2012 Grammy Predictions and Proclamations

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On Sunday, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences will announce who’ll take home Grammy Awards in nearly 80 categories, representing their picks for the finest music of the past year. Of course, it wouldn’t be the Grammys without a little controversy: This year marks the first awards ceremony since the academy cut and combined several categories and were met with anger from many musicians.

Then, of course, there’s the usual fuss over what exactly constitutes a “new artist” (certainly not Bon Iver, if you ask us), who got inexplicably placed into which category and who got overlooked. We’re here to weigh in on all of that before the big show. Will Justin Vernon and company be able to pull an Arcade Fire and come home victorious? Tune into the Grammys at 8 p.m. EST on CBS this Sunday to find out, and in the meantime, check out our thoughts on the matter below.

Record Of The Year
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The Nominees:
Adele, “Rolling in the Deep”
Bon Iver, “Holocene”
Bruno Mars, “Grenade”
Mumford & Sons, “The Cave”
Katy Perry, “Firework”

Who Will Win: Adele, “Rolling in the Deep”
Bon Iver and Mumford & Sons could potentially split the indie votes, leaving room for the talented pop-soul diva who had a career-defining year to swoop in and take the category.

Who Should Win: Bon Iver, “Holocene”
With its pastoral instrumentation and Justin Vernon’s unmistakable falsetto, this track is one of the finest off of our favorite album of 2011.

Who Really Should Win: Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues”
If there was one track this year made you question your place in the world, it was probably Fleet Foxes’ “Helplessness Blues.” Frontman Robin Pecknold’s near-paranoid lyrics ask the big questions. The singer even touches on the meaning behind creating music itself in the loaded five-minute track backed by the band’s breathtaking arrangement and harmonies.—Tyler Kane

Album Of The Year
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The Nominees:
Adele, 21
Foo Fighters, Wasting Light
Lady Gaga, Born This Way
Bruno Mars, Doo-Wops and Hooligans
Rihanna, Loud

Who Will Win: Adele, 21
The Grammys  are notoriously suckers for a smash hit, and Adele’s unstoppable album has been sitting pretty at the top of the charts for a whopping 19 straight weeks.

Who Should Win: Adele, 21
Working with an eclectic all-star production team (including Rick Rubin, Paul Epworth, and Ryan Tedder), Adele emerges with a well-manicured batch of songs that, while still showcasing her interest in layered musicality, shoot straight for the pop charts with each go-round—which is exactly where she should be aiming. This is what American Idol should sound like. This is what pop radio should sound like. This is what Adele should sound like.—Ryan Reed

Who Really Should Win: Bon Iver, Bon Iver
It retains the beautiful melancholy of For Emma, but in nearly every way, it’s just more. More layered, more diverse, more interesting. Justin Vernon brings in collaborators to do what they do best, but never at the expense of his sound and vision. It treads into new sonic directions without getting lost.—Josh Jackson

Song Of The Year
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The Nominees:
Kanye West, “All of the Lights”
Mumford & Sons, “The Cave”
Bruno Mars, “Grenade”
Bon Iver, “Holocene”
Adele, “Rolling in the Deep”

Who Will Win: Adele, “Rolling In The Deep”
Everyone knew that Adele had an incredible voice; she had the Grammy for Best New Artist to prove that. But like she sings on “Rolling in the Deep,” “there’s a fire starting in her heart.” With the power of Amy Winehouse and the passion of old-school Alanis Morissette, she’s crafted a song that’s stayed at the top of the charts (and nearly every radio format) all year for good reason.—Ross Bonaime

Who Should Win: Bon Iver, “Holocene”
Song of the Year is a songwriting award, and Justin Vernon delivers some powerful lyrics like “at once I knew I was not magnificent” on this track. We beg to differ, Justin.

Who Should Really Win: Fleet Foxes, “Helplessness Blues”
“If I had an orchard, I’d work ’til I’m sore,” sings Pecknold. You can hear how badly he covets that idealized past and the contentment it promises, but the final line contains a telling revelation: “Someday I’ll be like the man on the screen.” Even the most beautiful ideas of our generation, our tiny lifelines in the insanity, come from a product. Art is our crutch and our release.—Shane Ryan

Best New Artist
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The Nominees:
The Band Perry
Bon Iver 
J. Cole
Nicki Minaj 
Skrillex 

Who Will Win: Bon Iver
We’re not really sure how an artist who established himself so memorably back in 2008 with For Emma, Forever Ago counts as a new artist, but the fact that the folks at NARAS are finally taking notice is a good sign.

Who Should Win: Bon Iver
Better late than never!

