Oddsmaking: Is Bon Iver Or Foster The People Alt-But-Not-Too-Alt Enough To Win At This Year's Grammys?

The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences introduced the Best Alternative Music Performance category in 1991 in anticipation of punk breaking later that year (and permanently renamed the award in 2000). Over the past two decades, the changing demographics of the nominees have reflected the ever shifting and hotly debated definition of the word "alternative." The Foo Fighters' debut was nominated for in 1996, but without changing their sound much at all they've since migrated to—and dominated—the Best Rock Album category. This year, the award continues to struggle with its identity with a field that's more unpredictable than usual: There's no lock like Beck or The White Stripes present and no big commercial breakthrough for a long-running band like the last two winners, Phoenix and The Black Keys.

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Oddsmaking: Best Country Solo Performance, Where Ludacris's Stamp Of Approval Makes A Difference

As part of this year's larger reduction in genre-specific awards, 2012 will see the country portion of the Grammys streamlined to just four categories: Best Solo Performance (which swallows Male and Female Vocal Performance), Best Duo/Group Performance (which swallows Best Duo/Group Vocal Performance and Instrumental Performance and Best Collaboration with Vocals), and Best Album and Best Song (which have been around since the beginning). This year, the last of those categories mixes old and new, split (along gender lines, as it turns out) between Taylor Swift, Carrie Underwood, and Martina McBride, who between them racked up 13 Female Vocal Performance nominations and four wins, and Jason Aldean and Blake Shelton, both up for the first time. Full breakdown below.

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So Beautiful? So What: Why The Grammys Shoved Paul Simon Aside And Embraced Skrillex

A good while back, I was envisioning a Grammy-night dogfight between what, at that point, were my two favorite albums of 2011: Lady Gaga's Born This Way and Paul Simon's So Beautiful or So What. (Both ended up on my Pazz & Jop ballot.)I mentioned this to Maura and she said, "No. Adele." Up went my vision in smoke. Still, I figured the Englishwoman would at least be looking back in passing at the Egg Lady and Mr. Grammy together. Of course they'd both be nominated, I figured. Gaga is Gaga, and Simon's album wasn't simply his strongest work since Graceland—after many, many plays (none for work, incidentally—I didn't write about it), I think So Beautiful might be his best album, period.

Obviously, my predictions didn't mean anything. Gaga has nothing to worry about, but not only wasn't Simon nominated for Album of the Year, he wasn't nominated for anything at all. This for a guy who managed a 2001 Album nod for the outright dud You're the One—never mind that he's one of only three people to win three times for AOTY: in 1971 for Simon & Garfunkel's Bridge Over Troubled Water, in 1976 for Still Crazy After All These Years, and in 1987 for Graceland. Simon may stew over "coming in second" to Bob Dylan all these years, but this year was his chance to at least try to pull ahead of fellow three-Album winners Frank Sinatra and Stevie Wonder (whom Simon thanked in 1976 for not "mak[ing] an album this year") in the Grammy sweeps.

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Oddsmaking: Should The Grammys Just Give The Album Of The Year Award To Adele Now?

For the last twenty years, the award for Album of the Year, the biggest Grammy honor of them all, has tended to go to two types of people: young women and old men. Female solo artists under 30 (Lauryn Hill, Taylor Swift) and male veterans over 40 (Tony Bennett, U2) have dominated the category for two decades with only a few exceptions: the youngish male rappers in Outkast, the wide range of musicians on the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, and the thirtysomethings in the Dixie Chicks and the Arcade Fire. This year, that pattern's unlikely to be broken, with only one of the five nominees falling outside either of those two categories.

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Oddsmaking: Will The Grammys Declare Sum 41 To Be More Metal Than Megadeth And Mastodon?

The 54th Grammy Awards mark the combination of the Best Hard Rock Performance and Best Metal Performance awards into the single category Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, which is why Mastodon and Sum 41 are up for the same award. Historically, the metal category has been one of the most confounding, with oddities like Judas Priest winning for a new live version of a song originally released 23 years earlier, Motörhead winning for a cover of a then-22-year-old Metallica song, and Metallica actually being honored for a track from St. Anger.

