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Grammy noms likely for GaGa, Beyoncé, Swift, Houston

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

The list of frontrunners for the 2010 Grammy Awards suggests it'll be a ladies night, with Lady GaGa, Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, and Whitney Houston leading the way. Nominations for what's billed as music's biggest night, moved to January 31 next year, will be announced on Wednesday, December 2 (9 p.m., CBS). NARAS (National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences) has done a good job staying current with today's music trends during the nomination process, honoring edgy acts Lil Wayne and Radiohead in major categories, yet when it comes time to hand out the hardware, the membership backsteps to safer choices, such as last year's sweep by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant. With an adjusted eligibility period of October 1, 2008 through August 30, 2009, here are contenders in the top four categories going into Wednesday night's announcement.

Album of the Year
Lady GaGa is the breakout star of 2009, selling over a million copies of her debut The Fame domestically and grabbing headlines for her creatively bizarre performances. She's a near shoo-in for an AOTY nod, and Gay boys will be jumping coast to coast if/when it happens. Joining Lady GaGa will be Beyoncé, assured a nomination for her junior solo effort I Am...Sasha Fierce, which produced several big hits and earned her top awards at the MTV VMAs and MTV Europe awards. Taylor Swift will likely add more girl power to the AOTY roster, a sure bet for her mega successful Fearless. Considering that the blue ribbon panel that selects nominees in the general field usually wants a multi-genre lineup of albums, Swift will represent the country field just fine. Though Whitney Houston's comeback record I Look to You isn't her strongest, she could land a nomination here strictly on name status and by huge support from her fellow peers - but don't count on it, as she's expected to fare better in the R&B categories.

U2 is U2, and one must always include them for Grammy predictions. No Line on the Horizon wasn't an amazing feat on any level, but they're adored by the Recording Academy and therefore could squeeze in. Also loved by Grammy voters (and with a better shot of representing the rock genre) is Green Day, whose 21st Century Breakdown won rave reviews across the board. Black Eyed Peas continue to put out horrible pop music, though NARAS loves them - translating to a possible AOTY nod for The E.N.D. If the industry hasn't completely turned its back on Kanye West, he could snag another AOTY nomination for 808s and Heartbreak. Critical favorites are sometimes awarded a coveted spot, a la Radiohead or Beck, and 2009 produced some stellar albums from Grizzly Bear (Veckatimist), Phoenix (Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix), Animal Collective (Merriweather Post Pavilion), Allen Toussaint (The Bright Mississippi), Yeah Yeah Yeahs (It's Blitz), Bob Dylan (Together Through Life), and Roseanne Cash (The List).

Record of the Year
Beyoncé is guaranteed a slot here for "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" or "Halo," and she has a stronger chance at winning if she's recognized for the former. Lady GaGa's name comes up again, as "Poker Face" is a likely contender to do battle with either of Beyoncé's international smashes, and Swift is a definite possibility for "You Belong with Me" or "White Horse." Black Eyed Peas, who've unbelievably been nominated for ROTY before, are at it again with "Boom Boom Pow." Green Day, who took home this prize a few years ago for "Boulevard of Broken Dreams," will probably get noticed for "21 Guns," as they should. West's single "Heartless" is deserving of a mention, and here's hoping Grammy voters have long forgotten his stage antics at the MTV VMAs in September. Kings of Leon powered their way to their first Grammy Award earlier this year for "Sex on Fire" in the Rock Duo or Group category, and they might find themselves elevated to a bigger playing field with "Use Somebody". The legendary Bob Dylan has a shot with "Beyond Here Lies Nothin'," while "1901" by Phoenix could be the surprise entry on an expected list of mainstream favorites.

Song of the Year
Often dubbed "Ballad of the Year" for its long history of tearful, soft pop numbers, this category is sure to call on anything remotely warm and fuzzy, though hipper choices have surfaced in recent years ("Jesus Walks," anyone?). This is Swift's best opportunity for a major nomination, so expect "You Belong with Me" to grab one of the five spots. "Halo" will probably wind up here, as will "21 Guns" and Houston's comeback anthem "I Didn't Know My Own Strength." "Heartless" might surprise, as might Billy Currington's ridiculously loveable "People Are Crazy," and it's entirely possible "Poker Face" will make the cut as well.

Best New Artist
Of the four major categories, Best New Artist is the toughest to predict because of an impressive list of prospects. At the top, Grizzly Bear, the critical darling, yet perhaps too-under-the-radar for Grammy voters. MGMT, who missed out on a BNA nod last year, could find themselves in contention this time around. The Zac Brown Band are the strongest candidates to represent the country field, as Lady Antebellum did in '08. Keri Hilson could squeeze in here, a boost to the resurging R&B genre, while former American Idol winner David Cook might fill the pop slot (Adam Lambert is not eligible this year). Singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson has a shot, as does rapper Asher Roth. Alternative contenders include Animal Collective, Passion Pit, The Ting-Tings, Silversun Pickups, and longshot Fuck Buttons.

Elsewhere...
Lady GaGa is sure to scoop up two nominations in the Dance/Electronica categories, not to mention a Best Female Pop Vocal nod for "Poker Face" and a Best Rap/Sung Collaboration mention for "Chillin'" (with Wale). Beyonce will dominate the R&B field, as will Houston and fellow comeback story Maxwell. U2 and Green Day will gain multiple nods in the rock categories, while Swift and Carrie Underwood are sure to march ahead of the pack in the country genre. And, fingers crossed for Phoenix in the Alternative Music Album category, Mason Jennings in the re-named Americana Album list, sure to include Roseanne Cash (mark my words), and my prayers are being said for Neko Case, in hopes that she finally gets acknowledged somewhere, anywhere.

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