Who Really Should Win: Alabama Shakes
They were our favorite new band of 2011. Check out their recent Conan performance to find out why you’ll likely be seeing them at next year’s Grammys.

Best Pop Solo Performance
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The Nominees:
Adele, “Someone Like You”
Lady Gaga, “You and I”
Bruno Mars, “Grenade”
Katy Perry, “Firework”
Pink, “F***in’ Perfect”

Who Will Win: Adele, “Someone Like You”
Adele’s poised to clean up big this year, especially when she’s going up against starlets like Gaga, Katy Perry and Pink, who will likely cancel each other out.

Who Should Win: Adele, “Someone Like You”
Adele’s voice is simply in a different league than her fellow nominees, and nowhere is that more apparent than on this heartbreaking, piano-driven power ballad.

Who Really Should Win: Adele, “Someone Like You”

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
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The Nominees:
Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse, “Body And Soul”
The Black Keys, “Dearest”
Coldplay, “Paradise”
Foster the People, “Pumped Up Kicks”
Maroon 5 & Christina Aguilera, “Moves Like Jagger”

Who Will Win: Tony Bennett & Amy Winehouse, “Body And Soul”
The Academy will be aching to honor the recently deceased Winehouse for what sadly wound up being her final recording.

Who Should Win: The Black Keys, “Dearest”
The Black Keys’ minimalist take on this track from Rave On: Buddy Holly strays just far enough from the original without getting too caught up in itself. It’s simple, passionate and to the point.

Who Really Should Win: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr., “Nothing But Our Love”
Detroit’s Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. manages to layer electronics over a steady, processed beat to achieve a dream-like effect for It’s a Corporate World’s “Nothing But Our Love.” The music and lyrics meld together until the track ends, and like waking up from a great dream, you feel somewhat refreshed.—Nicole Anegon

Best Pop Vocal Album
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The Nominees:
Adele, 21
Cee Lo Green, The Lady Killer
Lady Gaga, Born This Way
Bruno Mars, Doo Wops & Hooligans
Rihanna, Loud

Who Will Win: Adele, 21
In an interesting turn, the lady behind the biggest single of 2011 will have to face off against the man whose album contained the most memorable track of 2010. But Cee Lo had his Grammy moment last year (complete with Muppets, a peacock suit and—for some inexplicable reason, Gwyneth Paltrow), and this year it’s Adele’s turn.

Who Should Win: Adele, 21
On 21, she sounds refreshed and poised to attack. There’s no change in style—this is still the stuff of a sensual modern pop-noir landscape, heavy on retro textures and relationship drama. But she’s sacrificed some of her debut’s sparse moodiness, resulting in a more cohesive, immediate batch, littered with knock-outs.—Ryan Reed

Who Really Should Win: tUnE-yArDs, w h o k i l l
At times, Merrill Garbus is Annie Lennox, and at others, she’s Prince. One thing’s for sure though—she’s always entertaining, and her powerhouse voice makes W H O K I L L one of the year’s must-listens. Although she can do ethereal and understated better than most, Garbus is truly in her element when she’s belting, her hurricane of a voice ripping through a uniquely layered soundscape of ukulele, bass, saxophone and percussion. On “Killa,” she proudly declares, “I’m a new kind of woman, I’m a new kind of woman, I’m a don’t-take-shit-from-you kind of woman.” It’s nearly impossible to listen to a tUnE-yArDs track and not feel empowered.

Best Dance Recording
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The Nominees:
Deadmau5 & Greta Svabo Bech, “Raise Your Weapon”
Duck Sauce, “Barbra Streisand”
David Guetta & Avicii, “Sunshine”
Robyn, “Call Your Girlfriend”
Skrillex, “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites”

Who Will Win: Skrillex, “Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites”
This is likely where the Grammys will try to show that they’re down with the kids by rewarding the reigning king of dubstep.

Who Should Win: Robyn, “Call Your Girlfriend”
Hey, if it’s good enough for SNL’s Taran Killam to bust a move to, it’s good enough for us.

Who Really Should Win: M83, “Midnight City”
The lead single off of M83’s monster double album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming sees Anthony Gonzalez at his spacey, dramatic best. “Midnight City” paints a vivid picture of neon-lit drives through dark cityscapes, capturing both the beauty and isolation of modern urban life.—Kyle Smith

Best Dance/Electronica Album
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The Nominees:
Cut/Copy, Zonoscope
Deadmau5, 4×4=12
David Guetta, Nothing But The Beat
Robyn, Body Talk Pt. 3
Skrillex, Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites

Who Will Win: Skrillex, Scary Monsters And Nice Sprites
Once again the Academy will try to appear in the know and select the trendy dubstep artist in this category.

