Tonight the Grammy nominations will be announced on the televised special "Grammy Nominations Concert Live: Countdown to Music's Biggest Night" (CBS, 10 p.m.). The event signals the beginning of the long march to the 54th annual Grammys, which will be held February 12th at the Staples Center in LA.
What can we expect from the nominations? Or from the nomination special itself, a manufactured faux-event that will take an hour to cover the same ground that used to be dispatched in 10 minutes by some industry guy reading a list of nominees off a teleprompter? Let's take a look!
Taylor Swift v. Kanye West, Adele, and lots of other people
Swift will almost certainly reap a boatload of nominations for "Speak Now," which was released in 2010 but, due to the Grammys' byzantine qualification rules, is still eligible for most major awards. She'll likely battle West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" for best album, though the more interesting matchup will probably be Swift vs. Adele. Both are the sort of irreproachable, non-threatening, genre-spanning career artists the Grammys love to nominate. Others who might face down the mighty T-Swizzle: Tony Bennett (for "Duets II"), Lady Antebellum (for "We Own the Night") and the Civil Wars , though the latter's best chances might come in country categories.
The Arcade Fire Factor
Will Grammy voters, emboldened by the positive response to their choice of Arcade Fire's "The Suburbs" for last year's Album of the Year, go even more indie in 2012? If so, they couldn't do better than Bon Iver . Justin Vernon makes vaguely Grammy-friendly albums but is nonetheless the virtual embodiment of middle-of-the-road hipsterdom: he's like a male, depressive Zooey Deschanel. Because he lacks a recognizable hit song, most of his nominations, if any, would come in bigger categories like Album of the Year and Best New Artist.
Adele will be nominated for every award ever
Does Adele have a Taylor Swift "Oh my gosh you guys no way I'm so surprised" awards show face? We're about to find out. Not only was Adele's "21" a pop music game changer, but it's also a consensus builder. Strange as it seems, some voters still see Swift and West as genre artists, but Adele is the Switzerland of potential nominees. No one doesn't like Adele. Look for "Rolling in the Deep" to clean up in every category for which it's eligible, especially the Record and Song of the Year categories.
How do you solve a problem like Nicki Minaj?
She's a foulmouthed female rapper, which from the Grammy voters' super-conservative perspective is not a plus. But the kids love her, and these days the "Ellen"-ized Minaj is about as threatening as Katy Perry. Likely outcome: "Super Bass" will get love in the rap categories and Minaj will get a nod in the Best New Artist category, where she'll likely battle Bon Iver, the Band Perry , and some other people we'll later pretend we've heard of (we don't mean you, Esperanza Spalding).
What the nominations concert lineup tells us about who might actually be nominated
Sugarland, Jason Aldean, Rihanna and the Band Perry will all perform, from which we can deduce that they're likely nominees, because otherwise it would be awkward. Probably not nominated: Common, Rick Ross, Lupe Fiasco and LL Cool J (he has a show on CBS, which may have something to do with it), who will team up for a Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five tribute in honor of "The Message," which is being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In related news, there's a Grammy Hall of Fame.
What the nominations concert lineup won't tell us about who might actually be nominated
The show's organizers promise to unveil a major band reunion — please God let it be Fugazi — during the concert. Lady Gaga will also perform, and while her nominations in pop and dance categories are virtually assured and an Album of the Year nod is a strong possibility, we're less sanguine about the fate of the song "Born This Way." Though it was almost certainly Gaga's best shot at a Record of the Year nod, she decided to submit the far less popular tracks "Judas" and "You and I" instead. Tonight, we'll find out whether or not that was a good idea.