In addition to the pros and cons of each nomination, we've helpfully included whether each group is listed on Metal-Archives.com, a database that serves as the genre's gatekeeper by barring its doors to those bands deemed not brutal enough to ride to Valhalla.

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Oddsmaking: Will Adele Go "Rolling" Over Her Song Of The Year Competition?

The Grammys have a determinedly behind-the-times history, and Song of the Year is one of the ceremony's most reliably old-fashioned categories. It's given to the songwriter—even though what constitutes a "song" today is a lot different than when the Grammys began in 1959, back when sheet music was still a major music-biz income source. Usually the nominations overlap heavily with Record of the Year (which is given to artist and producer), with a couple of differences, sometimes confusing ones. (Take 2010—since when was Beyoncé's "Halo" more of a "record" and "Single Ladies" more of a "song"?) This year, the category seems like as much of a straight shot as the other Big 3 (Album and Record). But as with everything the Grammys do, from picking the nominees to putting on a show, there's always the possibility of surprise—last year looked like it belonged to Eminem, and he got shut out. It's highly doubtful that'll happen to Adele, whose "Rolling In The Deep" is nominated here, but with Grammy, you truly never know.

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Oddsmaking: Who Will Win This Year's Best New Artist Trophy At The Grammys?

In this week's Voice I wrote about Skrillex, the emo-dude-gone-dubstep-auteur who's spawned a bunch of funny-Photoshop blogs and garnered five Grammy nominations. One of the categories he's nominated in is one of the Big Four—Best New Artist, which seems to have shaken off its "one-way ticket to obscurity" stigma (recent winners include Maroon 5 and probably Woman Of This Year Adele). But does he have any chance at all of winning this genre-spanning category on Sunday night, and introducing those American viewers who aren't familiar with the EDM circuit to his aesthetic? In the first of a series of oddsmaking posts on SOTC over the next few days, we handicap his odds against The Band Perry, Bon Iver, J. Cole, and Nicki Minaj.

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The Grammys' 53 Record Of The Year Winners, In Order

53. Phil Collins, "Another Day in Paradise" [1991]

52. The 5th Dimension, "Up, Up and Away" [1968]

51. Olivia Newton-John, "I Honestly Love You" [1975]

50. Celine Dion, "My Heart Will Go On" [1999]

49. Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, "A Taste of Honey" [1966]

48. Bobby McFerrin, "Don't Worry, Be Happy" [1989]

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20 Questions Brought Up By The Grammy Nominations

The Album of the Year nominees, as presented by Katy Perry.
Last night's Grammy nominations show was full of pomp, eyeliner, and people on Twitter becoming very confused. Here's the complete list of nominees; below, 20 questions that we're still wrestling with some 14 hours after the broadcast signed off.

1. "Super Bass": Robbed or totally robbed?

2. Now that Rihanna is officially an Album Artist thanks to her Album of the Year nod for Loud, are critics going to rush to reevaluate Talk That Talk before they file their Best Of '11 lists?

3. A song from freakin' Family Guy gets a nod in the Best Song Written For Visual Media category but the Lonely Island's "Jack Sparrow" doesn't? Come on.

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Will Bon Iver Be The Arcade Fire Of 2012? And Other Pre-Grammy Nomination Show Questions

D.L. Anderson
Aw, why so glum?
Tonight's Grammy nomination concert, airing at 10 p.m. on CBS, will not only jam-pack a bunch of performances by the likes of Lady Gaga and Jason Aldean into its 60 minutes, it'll also let us know which artists will be prostrating themselves in front of the globe and thanking their families and God during next February's awards ceremony. Sure, Adele not getting as many nominations as humanly possible for her much-beloved, best-selling 21 is probably the most shocking development that can transpire this evening, but there are other questions afoot, too. Will the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences allow Taylor Swift to look surprised again and nominate Speak Now for multiple awards? Will Kanye West get honored for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy a year after it was greeted by nearly across-the-board critical love? Will the ambition all over Lady Gaga's Born This Way pay off in nominations? And is Bon Iver, currently racking up the "Best Album Of 2011" laurels from the likes of Paste, slated to rep for "indie" next February a la the Arcade Fire this year? Nick Murray and I answer these questions, and offer our picks for the Big Four categories' nomination slates, below.

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