Who Should Win: Cut/Copy, Zonoscope
The Australian quartet’s third full-length studio album, is their most impressive balancing act yet, walking a fragile tightrope to either a world where pop radio is a hell of a lot weirder or one where the freaks are DJing the school dances. With Cut Copy, you never know for sure what’s going to happen, but you do know with a fair degree of certainty that it’ll be beautiful.—Ryan Reed

Who Really Should Win: M83, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
For his ambitious double-album Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, Gonzalez digs even deeper into the ‘80s and even the late ‘70s, channeling Simple Minds here (“Reunion”) and Kraftwerk there (“Raconte-Moi Une Histoire”). As with everything the Frenchman’s done so far, the album is lush and ably produced, crescendo after crescendo.—Austin L. Ray

Best Rock Performance
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The Nominees:
Coldplay, “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall”
The Decemberists, “Down By The Water”
Foo Fighters, “Walk”
Mumford & Sons, “The Cave”
Radiohead, “Lotus Flower”

Who Will Win: Coldplay, “Every Teardrop Is A Waterfall”
For some reason, the Grammys really dig Coldplay. They’ve already been nominated for 20 awards, and they’ve won seven. It’s a safe bet that they’ll take home at least one this year as well.

Who Should Win: The Decemberists, “Down By The Water”
Colin Meloy’s ever-more ambitious band stripped away the prog-rock opera for an earthier approach, and it doesn’t get better than this little jaunt featuring Gillian Welch (though “This Is Why We Fight” comes pretty close).—Josh Jackson

Who Really Should Win: Wilco, “Art of Almost”
Over the past several years and handful of Wilco albums, some have admittedly questioned the Chicago sextet’s musical direction and fade into a relative sense of complacency. Jeff Tweedy disproves any such doubts, recapturing our attention at a moment’s notice. “Art of Almost,” their intricate seven-plus minute album opener, is standing proof that the generational rock group can seemingly do whatever it wants whenever it wants.—Max Blau

Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance

The Nominees:
Foo Fighters, “White Limo”
Dream Theater, “On The Backs of Angels”
Mastodon, “Curl of the Burl”
Megadeth, “Public Enemy No. 1”
Sum 41, “Blood in My Eyes”

Who Will Win: Foo Fighters, “White Limo”
As is the case in many of these niche categories, the Academy members will vote for the most recognizable name here.

Who Should Win: Mastodon, “Curl of the Burl”
“Curl of the Burl” rides on meaty, sludgy riffs but it’s one of the most straightforward Mastodon offerings to date, featuring virtually none of the progressive structures and fills that characterize the majority of the band’s work.—John Barrett

Who Really Should Win: Mastodon, “Curl of the Burl”

Best Rock Album
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The Nominees:
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 Will Win: Kings of Leon, Come Around Sundown
This one’s almost too close to call. It’s easy to see how Wilco could possibly appeal to the older Grammy voters and successfully pull off the upset here, but ultimately its Kings of Leon who produce the kind of watered-down, arena rock that this awards show seems to traditionally go for.

Who Should Win: Wilco, The Whole Love
It’s the sound of Wilco out to prove nothing, driven only by their desire to craft great songs. In that regard, they’ve succeeded from start to finish—given enough breathing room and a bit of perspective, The Whole Love reveals itself as their finest album since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.—Ryan Reed

Who Really Should Win: My Morning Jacket, Circuital
Circuital is a return to form, and several tracks—including “Circuital” with its slow-building dynamic declaration and the ominous “Holdin’ On To Black Metal”—almost instantaneously can be placed among the band’s best songs. It’s an album partially infused with their classic warmth and partially dashed with intriguing progressions into unchartered territory. In doing so, the band has recreated the reverb-drenched twang of their earlier years, while successfully experimenting with some darker endeavors.—Max Blau

Best Alternative Music Album
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The Nominees:
Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Death Cab for Cutie, Codes and Keys
Foster the People, Torches
My Morning Jacket, Circuital
Radiohead, The King of Limbs

Who Will Win: Bon Iver, Bon Iver
This category’s traditionally been where the Grammys seem to toss nominees they’re not entirely sure how to categorize (case in point: My Morning Jacket really should win the rock category above), and as such, it’s typically a mixed bag. But this year it’ll be Justin Vernon’s consolation prize for losing to mainstream pop acts in the major categories.

Who Should Win: Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Hey, did we mention this was our album of the year?

Who Really Should Win: Bon Iver, Bon Iver
Seriously.

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