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Grammys 2013: Who Should Win the Big Categories

Taylor Swift and Rick Ross (Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty & Paul A. Hebert/Getty)

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 (we’ll get you yet, Esperanza Spalding!). So, once again, here are some completely arbitrary, critical decisions on who should win the nine biggest categories, just in case you want to know who we’ll be rooting for on the SPIN couch.

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.

Record of the Year
The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy”
Kelly Clarkson – “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
fun. ft. Janelle Monáe – “We Are Young”
Gotye ft. Kimbra – “Somebody That I Used to Know”
Frank Ocean – “Thinkin Bout You”
Taylor Swift – “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

Who Should Win: Taylor Swift – “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
Why: Record of the Year is awarded for the whole package — and “Together” is all that, a bag of chips, the horse they rode in on, y tu Papa John’s tambien. We could go on for days about everything that’s going on in these three minutes. The “No Scrubs” intro backmasking on itself, the Dirty Projectors-style art-rock disjunctiveness in the chorus, the polite hat-doffing to EDM, the conversational “What?’ like she’s 2 Chainz saying “True,” the cowboys-in-space guitars, and America’s sweetheart doing an Oscar-worthy performance as a hipster-baiter where you can practically hear the microphones picking up an eye-roll. 

Album of the Year
The Black Keys – El Camino
fun. – Some Nights
Mumford & Sons – Babel
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Jack White – Blunderbuss

Who Should Win: Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Why: Well we haven’t exactly been shy about our undying love for SPIN’s 2012 album of the year. But then again, the only album that can go toe-to-toe with Ocean on pure cohesiveness is the excellent El Camino, and that’s only because it’s practically the same song 11 times.

Song of the Year
Ed Sheeran – “The A Team”
Miguel – “Adorn”
Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe”
Kelly Clarkson – “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
fun. ft. Janelle Monáe – “We Are Young”

Who Should Win: Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe”
Why: Just when we thought we were out, she keeps pulling us back in. In an age where the monoculture is in shambles, and you can spend all your waking hours sitting in your four-cornered room staring at candles listening to Demdike Stare FACT mixes, it takes a bold, bright, impossible song to make you start singing out loud at a grocery store P.A. or to a stranger’s ringtone. Jepsen is the fucking bird flu of pop, and “Call Me Maybe” had you in its clutches even if you double-bagged your ears with two pairs of Dre Beats and a football helmet. You’re singing it right now, aren’t you? Aren’t you? This is crazy.

Best New Artist
Alabama Shakes
Hunter Hayes
The Lumineers
Frank Ocean

Who Should Win: Frank Ocean
Why: Come on, now.

Best Rock Album
The Black Keys – El Camino
Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto
Muse – The 2nd Law
Bruce Springsteen – Wrecking Ball
Jack White – Blunderbuss

Who Should Win: The Black Keys – El Camino
Why: We take care of our own. The Springsteen, Muse, and Coldplay records are maybe “rock albums” in the same way that an ice cream sandwich is technically “a sandwich.” Sure, Jack White and Black Keys are the Beatles and Stones of young dudes who wish they were old dudes, but neither artist are afraid of distortion, or sloppiness, or ugliness, or cheapness, or any of the stuff that makes rock “rock.” The extra point goes to the Keys, though, for always emphasizing good hooks over good ideas, even if we do like getting “inverted lightning bolt” vinyl or whatever the fuck.

Best R&B Song
Miguel – “Adorn”
Tamia – “Beautiful Surprise”
Trey Songz – “Heart Attack”
Anthony Hamilton – “Pray for Me”
Elle Varner – “Refill”

Who Should Win: Miguel – “Adorn”
Why: While some stiff competition indeed, every other song in this category sounds like the lost product of some year be it 1971 (Anthony Hamilton), 1996 (Tamia), 2003 (Elle Varner), or, uh, 2011 (Trey Songz). Miguel is era-less and genreless, a product of the “Sexual Healing” slow-jam ’70s, the “Little Red Corvette” synth-kiss ’80s, the “Candy Rain” smooth-hop ’90s, the “Sexual Seduction” chillwave 00s. It should win this year, or any year. It should probably go back in time to 1990 and steal this shit back from Simply Red.

Best Rap Album
Drake – Take Care
Lupe Fiasco – Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album. Pt. 1
Nas – Life Is Good
The Roots – Undun
Rick Ross – God Forgives, I Don’t
2 Chainz – Based on a T.R.U. Story

Who Should Win: Rick Ross – God Forgives, I Don’t
Why: While there’s clearly no better lyricist on this list than Nas, who is settling very snugly into his role as rap game Springsteen, Rick Ross is a storyteller of Hemingway-style precision and economy (see: “24k, my toilet). Plus God Forgives is just an unyeilding monolith of an album, the melodies can launch yachts, the beats can carve canyons, the guests can upstage the entire ceremony. It’s this year’s Avatar. And y’all know how we feel about Lupe’s album.

Best Rap Song
Nas – “Daughters”
Wale ft. Miguel – “Lotus Flower Bomb”
Kanye West ft. Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz – “Mercy”
Drake ft. Lil Wayne – “The Motto”
Jay-Z & Kanye West – “Niggas In Paris”
Wiz Khalifa & Snoop Dogg ft. Bruno Mars – “Young, Wild & Free”

Who Should Win: Jay-Z & Kanye West – “Niggas In Paris”
Why: That’s regardless of the fact that something called “Lotus Flower Bomb” needs to be snubbed for any award sight unseen. This really is a battle of Kanye innovations, two songs with excellent, game-changing key changes — 2011’s wubstep celebration rock of “Paris” or 2012’s molly-warped 2 Chainz delivery system “Mercy.” Kanye and Jay already cemented the “Paris” legacy by playing it nine times at a clip, and you didnt hear anybody complaining. Plus “cray.” Plus no Big Sean saying “Ass-tate.” Plus doesn’t rap’s best victory lap since “Juicy” deserve the biggest trophy of all?

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
Florence and the Machine – “Shake It Out”
fun. ft. Janelle Monáe – “We Are Young”
Gotye ft. Kimbra – “Somebody That I Used to Know”
LMFAO – “Sexy and I Know It”
Maroon 5 ft. Wiz Khalifa – “Payphone”

Who Should Win: fun. ft. Janelle Monáe – “We Are Young”
Why: Although neither are exactly Captain Beefheart, both fun. and Gotye both scan as “weird” and “dangerous” compared to the competition — and the best pop songs of all time (“Good Vibrations,” “I Feel Love,” “When Doves Cry,” “Get Ur Freak On”) are weird and dangerous. So this is just gonna come down to who has the better record collection and knows how to use it. The guys behind “We Are Young” (Grizzly Bear, Kanye West, My Chemical Romance, Janelle Monaé) or the guy behind “Somebody That I Used to Know” (Bon Iver, Peter Gabriel, Sting, Luiz Bonfa). Points are awarded for breadth over depth, sorry Gotyeezy! 

Want to remember what happened at last year’s Grammys? Check out The 2012 Grammys’ Highs and Lows: Didn’t We Almost Have It All.