistic, often-yelled Dashboard Burroughs like, "My scars were reflecting the mist in your headlights / I look like a neon zebra shaking rain off her stripes." On the other hand, don't you want to hear Tim McGraw or whoever open an envelope and say, "And the winner is... Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do..."!
Best Dance/Electronica Album
Steve Aoki - Wonderland
The Chemical Brothers - Don't Think
Deadmau5 - >album title goes here<
Kaskade - Fire & Ice
Skrillex - Bangarang
Who Should Win: Skrillex - Bangarang
Why: Let it be known that this category is a total shitshow made up of the only five names in EDM that a bunch of Santana fans recognize. A lot of blown potential in these five records, but I guess we have to pick one until the Academy recognizes Lindstrøm. Deadmau5 dumbed it down, Steve Aoki can't pick a direction, Kaskade teeters on the edge of cheese with every bloop, and the Chemical Brothers album is a live dance record, which, lol. Take the Doors thing and the orchestra off the Skrillex EP and it's a pretty unfuckwithable 25 minutes of wub and grind, so there you go.
Best Dance Recording
Avicii - "Levels"
Calvin Harris ft. Ne-Yo - "Let's Go"
Skrillex - "Bangarang"
Swedish House Mafia ft. John Martin - "Don't You Worry Child"
Al Walser - "I Can't Live Without You"
Who Should Win: Al Walser - "I Can't Live Without You"
Why: The lulz.
Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance
Anthrax - "I'm Alive"
Halestorm - "Love Bites (So Do I)"
Iron Maiden - "Blood Brothers"
Lamb of God - "Ghost Walking"
Marilyn Manson - "No Reflection"
Megadeth - "Whose Life (Is It Anyways?)"
Who Should Win: Anthrax - "I'm Alive"
Why: This category is a cesspool of cornball vampire diary choruses (Halestorm), awkward concessions to dance-punk of all things (Marilyn Manson), and tuneless prog meandering from dudes who should know better (Iron Maiden). That leaves three titans of thrash and, while Lamb of God is masterfully updating an old model with feral nods to classic hardcore, no one balances melody with metal thrashing madness like Anthrax. What is it? Caught in a mosh!
Best Americana Album
The Avett Brothers - The Carpenter
John Fullbright - From the Ground Up
The Lumineers - The Lumineers
Mumford & Sons - Babel
Bonnie Raitt - Slipstream
Who Should Win: John Fullbright - From the Ground Up
Why: Following the year mandolins broke, there's nothing left for the Lumineers, Mumford, and the Avett Brothers to do than collect their trophies in their bindles, hop a train, and go home. So why is 63-year-old Bonnie Raitt swinging harder than any of them? Slipstream has some rocking moments, and we'd love to give this to her just to be contrarian assholes, but Fullbright's slept-on From the Ground Up has bluesy rasp, distorted chug, monstrous harmonica solos, and doesn't have a fake reggae song.
Best World Music Album
Amadou & Mariam - Folila
Daniel Ho - On A Gentle Island Breeze
Hugh Masekela - Jabulani
Anoushka Shankar - Traveller
Ravi Shankar - The Living Room Sessions Part 1
Who Should Win: Amadou & Mariam - Folila
Why: A SPIN Essential upon its release, Folila boasted every indie rock icon available (TV on the Radio, Nick Zinner, Santigold), but made them all play second string to Amadou and Mariam's overpowering grooves and guitar lines and infectious harmonies. A total failure as a Graceland-style American pop-meets-African music experiment, but another victory for the duo's signature blues.
Best Recording Package
Björk - Biophilia
Alabama Shakes - Boys & Girls
Aimee Mann - Charmer
David Byrne & St. Vincent - Love This Giant
Dirty Projectors - Swing Lo Magellan
Who Should Win: Björk - Biophilia
Why: Even if isn't for the $800 version in an oak box with 10 tuning forks, the art from Biophilia is like an alien transmission that turns out to be human after all.
Producer of the Year (Non-Classical)
Who Should Win: Diplo
Why: Auerbach made that Black Keys album nice and gritty, and Bhasker made the fun. record sound like Queen's 808s and Heartbreaks. But Diplo is the Extreme Makeover of pop — turning Usher into an washed-out alt-R&B star on "Climax," turning No Doubt into dubstep superheroes on "Push and Shove," turning Justin Bieber into an EDM croonbot on "Thought of You," turning Wale into the new Young Gunz on "Slight Work," and turning Snoop into Snoop Lion.
Best Short Form Music Video
Foster the People - "Houdini"
Jay-Z & Kanye West ft. Frank Ocean & The-Dream - "No Church in the Wild"
M.I.A.- "Bad Girls"
Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris - "We Found Love"
Woodkid - "Run Boy Run"
Who Should Win: Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris - "We Found Love"
Why: MTV was dead right (for once) in giving this the Video of the Year moonman last year. As we said in our VMAs wrap-up: "If you haven't already given it one of its 200 million YouTube views, check out its very now mix of Gaspar Noé drug spirals, Vice-centric photography, and haunting "With Or Without You"-style projections." However, the M.I.A. video is such a close second that it's not even funny. If it wins we're gonna go back and re-edit this post to make it look like we called it.
Best Comedy Album
Jimmy Fallon - Blow Your Pants Off
Margaret Cho - Cho Dependent
Lewis Black - In God We Rust
Kathy Griffin - Kathy Griffin: Seaman 1st Class
Jim Gaffigan - Jim Gaffigan: Mr. Universe
Tenacious D - Rize of the Fenix
Who Should Win: Hannibal Buress in surprise upset.
Why: His record's the funniest thing and these nominees are fucking shameful.